It’s 4am. Tabitha is crying for the 5th time tonight. I get out of bed, barely awake, and drag myself to her room. I pick her up and start to rock her, which is only met with more screams and cries. No amount of rocking, patting, singing, cuddling, or screaming in her face will get my cranky baby to sleep. Just like every other night.
I’m sure a lot of parents out there reading this know the struggle all too well. Everyone tells you that your infant will grow out of it’s sleep problems, and that they will get on a schedule. But what if that, like, never happens? For those whose babies never got the hang of that whole sleep thing, this blog post is for you!
There are many different methods parents might try to get their stubborn babies to sleep. For Tabitha, I tried no less than 16 different ways to help her sleep. We started out with co-sleeping. She cried several times a night for at least a half hour at a time, only calming down when I nursed or when my husband would offer his nipple to her for comfort during the times I was too tired to wake up. This came to an end, however, once my husband and I realized we hadn’t had sex for the past year that Tabitha had been sleeping with us. It’s just sort of awkward having sex when your one year old child is staring at you, smiling and clapping. It gets a little weird. So after the sexless year, we decided it was time for Tabitha to go into her own room. It’s not like she was sleeping well with us, so maybe it would be better if she slept on her own? How wrong I was. Tabitha’s poor sleeping habits worsened. We tried CIO (in which Tabitha ended up crying for two days straight and never slept), we tried oils, we gave her benadryl. Nothing worked.
And then I discovered something revolutionary. A dear friend of mine (who is also an amazing yoga instructor and vegan chef) told me about meditation. Meditation has been proven to reduce stress and improve lives; maybe this would help our little Tabitha? Let me tell you: meditation has changed my family’s lives.
I began by teaching Tabitha how to do vinyasa yoga before bed to help clear her mind (children should be able to follow enough instruction to learn how to do this by the age of 8 months). This helped her regulate her breathing, reduce anxiety, and become more aware of her body. This set us up for success with this new sleep training technique.
After she mastered vinyasa, I would do a nightly sage burning in her room to help clear the negative energy there. It was very cleansing for the room and I could immediately tell that Tabitha was more relaxed there. I would light incense afterwards to help keep these calm feelings going. With relaxing music playing in the background, I would lay her in her crib and begin to guide her into meditation through imagery; I made my voice as soothing as possible, and in a barely audible whisper, I would help her envision a peaceful scene until she would eventually drift off to sleep. You can get creative with these scenes; Tabitha seems to prefer walks in the woods over beaches. It can be whatever you want as long as it isn’t exciting; the more boring the better. You want to give enough detail for her to imagine something, but not so much that she’s actually interested in what’s going on. If this didn’t get her to sleep after a few hours, I would have her recite the sleep manta with me: “sleeporihaitu”. Recite this over and over. This is a mantra that monks have been using for centuries to help further clear their minds in preparation for sleep. Recite it over and over until she drifts off.
The benefits of meditation don’t end at bedtime; it can be used to help with potty training, too! We had Tabitha completely potty trained at the age of 14 months after only a few days of working on it, thanks to meditation! We would do a similar ritual that we do in her bedroom at night, but instead of laying her in her crib, we would set her on the potty. The imagery here should be all about bodies of water. Describe a peaceful, flowing river, maybe with a small waterfall, and help her envision her urine as the waterfall, and the toilet as the river below. Have her recite the manta “poo enthibumbum, poo enthibumbum”. We noticed she would start to stare off into space, as if going back to her visions, when she had the urge to urinate or defecate, and she would immediately go to the potty. We were accident free after only 2 days!
I urge everyone to turn to meditation for all the behavioral problems experienced by your toddler!