A few days ago a big milestone took place in our home: Frida slept all night in her own bedroom. I feel both delighted – it’s so nice to be able to read at night with the light on, and to wake up in the morning, open the curtains, journal and read some more – and slightly heartbroken. Until a few nights ago, she had never slept a night without one of us in the same room, apart from on a couple of occasions when my mum was in the room instead. My baby is getting bigger.
I decided to move Frida’s bed out of our bedroom and into her room three nights ago. I don’t know exactly why I chose to do it then and there; I’ve been feeling motivated to change a few things around in our home and have been rethinking some of our spaces, and I’d been mulling over moving her bed into her own room for a while. I guess it boils down to this: I just felt in my gut that she was ready. (I was less certain if I was ready.)
I asked her if she wanted to move her bed, she said yes, and that was that.
We’re only three nights in so things may well change, but so far I’ve been astonished. The little girl who until a few days ago climbed into bed with me every night has happily been going to sleep in her own bed in her own room and staying there until the morning, waking up with delight to be in her own bed. It feels momentous. I miss watching her sleep (tell me I’m not alone?) but she is definitely ready for this next step.
Our sleep journey
For those of you who might be new around here, here’s a little summary of what sleep has looked like in our family since Frida was born. I hope it reassures you that it’s ok to do what works for your family, to trust your instinct, and mostly that even if your child doesn’t sleep and you are beyond exhausted, there is hope!
When Frida was a newborn, she slept well for the first few months of her life, with a couple of wake-ups a night after the initial few weeks when I don’t think either of us knew what we were doing! We intentionally co-slept and bed-shared from birth (which attracted a lot of horror and “helpful” comments from the hospital midwives and nurses, but my baby had just been inside me for 40 weeks and there was no way she was going to lie alone in a plastic crib when she could lie snuggled on my chest) which both felt practical as a breastfeeding dyad and also just intuitively right. We did have a bedside crib attached but she never slept in it – however it reassured me that she couldn’t fall out of the bed, and it was a great bedside table!
The four-month sleep regression hit us hard. And then kept going, and going. I’m still not totally sure how I got through. At it’s peak – which lasted a long time – she would wake every 20-40 minutes, all through the night, every night. Sometimes I would get a two or three hour stretch if I was really lucky. But that was as good as it ever got. It feels like a logical impossibility: I was blissfully happy, falling in love with my baby more and more every day, but physically as time went on and my reserves were ground down, I became quite broken. Everything hurt. I was ill all the time. My brain wasn’t working at its best.
I decided to night-wean Frida at 18 months as I just couldn’t carry on any longer (you can read about our experience in this post) and it was pretty much the best parenting decision I have ever taken. It made an immediate and enormous difference to Frida’s sleep, and mine, and I slowly began to recover, although I feel like nearly two years on I am still recovering. There is a reason sleep-deprivation is an effective torture technique. I certainly feel like that period of getting no sleep has continued to affect my (mental and physical) health on some level. If we ever have another child, I would not leave it so long to night-wean again, but as the saying goes, “know better, do better”. I know why I didn’t wean her sooner: I was simply too tired to contemplate it. If that sounds illogical, welcome to the world of being so tired that it takes all of your energy just to try and function.
After Frida was night-weaned, she continued to sleep in our bed. She still woke a couple of times a night, but went straight back to sleep and it was very manageable. When she was 23 months I put her bed (an IKEA extendible toddler-bed) into our bedroom with the aim to slowly transition her to sleeping in it, at least at the start of the night. You can read more about this here. Since then it was a mix: sometimes starting the night in her bed and coming into ours, sometimes starting in ours and then being moved into hers, sometimes spending all night in ours, sometimes sleeping all night in hers (this was the least common!). Sometimes she would sleep through, sometimes she’d wake once or twice and go straight back to sleep. I felt very relaxed about it, and we were all getting enough rest, but I knew that at some point we would make the transition to moving her into her own room.
And so now, age three-and-a-bit, there she is. Her playroom is now her bedroom (although we we have left toys there as it works well as a play space, but there are fewer out and overall I feel the room still feels calm) and she is really happy about it. I am fully expecting that there will be many more nights to come where she ends up in our bed, and I am not ready for it to be otherwise! But for now, I’m going to keep enjoying lots of reading in bed and a full night’s sleep without tiny legs poking me.
In the depths of sleep-deprivation, I would never have believed that Frida and I would now both be sleeping well. If only I had known an end would be in sight! So if you are in a similar place with sleep at the moment, I am sending you so much love. My words to you are: Keep going. You’re not alone. Your baby is not broken. It will be better one day. It’s not true that everyone else’s baby sleeps better than yours. Look after yourself. You will get through this. Ask for help. Know your limits. It will be OK. One day you won’t be so tired.
5 replies on “A Room of her Own: Our Sleep Journey”
I remember reading about your night weaning journey at 18 months and feeling so positive. Even this post is so uplifting. Yet here I am. My son is nearly 2 years 4 months. He still nurses to sleep and for naps and still wakes up an average of two times a night. I’ve tried to gently wean, talked a lot about stopping, trying to make the supposedly last feed special and saying bye to ‘milky’. I had reduced the duration of the nursing sessions too for days before that move and to stop the link between feeding and sleeping…not doing it last thing before he sleeps etc. After last feed, he slept for the nap but after a very good cry. He didn’t ask for it at night and settled himself to sleep even wheb he woke up. But he was changed. He was terribly irritable and generally angry for days when I had started to reduce the feeds. I was heartbroken to see him so sad and was getting irritable about the whole situation myself, losing patience. I accepted his feelings and talked about how he misses milky but I couldn’t handle seeing him so frustrated. Only 24hrs after the ‘official’ last feed, I gave in and nursed him. He was estatic but I felt and still feel bad about ‘giving in’. He is back to his usual self. I am still limiting nursing sessions but can’t see an end to this. I would like him to be more independent when it comes to sleep and self soothing. He is so attached to me and won’t let anyone near him when he’s tired..not even his dad. I honestly feel that attached parenting has let me and my son down. I also feel bad about not keeping my word after saying bye to milkies but I honestly felt he was not ready after seeing his reaction. My friends’ children who are 7 months and 16 months are able to go to sleep on their own wih just some soothing and I am the frantic mum who has to stay at home or leave early cause my son needs to nurse. Sorry for the rant but I am feeling really lost and I do feel like I have done something wrong in the process. Something that I can’t undo and it’s a horrible feeling.
Sending you huge hugs across the internet, mama. It sounds to me like you are trusting your instinct and trusting your son when he is communicating his needs – not that you’ve done anything wrong! All children are so different, I know it’s hard but try not to compare yourself to other parents. There is so much pressure to have children sleep through the night, but actually this is not biologically normal. Sarah Ockwell-Smith has written some good stuff on this topic. Lots of love xx
Thank you so much for sharing your story. It sounds so similar to our own although we are still finding our way to solid sleep. Can you share how Frida actually falls asleep at night? Do you or your husband lay down with her or if not, how did you transition from that after night-weaning. We are still laying down with my son (and bed sharing) and I would be happy to continue doing so, but we have a little one on the way and we have to make a change. Its so hard making a change for a little person that isn’t initiated by them, but by something outside of their control!
It depends! Often we sit by her or lie with her, either silently or singing, or telling her a story. Sometimes now we can leave her to fall asleep alone, though this is recent and still quite rare. We’ve really followed her lead. Good luck with finding something that works for your growing family – audiobooks or soft music playing could be a good transition xx