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Friday, 27 November 2020
Sleep: Mama and Baby Lovebirds Print
When we adopted our little girl she was extremely afraid of the dark, of her crib and of sleeping in general. She had numerous, horrific night terrors every night and could not even nap because of her intense fears. As a result we had to undertake a multistage transition into "normal" sleeping arrangements. My heart knew that Ferberizing (letting the child ‘cry it out’ for periods of time in the crib on her own) would destroy the work we were doing on a daily basis to build trust and to teach her to turn to us for emotional regulation in times of distress. For the first year my daughter needed me to hold her to fall and to stay asleep. This was extremely hard on me as I also needed "me time" to recharge my batteries. I made a compromise. Every night I would rock her until she feel asleep and then I would put her on the sofa in our TV room (with pillows all around her) and watch a show with my husband. She would wake up on the sofa sometimes and be very angry with me that I was 3 feet away and not "right there," but I could calm her quickly so she could fall back asleep. Had she awoken in a room on her own at that stage (if we had tried the Ferberizing) we would NEVER have been able to get her back to sleep. So this was still an improvement.

About a year ago, I put a crib in the living room which is within eyesight of our TV room where Dad and I spend the evenings after our daughter falls asleep. Since our daughter was very afraid of cribs in general, I had some work to do to desensitize her. I decided to surround her crib with paper ladybugs (something I had taught her represents Mama’s love- so that every time she sees them she says "Mama loves me"). We cut out the ladybugs and decorated them together with stickers and crayons. I taped them around her crib and told our little girl that the bed was now surrounded with Mama’s love. I bought her a ladybug pillow and sprayed the bed with "Mama love juice" (water in a fancy perfume bottle). We made the crib (that she was terrified of) seem like a baby love nest just for her.

Then I showed her pictures of Mama birds flying away from their nests to get food for their babies. I pointed out that the babies were still in the nest and that the Mama never goes too far away- she can always hear her babies. Then for over a week, every afternoon we "practiced" playing Mama and Baby Bird. I put our daughter in the crib for about 5-10 minutes, tucked her in like she was really going to sleep (remember my daughter did not nap), and then I would "fly" off to "search for food." I really did "fly" to make it more playful and dramatic. I would work in the kitchen while she lay in the crib and listened to music. I also made and played relaxation tapes for her during these "nesting times" that had me talking about calming things and reminding her how much she is loved.

While I was doing the dishes we would even "check in" on each other by "chirping" back and forth a few times. Finally, I would "fly" back to her with a big marshmallow in my mouth just for her (and I fed it to her like a mother bird would). She loved playing "Mama and Baby Bird," and as I said, we did this for over a week before we tried it at night (if your daughter/son naps I would try it during nap time first as nights are usually harder on our children). Then for months my daughter would sleep in the crib for the first 3 hours while Dad and I visited in the TV room (she could hear our muffled voices which helped her feel safe). I would bring her up to sleep with us in bed when we retired for the night.

At some point about 6 months ago, I moved the crib back to our bedroom upstairs. Now that my daughter is used to it she can go to sleep on her own upstairs with no problem. I just put her in the crib, do our goodnight ritual (which includes a little verse about how the Mama bird can hear her baby bird all night), put on her music, spray her love juice and she is fine. Thank God, because I remember vividly hearing her cry like I was abandoning her every time I would try to put her down, or she would wake up and I was not "right there." I hope this can help some other families get their own special little baby birds more comfortable in their "nests."


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