on babies & sleep

It has recently come to my attention that Cate’s sleep habits are, quite frankly, insane. I knew this, of course, it’s just becoming more & more glaringly obvious. She is officially a toddler, and yet she has to be cuddled to sleep every night (and for naps too! Even if she’s at Patsy’s house!), and she continues to wake up at least once a night, no matter what other factors we adjust with our bedtime routines and rituals.

On the one hand, it still feels like “oh, but she’s just an itty-bitty baby, so of course she needs help falling asleep,” but in reality… um, no. She’s not. She’s old enough to figure out how to fall asleep on her own, and to get herself back to sleep when she wakes up in the middle of the night. And really, it’s better to get a handle on this now, rather than in another year or two when she won’t be in a crib, and it’ll be much harder to enforce any sort of bedtime ritual.

So I’m doing something that I never thought I’d do, and letting her cry it out. [Pause and take a breath while any attachment parenting types who read this have a conniption fit.] I’d read Moxie’s theory about babies’ personality types with regards to CIO, and I thought that Cate might be the type of baby who increases tension by crying, but I thought what the heck, I’m desperate. Give it a shot and see, right?

Last night, my plan was to put Cate down for the night when she was still slightly awake, but I let her cuddle with me on the couch too long and she was totally out by the time I put her down. (I was distracted watching Supernanny, of all things – oh, the irony of neglecting your baby’s sleep cues while watching a show about how to be a better parent.)

Cate woke up at 5 a.m., so I got her from her crib and gave her a “snack” bottle. It’s about half as much milk as she normally drinks, and I’m gradually cutting down the amount so that she’ll eventually decide that it’s not worth the effort. Now, after the snack bottle is normally when I would cuddle her back to sleep and let her stay in our bed for the next few hours until we were ready to get up for the day. But last night, after she finished the bottle, I gave her a hug & a kiss, put her back in her crib, turned on her “Baby Mozart” CD (just the music from the DVD, which she loves) and left the room.

And oh, how she wailed. It was awful. A lot of the books say that you can go back in the room after a few minutes just to reassure your baby that you’re still there, but that you shouldn’t pick them up. Let me tell you, that is a big fat LIE. Going back into the room made things about a hundred times worse. I didn’t even realize that Cate had actually been starting to calm down until I went in and heard the air-raid siren that she unleashed when she saw me and I didn’t pick her up immediately. I rubbed her back, told her I loved her but that it was time to go to sleep, and I left the room again.

The CD is only 30 minutes long, and I had been looking at the clock from the minute I started it because I figured the crying would get worse when the music was over. Around the 25-minute mark, my whole body was in knots and I was about to cry myself. I woke up Dave and said that I couldn’t take it anymore, and I was going to get her. (Don’t ask me why I had to wake him up for this. I guess I was expecting him to talk me out of it, but he was half-asleep so all I got was a “mplphff, ok.”) I headed down the hall to Cate’s room, but before I got to the door I noticed… silence. I could hear the music from the CD, but there was no more crying. I went back to bed and listened on the baby monitor for any more noises, but there wasn’t a peep. She slept until 9:30 a.m.(!!), and was in a fantastic mood when she woke up. Normally if she goes to bed cranky, she wakes up cranky, but not this time. And she was totally happy and chipper all day, even during diaper changes and everything.

Tonight, I put her down when she was still awake, turned on the Mozart, and left the room. Afterward, I heard a couple of half-hearted “ehh, ehh” fussing noises on the baby monitor, but that was it. If that’s really all there was to sleep training her, I’m going to kick myself for not doing it sooner. But somehow I have a feeling that it’s going to get a lot worse before we get it all figured out. Fingers crossed that this process won’t be too terribly traumatic for either one of us.

2 thoughts on “on babies & sleep

  1. If your crying-it-out approach works, that would be great. I know a lot of people who have done that and swear by it.

    We’ve been working on that transition too and it is difficult. For a long time, SNG could get her to sleep alone in her crib (when I’m out of town) but when I’d put her to bed, I had to rock her to sleep. E is kind of like Cate in that she really winds herself up when she’s mad, so I tried a gradual shift. Now her bedtime book-reading is in the light of a nightlight, and then when the nightlight goes out, she gets into bed for the night. I think it makes her sleepy faster. So far, I still have to keep my hand on her back until she falls completely asleep, and that’s getting old fast. The side of the crib is right at cut-off-circulation-in-your-armpit height.

    I’ve been told that between 18 and 24 months, kids go through another stage of sleeping anxiety and hate being left alone, even when they wake up in the night. So we got that to look forward to, eh?

  2. I guess I should count myself lucky. Miss C has been going to sleep alone since we moved here. She can be partially awake when I or DH lie her down but if she is ready for bed, she will make a few baby noises, you know normal grunts and groans, then she is asleep. I used a 10/15 rule since she was 2 months old. I give her 10 minutes to get to sleep (given that she isn’t screaming or anything) for a nap. Anything longer and its useless. I give her 15 minutes to fall asleep at night. The amount of time gives her enough time to settle in, talk to her Pooh Bear (he’s on her bumper), check out her pacifier or try a new one (they multiply like rabbits in her crib!) and drift off to sleep. I also don’t jump up if I hear something at night like i used to. She is known to wake up for some odd reason but she can usually talk to Pooh or her feet or something for about 5 or yes, even 10 minutes then get back to sleep. Not sure why this works for us, but it does. Again, I count my lucky stars. I don’t think I could handle listening to Miss C cry for 25 minutes straight.

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