I have a confession to make. For the last few nights I have been using controlled crying techniques to get Loudboy to sleep a) in his own bed and b) through the night. Now I was against using CC when he was young, because I didn’t think it was a good idea with young babies (and I didn’t think it would work). But we got to the magic age of 15 months and rather than his sleep improving it was getting worse. Not only was he waking lots at night, he was refusing to go to sleep at all, despite the fact that he was sleeping in our bed and I was feeding him down. No, he was certain there was interesting stuff going on in the other room (probably involving telly and biscuits) and he was going to find out, even if he couldn’t stand up without falling over. Who needs sleep anyway? And when he was in bed with us he was kicking and squirming so no-one was getting much sleep. Changes needed to be made.
If there were one thing to change, I would have tried other methods first. In our case, we needed to alter several things at once: getting Loudboy to sleep in his cot rather than our bed, stopping night feeds (an increasing problem for all sorts of reasons) and (ideally) stopping night waking. Gradual changes would take weeks and would still upset us all. Drastic measures were needed.
We decided to try something different. I had been reading Toddler Taming by Christopher Green and his suggestion that CC could give us more sleep within a few nights was an extremely tempting one. My main objection to CC for babies was that if Loudboy cried during the day, I would find out what was wrong and deal with it, so why not at night? Dealing with a toddler, I discovered, is rather different. There are times during the day when I ignore his crying, usually when he is throwing a temper tantrum because he isn’t allowed to play with knives or chew the power lead to the laptop or other child-friendly activities. I can also tell the difference between angry and upset. So with great trepidation I re-read the relevant chapter, did our usual bedtime routine and then instead of feeding Loudboy to sleep (and preventing him from escaping), I put him in his cot, said goodnight and left. He was not impressed. I had pegged myself as a wuss, so I left him for only two minutes at the beginning, went back, cuddled him until he was quiet, and left again. It took just over half an hour of tears before he was asleep. It wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t upset crying, it was ‘Why am I in this ******* cot? Get me out! Getmeoutgetmeoutgetmeoutgetmeout nownownownownownownownownow!’
We’ve done this for about five days now and guess what? It worked! Loudboy now takes five minutes or less to get to sleep and the protest has reduced to ‘Great. The cot. I’m sure this is infringing my human rights. Get me out zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…’
Not only is he going to bed at a reasonable hour (and it’s an earlier bedtime than usual, which means we have some adult evening time again), he’s only waking briefly at about 11 and again at about 1 or 2. Each time, he settles himself in a few minutes. Then he goes through until about 7am, when we have a feed and a cuddle.
I always said I wouldn’t rule out anything when it came to sleep training and I’m glad I tried this method. Of course, he may have improved on his own. Many babies do at 15 months, but for us it was a good window to nudge him into better sleeping habits. The problem with sleep training is that it isn’t a permanent fix: when the next teeth come through or he gets another cold he’ll be waking up again. For now, we are actually getting some sleep.