Updated: Aug 27, 2020
This is not going to be one of those posts where I give all the secret answers in helping your children sleep. I don't have those answers myself! And if I were to be brutally honest with you, every kid is different there really is no "one size fits all" when it comes to sleep.
Mom confession: I really thought I had it all figured out in the beginning. My first born was a text book baby. We read the books, we did what they said, and he fell right into place. It made our job look easy! We kept a routine, dark room, sound machine, and he slept wonderfully - for the most part. He was sleeping through the night 6pm-6am from 6 months onward - with the occasional sleep regressions and growth spurts. Did we do the cry it out method? No. Simply because we really didn't see the need. After 15 minutes of going in and reassuring him, he would go to bed. We never got to the point of needing to "sleep train". We felt good. If he needed us, we cuddled - but for the most part he was an independent sleeper. That lasted some years until around potty training. That is when we transitioned into the "what is happening, I am so tired, why are you waking up at 5am stage". It took some patience, some clocks, and loads of cuddles but we finally taught him to go potty, stay in his bed until a certain time, then play quietly in his room until we are ready to start the day.
Let's fast forward to Dante Doodle. Our energetic 3 year old who still requires a lot of help in the sleep department. I think my husband and I went into baby number 2 thinking "we god this". Boy were we wrong and shocked by the differences. Dante required physical touch. So long as he was near one of us (mostly me let's just be real), he slept pretty well. After a few months of desperately trying to get him in his own crib, countless hours rocking is his chair, and lots of tears from all of us, we decided co-sleeping was the way to go. We co-slept until he was about 14 months old which at that time we knew he was ready for his own room. That stage was long and HARD. I could and probably will go into detail one day - so many struggles we overcame. But the lasting memory I have, a tight bond with my boy. We made it.
So what happened after that? If you think we have it all figured out by now, you are wrong. Just when we seem to get their sleep needs figured out, something changes. Dante has always needed some extra love at bedtime and throughout the night. But mostly, they do sleep decent.
The point of this post - TRUST YOUR GUT. Follow your child and learn how to satisfy the needs they are craving. I can not tell you how many times people have given their opinions on sleep. They do it out of love and I understand their intentions. But sometimes the on-going convo on sleep is just as exhausting as it is actually parenting through it.
For us - we put our kids to bed early, they wake up early. Once both my boys were potty trained, they natural wake cycle is about 6/630am. I am okay with this as I feel it is a totally normal time for young kids to wake up. Do you want to know what is NOT the solution to an early wake up, later bedtimes. Often times we get people who suggest we "train" them into later bedtimes to see if they will sleep in past 6am. Guess what, it has never worked.
This is the most basic and consistent thing I have followed over my 6 years as a mom - early bedtime. It was hard when they were little. We said no to a lot to make sure we could be home in time for our bedtime. It is still a huge struggle when we are with family and there is so much to do. You really want to get sucked into the theory that if they stay up later they will sleep later. You want to know what happens to my kids? They actually end up waking up EARLIER. I'm talking 4/5am early. Now we have two extremely over tired kids. Do what works for your family. Find the balance that you are happy with.
I am really tired this week. Obviously I know a lot of my exhaustion is from starting school. But the other part of this has been the kids sleep schedule. It is weighing on me (and the hubs). Lack of sleep = cranky parents = not the best environment for anyone. We decided to break it down and look at what is not working.
This past summer I was testing out a later bedtime. We had a lot of fun summer nights and memories, so in that sense I am glad. Giovanni seemed to be having a harder time falling asleep at 7pm - and Dante seemed to be very awake too. On top of all this, we moved the boys into the same room at the beginning of summer, so we thought it was a great idea to push it further. After a few months of a later bedtime, we honestly only just realized that this is the source of so many behavioral changes (amongst other things like parenting through a global pandemic ha!). Bedtime used to be enjoyable. Quiet time snuggling and reading books. It has turned into a wild loud mess and none of us are enjoying it.
Back to the basics we go. As I was writing our homeschool schedule I realized it had been quite some time since I researching sleep needs for the boys current ages. I did this to myself! They were totally not getting enough sleep.
We are on week 1 of earlier bedtimes (6:30/7pm) and we have already seen such a huge improvement in bedtime behavior and the time they wake up. I am so thankful I trusted my mommy gut and got us back on the schedule that works best for our kids. I think when you are around family or other people with kids and you see that they go to bed later and wake up at 8am or whatever, you lose sight of the things you already know about your own. Sometimes it isn't always about fitting into what the world says you should do, but rather figuring out what works in your home.
Cheers to making it to bedtime everyday.