Oxygen mask

Big girl bedThis week we've been transitioning Maybelle from her crib to a bed (which is her crib with one set of railings removed).

Let's talk about how well I do with transitions:  I'm terrible at them.  I like most things in my daily life to be routine and predictable.  I love the excitement of surprises in my teaching and research (for instance, I loved it the other day when I invited my students to ask some questions I wasn't expecting, and one student--in enthusiasm and sincerity--asked, "Are we going to read any books that are...interesting?"  Led to a great thirty minute conversation).

But in daily life, I love a routine.  I also love getting a decent amount of sleep.  Crib-to-bed transitions don't seem to support either.

The first night was Monday.  Within the first hour of us putting her to bed, Maybelle had gotten up and come to get us 66 times.  I became so overwrought that Biffle sent me to my office at school.  He turned off every light in the house, and Maybelle finally fell asleep.  She got up three times in the night, and at 5:30, she was fully up and ready to start the day.

Night #2:  She got up 7 times in the complete darkness that was our house, then she stayed in her room for 10 minutes, then got up a few more times, and then within half an hour fell asleep.  Awake and ready to go the next morning at 4:30.

Night #3:  Took her about an hour to go down, a dozen times getting up between 7 and 8.  Then she was up at 1, and then between 2:30-4:40 up about six times, which means I basically didn't sleep starting at 2:30.  In the morning.  I stood holding her bedroom door shut between 4:40 and 5 just hoping that it might inspire her to go back to bed.  It didn't.

On Thursday, the day that started at 2:30, one of the students in my WGS capstone seminar mentioned the oxygen mask.  You know, the airline announcement that you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on anyone who's relying on you.  As I told the student, this is something I remind myself of pretty much every day.  I needed to hear it that day, in my bleary, emotional, sleep-deprived state.

So on Thursday night, night #4, Biffle and I considered making her bed back into a crib and abandoning the notion of her being a person who sleeps in a big girl bed.  But before we took that step, we decided to try a step that felt sketchy to me, but necessary according to the oxygen mask premise:  we made it so that she couldn't leave her room.

As part of that process, I made her a list of "Maybelle's sleep rules," lifted directly from the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (a book that has some good suggestions but is deeply troubling in some of the things it says).  It's a list of things like, "Stay in bed" and "close our eyes."  Maybelle read it several times and seemed perfectly happy with it.  Then we put her in bed, closed the door, and waited (waited, by the way, in a house with lights on--kind of important for me).

She tried to open the door, and when it wouldn't open, she immediately began tantruming.  After a few minutes of this, Biffle went in, told her that we were here, and that she had to go to bed, that she wasn't leaving her room until the morning.  For about ten minutes she was calm, quietly playing in her room, and then she tried the door again and threw a rageful fit.  For twelve solid minutes, she screamed her fury at us, as we sat sort of huddled in worry and vague sickishness in the dining room, listening to the baby monitor, waiting to see what happened.  We knew that we couldn't change our minds, because rest assured, Maybelle is savvy enough about human interactions that she would get that changing our minds = if I throw a 15-minute tantrum, the parents will cave!

In the dark, she pulled the sleep rules off her bedroom wall and wadded them up.  Then she got into her bed and fell asleep.  For the whole night.

The next night she went to sleep almost immediately, with no tantruming at all.  She woke up early--4:30--but played quietly in her room until I got back from my jog, a little after 5, and then the day officially began. Last night she threw a tiny little fit, but when Biffle told her it was time for bed, she got in bed, and that was the last we heard from her until 5 this morning.  Her playing woke me up, so I went for a jog, and when I got back, she was still quietly playing in her room, so I went and got her.  Tonight, she checked the door and has been silent.
Happy in bed

I don't know about this sleep stuff, y'all.  I have no idea how much--if any--of this has to do with Down syndrome, and how much just has to do with being a kid who has to learn to sleep.  I do know that we've relied quite heavily on the support and reassurance of some experienced friends.  I also know that there's no set of guidelines that explain The Right Way to do things.

As Biffle and I sat listening to Maybelle's fury on night #4, he said, "I'm sure of three things.  This is all experimental.  It's all gonna work out.  We just have to be really patient."  I stand by what I said to him then:  two of those are a sure thing.


Cate Bush said...

Whew these kinds of transitions are exhausting! From working with parents of young children, in my experience you're definitely on the fast track. I think it can take young children a long time to learn to stay in bed. A natural barrier seems to be moving things along in a positive way! Hopefully as you and Biffle recoup on sleep you may see that all 3 things are possible :).

Big hugs and love!!

Mel said...

Living with night-owl kids who hate to go to bed suuuuks. I know. (Of course, in our house, it's hard to place the blame because both Jess and I are up, eyes half-glazed over, yawning and looking around the internet and not going to bed ourselves. Bad role models.) But best of luck to you. We still haven't gotten good sleep routines out of either of the kids. Or ourselves.

krlr said...


Like minds - I wrote my (non) sleep post tonight too! Learn from my errors, young jedi. Don't break now, or you'll be sleepless for YEARS.

Elizabeth said...

I have to say that I'm glad those days are over with my three kids! It sounds like you did the absolute best thing for your whole family. Good luck -- I'm hoping it sticks!

Amanda said...

Ahhh, I needed this post after a night of being kicked to pieces sleeping next to Hugh in his twin bed with a railing next to me. He's been out of a crib for a long time, but the waking up with night terrors thing has continued, so right now we are taking turns sleeping with him in his bed. This, too, shall pass is our refrain...YAWN.

mary said...

sounds hard but it seems like you are doing a great job! i hope it continues to work!

Jay Crockett said...

Yeah four nights is really good from my experience. So try no to take it too hard if there's a relapse.

And just wait until you try sleeping in a hotel room with no possible way to restrain them! Big fun.
Lorelei had to actually take Will out to the van and strap him in, the first hotel room we stayed at on our Disney trip.

Alison said...

Thanks for the love and support, y'all. I'm glad to hear that I'm not alone.

Fortunately for us, Maybelle actually LOVES going to sleep--but I dread hotel travel for the reason Jay has identified.

I'm glad to know there's ultimately an end in sight, Elizabeth!

Danielle G. said...

Allison, those first nights of tantrums are the hardest. It gets easier from there. So from where I sit, you're through the rough patch of this transition. We used the same book as a reference in "sleep training" our children, and for all its flaws, I have to say...it worked. :) Best of luck and big hugs to Maybelle. I miss her morning smiles.

Alison said...

Thanks, Danielle! Again, the success stories are quite helpful.

And Amanda, I'm sorry to hear that the night terrors continue. I know from Claire that those don't go on forever, but they sound quite troubling, even though cognitively you know that everything's okay.

Tawanda Bee said...

Ahh this brings back memories of sitting on the floor by Lane's bedroom door crying while he raged at us... same sleepless story... same decision to shut the door... such memories.

We did not awake to crumpled sleep guidelines... we woke to a broken baby bed! It took us a week cause I caved a few times.

Go mom and dad!

starrlife said...

I guess for us I've found that every threshold is facilitated by a LIST, a simple, clear not too long list. For getting ready for bed we have "go do your list" which was posted until she had it memorized. For sleeping we have just a few rules (we spoil her around the falling asleep since I so enjoy my alone time in that transition- I give her "2 minutes" of me (not closely timed).

When she was little we let her come into bed, rail across the stairs so she couldn't wander and then would bring her back to hers as soon as she was asleep. Now the rule is no getting up until the sun comes up (or 7 am whichever comes first). If she comes in our room we just get warm hugs and kisses and then she is sent back to her room.
Crib to bed is hard and we did not rush it (cowards we are)- my rule was as long as she didn't climb out and she still fit I went with the crib! (that's kind of the way I approach all of it I'm afraid..... same with potty training -I follow their lead). Once we moved from the crib for several days I just put an air mattress on her floor and lay there until she went to sleep and/or lay down with her for a short time.
Sounds like for you that list is very effective and keep reinforcing and reviewing it each eves and I think it will go fine. You might even find that she gets more sleep than she ever has and that is only a good thing for temperament being even eh?

Grrrr.... I'm so annoyed at blogger and the comments issues....