It's no secret that my kid has never been big on sleep. She was born wide-eyed and alert, opting to keep her big brown eyes open even under the bright lights of the operating room where she was born. She stayed up for several hours (I think I counted 6) before she really fell asleep that first day.
Fast forward 3.5 years, and it's no different. She is not one to be forced into slumber, and to even attempt it would result in her working herself up into such an emotional frenzy that only sheer exhaustion would cause her to relent on the wailing. That's my kid.
And so, we have co-slept and endured her crazy bedtimes and wake-up times, nursing her down at night and taking her on long stroller rides during nap hour. For us, this flexible non-schedule was never an issue because neither Hubbs nor I have had to work outside of our home; as a result, we've never had to contend with set sleep schedules to accommodate daycare or our 9-5's. I read somewhere that kids actually do have their own schedules, even from birth. As we charted her sleep cycles, we noted that she did have one, too; hers simply wasn't as predictable as others' were, and that was okay with us. Not ideal, but okay.
Now that she is older, however, she is falling into her own bedtime routine quite organically. It's still "late" by conventional standards, but works swimmingly with our present schedules. Little L usually wakes up between 6:30am and 7:30am, and doesn't nap much anymore. When she does, the duration can be anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours (during growth spurt season). On nap days, her bedtime ends up being pushed later into the evening, somewhere between 10:00pm and 11:00pm. Most days, however, she skips the nap and announces that she needs to go to bed sometime between 8:00 pm and 9:30 pm. We've not forced her into this schedule, but she has sort of implemented it herself, based on her own body cues. When she does get overtired from fighting sleep, or announces, "Even if I am tired, I am NOT going to sleep!," we will sometimes offer to load her into the car for a "sleepy sleep ride." That usually does the trick, knocking her out while conveniently reducing her daily nursing (weaning!) and giving us some bonding time in the front seats.
It's not for everyone, but we have found our do-nothing approach to sleep training has worked out well. Little L wakes up happy 90% of the time, and lets me "sleep in" a little because her later slumber usually translates into a more reasonable wake-up hour. She doesn't come charging into our rooms at 4:00am wanting to join us in bed, nor does she do the bedtime dance of "one more story," or requests for water 30 minutes after she's supposed to be asleep. Because we are still co-sleeping, she also doesn't have nightmares, night terrors, fears about boogeymen or any of those things normally associated with kids her age who sleep alone. She gets to spend quality family time with Hubbs and I in the early evening, affording us opportunities to go out for dinner as a family and eat at what we consider a normal dinner hour (because for us, 5:30 is simply too early to eat)!
And as we cap off the evening, there is nothing more sweet than having her little 3.5 year old body snuggled up next to mine. One day, she will want to have her own bed and bedroom and the privacy that comes with it, and I will miss having my baby safely snoozing right next to me. While others celebrate the "freedom" they perceive early sleep training to give them, I celebrate the opportunities I'm afforded to continue to parent my little girl throughout the night. I cherish these moments and feel blessed to be able to have them.
My point here is simply this: for those parents out there who wonder if they're the only ones doing it "wrong" by not sleep training your baby, know that you're not alone nor are you doing it wrong. What works for one family differs greatly from what works for another, and obviously there are a bazillion extenuating circumstances and life variables that factor into which formula for "sleep training" is best. I take great issue with the articles and arguments that condemn parents who opt not to sleep train, or use fear-mongering tactics to suggest that a child who isn't sleep trained must automatically be sleep-deprived and overtired and therefore harmed by their irresponsible parents. These generalizations are no more accurate than the ones that state that every sleep-trained child will end up depressed and anxious and emotionally-damaged because their neglectful parents opted to torture them with extinction methods.
Anyway, I'm glad that we had foregone sleep training in favour of this lackadaisical (or laissez-faire) approach. It has fit so well with who we are, what we believe, and how we live, and we are so satisfied with how things are turning out. Of course, Murphy's Law suggests that the moment we think this, something is going to go sideways with her sleep patterns, but I suppose that's content for another blog post. ;)