Thank you for writing in. I have much compassion for your story and I am so sorry you had to endure a night like that, especially while pregnant. I hope to address your concerns and offer possible alternatives that may prove successful. You posted yesterday morning; I am hoping last night went better and that you can utilize whatever is helpful here by tonight! Post here or email me at LoveParentingLA@gmail.com and let me know how things unfold.
Celebrate what is working: I think your motives have been right on track. You want to honor your daughter's needs, as well as the needs of you and your husband, you seek to establish boundaries while being there for your daughter, and you understand the value of follow through. As well, even though you didn't see immediate results in the form of easy acceptance, your solution of the sleep board did include your daughter in the decision making process which often helps a child accept new limits.
I have a few suggestions for the new routine.
1) Having a conversation about why you're making the change: Maybe you did this when you implemented the new routine, but if not, I suggest you do so. This process will reiterate why the change was necessary. You can include your needs as part of the equation: I need rest at the end of the day, especially, when I'm pregnant, and I don't want a battle over sleep. As well, narrating your process will help your daughter as she develops her own decision-making process and finds solutions to her problems in the future.
2) An invitation to sleep: As you talk about your new routine and how you would like things to unfold at night, you can also include an "invitation to sleep," wherein you describe the gifts of sleep: this is when your body grows, this is when you can play in "magical dreamland," and this is when all the animals, flowers and fairies sleep. You are attempting to reframe "sleep" as a wonderful place she is invited to join, as opposed to something that is being done to her. This may take a couple of rounds, but over time, you may see a difference in how sleep is perceived in your home.
3) Two locations for the routine: A L.O.V.E. Parenting Technique that has been helpful for many of my clients has been to have two locations for the bedtime routine. All of the activities that are part of the wind-down (books, songs, made-up stories, water and any final snacks) are to be done on the couch. Ideally, you are cuddled on the couch, under a blanket and sharing a special slowing-down, decompression-from-the-day together en route to sleep. Once the previously agreed upon number of books, songs and stories are completed, and after a "final pee," you take a purposefully meditative walk to the "sleep chamber." The bedroom is already set up for sleep with the curtains drawn, the covers pulled back on the bed, the lights off, and perhaps soft classical music playing and/or a nightlight is on. The energy of this room is like a sanctuary, a spa, or a yoga class; once you step foot into the sleeping room and lay down it is "eyes closed, mouths closed." Again, as you walk into this inviting room, sleep becomes less of something you are trying to "do to her" or "get her to do" and more of a beautiful, beckoning environment you are inviting her to surrender to. Eyes are closed and mouths are closed because that is what is needed to facilitate sleep; you are trying to reframe this behavior as helping "sleep" get what it needs, rather than something your daughter "has to do." You can set the stage with your daughter that the dream angels and sleeping fairies are already asleep in her room while you are reading on the couch. They are waiting in dreamland for her to join them.
4) Setting the stage: You can help prepare your daughter for bedtime by reminding her during the day about the new routine: the two locations, the dream angels and fairies asleep in her room, and how once you go into the "sleeping room" it's "eyes closed, mouths closed."
5) Daylight connection: As you remind your daughter about bedtime and how nighttime is for sleeping, you can ask if she has anything she wants to talk to you about now? You can also ask her if she would like an extra special cuddle during the day? Let her know you available and focused on her. In this way, you are providing extra intentional connection during the daylight, hoping to fulfill any unmet needs that sometimes overwhelm a child when it's time to kiss the day goodbye.
6) Extenuating circumstances: At your daughter's age, it is always important to look at nap time and its relationship to sleep. If she is waking from a nap later than 4pm it will usually affect her ability to fall asleep easily, especially if bedtime is 7:30pm (which is generally recommended for children.) As well, you want to be aware of foods that dissuade sleep, such as sugars, dyes and caffeine in any form. Late naps and physiological stimulants do not promote easy nighttime sleep.
7) An option: Many people would agree that comforting your daughter in the room, while she falls asleep in the crib is positive and your should not change this because she is developing her own relationship to sleep and she has your loving presence close at hand. Having her in a routine of falling asleep by herself in the crib would definitely be helpful when you have the new baby. There is another option, however, that you might consider if things persist with much distress at sleep time. Since you are committed to soothing your daughter to sleep, you may consider laying down with her until she falls asleep. This would mean a double mattress on the floor or low to the ground, such as a futon. In this way, after the couch routine, you would enter the bedroom together, and both lay down with "eyes closed and mouths closed." In this model, you lay with your daughter as she transitions to sleep and then you leave the room and have your evening. Once you have the new baby, you would be laying and nursing the new baby on one side, while cuddling your daughter on the other side. This arrangement could help your firstborn feel included once the new baby comes, but can also mean a lot more effort from you. Most attachment parenting families will enjoy many different arrangements over the years.
The big reaction: I know that night was trying and as you stated, your worst experience in parenting. Understand that just because your daughter had that big reaction the first night, doesn't mean that she will necessarily react that way night after night; some toddlers express their big feelings, you hold the line, and then they "get" it and the new routine is established. For other children, the reaction remains the same night after night and they may be in true distress. You can always pause, reconsider and decide to adapt your plan. This may sound like a contradiction, but while consistency is of great importance, so is flexibility. Deciding when to hold the line and when to alter your plans is where your intuition and deep attunement to your child come into play.
Saying no: It sounds like there was a huge disparity in how you attended to your child's needs the first night with 50 books and jumping through hoop after hoop, and the second night where you held your boundary for two hours despite her reaction. I would encourage you to bring a little bit of the clarity you found the second night into your regular life so your daughter gets used to "walking through the no." This is a skill learned (within reason) like any other. This is not to say we want a life of hardship for your girl and for her to always "grin and bear it," but, rather, to strengthen her skill set of getting to the other side of disappointment, especially, with your loving support.
Pregnant with number two: Pregnancy with the second child is often a huge transition for attachment mommas because the physical demands of your pregnancy necessitate limits that you may otherwise be able to overlook. Understand that you are at the effect of your hormones and weeping and fatigue are to be expected. You are in a state of becoming a parent to two beings, and tending to your "other child" begins in the womb as you care for your pregnant self.
Blessings: You sound like a truly loving, compassionate, reflective and thoughtful parent. I wish you many blessings on this journey of parenting and expanding your family. Sweet dreams.
Birthing A New Mother home study program NOW AVAILABLE for pre-conception, pregnancy & the first year of motherhood. I am a featured contributor in this course brought to you by Conscious Motherhood.
The Ultimate Parenting Course will be available November 15, 2011. A cadre of the best of today’s progressive parenting experts come together in this transformational 8-week home study course for parents of children birth to 7 years. Email me at LoveParentingLA@gmail.com for pre-order.
The L.O.V.E. Parenting Birthkit has helped women have a transformational and empowering birth. Written exercises, audio & private coaching. Amazing for first or second pregnancy.
Sign Up for my E-Zine! Email: LoveParentingLA@gmail.com
Like me on Facebook L.O.V.E. Parenting and Follow on Twitter @LoveParenting
Private Coaching Session! Phone or Los Angeles office. www.LoveParentingLA.com
“Truly amazing woman. I love her advice.”—Carrie-Anne Moss
“All you have shared has helped tremendously.”—Lisa Bonet
“I am experiencing nothing short of a miracle thanks to your laser beam approach.” –Andrea Bendewald