I’m not fond of the phrase sleep training because it brings to mind some unpleasant things but Elizabeth and I are in desperate need of change at nap and bedtime so we are very gently sleep training.
For the last few months, since she self-weaned from her pacifier (which had always been used simply as a transitional aid to go from breast to paci to sleep), she has lacked a good bedtime routine. I attempted to put her in her crib right after nursing and her little heart would break. It woke her when I unlatched her and because the paci was gone, she wanted to continue nursing. That’s okay until you’re talking about over and over again, and getting sore nipples from failed delatching attempts.
And then, in the last few weeks (while she has been starting to walk and getting two new teeth), she has been having a harder time settling down and some days she has only taken one nap. ONE. She’s ten months old and cannot function on one 90 minute snooze mid-morning, yet that’s what has happened more than a few times lately!
I have been thinking about getting her on some sort of schedule (she has always been simply on demand) but it’s become clear that the actual going-to-sleep part needs help first.
Enter sleep training…
She woke up at 6:00 yesterday morning. I don’t know why because she normally sleeps until 8ish. Anyway, she was up and she played in the living room until she was tired at 7:00. I decided I would just go for it (the sleep training, I mean). The plan was to breastfeed her in the living room and then go into our bedroom, instead of nursing her on the bed, put her in her crib (which is right next to my bed), and then stay there in my bed until she fell asleep.
And so, after I changed her diaper, I fed her and she was drowsy but still quite awake when we went in the bedroom. I wasn’t entirely sure what I should do (just be there or be actively trying to get her to sleep?) but I ended up deciding on laying (lying?) her back down when she stood up and saying things like, “night, night time, Elizabeth” and “time to sleep, night, night.” She started out complaining but then got very mad. She has a temper! So, her cry was not one of pain or of being offended (like when a stranger talks to her and touches her feet), but that of frustration and anger. She would not let me touch her without batting or pushing my hand away (I had tried to comfort her by placing my hand on her chest) so I just sat on the bed and put her back down when she would stand, all the while still calmly saying night night things. She was in bed from 7:18 to 7:53 until she finally fell asleep. That was thirty-five minutes of complaining and angry crying, and getting up/lying back down between seventeen and twenty times.
Even though I was doing the whole thing as gently as I could, I felt like we’d both just been through the wringer. 😣 And then…she slept. She didn’t wake until 10:55, when Sam and I woke her. Three HOURS. And she was completely happy and peaceful waking up. 😍
She ate some apple cinnamon oatmeal and had a cup of water a little after 11:00. She didn’t show interest in breastfeeding until 12:40, at which time she nursed on one side.
She was feeling good. You could tell she was rested by the lack of fussiness and the overall pleasant way she played and moved around the house. 😊
She started rubbing her eyes and acting ready for sleep at 2:25. I nursed her in the living room again, on the other side, and we attempted another nap.
When I put her in bed at 2:30, she complained slightly and got up twice. This time, I put my hands on her tummy and back, holding her gently yet firmly and she stopped struggling almost immediately and started closing her eyes. She was asleep by 2:37, just seven minutes after we went in the room. Huge improvement! 😍
She woke up calmly, on her own, at exactly 4:37, two hours after falling asleep. Five hours of napping happened yesterday!!
At 5:30, she nursed on one side, at 7:30 the other side, and then at 9:10, she nursed one more time before bed. She was closing her eyes during the bedtime feed and I was tempted to walk in the bedroom with her still attached and slowly try to unlatch her like I used to, but I resisted for the sake of sleep training! I carried her (upright, on my shoulder) into the bedroom and kissed her goodnight. Her eyes were open and she was somewhat alert, but it was obvious she was quite tired.
I said “night, night” and put her in her bed at 9:17. She didn’t struggle at all and let me have my hands on her (one on her tummy, the other feeling her head/hair). She was asleep at 9:20. THREE MINUTES. It took three minutes for her to peacefully drift off to sleep! 💕 💤
She woke at 10:30 and complained slightly, I laid her back down and covered her up with her afghan and she immediately fell back to sleep! Normally, I would have had to nurse her and go through the whole thing again with unlatching, etc even though she wasn’t hungry but I didn’t have to do that! I was able to get her back to sleep without a prop! Success!
Through the night, things were basically like normal. She woke to nurse at 1:30am and again at 5:00am. No big deal. I am just so happy that there is hope for good naps again! Hoping today goes well, too, though we’ll be away from the house for most of it. She’s still asleep right now (8:30am), so I guess I better get in there and wake her!