Yesterday, a few things happened that made me decide that it was time to start transitioning Cate to going to sleep on her own again.
1. I realized that we’ve been here for three weeks, which seems like a long enough time that she should be somewhat familiar and comfortable with her bedroom.
2. She only took a 15-minute nap (in the car on the way home from Target; she woke up when I was trying to move her from her car seat to her crib), so I knew she’d be too tired to put up much of a fight.
3. The previous two nights, she had woken up at some point in the middle of the night and spent the remainder of the night in between Dave and me in our bed, and that was like a flashback to her sleeping patterns when she was 10 months old, and we are not going back to that routine, no ma’am, no way.
So when she was obviously starting to fade at around 6:00 (remember, virtually no nap), I gave her a lightning-quick bath, put on her pj’s, and gave her a cup of milk. She fell asleep on her sippy cup, so I tried to quietly move her to her crib. As soon as her head touched the mattress, she woke up and started to scream. This is normally when I’d retrieve her, put her in our bed, wait for her to go back to sleep, then try to move her crib again. And lather, rinse, repeat until I finally managed to get her in bed without waking her.
Instead, this time I sat on the floor next to her crib, reached my arm through the slats to rub her legs, and talked very calmly to her about how much Mommy & Daddy love her, and I know she doesn’t like this, but it’s time to go night-night in her own bed like a big girl. She was standing up, biting on the crib railing and shrieking like her life depended on it. (I tried standing next to the crib so I could reach over and rub her back, but she grabbed my neck and tried to climb up me, so I figured that sitting next to her was better. But from that angle, the only part of her I could reach to rub reassuringly were her legs. Which, you know, whatever works, right?) I turned on her Baby Einstein lullaby CD, figuring that the music could only help her calm down – and if nothing else, it helped drown out the screaming.
She stood up in her crib and screamed for probably the first 20 minutes or so. Then she sat down and screamed for another 10 or 15 minutes. She spent the next several minutes sitting and just staring into space, tear-stained cheeks and pouty bottom lip. Finally her eyelids started to get heavy and she started swaying back and forth from the weight of her head wanting to nod off. A few minutes of that and she finally flopped forward with her head as close to the crib slats as possible. I kissed the top of her head through the slats, rubbed her back for a few minutes until I knew she was all the way asleep, and then left the room.
Of course, because she crashed before 7:00 p.m. and she’s used to going to bed around midnight, she woke up a little over an hour later. So after a diaper change and another cup of milk, we had to do it all over again. It sucked, and it took just as long, if not longer, to settle her down the second time. And I have marks on my forearms from reaching them through the crib slats as far as possible.
The thing is, even though not swooping in to pick her up when she cries goes against every single protective Mommy Instinct that I have, I know this is for the best. It’s not stressing me out like it did when we left her to cry it out. I mean, yes, she’s still screaming a lot, but I’m sitting right there next to her, comforting her as best I can without picking her up. She might not like it right now, but I don’t worry about her developing any abandonment issues since I’m sitting right there next to her the whole time.
Now I just have to commit to sticking with this, so I can get her back into the habit of going to sleep on her own.
Today, though, I loaded Cate into the stroller and walked to the grocery store, since it’s less than a ten-minute walk, and lord knows I need the exercise. We only needed a few things – enough that it would easily fit in the little storage compartment under the stroller. So we went and had fun, and Cate fell asleep in the stroller on the way home. I decided to just move the stroller into the dining room where I can keep an eye on her and let her take her nap there. No point in waking her up just to move her to her crib and do the 45-minute screamfest again. You have to pick your battles, right?