It’s about time I did this review.
I had been holding off until I actually felt like taking the book’s advice.
And I finally did.
And now Owl goes to sleep ALL BY HIMSELF.
For those who have The No-Cry Sleep Solution, you’ll find that this book is much the same… with one important difference.
The No-Cry Sleep Solution is aimed at little babies, babies who are young enough to be below the recommended cut-off for cry it out, according to child psychologists.
I admit to being a little dubious about the Toddlers and Preschoolers edition, because honestly, I think that crying isn’t so bad for kids that old.
If anything, a certain amount of emotional distress is necessary to the developing toddler brain.
But Elizabeth Pantley mirrors my own beliefs back at me perfectly:
I’m a firm believer that babies should never be left to cry until they fall asleep. I also believe that toddlers and preschoolers should not be left for endless amounts of tears and anguish, contrary to some sleep books, which suggest doing this even to the point of vomiting. There are hundreds of ideas for helping a child sleep better without resorting to shutting the door on him and wringing your hands while he wails for hours. I have learned, however, that allowing an older toddler or preschooler a few minutes of fussing or moderate crying is not necessarily evil. Many loving, attached parents have put together complete and considerate sleep plans for their children and allowed a small amount of tears along the way.
There is a huge difference between putting a child in a crib, shutting the door, and abandoning her to hours of crying versus creating a complete and thoughtful sleep plan that includes a loving before-bed routine and then allowing a few minutes of protest at the time the lights are turned out. There’s also a considerable difference between letting a tiny baby cry in the night and letting a four year old cry when he’s put to bed but would rather stay up and watch a movie. […] So if your no-cry plan turns into a little-bit-of-cry plan, don’t feel like you’ve been a failure.
A lot of the ideas in this book were either ones that I was already carrying over from the original book, or were aimed at a child much older than Owl.
Some tips were ones I had instituted on my own, based on my dog training experience.
For example, she suggests setting a clock radio to go off in the morning and telling the child that they can’t get out of bed until it goes off, thus sending a clear signal about when it is ok to get up.
Well, we have a clock that we turn on at night, which we call “Mr. Sun.”
Mr. Sun goes to bed with Owl, and we wave night-night to him. He winks, closes his eye, turns into a star (it’s weird to say the sun turned into a star since the sun IS a star, but you know what I mean) and glows blue. In the morning, at the time we set, he lights up and turns into a glowing orange sun again.
Owl learned back in the night-weaning days that Mr. Sun was the signal that meant his fussing would be responded to with more than a simple “Shh, it’s still sleepy times, I’ll see you in the morning.”
His first words in the morning are always “MR SUN IS AWAKE!!”
So that’s that covered. We brought Mr. Sun with us to Disneyland and learned that Owl actually does wake up and lie quietly, waiting for Mr. Sun to turn on in the mornings.
But the place where we have gotten stuck is sitting with Owl until he falls asleep.
We did wean him off of being sung-to.
PH put his foot down last year and refused to continue to feed our extrovert’s need for human interaction any further. If he tried to talk to us, we’d walk out of the room for a minute or two.
THAT caused some “moderate crying” as Elizabeth Pantley would call it.
But he learned, and for months and months and months now I have sat quietly in his room, reading to myself, while Owl drifted off to sleep.
And I knew that it was time to make the next step.
Most of Pantley’s sleep plans involve steps. Wean off of one thing, and then another, and then another. So, we had weaned him off of being nursed to sleep, then we weaned him off of needing us to sing to him… but then we stopped.
It’s not Elizabeth Pantley’s fault.
We were just tired. And I didn’t really mind sitting and reading for half an hour or so in Owl’s room. It was easier than introducing a new battle.
We really did want to have a kid that you could just kiss goodnight and walk away from, and we both knew perfectly well that it was our OWN fault that we didn’t.
Owl had successfully weaned off of nursing at night. He had successfully weaned off of singing and endless recitations of Wynken, Blynken, and Nod. There was zero reason to believe that he wouldn’t wean off of human company while falling asleep just as successfully.
We were just… tired.
And so, I put off this review as well because she tells you exactly what to do about that in her book (she has a whole chapter on it, called “Mommy, Stay!”: Needing A Parent’s Help To Fall Asleep) and I didn’t want to admit that I knew what to do but wasn’t doing it.
So we finally did it.
The “I’ll Be Right Back” Trick.
Pantley recommends weaning the child from the staying routine by making frequent trips outside of the room and quickly returning. The child gets used to you coming and going, and knows that you always do come back. That’s the first step. Over time, you just stay away longer and longer.
Owl was used to this a little already.
Knowing that this was the next step, I did make a point of leaving the room at least once during the evening: fetching my book, running to the bathroom, etc. He usually waited patiently for my return, as long as I wasn’t gone too long.
But that was as far as I had gotten.
Because I am lazy, and tired.
Anyway, last month we told Owl that he was not a baby, but a little boy now, and it was time for him to learn how to fall asleep by himself. So we would be giving him chances to fall asleep by himself, but we’d keep coming back to check on him.
Pantley recommends this as a way to be clear about things.
Once you decide on how you are going to handle bedtime, communicate the news to your child.
We told him that when he could fall asleep by himself, he could have a little boy bed, that he could get in and out of all by himself.
“Oooh! Little boy bed? I get in by myself? Ooh! OKAY!”
Owl loves his independence.
That first night, I kissed him, told him I’d be back in a couple minutes, and left the room.
I went in after a few minutes and sat down for a moment, then got up again.
“Mommy, I want yoooooou,” he said as I started to leave.
“I’ll be back in a minute, bud,” I said.
He waited patiently.
We repeated this, oh, maybe four or five times.
The last time I went in, he was asleep.
Seriously? It was THAT easy? I had been geared up for tears and war.
The next night I stayed away for five or ten minutes at a time. He was asleep by the third check in.
The night after that, he was asleep by the second check in.
The night after that, I kissed him goodnight and left without making any promises of return at all.
He fell asleep.
HE FELL ASLEEP.
I CAN NOW KISS MY CHILD GOODNIGHT AND GO DOWNSTAIRS AND WATCH MY HUSBAND GET TEARY OVER UNDERCOVER BOSS IN THE EVENINGS LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN BEING.
I can’t tell you how freeing that is.
We started on Wednesday. On Sunday, Owl demanded his prize, and we delivered.
Little boy bed it is.
And he climbs in it on his own every night.
And he falls asleep on his own every night.
And he doesn’t get out of it until Mr. Sun wakes up.
…And there wasn’t even any crying.