So I realize I've kind of been a tease about the whole sleep training thing. I've talked a big game, filled the internet in on my plan. Basically I haven't shut up about it on here. No, but seriously. Apologies.
So here's the thing. There have been a lot of fits and starts. Lots of delays. I've put it off. R has put it off. The baby has put if off (when all else fails in life blame the baby, this is particularly effective before they learn to talk and defend themselves). We have been wishy washy and on the fence.
And that's okay. It's a big deal to get darn baby out of the bed once and for all. Big for her and big for mama. But as I've been harping on about for a couple of months, the time has come. Last week was our "unofficial" start of sleep training, which basically meant Ryland was going to fall asleep on her own at bedtime, in her crib, every single night. If she woke up at night I would bring her into the big bed to sleep, because R worked 7 days in a row (and on his work days he gets up at 5:15), and it wasn't an ideal time to do cry it out all night long. I know, I know. It's kind of inconsistent to make the baby fall asleep on her own at bedtime but bring her into the bed when she wakes up. She'll never learn to sleep like that. We are bad people intent on creating poor sleep associations and destroying our daughter's life FOREVER. I know. But you do what you gotta do.
Here's what happened. The first night she cried for 90 minutes. I know. It sucked. This was also right after Magical Merlin exited our lives abruptly and suddenly so we were all a little off. I hated every one of those 90 minutes. My initial plan way back when was to Ferberize her, but as she got a little older, I began to realize that Ferber may work for many babies, but it would not work for my baby. 1. She is no fool. 2. If mom or dad come into the room every few minutes for hours to give her an encouraging pat on the back, it's only going to make her royally pissed off and prolong her crying. 3. She is a baby and does not get the concept of a "hang in there pal" pat on the back. If she sees us she expects us to pick her up, because we are her minions. If we do not do this we are basically staging a coup against the baby dictatorship and she will go nuclear in response.
So I did what I swore I would never do and went with the bedtime routine, rock baby a few minutes, put baby in the crib with a kiss and a "goodnight", and then close the door method. I think in some parenting circles it's also known as the horrifyingly named "extinction" method. And yeah, I know. Some people reading this would say that is cruel and horrible and baby torture. I was one of those people not so long ago. But the people who say that probably either don't have kids, or they do have children but with very different temperaments than that of my daughter. I would wager their children are on the "easy" spectrum. I would wager that they have kids who would be instantly lulled with a shush and pat on the stomach instead of pushed into a rage blackout. I'm not trying to sound overly defensive, but I guess my point is and the thing I've learned is truest about parenting can be summed up thusly "Everyone's kids are different. Everyone does their best. Unless you see someone literally abusing their child in front of you, DO NOT JUDGE."
So yeah, the first night sucked. I hated it. I wanted to go and pick her up desperately. My daughter crying is pretty much my #1 least favorite sound in the world. It makes me want to burst out of my own skin. But I also know that at almost month 6 she needs to learn how to fall asleep on her own without my boobs. I am working 2 night shifts in November in a row. My boobs will not be available. Hotel boobs needs to close. You get the general idea. We tried every gentle method of sleep training you can imagine, for over 3 months. The time for good old CIO had come. I knew she was well fed (we do a big bottle right before bed). I knew she was dry and warm. I knew her crib was safe and free of any hazards. She was cuddled up in a sleep sack. There was nothing physically she needed from me. She just needed to learn how to fall asleep. And unfortunately crying it out in the long run felt like the "easiest" and quickest method. I nannied for a ONE YEAR OLD once who I loved dearly and whose parents were the SWEETEST people in the world. But that child, at a year old, still needed to be rocked to sleep for every nap and bedtime. And she was a chunk! I had to play a very specific playlist of George Straight songs (I kid you not), stand in the kitchen, and rock her WITH A BOTTLE until she fell asleep (and my arm was about to fall off), and then creep silently into her bedroom and ease her into the crib, PRAYING the entire time she didn't wake up because then we would have to start the whole thing all over again. That's kind of insanity. My baby already weighs a lot at 6 months old. If I was still rocking her to sleep at a year I would have to hire a burly muscle man to come and do it, and that's just not in our budget.
On night 2 she cried for 20 minutes. And 20 minutes at bedtime is the longest she has cried since then, a week ago. I think night 3 was like 5 minutes. Night 4=no crying at all.
So we got bedtime. And since then naps have been also been pretty fantastic. I put her down awake for every. single. nap. She rarely cries. If she does it's a half hearted fuss or two that lasts about a minute. And then she's off to dream land, curled up with her little lamb lovey (her favorite thing is to try and eat it, but I think it's out of love). Granted she doesn't always nap super long still, but baby steps people!
Last night it was time to tackle night wakings. And wake she did. She went to sleep at 7 (no crying at all), but woke up at 8. Instead of getting her and taking her into the big bed, we peeked in briefly to make sure she wasn't stuck in the bars of the crib or something (probably not possible, but your parent brain goes to the worst case scenario). When she saw me, she did as I expected, and freaked out. I patted her on the back. She was not amused. Her face said "SLAVE PICK ME UP!". I kissed her and left the room.
And then she cried for an hour. It sucked. It was horrible. I wanted to flee the house. But instead I ate ice cream and watched the lead up to the debate, which was almost insane enough to take my mind off things.
But at 9 she stopped crying. She was sound asleep. And she stayed that way until 5:15. That's EIGHT HOURS OF UNINTERRUPTED CRIB SLEEP. A new record in our house! I had a hard time sleeping (it's going to take a while to get used to not having a baby next to me in bed). But she slept beautifully.
Here's the thing. When she woke up at 5:15 I wasn't really sure what to do. I knew she was probably hungry and my plan if she had woken up earlier in the night was to give her a bottle and put her back in the crib. But at 5:15 my boobs were about to explode so it made sense to nurse her. If I had nursed her in her room she would have fallen asleep. She clearly was still tired, and it felt too early to take her out to the den to nurse out there. So I brought her in bed to nurse. And she fell asleep. And I fell asleep. Whoops.
Here's my question though. What do you guys do if your baby wakes up at 4 or 5 or somewhere in that timeframe. It seems too late to give her a bottle and put her back down in the crib for cry it out, but too early to wake up. Am I failing miserably by bringing her in the bed? I feel like the answer is probably yes. But it also feels wrong to give up morning cuddles in bed forever. That's a thing right? Can I effectively sleep train at night but let her snooze and nurse early in the morning in the bed.
I welcome any advice whole heartedly!
So that's where we are. Overall I think things are much, MUCH improved. And trust me, I know that tonight things could go WAY off the rails. She might wake up every 1-2 hours all night long and I may end up curled in the fetal position. But I have a suspicion that we are making something like progress. I know there will be bumps and regressions and setbacks and teething and illness and all that. But overall we are nearing a place that resembles something like sleeping through the night without mommy's boobs serving as an all you can eat buffet. And because we are making progress I'm going to stick with the plan, cry it out as needed, no more than 1-2 feeds at night with a bottle and then back to the crib right after (I know she's old enough not to absolutely have to eat at night, but I feel like it's kind of mean to wipe out night feedings and co-sleeping all at once, we'll tackle those later if she doesn't stop on her own, last night she obviously did fine going from 7pm to 5am without eating).
If she wakes up again at 5 I'm not sure what I'll do. Part of this whole thing needs some flexibility and improvisation. Parenting in general needs those traits.
If you're sleep training too I hope you're also having some success! It's not fun, but I do believe it's necessary for some babies who don't magically just start sleeping well completely of their own accord. At the end of the day we do our best. And we'll all get through it :)
And one day soon I might just be able to stop obsessing about sleep and use that brain power for other more productive things. Like crafting! Moms are supposed to craft right?
I'm a thirty-something mom of two, wife, pediatric RN, and writer with a passion for the all the big and little things in life.