What I am about to share may well attract mixed responses from readers. The title says it all, really. Some of you may be aware of the struggle I have had with my second child, who is almost 2 years old. She is the complete opposite of her older sister in terms of behaviour, and she has not slept properly since before she was born, up until about two weeks ago. The reason for her sudden change in sleeping behaviour seems to be my ‘tough love’ approach.
I had tried everything. I breastfeed my daughter, and somehow she had grown accustomed to feeding twice at night, usually between 11pm and 12am, and then again between 3am and 4am. She refused to be settled with cuddles, a bottle of milk, a cup of water, or a dummy. Her dad wasn’t good enough. If he tried to comfort her, she screamed and fought until he brought her to me in desperation. I made sure she had a full tummy before bed, she was warm and comfortable, and everything else that I could think of. I tried various suggestions from health advisors and fellow mothers. Nothing worked. Both me and my daughter were exhausted, and grumpy.
It all reached breaking point. I was frustrated, angry, and fed up. By this time I was sleeping for around four hours at night, and that was broken sleep. I would lie awake in bed, because I knew that my daughter would wake soon and need feeding. She shares a bedroom with her older sister, and I think that because I was always so anxious not to wake the sleeping child with the crying from the younger one, perhaps I reinforced this bad habit from an early age. The toddler knew that I would hurry in to appease her, so that we didn’t wake her sister.
One night, she woke as predicted for the second time. As I approached her bedroom door, she stopped crying. When I opened the door, she was sitting in her cot, she looked at me, and she giggled. There was no distress. She was not hungry. She was using me as a human dummy. That was the final straw. From then on, I vowed to treat her with tough love. I would not give in to her false cries. I would teach her to sleep all through the night. I had to, for my own sanity. The first two nights were stressful. She cried and screamed for almost half an hour while I sat on the edge of my bed in the dark, fighting the urge to run to her. In the morning, she was cheerful and happy. And on the third night, she slept all the way through. Amazing! This has carried on for the past two weeks, with only a couple of incidents where she woke up and I had to attend to her.
I know that many parents, and parenting experts, are against the idea of using ‘tough love.’ Believe me, it was not an easy decision to make, and certainly not easy to implement. But I stand by my actions as the best solution in this particular instance. We have to do what works for our family. My family need a mother that is rested, so that her patience returns and she can still do all of the daily chores that are required. My toddler needs her sleep, so that she can grow and develop into a healthy child. Here marks the end (I hope), of a very traumatic two years.
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