I'm not big on subjects that can step on toes. This is my opinion and experience with Carter's sleep; it's not meant as persuasive or to point fingers of wrongness.
I know, disclaimers are annoying, just tell us what you think already!
My blogs and vlogs have never had much reporting on the things we struggled with - and believe me, we had some bumps in the road ... jaundice, breastfeeding, colic, reflux, being underweight, finicky eating. And while it was all reality, by the time I sat down to write or film a video, it just felt like more fun to report on his achievements than seek answers and opinions. I went to Google for that.
The first time I looked at my newborn, I was hit with a strange, enormous wave of gratitude to him ... I was in debt to him for just existing. I wanted him happy, because my job was to bring him all things happiness - whatever form it came in.
And to never, ever let him cry.
So, for the first ten months of his life, Carter started to cry, and I threw everything to the floor to rush and make things better. The thought of him crying himself to sleep? Absolutely out of the question. I didn't even consider it an option and thought people who did it just didn't understand the things a baby can do for a grateful, infertile mommy's heart. We all walk different paths that lead us to our beliefs and choices. My path was infertility.
When we came home from the hospital, he started out in a bassinet in our room. He must have woken up every hour, on the hour. After I figured out how to nurse laying in bed a couple months later, he transitioned to sleeping in our bed. It was easier to nurse and fall right back to sleep than get up and put him back in his bassinet with the added risk of him waking up and crying again.
Ah, co-sleeping. The dirty parenting secret so many of us have.
After ten months, waking up every two hours to nurse in our bed turned out to be exhausting. Who would have thought? I was so tired - not to mention embarrassed by our complete lack of structure - that it was straining my relationship with him. Baby world was losing its fun; the exhaustion was making it hard work.
Though I'd waited all those months, that miraculous day when Carter would suddenly be eager and happy to go to sleep in his own crib alone never came. I started realizing that by meeting his every waking need, he wasn't getting an opportunity to learn and grow into a bigger boy. Treating him emotionally like an infant only seemed to be inhibiting his growth, and, in turn causing him to continue to act like an infant. He was so clingy to me and Matt. I held my breath when a stranger came near him because he cried. We were all so, so tired all the time. The more weeks that passed by, the more he kicked and rolled around on me and Matt in our bed. There were even times he woke up at 3 a.m. giggling, just wanting to play.
As it turns out, babies actually don't learn things if you don't give them an opportunity. Funny that a parent (ahem, me) with her mind set on doing everything right could happen to overlook common sense with such oblivion.
He needed to learn to put himself to sleep.
I stalled facing the crib week after week because I couldn't even stomach the thought of putting him into a separate bedroom. Giving him aloneness was so opposite from the obsessive love I had for him. It seemed downright mean. You mean this will mean I'll actually have to separate myself from my child? Silly humans. I just didn't get 'em.
I told myself that a baby sleeping in his crib is a normal thing; millions of babies are doing it all over the world, and they all seem to be doing okay. And boy, was the tiredness getting to me. Sleep deprivation is a powerful force.
Starting around 8 or 9 months old, I made whole-hearted attempts at putting him into his crib that failed night after night. You'd be stunned if you had seen the hate he had for that crib. The wails of horror were unbearable - even as I was standing there holding his hand.
We tried so many things and couldn't seem to develop any type of routine. Our most common offense? Letting him fall asleep in his swing in the living room, then moving him carefully into his crib. He'd wake up an hour later, crying, wanting to nurse and I - without any idea how to get him back into the crib and avoid the crying - moved him into our bed to sleep for the rest of the night.
I had so many tricks to help him to fall asleep. I'd stand beside him for an hour, holding his hand through the wood, talking to him while he cried. Rubbing his belly. Singing songs. Playing with toys. It didn't matter though, that crib may as well have been Santa Claus or a clown.
Eventually the hours turned into half hours and he'd go to sleep more quickly while Matt or I were standing at his bedside. But he still woke up every two hours throughout the night to nurse.
Something I read somewhere while all this was going on (and seems to be reinforced in a lot of different sources) taught me that we all wake up multiple times throughout the night as we go in and out of sleep cycles - adults may stir, roll over and fall right back to sleep without even realizing they woke up. Babies have the same cycles, but as infants they'll notice hunger or discomfort during the end of a cycle and, not knowing how to put themselves back to sleep, they cry. As they get older, they're perfectly capable of putting themselves back to sleep, unless they've fallen into the constant wakeup habits Carter had - and I'd supported.
We did try the actual Ferber method here and there and failed quickly because our hearts were mush - I think the longest stretch of Ferberization was for 30 minutes. It didn't match Carter's needs, having just moved from a cozy bed with his parents and five minute nursing intervals, and I think it made his phobia of the crib even stronger.
I was okay with rocking him to sleep or being beside him until he fell asleep; I'd accepted it and had no other plan. But our actual problem was that he woke up so often throughout the night. My own bedtimes got later and later because I'd sit and wait for him to wake up, I thought it was pointless to try to go to sleep when he'd be up not much later.
So I came up with a backwards approach.
I'd nurse, rock, whatever it took to help him get to sleep in that crib, and then I'd get up with him throughout the night - until a certain time, - say 4:00 a.m. - and tell myself from that time on was Carter's opportunity to learn to sleep by himself. Plus, allowing myself three hours of solid sleep until 7 a.m. was fairly luxurious. His cries when I didn't come to him weren't the horror I'd expected. They were more like expectant whines of anticipation that got louder and louder until they just died off after about ten minutes. After three days of that, Carter didn't make a sound after 4 a.m.
A week passed, and I pushed the time back an hour to 3 a.m. I woke up with him as much as he needed me beforehand, but 3 a.m. was his time to self-soothe. Two more days passed, and Carter was sleeping completely through the night without a bit of crying. He was even protesting less and less about being put in his crib at night.
Today, Carter doesn't ever go to sleep willingly - of course he doesn't, he's a toddler, there's nothing fun or entertaining about sleep. Sometimes he cries for a few minutes when I close his door. Other times he waves to me and tells me bye bye. But now he knows that being in his crib means it's time to lay down, close his eyes and go to sleep. He wakes up crying in the middle of the night every few days, and I go to comfort him, but his habit of waking up constantly is broken.
So do I believe in crying it out? I think it's a method that probably works, but that it's so, so important for us to recognize whether or not our babies' cries are in angry protest or cruel shrieks of terror. Lessons can be learned while they're protesting; fear and sadness deserve comfort.
Carter needed so many versions of adapting. I believe in taking the situation you've chosen for yourself while also considering your baby's personality and finding a way to evolve into habits that work for the whole family. Discipline is vital to teach, and it does involve tears. But teaching love in conjunction is more important to me than conquering the lessons.
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Day 8. Have a beauty secret (e.g. hair tip, make up tip)? Share, please!
Day 9. What virtues do you value in yourself?
Day 10. What are some of your favorite MAC products, and what foundation/powder do you wear?
Day 11. Post a recipe. Or if you don't cook, try a new recipe and write about how it turned out (pictures please!).
Day 12. Write about what wears you out as a woman.
Day 13. Write a blog thanking someone who's made your heart come alive.
Day 14. Style 31. Post an outfit pic!
Day 15. What do you wish for?
Day 16. How old was Carter when he started sleeping through the night and how did you do this?
Day 17. Write about 3 things that make you happy.
Day 18. If you could, what would you tell yourself before you had your baby?
Day 19. Write about your significant other
Day 20. Write about your job and why you love it or hate it.
Day 21. Write about your most vivid childhood memory. Post a picture of you taken over ten years ago.
Day 22. What did you do today?
Day 23. Who's your celebrity look alike?
Day 24. What is God teaching you presently?
Day 25. Style 31. Post a pic of your favorite comfy clothes.
Day 26. What do you hope your grandchildren will say about you someday when you are gone?
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Day 28. Write about your insecurities as a woman.
Day 29. Your day, in great detail
Day 30. What do you think is going to happen to you after you die?
Day 31. Your favorite quote
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