A couple of weeks ago Emily and I were talking with Sam’s nanny, Hannah. She was in the process of telling us about their time together and mentioned that she had put him down for his nap, that he had complained for 1 or 2 minutes but then fell asleep.
We were flabbergasted.
You see, bedtime may be the single ongoing source of discontent we have with Sam. At the time of this conversation, nap times were very painful. Typically it would start with us waiting until he was exhausted, rubbing his eyes and yawning up a storm. We would then take him upstairs, he would fight us for 5 minutes and finally drop off in our arms. We would then put him down ever so gently and try to sneak out of the room without disturbing him. More often than not, we would fail and he would pick his head up, realize we were leaving, and flip out. The only recourse was to pick him back up and start over. This often took 30 minutes.
Hannah’s report gave us and idea, though. What if Sam’s behavior wasn’t natural or static? What if his freak out was a manipulative tool used to stretch out the bedtime routine and resist going to sleep? We decided to try an experiment and simply leave the bedroom after putting him down. If his crying got out of control, we’d go in and comfort him, but then put him back down – think of it as a modified form of pick up/put down. After a couple of days Sam progressed to the point that we didn’t have to pick him up anymore and would cry for 5-10 minutes but then would put himself to sleep.
Around this time we went to the zoo and ended up coming home with a stuffed giraffe. It wasn’t really our intention to buy a stuffed giraffe, but these things happen. The beauty of the giraffe, though, is that its neck is perfect for sleepy boys to grasp as they drop off. We started giving him his giraffe as we sit down with him. During the day he gets a book read to him, in the evening he gets a bottle. We then get up, turn out the light and lay him down in his crib. For the past week or so, Sam doesn’t even cry any more. He simply rolls over, pulls the giraffe close, closes his eyes, and puts himself to sleep. His sleepy-time routine now takes 5-10 minutes total.
Hannah, we salute you.