It was a dark and stormy night.
No. No it wasn’t.
But it might as well have been. Feeling of dread… check. Ungodly howling… check.
We knew that the sleep thing was not going well when our 5 m.o. daughter started reverting to a 2-hour waking cycle. It was driving me pretty nuts andI knew something had to be done. We had done a bit of sleep training before, with pick up put down and what not (The baby Whisperer method), but this time my mom-radar was telling me it was time to do the previously unthinkable… and let her cry.*
Until then, we had relied on our Pilates ball to put her to sleep. Bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce…. Zzzzzz. Since birth, this was her sleeping pill. But I’d read all about the dangers of sleep props and was having terrible fantasies of her at 5 years old needing the royal treatment every time she went down for a nap.
So here’s what we did:
Oh wait, first, here’s a picture of her not sleeping:
We kicked the softie/good cop out of the house.
My husband, every time our daughter cries, says “She’s hungry!” and pleads for food on her behalf. It kills me. He doesn’t like the sound of her crying (not that I do) and probably doesn’t have as much of an instinctual knowing about when she’s hungry or not. So he went out for the night (to a Public Enemy concert, BTW…) and then the real fun began.
I trusted my instincts, not the clock, not the books.
She’s a smart kid. After a bath, story, night cap, and cuddle, I did that crazy thing – put her down in her crib awake – said goodnight, and left the room.
I had tried the 5 minutes here and there before, but it hadn’t really worked that well. So this time, I was going to let it go longer.
As long as she sounded frustrated but not genuinely upset, I let her keep crying in her crib. She went about twenty minutes and then I went in and let her hear my voice. I put my hand on her back and told her I loved her and she was going to fall asleep soon, and it would all be okay. In another twenty minutes or so she fell asleep. And that .. .changed …. everything.
It was like she figured out that it was possible for her to put herself to sleep, and from then on she got better and better at it.
I would say we did Baby Led Sleeping
Apparently consistency is key, but it wasn’t the route for us, and what we did worked. Babies have good days and bad days… just like us… they miss naps, they have sore gums, tummy aches… lots of stuff. Whenever our daughter seemed more upset than mad and frustrated, we would give her lots of hugs and help to fall asleep. What the sleep training did was teach her that she CAN do it on her own, and that bouncing is not mandatory for sleeping.
*As the subject of so much controversy, the “CIO” method has many variations, and I just want to state for the record that it should be up to the parents, not the professionals, to decide what their baby is ready for, and furthermore – when to be stringent and when to say fu*k the plan and go give their kid a hug. It’s an intuitive thing, like so many aspects of parenting. What we did was try to stick to that balance of smushy-squishy-baby-love and Let-me-help-you-learn-something-new-love.
I’m not sure how I knew that she was ready, but something about her behaviour was different, and that’s what was the indicator. I think it was when she started to be aware enough that her behaviour seemed more like “I don’t wanna go to sleep!!” and less like “Wahhhh what the hell is happening no one’s holding meeeeee!”
Within a month, we had kicked the ball habit, and Raquel was going 6 – 8 hour stretches*
*Update – AGE 1: Aside from teething issues, she’s doing 12 hours (!!!) from 7 – 7, sometimes with one moan and groan period, where usually Daddy will go in and give her a sip of water, and she goes right back down.