Remember my post about we successfully sleep trained Alma using the Ferber method?
Yeah, that didn’t last long. It was going great for a few weeks. When she cried at the beginning of sleep times, it was really just fussing and protesting. We felt comfortable with it, because it really did seem to help her sleep better overall.
And then, it just wasn’t working. One night, I put her to bed the same way I had been for weeks, and she immediately started crying hard, and calling out for me. I went in, picked her up, nursed her, and tried again. Same thing, hard crying. My mama instincts told me that letting her cry alone wasn’t the right thing to do, so I rocked her to sleep peacefully.
Over the next few days, it became very clear that she just wasn’t having any of this sleep training anymore. She started waking up in the middle of the night again, about every other night. Then we went on our week long trip to San Francisco, and it threw everything completely off.
Alma refused to nap or sleep at night in the pack n play, so she slept in the bed with us. I laid down with her for naps, and often slept myself because our nights weren’t very restful. She hadn’t been nursing during the night before our trip, but since we were snoozing snuggled up together, it seemed pointless to deny her requests to nurse. So we resumed night nursing. (*Note: this all coincided with a teething marathon from about 15 months until now, and I believe she is working on 2nd year molars.)
Backing up to before we left for our trip to SF, one strategy we found useful was that when Alma woke in the middle of the night, Andrew would go lay next to her crib on the floor, and pat her back, sticking his arm through the crib slats. (Sounds comfy, right?) She responded well to this, but often, Andrew needed to stay in the room with her for the remainder of the night, which understandably was not very comfortable for him.
After a few weeks (or more? I don’t know, honestly, my sense of time is kind of warped when it comes to this sleep stuff) of sometimes co-sleeping/sometimes sleeping on Alma’s floor/sometimes nursing but always rocking to sleep at bedtime, Andrew and I decided that we wanted to implement a consistent routine again. We talked a lot about our feelings regarding letting Alma cry by herself to sleep (also known as “cry it out” or CIO in the sleep training world). We both felt like it wasn’t a method we were comfortable with anymore.
A New Plan
While we kind of love the physical boundaries a crib provides, we were starting to feel like it just wasn’t working for Alma anymore. For whatever reasons, she was telling us that she needed some closeness to help her sleep at night, and since having her in our bed doesn’t allow any of us to sleep well, we had to think outside of the box.
Enter: the floor bed. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of floor beds for babies/toddlers, but the task of making the room as baby proofed as possible seemed a little daunting. But, we felt like it would be best for Alma to continue sleeping in her own room, since she is used to that.
So our logic was: Alma needs us to help her during the night sometimes (read: almost every night) –> She likes to be rocked in the chair during night wakings, but we can’t get any sleep that way –> If we have a place to lay next to her in her room, we can co-sleep with her on an as-needed basis –> floor bed!
Our Set Up
Our original plan was to have the crib mattress on the floor for Alma to sleep, and a comfortable, fold-up sleeping pad for Andrew or I to lay on if we needed to help soothe her, or sleep with her at night. That’s the set up we started with. Since Alma would have access to her entire room when we were not sleeping next to her, we had to make a few changes to her environment.
- We put up a gate to block off the portable a/c unit, as well as the windows. The windows weren’t a huge concern – a window lock would be simple enough, but if she were to mess with the a/c unit, it wouldn’t be very safe. So, baby gate it was.
- We needed to secure the cords and outlets. We put in a wall shelf high enough that even if she were to stand on a chair or something, she couldn’t reach it. On the shelf sits her video camera and sound machine. They are plugged into an extension cord that rests on the shelf (yeah, it’s not too pretty right now). The extension cord runs down the wall, encased in a cord concealer/protector, which I painted to match her wall color. It plugs into an outlet, which is protected from curious hands by this outlet cover.
- Her audio baby monitor is plugged in and secure behind the baby gate.
- She doesn’t have any heavy furniture like a dresser or changing table, so we don’t have to worry about that. There is the chance that she will climb on the glider, but there was also a chance that she would start climbing out of her crib, which is pretty dangerous, as well.
- We took out any toys that we wouldn’t want her playing with on her own, filled a basket with books and soft animals, and put a few puzzles on her little shelf.
- We took out her floor lamp, since it would be very easy for her to knock over and break.
- Every night, we do a little sweep of her room to make sure little rocks, caps from squeeze pouches, or other random choke-able items didn’t make their way in.
Obviously, it’s impossible to completely baby-proof a room, since kids seem determined to injure themselves one way or another. But, we did what we could, and once the room was safe, we took the crib out.
After a week or two, we decided the whole floor bed set up was going to work well for us, so we ordered a full size cotton mattress to replace the crib mattress/adult sleeping pad. Alma rolls around a lot in her sleep, and was often rolling off the mattress, onto the sleeping pad, and then onto the floor. No one wants to wake up on a cold, hard floor! It was also uncomfortable for me to nurse her laying down, since the crib mattress and sleeping pad were two different heights.
The new full sized mattress is working out much better.
So, How’s it Going?
Well, just like with any of our sleep arrangements, we’ve had good nights and bad nights. Mostly though, the bad nights don’t involve tears anymore (they also don’t involve [much] sleep!). And if they do, at least one of us is right there with her, helping her through whatever the trouble may be.
Our new bedtime routine looks something like this: as always, Alma gets a bath, pjs, and nighttime diaper on. Sometimes she wants to read a few books, but sometimes she just wants to go straight into nursing. We turn off the lights, and Andrew leaves the room. I rock with Alma in the glider, nursing her. Very rarely, she will fall asleep nursing, and I will lay her down in her bed, then leave her room.
Most often, though, she nurses for 15-20 minutes before getting squirmy. We lay down in her bed, and she gets a second wind. She rolls around, talks and sings to herself (so cute, but slightly annoying when it goes on too long), snuggles with me, kisses and pats me, and eventually falls asleep while I pat her back and sing to her.
I slip out of the room to have a few hours with Andrew, then go to bed. When/if she wakes at night (usually around 1-2am), I nurse her for 10 minutes or so, and lay with her for another 10-20 minutes until she is deep asleep again. Often I can slip back out of her room, though I usually fall asleep for an hour or so before making my escape. Sometimes she is still restless, and Andrew switches places with me and sleeps with her for the rest of the night so I can get some sleep.
Alma is going through (what I think is) the 18 month sleep regression, so we’ve been having nightly wakings – usually just once, early morning wake-ups, shorter naps, and long bedtime routines (it’s been taking Alma 30-60 minutes to go from nursing in the rocker to deep asleep). So, we’re all tired! But, this routine is allowing us the most sleep, with the least amount of tears, and I believe it’s the best set up we could have right now, during this time of Alma’s increased need for us at night.
We are still making some changes to her room, and soon we will be putting in a little lamp that she can turn on and off. As it is right now, when she wakes up, she usually scurries to the door and cries for us, though sometimes she plays in the dark. I think she would be more likely to play happily for a bit if she could actually see!
I know all of these pictures from the IP camera are grainy, but I’m hoping to put a few finishing touches on her room, and then I will take some photos in the daylight!
Let me know if you have any questions about our sleep situation. I kind of wish we had been using this set up from the time we moved her into her own room!