Who is sick of hearing about Belle and sleeping? Yeah, I didn't think so ;-)
Good news. Great news. Phenomenal news. We MAY have a solution. I am so reluctant to write this because I feel like I might be shooting myself in the foot or jinxing our good progress. Either way, I need to celebrate and include all of you!
Let's start from the beginning really. 6-7 months ago Belle went from a child that slept like a champ. Went to bed at 7:30, fell asleep with no issues, and woke up at 7:30am the next day. Oh how I took my fabulous sleeper for granted. Basically, we moved her into a new room, into a twin bed, and then she became a big sister. So, the bedtime battles begun. Belle loved her new freedom and began to not only get out of her bed, but get out of her room. Paul and I would sit at the top of the steps just putting her back into bed. Ugh. So, began our long list of tactics to "fix" this issue:
- Supernanny approach: Every time she opened the door we walked her back to her bed without speaking or looking at her. (this usually resulted in Paul and I fighting and Belle enjoying every minute of running back and forth between the hall and her bed...the girl loved it)
- Spanking. Nothing is more aggravating than having you child laugh at you after you spank them or giving your child the choice between getting back to bed or getting a spanking and them choosing the latter. Really?!?
- We tried taking things away. At one point I got so carried away she literally had a mattress with a fitted sheet and a pillow. After about 30 seconds I told myself I needed to calm down and give the poor girl her comforter back...she honestly could have cared less. Each item we took was quickly forgotten.
- Tried giving her a bath every night with sleepytime bubble bath. Really? Why I thought this might work is beyond me. This girl has never calmed down in a bath. She throws things, drinks the water, pours it on her head, sings, etc
- Kept to a strict bedtime routine: put on pajamas, brush teeth, read books, pray, sing, scratch her back, leave. Honestly, the longer we sat in her room the more wired she became.
- Gave her a "bedtime basket." This consisted of items she could play with in her room-books, magna doodle, doll, etc. She didn't have to fall asleep, but she was expected to stay in her room. These items quickly became fun things to throw, break, or just wake her up more. No calming down here.
- Bought bunk beds. Belle sleeps in a bunk bed at my parents' house and does awesome. We thought maybe she liked being up higher, and didn't want to get up and down. Wrong-O. She eventually was avoiding the ladder all together and was flipping herself over the railing, hanging over the edge until her feet touched the bottom bunk, and then dropping to the ground. Future Olympic gymnast?
- Melatonin. Oh, what a tease. This actually worked for about a month and then we noticed it began to not have the same effect. Turns out her body built up a tolerance. Ugh. Now we use this for times she HAS to fall asleep on time. This hasn't been a total bust, but it is more a band-aid rather than a solution.
- Ran her around like crazy to exhaust her. Nope...opposite effect.
- Skipped her nap. Unfortunately, she skipped her nap and then was a massive disaster who still didn't fall asleep until 10:30pm.
- Restricted sugar an hour before bed. Fail.
- Restricted any sort of bright screen an hour before bed. Fail.
- Offered a prize bucket with AMAZING toys and gifts she could pick out if she stayed in her room. This was a kind of fail. She would say she wanted something and then come out of her room 5 minutes later, then I couldn't really hold that as an incentive since she failed. However, she gets to pick something out here and there when she goes to bed well without screaming or crying.
Are you as exhausted reading that list as Paul and I were trying to implement it? I am sure I am forgetting about 10 other tactics we tried, but you get the picture. I began to feel like I was missing something as a mother and Paul and I would get so frustrated and argue. This was a problem that needed to get resolved quickly. We did have her blood drawn to rule out any biological factors (all was good), and then saw a therapist for many ideas. She had mentioned a baby gate in front of her door as another sort of last option.
Step in my neighbor, Marci, who told me to cut the top part of a door off. Genius! This was similar to the baby gate idea the therapist mentioned, but WAY cheaper. This way I could lock the door, but Belle could still see out and call out to us as needed. I was game.
I think I have just been waiting so long for my kid to make the right choice and learn to mind Paul and I when it came to this issue. My sister finally said "Bets, she is 2 and a half." Point taken. Sometimes we just have to make the choice for our children once they have proven they can't make the right choice on their own. Many people told me to just lock the door, but something in me just wasn't settling well with that idea. Cutting the top of the door off was the compromise to help me feel better about it.
Paul headed to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store to buy a $13 door, and he and his brother, Marc, quickly chopped the door and put it up. We made a big deal about it with Belle and she thought it was great. When we put her to bed I told her I was shutting it and locking it, but I could hear her downstairs if she needed anything. She was surprisingly cool with it.
All in all, the worst she has done is thrown diapers over the door and climbed onto her dresser to peak her head out and yell "Mama! What are you doing down there?" she plays with her books, dolls, Leapster, etc, but pretty much crawls up to her bunk and has been asleep far before she would have in the past 7 months. I think the open top makes her feel safe, and the locked door has given me my sanity back. I can actually relax at night and not dread bedtime.
So, keep praying this solution works. I am hopeful, but this girl is one master problem solver. Smart little cookie I have on my hands :-)