By baby number three, usually the least of your worries is figuring out how and when you’re going to get your baby to sleep through the night. If you’re a Type-A parent, chances are you’ve already got the whole sleep thing figured out with your first two children, so you naturally assume that by your third you’ll have no problem getting your little bundle into a functional sleep routine. You’ve read all the books, tried all the techniques, and feel pretty confident in your abilities to teach a baby how to sleep. If you’re more of a laid-back parent, you’ve probably figured out by now that sleep is the least of your worries when it comes to raising kids, and so you naturally assume that it will all work itself out and baby will sleep through the night when baby is ready.
By my third child, I proudly claimed to fall somewhere in between the two parenting extremes. While I knew plenty well how to teach a baby to sleep having successfully mastered it two times before, I also figured it would just all work itself out. Ha! How wrong was I!
Fast forward to age two-and-a-half, and my sweet darling baby boy has yet to sleep through the night for more than four or five consecutive days in a row. We were patient and understanding when he didn’t sleep through the night at all until he was 11 months old, and even that was a fluke that didn’t happen again until he was 18 months old. From then on, for the last year we’ve been lucky to get four nights in a row with no wakings. Often he’ll sleep through the night for two or three days in a row, just enough to give us a break so we don’t go insane, and then BAM! — he’s back at his old tricks. This vicious cycle has repeated itself over and over and over again for the last year.
The causes for these wakings and how long they last vary from night to night. Lately they’ve been due to his need to want to sleep with someone, and when this happens he’s often wakeful for up to two hours in the middle of the night. Many times we’re successful with finally getting him back to sleep, but some nights, I’ll admit it, we cave and either bring him into bed with us or let him sleep with his older brother or sister, ages 7 and 9. For a while we thought he was just tired of sleeping in a crib so we converted it into a toddler bed. Then he grew tired of that after a few days so we finally moved him into a regular big boy bed. That novelty gave us a couple of night’s of rest, but then we were back at square one.
We have tried everything. A nice consistent bedtime routine. A decent bedtime hour so that he doesn’t get too overtired. We’ve tried to softly yet strongly encourage him to go back to sleep on his own. We’ve even tried the two extremes of letting him cry it out and letting him co-sleep with us, neither of which made us very comfortable. We’ve been consistent, loving — yet strong and steadfast, but this child just does not like to sleep at night. Thankfully he’s an otherwise cheerful and happy guy who takes a good nap during the day, so we’ve dealt with it and just tried to stay sane and positive through it all.
But the other night, after a particularly long battle around 1 am, I finally took him into our daughter’s bedroom after he repeatedly asked to sleep with her. We all went back to bed, or so I thought, but come morning I learned that he had kept my daughter up half the night by playing with her stuffed animals and singing songs. Simply stated, I felt horrible. It’s one thing for our son’s bad sleeping habits to affect us, his parents, but to affect our kids, especially on a school night, was just too much. I decided enough was enough.
After digging around online a bit, I decided to give essential oils a try. Before I go on, let me fully disclose that I am not an essential oils devotee. I know a lot of people who are — many of which are personal friends and family — who rave about how they literally “changed their lives.” Honestly, many of their success stories sound too good to be true, but I’ve always just thought, “Hey, more power to them.” If you can cure some illness or keep sickness at bay with some natural oils, why not give them a go? I’ve tried a few up to this point, and a few things have worked, but several haven’t. I went into this newest experiment with getting my toddler to sleep as just that: an experiment. Open to success, but with minimal expectations.
After reading one woman’s “testimony” about a particular night time oil routine that she had successfully used to get her own toddler to bed, I followed her protocol and laid out the oils one night. I started by diffusing some drops of lavender in his room. The neat machine with the spitting mist quickly caught my 2-year-old’s attention, and he proceeded to wave his hand through the mist over and over again, laughing with delight until he knocked it over and oil spilled everywhere. Not the best way to begin. Maybe this wasn’t the best idea.
But I pushed my annoyance aside and filled the diffuser back up, this time setting it on a higher shelf, and encouraged my boy to lay down for his oil treatment. After wrestling him to the ground, I massaged a lavender oil on the soles of his feet. It must have tickled because he giggled uncontrollably and reflexively tried to pull his feet away. I was determined to get that oil on his feet though, if it was the last thing I did. Finally, lavender successfully applied. Now on to the next thing. Yes, there’s more.
I took out a little bottle called Joy and shook out a couple of drops and massaged it into his heart area. I then took out a bottle called Peace and Calm and rubbed a couple of drops behind each ear, and since as a mother of three I could certainly use all the peace and calm I can get, I did the same behind my own two ears.
Lastly, I took out Frankincense and carefully placed a few drops onto the palm of my hand and rubbed it into the crown of his head. If it was good enough for baby Jesus, well then it is certainly good enough for baby Howe.
We then put on his pajamas, read a couple of books, and said night-night.
On the first night, he didn’t make a peep.
We repeated the whole song and dance the following night and every night since, and for seven nights now he has not woken once. He goes to sleep easily and stays in his bed all night long. We are breaking records at this point, and I am beside myself with happiness.
My older kids are now asking for the oil treatment too since they wouldn’t mind resting a little better at night. Even though they already sleep like the dead, we’ve been indulging them. For the past couple of nights, it’s like an assembly line of oil application. I had to draw the line at applying the oils to their stuffed animals though, cause that shit is expensive.
Truth be told, I was a skeptic about the oils and even still, I feel a little silly applying these oils all over my baby’s body like some sort of ancient magic ritual. But they are working and we’re getting more rest thanks to them. Had someone told me when I first became a parent that by baby number three, I’d be encapsulating my placenta and doing an essential oils song and dance to get my baby to sleep each night, I’d have laughed right in their face. But the perils of parenting change you in ways you would never believe or expect to happen, most of the time for the better. I am so happy I’ve learned to be more open to trying new things, even things that I would have long ago thought were wacky. Whatever it takes to survive — I think that’s my new parenting philosophy.