Bedtime Was Hell Until My Mom Uttered These Seven Words

Putting my twins to sleep was a lesson in patience until a babysitter turned things around for us

The other night, I read a Facebook message from another twin mom, grappling against a bedtime routine and two very uncooperative peanuts. I could sense her strain, the anticipation of that match in the powder barrel. And it all came screaming back. 

For ten months, my husband and I did the bedtime dance; a never-ending routine of cuddling, caressing and humming softly until our babies fell away into peaceful slumber. Every night, after feeding each baby, we would retreat to our separate quarters for a good hour of loving them to bed. Once they finally conceded to fatigue, we would rhythmically float them down the hall and into their nursery, gently place them into bed, start their sound machine, and silently slip away. If we weren’t stealthy and they awoke, we started over. If they had moved into an awkward position in the cuddle process, we would use a pillow or blanket to magically levitate them to their sleep destination. It could take hours to get them down to sleep and it was exhausting. Putting the twins to bed was an event of epic proportion, like a bad TV show that played on a loop. It had to change. 

I had read an article while pregnant (and hyper-sensitive), about a traveller who visited an orphanage in Africa. In his testimony, he described the many babies who were cared for, none of whom were crying. When he asked the Matron responsible for the infants how she was so successful at getting them to sleep, she responded with a statement that chilled me to my core.  

"After they cry long enough, they eventually realise no one is coming for them." I promised myself in that moment that if my babies ever cried, I would always go to them, immediately, lest they feel alone or abandoned. I carried this promise until my girls were just beyond ten months.  Every time they cried in the night, I came to their instantaneous rescue. Every hour (upon hour upon hour) they resisted sleep, I accommodated. It was a long ten months.

One day, my husband and I decided we were due for a date night and recruited babysitters for the Faraci house bedtime saga. My parents answered the call that night, and the game changed from then on. I had written four pages of notes (I’m a planner) and strategies for maintaining the girls and getting them to bed in the least stressful way possible. I always felt bad leaving them with others, as I knew exactly how much effort was required. I expected the worst upon arriving home; tales of the terrible zombie babies who hate sleep and eat grandparents alive! 

“How did it go?”  I asked my Mother.

“Great.”  No sense of surviving an apocalypse whatsoever.

“Great? How long did it take you to put them to bed?” My eyes narrowed as they attempted to filter a skepticism/disbelief combo.

“Oh, I just put them in their beds.”  

This was the sentence that started a movement; “I just put them in their beds.” I had a million questions for her. “Didn’t they cry? How long did they cry? Did one outcry the other?”

Of course, they cried. Change is hard as a rule of thumb—I still cry at the occasional obstacle or disruption even as an adult. My girls are stubborn, like their mom, and since they liked their lengthy bedtime extravaganza, there was a good long week of discontent. But night after night, we just put them in their beds. Every ten minutes or so, we would go into their room and move them back into their original sleeping positions, say good night again, and exit. In less than two weeks it was gangbusters. The angry cries relented and it was like reality set in—it's time for bed, and that’s nothing to be upset about.

I have read every article (probably) on whether or not the “cry it out” method is healthy or detrimental or unnatural or cruel. I have heard every mother and her sister’s opinion on best bedtime practices. Here is what I know—what works for you is perfect, for you. It’s different for everyone. No two babies are the same, not even my two girls who came from the same place at the same time. For me, it was time to just put them in their beds. I don't think for a moment that they felt less loved or left to fend for themselves in the night. And while not every night is a good night’s sleep, we're now in a place where I can manage getting the girls to bed by myself, mostly tear-free, in minimal time. 

When I read about someone else's routinely-scheduled-sundown-baby-mayhem, I feel compelled to speak up and reach out. But not because I know best or because this is the solution for everyone. Whether we are soothing our baby to sleep, co-sleeping, or mingling in the middle somewhere, we’re ultimately doing what we think is best for our children. I don’t think there is one ‘best’ practice, or know if my personal experience is producing results in her household, but what I do know is that to some extent, we are all in the same boat—we're just using different paddles.

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