Since my last post, I've had several people ask me about the sleep training I mentioned briefly. I thought for your sake and for strength next time this phase in my life rolls around, I would write down how it worked for us.
People have differing opinions on sleep training. Some view it as a traumatic experience for an infant and others view sleep as a skill that has to be learned and believe the benefits outweigh the short (but tough) learning curve. I did a lot of reading and research and asking mothers and soul-searching [I was dying with no sleep] There are strong opinions on both sides of the issue, but we decided to sleep train.
Some things I considered:
-Babies need sleep. They need a lot of sleep. Their little bodies are growing at a rapid pace, and naturally they need sleep to accommodate that pace. I read all I could about how to help our baby fall into a good sleep routine on her own, and she did ok. She never got nights and days mixed up and from the beginning she typically gave me at least one longer stretch at night. But she was by no means a great sleeper, and nothing I was doing seemed to help. She woke up every few hours through the night for a long time, and sometimes would wake up at 4am and refused to fall back asleep. She was exhausted and grumpy, and so was I. It finally got to the point where we needed to do something.
-I read a lot, which I think is important. Not that there is one right way to do it, but there are certain things that help and mostly it's nice to have some back up. It's been done, and it can work, and other people have done it, and so can I. Here is a link to one blog that helped me. I didn't use everything, but I certainly took a large dose of strength in numbers and the words "I'm not a bad mother"from it. [oh yeah, and the snacks and diet coke/distraction thing]
-Consider what sleeping through the night means for you. For a while there, Rory was sleeping from 8:30p-4:30a, which seems like a crazy early hour, but that is 8 hours of sleep for her little body and that seemed reasonable to me. She stretched it out from there and now doesn't wake up until 6 or 7 and it's a pretty happy place for both of us.
-Crying is a baby's only way to communicate, and it's a learning curve. How many times in your life have you have to learn lessons or break habits and endured a little discomfort? Probably plenty. Well, this is both breaking a habit and learning a valuable skill [sleep!] and the only way for them to communicate their feelings is crying. Crying is not equivalent to bad parenting, even though that's often how it feels. [God bless mothers of colicky babies. truly. you are so good]
-Before you start the process, make sure you're fully committed. Like anything with babies and children, trust your mother instincts and do what you think is best... but don't vacillate back and forth. If you let them cry themselves to sleep sometimes and go nurse them other times they don't know what to do and can't make a habit either way. Not to mention your poor mommy-heart will be a mess.
So here's how it went for us. I was at the end of my rope, and I don't do well on little sleep. I felt like I would be a better mother and so much less frustrated with Rory during the day if I could just sleep through the night. [I was totally right] Jay was totally ready to get started on sleep training because 1. he's always on my team and 2. he could see how badly I needed it. My restrictions were that she had to be over 12 lbs and two months old. [Our family pediatrician always told my mom that a baby should be physically capable of sleeping through the night by the time they weigh 12 lbs.] At Rory's two month appointment she weighed just barely under 12 pounds, so we waited another week or two to make sure. She was typically pretty good at the going to bed, it was just the waking up a few hours later that was killer, so that's where we started. We let her cry it out, and it took her over an hour. It was tough. One thing I would recommend are earplugs [something like these are what we used]. My mommy ears could still hear her crying, but this dampened it a little and made her crying a little more bearable. Jay still had to get up at 5:15 for work during all of this, so I would wake him up and have him put in earplugs when the crying first started and he would sleep right through it. I would take note of the time and only let myself go check on her every 20-30 minutes. Rory's kind of a spitfire, so typically my entrance would make her cry harder, so after a while I stopped going in and just checked the monitor if I felt like I needed to.
It worked like clockwork for us. Those first two nights were rough and there were moments where I wanted to cry, but after that, the length of time dropped significantly, and then stopped completely. Sometimes she still fusses and rolls around for a few minutes in the night, but she's able to put herself back to sleep. She did revert back and wake up at 3am again randomly a few weeks after this. It took me off guard and I thought maybe something was wrong and got up to nurse her out of mother-guilt, but then she reverted back and we had to do a mini version of sleep training again. [insert my comment about consistency here] She still cries for a bit sometimes when I put her down for the night, but now she really does sleep like a champion.
*sidenote: Once Rory started getting a good amount of nighttime sleep consistently, I did a similar routine for nap training. I didn't do both at the same time because an overtired baby is a very very grumpy baby and this way she was at least getting some kind of restorative sleep.
So for those who asked, this is how it worked for us. If you have questions or if I missed any details you were curious about, feel free to ask in the comments! You can do this! You can make it!
And good luck however you choose to work it out.
Because really, there's nothing sweeter than a sleeping baby.