One of the things I keep hearing in the forums is that someone is struggling because their child slept well for a couple of nights and is suddenly sleeping horribly again just when they thought they might be past the worst of things.
My daughter does this. She’ll have some AWESOME nights followed by the need to nurse all night. The way I’ve come to view it is that it’s similar to a child that feels independent, runs off to explore, loses sight of mom, then freaks out and needs additional reassurance for a while. The need for additional reassurance isn’t a setback, getting that additional reassurance is what teaches the child that it IS OKAY to be independent.
So when she has a few excellent nights of sleep followed by clinginess I see it as a little bubble over her head of “I slept SO awesome last night mama. Then I woke up in a panic because I realized that we were drifting apart and now I need to cling to you and be with you all night long so that I know I still can if I need to. Please just hold me tight and love me for a few nights before you try again to put me in my own space.”
And when she nurses less for a few days and I feel like “AT LAST I GET SOME PERSONAL SPACE” I expect it to be followed by extreme nurse-athons because she’s going to suddenly realize she hasn’t nursed as much as she needs to and she needs to catch up again. It’s not a setback, it’s part of pushing towards independence.
If she comes to me with this need for additional closeness and additional nursing for reassurance and I push her away because “THIS IS A SETBACK AND I HAVE TO BREAK HER OF BAD HABITS BEFORE THEY FORM AGAIN” I’m telling her that she will NOT be able to go back to something once she lets it out of her sight for a little bit. That she has to work harder to get what the needs after she exercises independence.
So instead of pushing her to be independent after she’s made the choice to be independent I go soft and mushy and pull her closer than she needs so that she can push away HERSELF. So that she can bounce back off me and take off again.
I take the long term view of things though. Nursing for me is a two year minimum goal and I do child led weaning. Sleep for me I expect to come closer to two so the fact that my DD is now only waking 3 times a night at one year old and that she’s accepting daddy for all but one of those wakings.. Is freaking amazing for me and I expect her to revolt and keep me up every hour for a few nights soon. And I’m fine with that and will pull her closer. And her daddy knows that if she needs to nurse it’s fine for him to bring her to me and that this nighttime thing is as long and as slow as she needs.
BECAUSE we want to make progress. And because pushing for progress makes things take longer. It builds up resistance because the child constantly needs to fight to be nearer and fight to hold onto that thing that is slipping away from them.
All I need to do to understand this is think about those two awesome nights of sleep that I got and how I don’t want to let go of those awesome nights of sleep.. If I, as an adult, freak out so much when something is “slipping away”, how must a one year old child feel?
She’s my third child so it’s easier. I’m used to this. I’ve become used to not having any physical space for myself or any time for myself or getting any sleep at all ever.
With my first it was SO MUCH HARDER and I saw everything as a setback and it was painful. This time around I’m surrendering and she’s doing things much faster than I am expecting.
It’s still hard for me sometimes. I love sleep. I love personal space. I get touched out easily.
But I understand that I need to let go of the need for progress in order for progress to happen. I need to accept that need for additional reassurance after my child has done more than she was ready to do. I need to pull her close when she needs it so that she can push away easily when she is driven to do so.
And driven she is. She crawls off so quickly that I have to chase after her. She is trying out new things to try and self soothe and sometimes her efforts don’t work and she gets upset and needs that extra comfort.
She WANTS to. It’s a skill. Kids love learning new skills.
But when it doesn’t work right away sometimes she becomes frustrated and needs help to calm back down.
When she gets that comfort and calms back down she’s ready to try and learn again.
It’s not giving up on progress. It’s stepping back and letting progress happen.