My daughter didn't start sleeping through the night (well, almost sleeping through the night) until 28 months. Yep, she was well into her second year. Looking back, I believe there are quite a few things I could've done differently that would have helped me get a little more sleep in those early days. I don't include my little girl in this because I think she was getting the exactly the amount of sleep she needed . . . it was only me who was overtired. I would beat myself up daily over how I wasn't "teaching her to sleep," but now, I recognize that she was probably doing what was best for her; she was extremely happy and content and energized. But at 28 months, I finally struck upon the three things that made my nights so much easier: night weaning, fewer daytime naps, and lavender essential oil.
The first two things may be a bit obvious, but when I was in the thick of mothering a baby, they completely escaped my notice. I was just doing what I thought was best for me and my baby! I slowly learned that my daughter just didn't need as much sleep as all the books, expert guides, and internet doctors said she needed. Even now at 3 years old, she needs very little sleep to function at her full-of-energy, larger-than-life pace. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to let it go, google less, and focus more on a nighttime sleep routine.
But what was most obvious to me was that lavender essential oil had a deep calming effect on myself and my daughter.
But I don't think I could have made the adjustment without lavender essential oil. It added a touch of luxury to our long nights, and I feel like it ensured I got seven straight hours of sleep. I learned about it on a trip to Mexico, during which my girl had gotten a virus. By chance, I met another mom in the lobby of our boutique hotel, and we got to chatting. She was an essential oil enthusiast (and a rep for an essential oil brand) and passed along tiny sample bottles of all types of oils for me to try. I diluted them in coconut oil and rubbed the various oils into the bottoms of my daughter's feet, the top of her head, and behind her ears. To me, it seemed that they helped her recover quicker. I was totally hooked. But what was most obvious to me was that a certain oil had a deep calming effect on myself and my daughter.
When I got home, I ordered a diffuser online, and went to my local natural food store to buy pure lavender essential oil. I put a few drops of the oil in my diffuser about an hour before bed, so it filled the room with its sweet smell, then I placed two drops of oil on the top of my daughter's head after her bath. The smell immediately calmed me, and I felt like it calmed my daughter as well. Of course, she could have just been picking up on my calm energy; but either way, we both went to bed more relaxed — and she finally slept the whole night. Though there are no studies on lavender essential oil and sleep in infants, one study has shown some evidence that lavender essential oil can help treat pain in babies. Another study found some evidence that a lavender essential oil massage can help treat colic in babies — so it's likely not harmful to little ones (but as always, consult your doctor). Since that first success, I've repeated the ritual every night, and don't plan on going back. It might not be the right fit for every family, but it's become essential for mine.