Still trying to get into the swing of things here. Little Man's schedule has been all over the map. If we hang out and do things when he wants to, it means sleeping all day and partying all night.
We've been discussing how to help Little Man start developing some good sleep habits. We have been reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth. I've had friends rave about it, and the method's prescribed there which includes letting the child self-soothe at bedtime. That means you put them in the crib and leave the room after your bedtime ritual. If they scream, you just let them do it.
I'm not sure this is the right answer for our family, for a few reasons. First, I'm not comfortable with letting him scream! Everything the book says about children learning to self-soothe makes sense, but I was finding it a bit scary. I really love rocking him to sleep, but I recognize that he needs to learn to put himself to sleep too.
My bigger concern is that if we put him to bed in the crib before he was asleep and he cried, he would feel deserted and alone. We aren't dealing with a kid here who has confidence that adults are always there for him. His life experiences have been that people you love might be here one day, and gone the next. How is he to know that if we are out of sight, we aren't gone forever? Will letting him cry it out hinder our bonding process?
A few nights ago, during one of the middle of the night wake-up sessions (happens about 11:30 and 3 p.m.) we figured we needed to try something different. We changed his diaper, gave him a bottle (he is used to being put to sleep with a bottle, but we'll tackle that problem in a little while) and put him in his crib.
We walked out of the room, closed the door, and expected to listen to a wailing, hysterical child for the next few hours. But he completely shocked us! He didn't cry. He spent about an hour hooting and making noises, sounding like he was having a grand old time. And then he finally went to sleep. And he stayed asleep! We were so proud, and felt happy that we had figured out how to handle the middle-of-the-night situations.
But the next night when he awoke, we changed, gave him a bottle, put him to bed and listened to him happily hoot for about an hour.
And then he started screaming.
I tried really hard not to go in. But all I could think about was that he was scared and didn't know why we weren't coming to help him. He hasn't been with us long, so how could he know that we were only in the next room? That we would be there for him when he awoke?
I ended up going in after 45 minutes. I felt terribly guilty that we had let him cry that long. Turns out that he was wet (again!) and we changed him. We spent a few minutes together, and then I stepped out. This time he only cried about 15 minutes. And then he crashed.
Now, I'm not sure what the best answer is. When he cries at night, I want to run in and make things better (which means he'll get very awake and want to play). I want him to know that the people he's getting to know are still here and can meet his needs. I worry that playing sleep hardball and letting him cry it out might have some abandonment and fear issues for him. Am I putting too much weight on the adoption when it comes to this?
I have other adoptive parent friends and many are still co-sleeping with their children after a month or two of coming home. Are we pushing Little Man too fast? About 75% of the time, he handles his new system well. He goes to sleep without crying and stays asleep longer. But those middle of the night things...I don't think I can let him cry it out.
For me, this issue illustrates the crossroads we are likely to come to many times in Little Man's development. At each difficult juncture, we'll likely ask ourselves, "is this an adoption issue or something else?" and I guess all you can go with is your best guess. Because the truth is that you'll likely never know.
For now, we are doing our own modified version of the Healthy Sleep Habits protocol. We try to keep him from becoming over-tired, which can make things difficult for him to settle down at nap and bedtimes. We've become total naptime Nazis, hitting his twice-daily (or three times when needed) right on schedule. It's inconvenient because we have to plan things around nap times, but hopefully it will help us all feel a bit more normal around here.
At least a new normal.
And about those middle of the night wake-ups...my new plan is to give him 15 minutes to try and work it out himself. And if it is taking longer than that, I'm going in his room, and sit in the rocking chair to let him know I'm there, but not interact with him at all. Not sure how that plan is going to work, but it's worth a shot.
For you APS, if you have any tips about how you made this adjustment, please share!