Ever since my daughter was born my favorite part of the day was bedtime (and not because it provided me with much needed rest.) I loved to rock my sweet baby and listen to her breath start to steady and slow as she drifted off to sleep. The fingers she had so tightly wrapped around locks of my hair would loosen and my heart would nearly burst with love as I looked down at those beautiful half-moon eyes closed so tightly.
I swear in the moment that a child drifts off to sleep, they become an angel. Nothing on Earth is more angelic than the face of a sleeping child.
Now as my daughter has grown, our bedtime routine has shifted and changed more times than I can count. My daughter is going to be two and a half next month and while she still ends up in our bed at some time around 3:00 am, she generally likes to sleep in her own bed where she can stretch out. One thing is for sure however, she loves to have her Momma and Daddy put her to sleep and we are more than happy to do it.
When friends come over and I excuse myself to put my child to bed and go missing for 45 minutes or when I schedule evening outings late so that I can be the one to put my sweet angel to bed before having a family member come over to stay with her, I often find myself once again justifying why I don’t just teach my daughter to put herself to sleep. The short answer is I am against sleep training and quite frankly I don’t want her to feel forced to put herself to sleep. She wants her Momma and it’s my job (and my pleasure) to be there for her.
Here is a more lengthy explanation which began when my daughter and I sat down to read Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney. Now before I continue, my daughter and I both like the Llama Llama books and don’t see anything inherently wrong with these books, I just tend to disagree with some of the practices that are displayed in the story line.
My darling curls up on the couch as bath time approaches and says “will you read to me Momma?” The answer is always yes and I told her to go pick a book. She came back to the couch and handed me Llama Llama which had been given to us by a friend. We were both excited to read a new book and we settled ourselves on the couch for some pre-bath snuggles. I began to read.
“Llama llama red pajama reads a story with his mama.” So far so good.
As the book goes on however, my heart aches for baby Llama, and for all of the sweet babies who are left to put themselves to sleep.
As the story continues, Llama calls for his mama who says she will be up soon but then busies herself with dishes and an unexpected phone call. Llama begins to get increasingly upset.
When we got to the page that depicts baby llama softly crying and feeling alone and abandoned, my daughter began to get upset. “Why is he crying Momma? Where is his Momma?” she asked sympathetically. I explained that not all mommy’s sing their babies to sleep and reassured her that I would continue to do so as long as she needed me to.
The page that really broke me was when baby Llama began to fear that his mother might never come back.
Now some may find this comical or gloss over it without a second thought. But the fear associated with feelings of abandonment at nighttime are very real to a great number of children. This truly made me sad for all children who feel this way while being sleep trained.
Now once again, I am not condemning parents who do not stay with their children until they fall asleep completely. Some children don’t need them to, and some parents simply don’t realize the feelings of fear, abandonment, and panic that their children often experience.
As we continued to read, my daughter was very happy when Llama llama’s mama finally came upstairs to tend to his needs once more, but we spent a few extra minutes cuddling before bath.
At bedtime that night, I was ever more grateful for the privilege of helping my baby girl fall asleep. As she lay on her belly, I rubbed her back and sang “Tiny Bubbles.” She held on tightly to two of my fingers and 15 minutes later as her grip softened and she slept soundly, I kissed her once more on her forehead told her how much I loved her, and slipped quietly out of her room.
My baby won’t need me to do this forever. Every day I bear witness to the fact that she is growing more quickly with each passing day. She is such an independent, curious, brilliantly imaginative child. I can feel these moments slipping away and there will come a day when she won’t want me to sing to her and hold my hand each night, so I am going to be sure to enjoy and treasure every moment of it while it lasts.
Childhood is a fleeting gift. Life gets too hard too fast. I love being her mom and I adore the opportunity to be there for her whenever she needs me to.
10 thoughts on “The Llama Book and Why I Still Sing My Daughter to Sleep”
The feeling of rocking my boys to sleep will remain forever in my memory. They are 8 and 14 now, and sometimes still they like me to be in their shared room at sleep time.
I don’t know these books, thankfully. But… I do know the pleasure of still putting my three and a half year old son to bed every night and staying with him nursing, singing, sharing warmth as he drifts off.
It has always been pleasurable for me to put my son to bed. I can’t even imagine anything else. But, in the first year when he was learning about sleep, teething, learning about stuffy noses and how to clear a sinus so he could breathe, combating the pure excitement of life that came with each brain leap which caused him to want to stay up past our strictly adhered to 7:00 bedtime… I was at times not irritated by the imprisonment my choice to be there created for me.
Many mothers hit these bumps in the road and decide they just won’t do it anymore. They don’t want to be imprisoned. I understand the feelings. I am glad I stuck with it, though, because with every passing day my baby becomes more clearly a boy and I see the writing on the wall. I will GLADLY lie there as long as I need to now, although, now it is never more than 15 minutes, because I know all too well where this is heading: one day he will be too old, too cool, too independent, too grown-up to consider my presence in his bed or his in mine. And, oh, will that ever feel like a life sentence.
Shelly thank you for your post. As a new mom of an 8 m.o., i don’t believe in sleep training and yet sometimes in moments of frustration i find myself doubting…wouldn’t it just be easer if he slept through the night? Or if he could put himself down for naps? But in the end i wouldn’t do what it takes to get him to change his sleep patterns…you are right that everything is precious and quickly passes.
I loved reading this because I also put my almost three year old son to sleep this way every day for nap and bedtime. I was hoping you or one of the readers of this article could help with some advice. I am 30 weeks pregnant and so excited about our little girl joining our family, but terrified about how naps and bedtime will be for my son once the new baby is born. Has anyone experienced this and offer some help? I would love to find a solution where both babies can still be loved and cuddled to sleep by me. Thanks in advance!
Childhood is so fleeting! Is there anything sweeter than a sleeping child? Much love to all of you! Gotta love the AP community!
Absolutely a wonderful article. My “baby” is almost 12 and anytime he asks me to sit with him until he falls asleep I jump at the chance, knowing that it won’t be long until he will not need me at all. My two 5 year old granddaughters never go to sleep at my house without me in the middle of the bed snuggling with them both. And just as you mentioned it is my pleasure to do that. I hope they never stop wanting “Nonna” in the middle.
I used to feel the same way as the author of the post and couldn’t imagine letting my son “cry it out,” or even cry at all. But then during a growth spurt (which has always necessitated changed to his routine) he suddenly stopped falling asleep in my arms. He would be awake for hours. Finally, one night Inwas so exhausted that I set him down (which caused him to sob hysterically) and went to get my husband so he could take a turn while I got some water and food. My son fell sleep before my husband even made it to his room. It made me realize that while he was clinging to my presence, not only did he not need it, but I was keeping him awake. So we shortened his bedtime and I started putting him in his crib awake and letting him got I sleep on his own by slowly decreasing the amount of time I stayed to sing with him. We have fewer tears (honestly, we were never at zero tears) and more sleep for all. I’m only sharing this because I don’t want other moms of little boys like mine to be afraid to let them go to sleep on their own if that’s what they need. It’s certainly what my son needed.
Thank you, Heather, for sharing your ideas in a respectful manner.
First, a word about growth spurts. Growth spurts generally occur at 7-10 days, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months and 1 year, and for breastfeeding moms especially, these growth spurts can be trying. The baby nurses much more often, sometimes returning to the newborn feeding schedule, and mothers can feel exhausted trying to keep up. Growth spurts are natural; it is a time when baby is growing very quickly and by nursing more, they can build up mom’s milk supply for his/her new appetite. So it’s important to let baby nurse as much as he/she wants during the growth spurt. Growth spurts usually last 2-3 days, and by breastfeeding on demand, the very frequent feeding schedule usually lasts just that long, too. Sometimes, a mom may feel her supply is going out (which it isn’t) and will then supplement with formula, so then it will then take longer for the supply to catch up to baby’s new appetite level and for the breastfeeding frequency to lengthen out. Keep in mind that there are points in baby’s development, such as right before rolling over or crawling or walking, when baby’s feeding pattern will mimic a growth spurt.
There are other points in baby’s development when there will be changes to his/her routine beyond the feeding pattern. A baby who previously slept through much of the night might begin waking much more often, for example. Especially for a baby who is breastfed, this can happen when baby is starting solids or more active during the day. Baby’s primary food source continues to be breastmilk, and to get those calories, baby will then begin waking more at night. As in this example, a baby’s change in routine is an expression of needs rather than an arbitrary change in behavior.
This is why “cry it out” approaches are viewed as counter to the Attachment Parenting approach–because letting a child “cry it out” assumes that baby needs to be taught how to sleep, rather than viewing the baby’s sleep patterns in a developmental light and/or an expression of needs. It is important that parents continue to respond sensitively to their child at night as well as during the day so that children can feel secure in seeking out their parents around the clock.
It is also important to realize that no one-size-fits-all in Attachment Parenting and what works for one child or parent or family may not work for another. API welcomes various viewpoints within the parameter of Attachment Parenting, but do remember to take what works for you and leave the rest.
My daughter is 7 months old and still wakes up 3-4 times during the night. Everyone says to just let her cry a couple of nights and she will learn how to sooth herself.
I cannot understand, or conceive the idea of letting her cry out.
Maybe I am a softy, but I find it just cruel.
Thank you for this. Just, thank you.