Well folks. We have reached the 5 month mark, that deadline I set for myself a little while ago for buckling down and starting baby sleep boot camp.
We've gone on our vacation. We don't have any trips planned for the near future, nothing that could throw off her routine majorly. And while her sleep is at times okay, it is not anywhere near the holy parenting grail of STTN (sleeping through the night for the uninitiated). And so this coming week my plan is simple.
We're going to do a variation of the oh so controversial Ferber/CIO method with true consistency (we've been doing Diet Cry It Out with mixed success and with admittedly mixed consistency) in order to put the baby down to sleep awake every night and have her fall asleep in the crib. And I am going to stop bringing Ryland into my bed in the middle of the night for an all you can eat boob buffet. If she wakes up and it's been long enough we'll keep up with 1 or 2 nighttime feedings, but after eating it's back to the crib.
Reasonable right?....I really am asking. Because of course like any parenting decision I'm torn. To help assuage my guilt I thought I'd give a little summary of our current sleep situation, a state of the sleep union if you will.
For the last couple of months we have tried to start every single night in the crib. We do a bedtime routine (bath every other night, bottle, books, sleepsuit, sound machine, a few minutes of rocking and shushing). And then we have attempted every night to put Ryland in her crib awake.
Sometimes she has blinked a few times and fallen asleep immediately. Other times she has fallen asleep in my arms.
And then there are the other times. When she stares up at me in shock and horror like I am setting her down in the Savannah surrounded by a pack of hungry lions and cries as soon as I close her nursery door.
Some nights it's only taken 2-3 minutes of light, half-hearted fussing before she falls asleep. Sometimes it's taken a full 10. Some nights I go in at the 10 minute mark to pick her up and comfort her, put her back down and then she falls asleep quickly. Other nights I pick her up at the 10 minute mark, and then the 20, and then the 30, and so on for an hour until finally she falls asleep in my arms instead of the crib.
Other nights an hour of this Diet Cry It Out passes and we are both exhausted and miserable and give up and I take her to nurse her to sleep in the big bed by 8pm. On these nights she's crying and I'm crying and everyone is crying. Those are not good nights.
We have had successes though. She has slept for up to 7 hours in the crib. On these occasions I do a happy dance and watch TV and drink wine or even just read in bed and feel like it's the most decadent thing in the world. And then I panic and convince myself she's not breathing and check on her every 15 minutes for 2 straight hours.
It's really been hit or miss depending on the night. But even as recently as last night she slept for 5 straight hours in the crib.
There is definitely hope. But for every good night we have, a more challenging one follows. And the truth of the matter is that I've been okay with bringing her into bed with me, even if she's only slept until 9 or 10pm in the crib. I cannot overstate how surprisingly much I have loved co-sleeping for these 5 months. At this point it feels like second nature to sleep with her warm little body curled up beside mine. On the nights when she is in bed with me I fall asleep deeply and almost instantly. I know she is safe. I can rest my hand on her stomach to feel it rise and fall with her breaths. I can smell her little baby smell. When she wakes up to eat I flip over, let her latch, and we both fall back into deep and restful sleep. It has felt like the most natural thing in the world.
But now that she's getting older I do know it's time to stop. For one she is getting more active and I now wake up frequently because she wacks me in the face or kicks me in the ribs. She can roll easily in a bed and it's getting less and less safe to have her sleep somewhere where she has the potential to roll off the side of a big bed (our bed is very low to the ground, and I have a little pillow barrier to prevent this, but still it's a possibility). Her nursing is less and less for true hunger and more for comfort. She's old enough and big enough to not need more than 1-2 feeds a night max, but since it's easy access she eats more frequently than that most of the time. It's like if you slept in your pantry. If you woke up and saw a box of Triscuits right next to your face, you'd probably snack without really needing it.
Now that we are doing more formula supplementation (my supply is really low, not that I should feel the need to justify that, but the world we live in makes a woman feel like any time she even says the word formula she needs a 10 page bullet list of explanations for using it, but that's another topic for another day), she is getting pudgier and pudgier. Her cheeks are so pudgy they look like she is storing food in them like a little chipmunk. Her thighs are as doughy as well, the Pillsbury dough boy, and her bottom is starting to look like a baby Kardashian.
Now before you accuse me of body shaming my baby, know that I LOVE the pudge. I think it is literally delicious. It is like my baby is one of those cartoon turkey legs. I would take a bite if it were permissible. But my point is that this is not a child who needs to eat all night long. She's like a college student who has gained the freshman 15 but still orders a large pizza every night at 2am. At a certain point you just have to stop with the nocturnal binging right?
Having her depend on me so much for her sleep is also mentally and emotionally exhausting. I feel incredibly guilty whenever I go out at night without her, even if it's just to dinner, because I know she may not be able to sleep without me. That's not good for her or me. She also ends up waking up at 5:15 on the mornings I go to work since she's in the bed when the alarm goes off, way earlier than her normal wake up time of around 7. Which makes those work days longer for her and for whoever is taking care of her.
We've just reached the point that co-sleeping is no longer the best for our family. For some families and 5 month olds it might be. But for Ryland I know it's time to stop. And I will miss it. I will probably cry about it. Like I said, I have loved every second of it. I wouldn't go back and not do it even if I had the chance. The transition out of co-sleeping is hard, but it has without question made the last 5 months so much easier on both of us. And we've both been so much more rested than I ever would have though possible with a baby who wakes up to feed every 2-3 hours (and for a while in the beginning woke up to feed every 30 minutes to 2 hours).
And so this week we're going to go with a new plan with 3 key components.
1. Put the baby down to sleep awake in her crib and get her to fall asleep on her own, every night. Even if that takes some crying. I may need to bring an entire bottle of wine outside and let R go in and do the interval checks on her. But I do believe firmly that babies need to learn to fall asleep on their own and the sooner they do it, the easier it is for everyone. Throw rocks at me if you think this makes me a monster. But in my gut it feels like the right thing to do. And the little bit of cry it out we've done so far has for the most part worked well and not involved that much crying.
2. When she wakes up, get her to fall back asleep in the crib. This will actually be the hardest part I'm guessing. I know she will wake up sometimes before she needs a feed, and we'll need to get her back to sleep without my boob. But the truth of the matter is that she cannot use my boobs as a sleep crutch forever. They've worked wonderfully for the last 5 months. They need a break. It would be awkward for everyone if she still needed to be nursed to sleep at slumber parties.
3. When it has been long enough that it's reasonable to give her a feed, feed her in her nursery and put her back to sleep in HER bed. I take back my previous comments. THIS will be the hardest part. When it's 2am and all I want to do is bring her into bed so we can both fall back asleep quickly and easily. But I have to be strong and sacrifice some of my sleep for the short term, so that we can get over the hump.
So that's our plan. It may be a success. It may be a colossal failure. At the end of the day I have enough perspective to know this is not THAT big of a deal. Like really. It just can feel like it when you are desperately wanting to be one of those smug parents who can brag that their babies STTN.
We'll get there eventually. But right now at least that's the plan. I would love to hear from anyone else who has gone through or is going through the sleep training thing. Any tips? Warnings? Success stories? Total failures? I'd love to hear it all.
And naturally I'll report back with updates. Tentatively our first night of this new world order will be Monday or Tuesday. I will be stockpiling wine in anticipation.
And until then I will soak up the last few nights of co-sleeping with my monkey. Rib kicks and all it has been pretty darn beautiful.
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.