What to expect when you’re expecting—again!
Almost a year and a half into the life of our son Mateo, my wife and I have learned that: We can get by with minimal sleep; in the realm of baby gadgets, expensive isn’t always better; there has to be a better way of applying sunscreen to a toddler; and, as it pertains to being a parent, there are lots of opinions but not many rules.
Here is my opinion on sleep: It is essential. But then, so is caring for your baby! Usually, by the time you have a second child, you have already got the support you need in place. Or maybe you are still suffering through a sleepless toddler. When our son turned a year old, we decided it was time to sleep train him. Some people do this much earlier, while some never do. It’s really a personal choice—and our choice was to utilize the cry-it-out method. This is gut wrenching and lasts about three nights, but afterwards Mateo slept full nights, took a nice long nap during the day, and was generally pretty even-tempered most of the time.
A couple of months later, however, Mateo experienced a sleep regression and was back to sleepless nights and naps that lasted less than 30 minutes. After reading a book on the subject, we learned that we had been making some fairly big mistakes. The first mistake violated the cardinal rule of cry-it-out sleep training—going in to comfort the baby when he or she cries. Don’t get me wrong, you want to make sure the baby has what he or she needs and is safe. A basic baby monitor can get you a lot of this information, but it’s also possible that the baby needs a diaper change. If you do enter the baby’s room, the book advises that you do not communicate with the baby, just check to see if there are any immediate needs, tend to those needs, and then leave the room without speaking to or attempting to soothe the child.
I know this sounds horrible, but it’s about setting guidelines. For example, we would generally go in to comfort and soothe Mateo after an hour of crying (him, not us). As soon as one of us entered the room, Mateo would immediately fall down onto the mattress and pretend to be asleep. We quickly realized that he was fine AND that he now knew he needed to cry for an hour before we would arrive. As soon as we went back to the original sleep training, stopped trying to comfort and soothe him, and let him cry it out, things got much better.
We also learned to detect when Mateo was overtired. For Mateo, that showed up as increased irritability, moodiness, and crying at around the times when he would usually nap or go to sleep for the night. Since things were getting so regimented, we thought we needed to stick to the original sleep schedule times. Plus, we were worried that if we let him go to sleep earlier, then he would wake earlier. We learned, however, that if we let him sleep when he was showing signs of being overtired, he actually slept longer during his naps and slept through the nights. He was catching up on his sleep.
Now Mateo sleeps 11 hours through the night and takes two and a half hour naps after lunch. Just in time for his little brother or sister (we are waiting to learn the gender at birth) to arrive. Our hope is that this hard work will pay off, since we no longer have the luxury of taking turns in the night. I can’t even imagine what it will be like when baby #3 comes and we are completely outnumbered. Until then…sleep tight!