It was time. We had to do something about sleep. Before I went back to work I was okay with letting things continue as they were, with my fingers crossed that someday he would just get old enough to want to sleep. Of course, as the months continued to tick by and the countdown to my return to work loomed, “old enough” meant by the time he was 8 months old. Liam is 9 months old tomorrow, so that didn’t happen. I also know that growth milestones affect babies’ sleep patterns. I swear to you that this child slept through the night when he was 3 months old, but by 4 months old he started getting teeth and hasn’t stopped hitting milestones since then. But I’m ready to work past the milestones too.
Our old routine went like this: I rocked and nursed Liam until he fell asleep, then attempted to lay him down in the crib. Sometimes he would settle right in and sleep, but most times he’d pop into sitting position which quickly became standing, holding onto the rail. All while screaming indignantly at being put down. I would try to rock or bounce him back to sleep, or text Husband to come take my place. The process could take over an hour, sometimes two. And when I returned to work taking two hours holed up in Liam’s nursery wasn’t feasible. I needed to correct student work, get/eat dinner, clean the pump, wash bottles, re-pack bags for the next day, get ready for bed, try to get my own sleep. The worst part was that he then would wake up about every 1-2 hours. It seemed like the fastest, easiest way (with my alarm clock glaring brightly at me) was to just bring him back to bed with me and let him use me as a pacifier all night. This was all he wanted…why not just do it for now? (By the way, I tried incessantly to give him an actual pacifier in my place, but he could smell the difference a foot away and would start wildly swinging his arms and screaming an angry, angry cry at the attempt to dupe him into a faux nipple.) I felt like I was getting more sleep bed-sharing than when I was sitting upright in the rocking chair for 45 minute chunks every 1-2 hours. Besides, Husband and I both like bed-sharing with Liam, so why not snuggle up with the baby?
But it wasn’t restful. For me, Liam, or Husband. Liam was still waking up every couple of hours, but he would scream until I nursed him. And it was for comfort instead of nutrition. He used to let Husband hold him until he fell back asleep, but now that wasn’t happening either. No one was sleeping through the night.
I’m still not comfortable with letting him “cry it out.” I know it works for some people. I even know some people who were vehemently against it, into attachment parenting, and still ended up turning to this method. Through the help of a friend I’ve found a method that I feel I can work with.
The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight book is by Kim West. She is a family therapist who has studied and specialized in children’s sleep issues. I like her book for several reasons:
- She speaks of attachment parenting/cosleeping/breastfeeding as a normal thing, and describes real-life scenarios that I can actually relate to.
- She does not guarantee a NO-cry solution, but she does believe in soothing the child while they are upset; which I can work with.
- The book discusses sleep issues from newborns to five years old. You don’t have to feel like a slacker for starting the sleep process (or Sleep Lady Shuffle, as she called it) at nine months old. You just skip the earlier chapters and read the information that is relevant to your needs.
The things I suspected I was doing “wrong” were correct. We will be disassociating nursing with sleep. Which I knew had to happen, but I like having a plan in front of me. I also knew Liam needed tools to self-soothe. Some babies have pacifiers, loveys, suck fingers…Liam would have nothing but the boob. I tried to get him attached to so many things, including taking my shirt off one night, while holding him as he slept to try to deposit him in the crib still wrapped in my scent. Didn’t work. He also stands up, so I didn’t know how to help him soothe himself while he was actively standing.
This book covers all of these things! It gives easy, step-by-step directions and covers napping too. In the shortest coverage possible, you essentially put the baby in the crib while still drowsy, but NOT ASLEEP. Then she gives lots of suggestions and tips for helping them soothe themselves. She even has a small section about “alert children,” which was the epitome of Liam. A little bit more of a challenge, but still manageable, Ms. West promises. While the baby will probably be very upset and cry (with the first 3 nights promising to be the worst) you don’t leave them by themselves. You sit in a chair right outside the crib, you shush or quietly sing, you can even rub their back, help them find a pacifier or lovey…but DO NOT TAKE THEM OUT OF THE CRIB!!!
So, I will inevitably be night-weaning Liam now, but I’m okay with it because I know he doesn’t need it for nutritional value and I also know that as happy as we are as a snuggly, nursing pair we will be an even happier well-rested family. I think my students will be thankful too. Oh, and Ms. West doesn’t force you to wean your infant in order to follow this method; I snuck a peek at the earlier months and she is supportive of breastfeeding at certain times in the night when it is still necessary. She never tells you that you need to wean altogether.
So now to dedicate the next 3 blog posts to the torturous FIRST 3 NIGHTS. As the 1st night was last night I will be piggy-backing that post with this one. Let’s see how we do!