Night Night, Nellie

This isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about sleep. I’ve been blogging about Nellie’s sleep patterns on and off since she was born. Most recently, I guest blogged somewhere else about sleep.

I’ve learned to never, under any circumstance, announce that my baby is finally sleeping through the night. Through experience, I have gained the knowledge that as soon as I open my mouth to announce that Nellie is consistently sleeping 9 hours at a time, her habits will change and she will be awake and screaming every 4 hours. Instead, I have begun calling Nellie’s sleep patterns “sleep phases”. As in, “Nellie’s going through a really wonderful ‘sleep phase’ right now”.

Nellie is almost 9 months old and about a month ago, I had to make a decision. My mother in law keeps Nellie a few days during the week when my husband works, and he keeps her the other half of the week when he’s off. Daytime sleep hasn’t really ever been an issue when Josh watches her but when my MIL would watch her, she would get – if we were all lucky – two hours of daytime sleep.
Which is, obviously, not nearly enough.
The problem was that Nellie had begun getting used to being rocked to sleep. Which there’s nothing wrong with, of course, but it began to be an issue when my MIL would lay her down in her crib.. She would instantly wake up and begin screaming bloody murder. Of course, this made my MIL distraught and she would have such a hard time calming her down she would just give in and hold her while Nellie slept.. For up to 2 hours at a time on some occasions. Nellie wasn’t getting enough sleep, my mother in law couldn’t get anything done, so I realized that it was time to change Nellie’s habits. It was time to teach her to put herself to sleep.

I began by changing our bedtime routine first. Nellie has always gone down easier at night than she does at naps. So we had our dinner, had our bath, changed to jammies and instead of me and Josh camping out on the couch and feeding her while we watched Weeds, holding her until she fell asleep and then sneaking her into her crib, I took her immediately into her nursery after her bath with her bedtime bottle and fed her in the dark. It was quiet, the fan was running, and we’d rock. Once she finished her bottle I gave her the pacifier and her stuffed fox, cuddled with her and sang her a song. I kissed her, turned on her Sleep Sheep and laid her down. She immediately started fussing and crying a little. I told her goodnight, I loved her..

And then I left the room.

Her crying escalated to crying harder, and then screaming. I’m not a CIO’er, but I knew that she had to learn to go to sleep when she was put down. I waited exactly 5 minutes. I returned to her room and soothed her without picking her up. I rubbed her back, spoke to her softly, and told her I loved her. Once she had calmed down I turned around, and left the room again.
She began crying again and I waited another 5 minutes. Most “interval soothing” methods involve going in at 5, 10, 15 minute intervals but I couldn’t make it 10 minutes. After the 2nd 5 minutes were up I went back and repeated what I had done the first time; soothing and comforting without picking up. I left the room and she cried again. We repeated this for about an hour before she finally went to sleep.

It was really hard to hear her cry like that but I never stayed away for more than 5 minutes. The first night was the worst and from then on, she protested less and less. She still fights and has crying fits sometimes, but it’s mostly for naps and the crying is worse when she’s overtired. More often than not if we get her in her crib before she starts rubbing her eyes, she will roll around for a bit and then go to sleep with no problems. Bedtime is way easier; she almost never puts up a fight during bedtime anymore. Last night, we had our routine and once she was done with her bottle I handed her Fox. She wrapped her arm around him, buried her face into his fur and turned toward me for our few minutes of rocking and cuddling. I put her down in her crib after a few minutes, she rolled around until she got comfortable and didn’t make a peep.

She will occasionally still wake in the middle of the night and need to be held/snuggled/be given a little bit of bottle but it’s probably twice a week or so that it happens.

I realize that my method isn’t for everyone, and that there’s no guarantee that it will work. It worked for us and it was what I was comfortable with. I didn’t feel like I was “abandoning her” or anything like that. To me, the key was consistency. I had to stick to my guns and be consistent with her. I know that children thrive on routines (to an extent) and while we have a very loose nap and bedtime schedule, we try and stick to our bedtime routine of dinner, bath, jammies, bottle. It seems to help her know what to expect, and we are all getting pretty good sleep around here!