So here is where many of you will start to think I am a terrible person: John and I decided to let Luna Cry It Out.
Let me backtrack.
When I was pregnant with Xander, the only baby book I read was Dr. Sears. I fell lock, stock, and barrel for the entire Attachment Parenting philosophy. And wait right there before you X out of this page – there is NOTHING wring with AP. Nothing. It’s a loving parenting philosophy.
My problem, and I think MANY people’s problem, is that I didn’t ever consider doing something that wasn’t Dr. Sears approved. I would breastfeed exclusively! So when my milk took FIVE DAYS to come in, and Xander had latching problems because of his tongue tie, I had nary a bottle of formula in the house and he lost a dangerous amount of weight and was dehydrated. I would cosleep! All nestled in the Family Bed, warm and safe and snuggly. But I couldn’t SLEEP with this thrashing, loudly breathing, terrifyingly unknown person next to me, and I damn near lost my mind from exhaustion until John lovingly suggested moving Xander to his own bed (no joke, I wept over a pillow, thinking it was my son, whom I had suffocated by accidentally rolling over in my sleep. CRAZY MAKING.).
Eventually, I adapted, because Xander forced me to. We introduced bottles and formula, because he was sick without them. He took a pacifier, even though I didn’t want him to have one, because it calmed him down when my body couldn’t. He got used to going to sleep with me or John, with nursing or a bottle, so that without much work on my part, he was going down relatively easy (for a baby, which is NEVER that easy) and sleeping decently in his own room. He still woke to eat well past a year, but I didn’t mind warming up a bottle once in the night. It was fun to snuggle him.
With Luna, well, I still had things I wanted, but I was much more aware that it wasn’t entirely up to me. I wanted to breastfeed, and despite a temporary blip, there, we’ve done so almost exclusively. (And, for the record, I’m almost thankful for that little scare because she will now take a bottle of formula without batting an eye so, should she need to, I can be away from her for more than 2 hours.) We coslept for the first several months, sleeping side by side, her little mouth millimeters away from her favorite food source. It worked; I was able to get MUCH more sleep than I was with newborn-Xander.
But, eventually, her bedtime moved up and I didn’t want to be confined to the bed at 7PM, unable to move lest I disrupt her latch. So we started trying to put her down in her crib for the first portion of the night. I’d nurse her to sleep, then oh so very carefully lay her down, trying not to breathe too heavily, and creep out of the room. Inevitably, she woke up 20 minutes later, screaming, and I’d have to do it again, only this time would take longer. And the next time even longer.
I was putting her to bed at 7, and not done putting her to bed until 10 or so.
It. Was. Not. Working.
Not ONLY because it was exhausting and frustrating (I was starting to resent her, in all honesty) ,but also because I had no TIME. None. I work from home, and with two kids (one of whom doesn’t nap), my work is completed either when John doesn’t have class or meetings, or at night. With this marathon bedtime happening, I had to cram all of my day’s work into a few hours before I literally crashed into my pillow, too tired to even say goodnight to my husband.
When it came to sleep training, I hemmed and hawed. I didn’t WANT to. I didn’t want to be unfair or mean to Luna. But the truth was, the current situation wasn’t working for her, either. She was tired. She wanted to sleep. We tried a modified version of Ferber, but the in and out again just made her more upset, so we stopped and I went back to the three hours of off and on nursing.
Something had to give. My neighbor runs the Troublesome Tots site. She is a perfectly lovely woman and parent, and her kids are happy and well adjusted, despite her willingness to CIO, which I used to feel was on par with solitary confinement. If SHE was supportive of CIO, and if some of my Twitter pals had done so, too, maybe….maybe I should at least TRY it. John and I talked about it and decided to give it a four day run.
On night one, I read Luna a book (well, tried to, but she was rather insistent on just gumming the pages), nursed her, sang her a song, then laid her down and left. She cried for about 11 minutes. John and I had talked about not letting it go TOO long, yet, so I went in, picked her up, and sang her another song until she was calm. Then I put her back down, and she cried, lightly, for one minute. Then she fell asleep. I was EUPHORIC. The next night, it was the same, for the most part. The third night, she bleated for MAYBE two minutes. We’ve also done it at naps. I sing to her, put her down, and leave. Today she didn’t make a SINGLE peep.
I may be shooting myself in the foot by writing this. But it’s not like she’s sleeping through the night. She still wakes up a few times to eat, and I’m OK with that. And around 4AM, if she wakes, I bring her back to bed, because if I don’t she’ll be up more frequently and I don’t get any more sleep and I am NOT a good 4AM riser.
I think I got lucky with two things. One, I think she is a tension decreaser (go click on that link, Moxie’s explanations about decreasers and increasers is wonderful and SO HELPFUL). She wasn’t at first, at all. I tried this once before, to see what would happen, and she got so upset that it took forever to calm her down (and it was only for 10 minutes, not, like, an hour; now I think she was just too young for it at the time I tried). And two, I think that I am at a sweet spot, age wise, for transitions. She’s not so young that being on her own is a traumatic and scary thing, like it is at 3 or 4 months. That’s still REALLY young. (When I tried it at 3 months, it wasn’t to sleep train her, it was to just see whether or not she would amp up or calm down – I was hoping to get an idea of her temperament.) But she’s also not so old that she’s “addicted” to our old method (for the record, I don’t buy into the “addicted” idea of nursing to sleep as a coverall for all babies.).
So, there you go, more words than you ever needed or wanted to read on someone else’s baby’s sleep habits. But I wanted to write this so that anyone else out there who feels guilty for even considering breaking your previously held tenants on sleeping for the sake of your health, sanity, relationships, or happiness….well, don’t feel guilty.
I say that I let Luna Cry It Out, but honestly, she has barely cried. It is worth TRYING. I’m not talking about locking the door while your newborn screams inconsolably for hours while you binge on Hershey’s kisses and Orange is the New Black. Trust yourself to know when enough is enough. But also trust yourself to know when to try something different. You know your baby. I knew that Luna, and my whole family, needed something to change, and it worked. She is still loved, and happy, and I respond to her needs. I am also getting a bit more sleep and some more time to be a person outside of my role as “mom.”
We’re all a bit happier for it.