It’s generally a bad idea to talk about a particular parenting style on the Internet, because it always leads to disagreements – breast versus bottle, stay-at-home moms versus working moms, natural childbirth versus medicated… all of those arguments we’ve had a hundred times or more.
I’ve started sleep training Lucy.
Let me back up: for the past four months, my mom has been living with me, so the idea of letting Lucy cry it out simply wasn’t an option. My mom is respectful of my parenting decisions, but she’s also a grandma, and it goes against her instincts to let her grandbaby cry. Besides, I never would’ve let Lucy cry it out when she was younger than 6 months old anyway.
But lately, bedtime with her has turned into this ridiculously elaborate dance, and it basically feels like she’s training me, instead of the other way around, and I have to put a stop to it.
Lately, Lucy’s sleep routine has been:
* She starts to fall asleep on the bottle, then wakes up and wants! to! play! (Which, WTF? Wasn’t the whole POINT of the bath to make you sleepy, kid?).
* She rolls around on the floor and plays for at least an hour, sometimes longer.
* She eats some solid food – because I figure what the hell, we’re awake, and maybe having a little extra in her tummy will make her sleep longer. (Tip: it doesn’t.)
* Play some more. I get increasingly desperate for sleep.
* Another bottle. This time, she falls asleep while drinking it.
* Caaaaarefully transfer sleeping baby to crib. If she wakes up, she screams bloody murder, then I have to pick baby up and rock her until she falls asleep again, then repeat transfer process. (This may take up to 5 times or more, before successful crib placement actually occurs.)
* I crawl to bed and collapse, and pray that she sleeps through the night. Which she’s done, like, maybe 4 times in her life. Normally she wakes me up after 3-4 hours.
So. That’s completely ridiculous, right? I mean, I know it is.
The thing is, when I’ve tried to let her cry it out, I end up caving in. She screams and screams, and eventually I just can’t take it anymore, so I go get her. (Of course, the message she receives from this is, “If I scream loud enough, Mommy will come back and get me.” So that’s completely useless.)
Last night, she woke me up at 4 a.m., as per usual. I gave her a bottle, burped her, and put her back in the crib. As soon as I set her down, she woke up and started shrieking. I sat down on the floor next to her crib, reached through the slats, and tried to pat her and comfort her, to get her to go to sleep on her own.
I did that for half an hour. She never stopped screaming.
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I could feel myself starting to get angry – which is completely irrational, I know. She’s a baby, she can’t help it. But she had me up past midnight, then woke me up less than 4 hours later, and I was just exhausted and I couldn’t take it anymore. So I left.
I lay down in my bed and I stared at the clock. Lucy screamed for 22 minutes, then she finally fell asleep.
(For the record? Catie slept through the entire thing.)
I don’t feel that guilty about it – I mean, she wasn’t hungry, she wasn’t sick or in pain. She was just pissed off and didn’t want to sleep. Or she didn’t know how to get herself to sleep. Which is mostly my fault, because I haven’t made her figure out how to soothe herself yet.
I don’t know if this is something I’m going to do long-term. All I know is that I’m raising these 2 girls by myself, I don’t have a partner who I can tag-team for nighttime duty. And I have a full-time job, and I am useless during the day if I don’t get enough sleep. So I have to do something.
This is less about a particular parenting philosophy, and more about basic survival.
Besides, based on the smiles and laughs I got this morning when she woke up, I’m pretty sure no major long-term damage has been done. Yet.