Every mother hates to hear her baby cry. EVERY MOTHER. So when it comes to bedtime, our goal is get our little one to fall sleep in a calm and peaceful manner. So we rock, we sing, we nurse, we pat for as long as it takes, only to have baby wake up when their head hits the mattress aaaand REPEAT! Yes, we would do anything for our baby.
However, there comes a point when mama needs to sleep too! Hence the overwhelming amount of blogs posts, baby websites, networks, and books out there that proclaim their magic steps to "get your baby to sleep through the night". Ferber, modified Ferber, Pantley, Sears, and all those in between.....I've probably read them all and "tried" some version of each. The first thing to determine is, which method are you comfortable with? Some can't bear to let their baby cry at all, some can. Maybe some of you are like me, swaying towards one end of the scale one minute, the other the next. I've often felt like a hypocrite, telling my husband one minute to let her cry, then picking her up the next to nurse her back to sleep. It takes some time, especially for a first time mom, to build up enough determination to let your baby scream her head off. You ask yourself, "Why am I doing this again? Am I traumatizing her? Shouldn't I just suck it up?" The days when I've had more determination to let her cry for a while usually followed nights of close to no sleep. Did those random attempts solve our sleep problems? Of course not. Do I know what my real problem is? Why yes....I think so - CONSISTENCY. On every baby sleep website there will be instructions to pick a method and stick to it for somewhere between 3-14 days before expecting results. Easier said than done.
My little girl was sleeping from 8AM to 8PM at about 3 months. After getting up every 2-3 hours to nurse for 2.5 months, and two weeks of getting up every 4-6 hours, one morning hubby and I woke up, realized what time it was, looked at each other with puzzled looks, and asked "Did you get up with her?" It was wonderful.... for about 2 months. After some research I now know that around 4 months babies hit a milestone/growth spurt and many will start waking up and rearranging their sleep schedules. I didn't know this at the time, or that I should've tried to help her get back on schedule at that point. I just thought she was teething, feeling sick.... you know, something temporary that would go away and I'd have my nights back. So when she started waking up at abnormal times I would pick her up, nurse her, rock her, soothe her back to sleep, and carefully place her back in the crib. There were nights when she woke up only once, nights when she woke up every other hour. I reverted back to newborn survivor mode, functioning on 3 hours of sleep at a time, and going through the motions like a zombie during the day. It's really amazing what your body can adapt to....whether or not you're productive is another story :).
Week after week rolled by and before I knew it she was 8 months old. Uh oh, she should be sleeping through the night and not having to nurse till morning at this point, right? It seemed like everything I tried, from the cry-it-out method to the no cry method would work okay for a day or two, then either our schedule or hers would be off for some reason. A really late nap, no appetite at dinner, late getting home, etc. We would also bounce around methods, trying one thing for a night or two, then getting off track, then trying something else for a night or two. I say we, but honestly, it was me. Hubby and I would make a plan, but I would be the one trying to do it. I think one of the key points to making a sleep method work is teamwork between partners. You have to take turns, because most people will not have the willpower necessary to keep going in and out of the room, keeping time, bearing the scream of their baby, etc. at 4 in the morning after months of no sleep. It is especially hard for families where the baby is still nursing, because they expect it from Mom, and Mom knows it's an easy fix to the crying. Dads know it's a quick fix too, and will try and pull the "I think she's hungry" trick to hand off the baby. I would get up, night after night thinking, "This is it, I'm going in there to give her a pat, then walking back out", only to have my resolution dissolve 5 exhausting minutes later. I gave in time and time again out of exasperation and exhaustion - nursing to get her back asleep, only to do it again 3 hours later. I don't know why I bothered to let her cry those 5 minutes, because it was obviously not going to work.
At 9.5 months, my daughter has a bedtime routine, but no routine for the actual falling asleep part. Sometimes she falls asleep as I'm nursing her, sometimes she doesn't. Sometimes she wakes up at midnight and I nurse her, sometimes all she needs is a few pats. Sometimes she wakes again at 2, sometimes at 4 for nursing. We've decided it's time for action. My fear is that I'll have a toddler in a few years with sleep problems because I never helped her to learn how to soothe herself. We have 2 goals - to get her to sleep through the night (more than 6 hours) and to stop night nursings. We've decided on a variation of the Ferber method, and this time I'm waking hubby up to do it - I'll nurse to get her nice and drowsy, say goodnight, and put her to bed. That's it for me till morning. When she cries, hubby will be the one to go in there in increments of 5 minutes to soothe, lay her back down (she stands up in her crib, faces the door, and SCREAMS), say goodnight, and walk out. Will it work? We'll see, but this time I'm determined.