My daughter has always been a good sleeper. She started sleeping through the night when she was 2.5 months. Even when we were weaning her off swaddling, she still did great. When she was sick, she’d just sleep soundly. We only had to do one thing – and that is to rock her to sleep.
Yes, my daughter had been rocked to sleep since she was born. When she arrived, it was just me and my husband. We both didn’t know what to do; we had to figure everything out on our own. Every time she’d cry (and was just fed and changed), she’d calm down as soon as we rock her; and then eventually, she’d fall asleep. Next thing we know, it became our routine.
Sure there’s a bunch of books and articles informing new parents not to rock their babies to sleep because they will become dependent on it. We thought it was okay because it was working for us, and she’ll probably outgrow it when she’s a few more months older; but we were wrong. Most nights, she’d fall asleep easily; but there are nights when it would take her 1-2 hours before she’d fall asleep. Yes, and that meant us (either me or my husband) rocking her to sleep for the entire time.
Nap times are harder – my daughter has to be lying on my arm (so I’d have to be beside her and facing her) after I rock her so she’d stay asleep. The moment I try to sneak out, she’d wake up crying. For a while, I felt trapped. There were those days that I needed to do some things while she’s taking her nap but couldn’t because I have to be beside her. I’ve had people telling me that it was my fault. I would just smile and not say a word. It’s hard to argue with people who wouldn’t and would not take the time understand; so I didn’t waste my time. I continued to do what I was doing.
Sleeping at school was a different story; my daughter would fall asleep as soon as they put her down to her crib. I’ve asked what they usually do and did the same thing at home; it worked the first time I’ve tried it. And I thought – Finally!!! But it didn’t last long; she wanted her old routine back. I kept trying what they were doing at school but it’s no longer working. She would end up crying and I would end up frustrated.
So I stopped fighting it; I gave in. I planned to just continue doing what my daughter wants until she outgrows it (just like what happened with taking a nap on my arm). Eventually, rocking her got harder as she got heavier, especially when I got pregnant again. I still rocked her to sleep for as long as I could; when I couldn’t anymore (because of my belly and backaches), my husband took over. It just kept going on and I thought we’re probably gonna be one of those who have to rock their kids to sleep until they’re in school.
And then it happened; she was more than a year and a half.
One night, shortly after we got back from our Manila trip last March, as I was rocking my daughter to sleep, she was fussing and wanted to break away from my arms. Trying to figure out what’s bothering her, I put her down to bed. She got into her sleeping position and asked me to pat her. So I did, and to my surprise, she fell asleep. She did the same thing on the following night; so on the third night, I put her down to bed right away and patted her. She fell asleep. I couldn’t believe it! My daughter no longer wants to be rocked to sleep. Woohoo!!!
It was a hard transition for us because it would take a while before goes to sleep. She’d be giggling and playing with her stuffed toys for an hour or so while I pat her. She just won’t sleep even if I kept telling her that it’s time to sleep. Not a night would go by where I wouldn’t end up frustrated and where she wouldn’t end up crying. Again. We were back to where we were before. Some nights I would just walk out of the room because I was really upset; but, of course, it didn’t help; she just wailed. And then it would take me a while to calm her down before I could get her to try to sleep again.
I knew it wasn’t healthy so something had to be done; I sought help from my friends and they gave me really good advice. I changed her bedtime to 8 (she used to go to bed at 7:30) and created a new routine – we pray first, and then we spend some time with each other – before “we” sleep. I’d encourage her to tell me what happened with her during the day (what she ate, who she played with, what they played, where they played, what songs they sang, etc.). We’d sing some songs and count our fingers; some nights, I would even play a little with her and her stuffed toys. It’s whatever we feel like doing – just me and her.
I know she looks forward to our “kwentuhan” (storytelling) because she always gets excited whenever I tell her “kwentuhan muna tayo” (Let’s share some stories first). And as soon as I tell her it’s over and it’s time to sleep, we’d say good night to each other, kiss each other, and say “I love you” and “I love you so much” to each other, she’d sleep without a fight. There were still some nights when she’d try to fight it, but most of the time, she’d peacefully do it on her own.
As I write this, she doesn’t need me to pat her anymore; she would just ask me to lie beside her and hug her. She wouldn’t fall asleep without me hugging her. No more rocking, no more patting, just hugging.
It has been a roller coaster ride trying to get from point a to point b, but I can definitely say that it is worth it; I learned a lot from it. It took me a while, but finally, I am where I need to be. I realized that I can still follow a schedule but not be overly strict about it. It really is liberating trying not to control everything. I finally learned to let go, let my daughter guide me, and just enjoy our little bedtime routine. I learned to stop rushing; if it takes longer for her to sleep, I just let her. While I know that there’s a lot of things waiting for me after she goes to sleep, it’s perfectly fine if I don’t get to them. What matters is that I get to be a better mom to my daughter.
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What struggles did you have with your kids at bedtime and how did you handle them? I would love to hear about it.