In previous posts, I alluded to our experimentation with sleep training. Miss Connie has slept well from the start. I cannot complain about sleepless nights or having days and nights mixed up. She spoiled us from the beginning.
When we brought her home, we started with her sleeping in our bed (co-sleeping). I would lay on my back and place her between my legs, approximate at my knees with her head toward my feet. She slept in the V shape of my legs and I laid in the same spot throughout the night. I’ve never had the intention of co-sleeping long-tern, but as I was nursing, it was easy to have her in bed with me. I felt when she woke up and could immediately grab her, change her, nurse her. We did this for the first month. Some don’t know how I could sleep like that, but it was very comfortable for me and the mama instincts never once allowed me to roll over or move my legs. She was safe.
Around a month of age, we transitioned to the bassinet which was located right beside the bed. Now when she woke, I would hear her stir and pull her from the bassinet into bed for nursing and changing then back again. This worked well but the problem was her continuous growing, vertically. Before long, she was as long as the bassinet. We replaced the bassinet with the pack and play which provided more space.
At five months old, we graduated to the crib. She had been napping in the crib during the day so she had been exposed to it. She was doing well but would wake throughout the night. While I couldn’t complain, I knew she could be getting better sleep and I wasn’t sure if she was waking because she was hungry or because she wanted me. Most wakings, she would fall asleep as soon as she latched or with soothing. Some times, she would not go back down and I would find myself bringing her into bed with us so that I could get some rest. She would rest but I could hardly manage decent sleep with trying to accommodate her attached to me.
Around the time she was six months old, I read Sleeping Through the Night. I know there is debate over how to put your child to bed, when/if to soothe, co-sleeping, etc. This book takes the philosophy of ‘cry-it-out’ (CIO) but with assurance and soothing for the child. It also provided many good insights; I did find it helpful, but as with everything, I apply my own ideas and analyzed her reactions to put this into practice for us.
Sleep training is the process of helping a baby learn to get to sleep and stay asleep through the night. Some babies do this quickly and easily. But many others have trouble settling down to sleep — or getting back to sleep when they’ve wakened — and they need help along the way. There are two main schools of thought on sleep training: CIO and the “no tears” approach. We fall in between.
When I decided to start implementing the ideas within the book, I was surprised by how well she responded. The first night, it took roughly 45 minutes for her to fall asleep. On night two, 30 minutes. Night three, 15 minutes.
I would not let her get overly upset and would go in to pat her back, rock her, or hold her as needed, but always putting her back in while she was still awake so she could fall asleep in the crib. The concept of her choosing to fall asleep in the crib is really the key to this–for us anyway.
We were very happy with the results and going down for naps became easier as well. It even carried into car rides. Before sleep training, if she were tired or fussy in the car seat she would cry out and I would crawl into the back to hold her hand and sing to her. After sleep training, she doesn’t fight sleeping. If she is tired, she just falls asleep and rests for the duration of the ride.
Things were going along well on this front but then we had the holidays, visitors, inconsistent bed times, but the greatest challenge came with her mobility. Once she learned to pull herself up, we had a new game on our hands. Since then, we’ve gone backwards. We negated some of the ‘rules’ we first introduced and were back to trying to put her to bed fully asleep. When she woke, I would nurse her back to sleep. If she did not want to stay down, she’d crawl around the crib or stand and cry out. It was more difficult to soothe her to sleep when she was standing up reaching for me.
With the holidays behind us, and nursing nearly nonexistent these days (except for comfort nursing), I am back to ‘sleep training’ Mama Pulvermacher style. It’s a blend.
Sunday evening it took more than an hour to get her to fall asleep. She fell asleep during her bedtime feeding, but the moment I laid her down, she was back up, wide awake and ready to take on the world. She would stand and I would lay her back down. We did this a few times before I left her room to leave her to fuss on her own for a bit. Then I returned to soothe her again. More alone time, and again returning to hold her and bounce her. Nearly asleep again, back into the crib, then a back rub until she drifted off. This whole process took more than an hour. Even after she was asleep, she woke a few times but put herself back to sleep within seconds. Her last waking to my knowledge was at 11 p.m. and she slept until 5 a.m. At that time, I made a bottle, changed her diaper, fed her and she went back down. Again, she was slightly awake but with a back rub, was soon back to sleep until 8 a.m. Last night Daddy put her to bed. She drifted off on the bottle and he was able to transition her into the crib without any fuss and she stayed down until 2 a.m. I woke, changed her diaper, gave her a bottle and put her back in the crib partially asleep. She drifted off without fuss. Tonight I gave her a bottle, she pushed it away before finishing. I held her for a bit then put her in the crib. She sat up, I laid her back down. She then proceeded to talk and wrestle around the crib for 10 minutes before falling asleep. This was a full awake to sleep in the crib success for me without needing to let her fuss or lay her back down. I suspect tomorrow will go even better.
It is amazing how easily she picks up on the queues of the nighttime routine.
I know that parenting styles vary and some moms and dads out there could not conceive letting their babe cry or fuss. I get that. But for us, this works, and I do not feel it jeopardizes my relationship with her or diminishes the amazing bond we share. I do not let her get overly worked and I do not abandon her. We work through this together. I don’t feel that she feels banished or punished. As she ages, she will understand the process more and I do feel this is best in the long run, allowing her to identify when she is tired, being able to put herself to sleep, and finding comfort in her own room. Tonight I stayed with her as she fell asleep. She had the comfort of my presence, my touch, my love.
When we practice sleep training techniques, she sleeps longer and wakes more refreshed. If she wakes in the middle of the night, she is able to fall back to sleep without help. Cody and I get a good night of rest as well. If she is sick or needs me to hold her I do. She is my heart and soul and if she is sad, so am I. There is no tough love in this process. I empathize and soothe as she needs and relish in being there for her. But I also am helping her to gain understanding and independence and confidence.
In the morning, I know she is awake because I can hear her talking in her crib, playing with her stuffed elephant or looking at the photos on the wall. I am greeted with a huge smile when I walk into the room. Rather than a crying babe.
Our success with this came very quickly…within a couple nights (both rounds) she understood the process. I know that there will be bumps along the way. Teething, growing pains…they will all give us nights that find us awake more than once. And later, the boogey man will bring a scared little girl from her room. I am not against having her in our bed periodically or waking with her as needed. I am her mama and absolutely love my snuggle times with her and hope to always be her safe landing-place.