Through some magic, Ingrid has learned to sleep.
Step one: she learned that sleep is good. One of the few signs we taught Ingrid (before her spoken language got going) was the sign for sleep. We signed “sleep” every evening before I put her to bed. One day, several months ago now, she signed “sleep” before I did, and walked off towards the bedroom on her own. Since that day, our evenings have become a lot smoother.
Sometimes she still resists going to bed (and what child wouldn’t, when there is so much to be done?) but many days she happily toddles off towards the bedroom (or towards me, when she would rather be carried) when I suggest sleep. And sometimes when she’s tired, she suggests a nap before I’ve even thought about it.
Step two: she learned to go to sleep. Something happened, and suddenly she got to a point where she can fall asleep in less than five minutes, assuming she’s calm and tired. She does things that I had previously only heard stories about: drifts off in the pushchair while we’re out walking, or even sitting in my lap. No boobs and no crying and no jumping involved. Absolutely wonderful.
In the evening she still likes me to lie next to her for a while. But she doesn’t complain when I slowly move away to sit by her side, once she is almost asleep. Most evenings she falls asleep with me holding her hand, or just sitting there and doing nothing at all.
The hard part is making sure that she is calm and tired in time for bedtime. She needs to get out and run about during the day, in order to be properly tired for the night. The days we spend indoors, for one reason or another, she usually has trouble falling asleep. Instead she runs about like a madman even though it’s late. Some part of her brain and body is tired, but not the right part, so she cannot calm down. When I put her to bed in that state, she can spend a good 40 minutes getting the energy out of her: kicking her legs against the mattress, flexing her legs again and again, slapping her feet against the wall, etc etc. And then the night ends up too short, and she’s cranky in the morning and the day after… So we generally make an effort to get her outdoors every day.
Step three: she learned to go back to sleep on her own. It used to be that whenever I heard a whimper from the bedroom, I rushed in, because if I didn’t, the whimper inevitably grew into loud crying that escalated until I went in to calm her down. Now she sometimes cries out but then goes right back to sleep (or maybe she doesn’t even wake). Sometimes she makes more noise, and then I usually go in to find her sitting up in her bed. She appears confused and peeved, but is effectively asleep, so the moment I lay her down again, she is asleep again.
Other times she half-wakes and seems really annoyed and I just cannot calm her. I suspect that it’s because she pees in her sleep, and doesn’t like the feeling. She wears disposable nappies at night, but even with those she feels something. And she hates night-time nappy changes that follow. She doesn’t like laying down flat on her back. During the day she stands up for nappy changes, but during the night of course she definitely does not want to stand up, she wants to lie down and sleep! And she isn’t sufficiently awake to understand that it will be easier to go back to sleep when I’ve changed the nappy. So whichever way I choose, she struggles and fights me. I usually end up breastfeeding her after these episodes, because that’s the only way to calm her again when she’s that worked up.
But in general, we all sleep better than we’ve done in a year and a half.