Get all your anti-jinxing devices handy. I'm about to talk about toddler-boy's sleep. Toddler is now the appropriate word for him, because he's really changed over the last month and a half. He's become incredibly self-sufficient, inquisitive, and even mindful.
As part of growing up, his sleep patterns have changed. At first, the biggest change came during the day. Instead of his usual thirty-minute naps 3-4 times a day, he began to shift down to two naps - very suddenly. Of course, two thirty-minute naps were nowhere near enough to do his sleep needs justice, and I started to notice he was sneaking in an hour here, an hour there. And, even more so, when he would wake, he seemed rather sleepy and with a little encouragement, might even continue his nap. The nanny also noticed this, and both of us encouraged him to take longer naps. In the last week or so, this has meant successful 2+ hour naps on a daily basis, and a similar 1+ hour nap in the afternoon.
Soon after this daytime shift, I started to notice a change in toddler-boy's nighttime too. He slept a 7 hour stretch the night before his first birthday. Of course, I only got about 4 hours because we were up decorating the house for him and getting all his presents ready. Still, I was super-excited but not holding up my hopes because he'd done longish (5 hour) stretches before, for a day or two, and then reverted right back to his usual "wake every 3 hours" routine. Even if I was no longer feeding him at night - in fact, weaning him from night feeds temporarily made him wake up more often, because he'd wake, I'd rock him back to sleep, and 15-30 minutes later he'd realise he'd not been fed and wake again.
And although 5 hours of continual night time sleep is considered "through the night" by lovely authors such as Pinki McKay (Sleeping Like a Baby), it's still not fantastic from a parent's point of view. But I wanted to stick to my guns. The cry-it-out method was not about to happen in our house.
I was amazed to find that toddler-boy repeated the 7-hour stretch again the following night, then woke frequently for 2 nights, followed by another 7-hour stretch the next night. In the preceding few weeks, he'd had a bad cough and cold, with some fever - his sleep pattern was awful. So I was very very glad for this change. At this point, he went to the doctor for his 12 month check-up and three vaccinations later, he promptly went back to awful sleeping patterns for about 4-5 days. But then, to my big surprise, the 7-hour stretch turned into an 8-hour one. And that was counting from the 10.30pm "dream-feed", not from his 8pm bedtime.
Happily, he's been doing that for about a week now. Once in a while, there is still a possibility of a more wakeful night. I notice that when hubby is or has been out of town, toddler-boy's sleep seems a bit off. But all in all, it's a vast improvement.
The best part is that I never engaged in any kind of sleep training, in the tradition sense of "cry-it-out". I was still nursing him to sleep and then putting him in his bed.
Now, it seems another change is happening. He no longer falls asleep when I nurse him in the evening time. He decides to nurse till he's full, then looks for his pacifier. As usual, he completely ignores or even pushes his "snuggy" away (this is supposed to be his attachment object - obviously THAT never worked but I continue to put it in his bed with him, to hold an extra pacifier so that toddler-boy knows where to find it). He then proceeds to wriggle around the bed some, changing his sleep position about ten times and not falling asleep. I then carry him to his bed, still half awake, and lay him in it. I stay with him for a minute or so. I try not to touch him too much, although sometimes he insists by reaching out for me, either waving his hands in the air in search of my face/hair, or poking them through the spokes to feel for my legs. With a half-broken heart, I disengage when I think he'll be ok, and calmly leave his room. I tend to rumble around in the bathroom for a few minutes, waiting to see if he peeps. Then, I go to the living room.
Invariably, he seems to fall asleep by himself. Occasionally, he will call out about 30 minutes later, either stood up in his bed or not: I give him a pet, or rock him a bit, and put him down again. So far, it's worked well.
It feels weird to do this, the walking out when he's still awake. I know that many experts say a baby is supposed to be able to put themselves to sleep; it's helpful somehow (I can't recall why). I also can't recall if Pinki's book recommends this.
I do worry about one thing -- perhaps he's what's considered an "easy" baby, and by not calling out, he's "pleasing" me, but still hurting inside. I hope that's not the case. The fact that he used to scream his head off in protest if I even stepped away for a moment makes me think he doesn't fall into that category. But, I suppose one never knows. Perhaps this newfound self-confidence is simply harder on me than it is on him. I'm his mom, after all.