Nope, I do not like sleep training. I pray and wish Phoebie could just fall asleep by herself and sleep through the night every night. But nope, it doesn’t always happen.
Don’t get me wrong though. Phoebie isn’t always difficult at bedtime. In fact, I started sleep training her when she was just a few months old.
Back then, I tried both the cry-it-out method, also known as “ferberizing“, and the no-crying method. And after some experimenting, Phoebie learnt to fall asleep on her own. But, one thing all new parents should know and be aware of is, this doesn’t always last.
When a child falls sick, she is more needy and wants to be carried and comforted. So parents tend to throw all sleep training rules out the window. It is the same with Phoebie. The frustrating thing about that, is how the child “resets” her abilities to fall asleep on her own and now needs Papa or Mama to be in the room, and sometimes next to her when she is going to sleep.
Since recovering from a viral fever in March, Phoebie has gotten used to having either Ben or myself in the room till she falls asleep. These few nights, I decided that it was time to retrain Phoebie to fall asleep on her own and discussed with Ben about how we should do it.
Phoebie has always had a consistent bedtime routine, so she knows it’s bedtime when she takes a shower, drinks milk and read a story. So the pre-bedtime routine is not an issue. Ben and I agreed that whoever is the last one in the room to put her to bed will tell her nicely and gently that she will be alone to sleep. This obviously doesn’t sit well with Phoebie and she immediately starts to cry.
Based on our past experience, letting her cry for a little while before we went in the room to comfort her, and prolonging the intervals of going into the room is something that works with Phoebie.
Alas, it isn’t the case anymore now that she is almost 3 years old!
Firstly, she is more mobile. We would leave the door slightly ajar, so last night, what she did was to walk to the door. Secondly, now that she is more vocal, she started going,”Papa, Papa, Papa, Papa, Papa…”. Ben and I gave each other knowing looks and waited for a while before Ben went to Phoebie and to guide her back to her bed. And this scenario would repeat until Phoebie got tired and slept.
Sounds like we are on the right track, right?
Well, tonight, it got tougher. The moment Ben walked out of the room, she started crying really loudly. Ben waited a couple of minutes before going in. The moment Ben walked out, she started crying again. We could hear Phoebie crying and saying something at the same time, but we couldn’t make out what she was saying, so I went to the door to hear her from outside. In the midst of crying, she was saying “I don’t want Qiqi! I don’t want Qiqi!”. Qiqi is one of her favourite plush toys.
I went in to give her a hug, and told her, “Let’s pray ok?” And while hugging her, I prayed with her. While sniffling, she managed a soft “Amen” and told me she wanted to sleep on the mattress. I decided to stay with her for a while. She laid down and held on to my arm. Slowly, she calmed down n started to touch her Big Bird plush toy. Seeing she was calm and not wanting to agitate her again, I quietly left the room, thinking she would soon falls asleep.
Less than five minutes after I left the room, she started crying again and this time, she was saying something different. Walking closer to the door, I realized she was saying, “I want to pray! I want to pray!” Poor baby must have thought that wanting to pray would get Mummy into the room. 😦 With this thought, I suddenly felt very heartbroken because she must really want us to be with her while she was falling asleep.
I’m a Mum who can really let Phoebie cry, especially when she throws tantrums. I will leave her to cry and walk away. But this time, it felt different. I looked at her and began to wonder if she was feeling insecure. And it was bedtime, it wasn’t a tantrum (or at least I think it wasn’t). I decided to stay with her until she slept.
Since she had said she wanted to pray, I prayed with her again and she “Amen-ed” again. She grabbed my arm and as I asked her to close her eyes, she squeezed her eyes tightly shut, peeping from time to time to make sure I was still next to her. And this time, I only left the room again when she finally fell asleep.
Sigh… So we are back to square one for sleep training.
And from this episode, I have learnt that it is a lot harder to sleep train a preschooler than a baby. A preschooler has the verbal abilities to tell you what she wants and doesn’t want and her words can be more heart wrenching than the cries of a baby. I could always take Phoebie’s cries when she was sleep training as a baby, but I find it so hard to take some things she says now.
The only thing about Phoebie’s sleeping habits that I am happy with at this point, is that she is okay to sleep on her own bed.
In the meantime, I need to read up about sleep training a preschooler.