We hit a big milestone in our house this month. After being home for over 9 months, Dumpling slept in his very own big boy bed in his very own room shared with Gēgē! This was huge! Before now, he had been sleeping on a toddler bed in our bedroom to foster attachment. It worked well for us because we were able to keep him close, but we still got to sleep as husband and wife. I know many families co-sleep, which I think is a wonderful choice. But I personally like my bed to be my bed, so a toddler bed was a perfect alternative.
We started with the toddler bed pushed up against my side so that we could hold hands as he fell asleep. Once he was asleep, I’d gently pull my hand away and tiptoe out to spend a little time with my hubby before going to bed myself. A white noise machine helped too. I still came back to bed pretty early in the beginning though, so Dumpling could reach up and touch me for reassurance if he woke up.
After a few months, we let go a little and moved the toddler bed across the room so he could still see us. This gave us some freedom, but still kept him close for attachment purposes. If he woke up, he looked to make sure we were still there, and then he went back to sleep. Once he started saying our names, he’d sometimes call out for us too. I remember thinking about how precious that sound was the first few times I heard it.
Toward the end of the summer, we began staying with him until he was almost asleep. This eventually worked up to a more typical bedtime, when we said goodnight right after all the rituals had been completed and he was still awake. It was a very natural progression and his laid back personality made for few sleeping issues. I know sleeping can bring huge anxiety for many children from hard places, but fortunately Dumpling hasn’t been one of those children.
It wasn’t always easy having him in our room though, especially on the mornings we wanted to sleep a little extra and he woke up at 4am. Or another child came into our room for some reason, and accidentally woke Dumpling up too. But overall, it went very well and I wouldn’t do anything differently. I am so thankful we were able to spend that time sharing a room with our son. Especially because of his difficult past, we were very intentional about cocooning him from the world and other adults. Sleeping in the same room was one more way we could foster attachment.
But when the time came for him to become a little more independent and move into his very own big boy bed in a room shared with Gēgē, our whole family celebrated and his eyes beamed with utter joy. He pointed to all of his blankets and pillows and loveys with pride, asking, “Mine?” for each one. The answer of “yes” every time made him smile even bigger. He took ownership of his new bed immediately and loved every moment. It was a precious sight indeed.
I will admit that I don’t think he needed to sleep in our room for so long, as children sometimes do. I think he would have been fine if we had put him in his big boy bed the first night we were home. Obviously I can’t be sure, but his easy-going personality suggests this may have been the case. Regardless of how he would have done though, we wanted to foster attachment in any way we could. It’s difficult to teach who mom and dad are with very little verbal communication, so it had to come in the form of actions instead of words. That also meant not allowing any physical touch with all adults for a long time, in addition to keeping him close at home.
Although he is gaining independence and we’ve opened up his world when appropriate, we still keep some experiences and new adults at a safe distance, even at 10 months home. He likes new people and affection a little too much still, so we are working intentionally about teaching appropriate physical boundaries. I don’t know how long that will continue, but I do know that cocooning and intentionally limiting him has paid off in huge ways. He loves us as his mommy, daddy, jiějiě, gēgē, and jiějiě. And we sure love him to the moon and back.