I’ve always considered myself a big fan of sleep, but over the last 16 months, I’ve come to realize just how precious sleep can be — for both parents and children.
As a parent, if I don’t get enough sleep, it can throw off my whole day and make it difficult to function at work and in society, as well as when taking care of my son. If he doesn’t get enough sleep, he becomes very emotional and seems to fall down even more than normal. For my son to get enough sleep, he needs at least one, but usually two, naps during the day and around 10 hours of sleep at night. I usually get between seven and eight hours a night, though I’d love to increase that average.
Sleep was rare and often interrupted in the early days of my son’s life, but by the time he reached his first birthday, he’d become a very good sleeper. That’s something his mother and I are very thankful for and we know we’re very lucky that he sleeps well consistently.
In fact, he was such a good sleeper I was hesitant to change anything about his routine, but I also know we should listen to our pediatrician and so far the boy’s taken the changes in stride.
When it came time to get him transitioned over to cow’s milk, we did it gradually and he didn’t complain much. Sometimes it took a little bit longer to get him to sleep, but once he was off into dreamland, he usually remained asleep through the night.
More recently we stopped letting him fall asleep while drinking his milk because it became important that we brush his teeth every night. The boy has nearly a full set on the top and the bottom, so we make sure they get cleaned every night after his drinks his milk.
At first, he quite enjoyed the process but the tide turned quickly and it became a battle. Luckily, that didn’t last too long either and he’s back to enjoying it and giggling through the whole process.
However, the first few nights of just rocking him to sleep without anything for him to do saw a lot of crying — and not all of it came from him.
Fortunately, we kept everything else about his routine the same and that seemed to help. My wife and I would take the boy to our bedroom to brush his teeth and then let him roll around on our bed for a little while until he seemed tired enough to go to sleep. I’d then change him and get him ready for bed. He sleeps in a sleep sack, which is basically a cloth bag with holes for his arms and head, so when he gets zipped up in that, he seems to know it’s time to start sucking his thumb.
After he became accustomed to being rocked to sleep like this, we accidentally moved onto the next step — putting him down awake in his bed and letting him put himself to sleep.
It was the night before my wife was leaving on a trip and she was still gathering some last minute things for her suitcase, so I left the boy in his crib while I got our two dogs some more food. Once I got that finished and my wife was ready to rock him to sleep, we went to get him and he’d already fallen asleep on his own.
That was just over a week ago and for all but a couple of instances — like when my wife got home from her trip and he was excited to see her — he’s fallen asleep on his own every night since.
I know we’re lucky to have backed into that next step and hopefully me writing about it won’t jinx the whole thing from here on out.
William C. Wadsack is the managing editor of the Herald Democrat and a first-time father. He never realized just how expensive children could be until the birth of his son. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @WCWadsackHD.