It worked. It totally worked.
I started reading a lot of articles, blogs, and random ramblings for all stages of pregnancy and parenthood trying to soak in all the advice I could get as soon as that stupid stick turned pink. Some things are instinctual, like not leaving a baby who can’t hold herself up in a bathtub full of water, but some things were/are still mystical to me. Like sleep training. I’d seen all kinds of advice columns and references to this method or that method, so I feel like I pulled a lot of bits from a lot of places, including common sense I had from my own experiences, but whatever dude, it totally worked. So here is what we did.
Shelby and I have never been one for strict routine in the evenings. We went for a long time without cable so we had no programs to watch, we were almost always on different meal schedules so sometimes dinner would be at 6 and other times it would be closer to 9. And then Hannah came and time disappeared into a sea of “couch time” and “Rocking chair time”. She was a sleepy baby at first, she slept everywhere. Then she was a fussy baby for a bit, just all the time. Then we started to see very clear patterns of happy fun giggle baby turned eye rubbing whiny monster child. And then of course, there was the sleeping in our bed thing.
We have cable now. I don’t know how long that will last, but we have it now and it helps to “structure” the evening a bit for us. We watch Jeopardy. Jeopardy starts at 7. We can and do pause and fast forward through commercials (because OMG) so sometimes this means we finish up at 7:35, sometimes it means closer to 8 or 8:15. Once Jeopardy is over, I buckle Hannah into her seat and offer her some solid food. She eats until the serving is finished or she stops opening her mouth and I let her play in her chair for a bit while I clean up (because OMG). Depending on the time and her general attitude, I let her play for a while outside of her seat as well; in the kitchen while I do dishes, in the downstairs nursery while I sit on the floor trying to extract sticky fingers from the tiny hairs at the nape of my neck. No later than 8:40, we head up the stairs for a bath.
Hannah stands by the porcelain tub while I fill her toddler tub with water. She likes to play with the soap bottle and watch me drop her rubber ducky into the bubbles. Then, into her room to get de-robed. She has recently discovered she super enjoys being a naked baby, so we let her crawl around for a minute with no diaper, but only a minute because I have no interest in learning how to get carrot poop out of the carpet. Then we take her in for her bath. This consists largely of her sucking on the beak of her rubber duck while we try to get a washcloth into all the folds of blubber around her thighs and neck. We let her splash and play some more if she seems to be enjoying herself.
After the bath, she starts to get anxious. She becomes a lot more clingy and sad. She doesn’t like to be set on the changing table so the start of Cry It Out really happens when we have no intention of leaving her. We struggle to get her diapered and into pajamas and then hold her for a minute before she gives kisses good night to daddy. Then daddy leaves and I rock her and feed her while I sing lullabies and read books.
When she is pretty sleepy (no longer actively sucking but still reaches for me when I pull away) I get ready to put her in the crib. I put everything away, hold her on my chest with her head on my shoulder and sing to her. I feel her tense and her breath change when I turn out the light and turn on her white noise. And then I put her into the crib while still singing, still touching her. I squeeze her arms and legs, hold my hand heavy on her belly, make sure she can feel her lovey, and then I finish my song and leave.
The first few nights she cried. A lot. I went in at set intervals to soothe her, but never picked her up. I repeated the process of laying her down, squeezing her body, holding my hands solidly on her, and then leaving her to work it out on her own. If she escalated her cries and it was “too early” for me to go in, I would sing to her from the hallway where she couldn’t see me. At first I went back to soothe every 5 minutes. Then I extended it to 10, then 20. The first night, it took her almost an hour to finally fall asleep. There were times her cries would soften, I could hear more breathing than crying, so I let her sit in those moments even if it was “time” for me to return to check on her. If she started wailing again, I would go in, repeat the process of touching, singing, leaving. By night 3, she was asleep in 5 minutes.
About the first week of training, she still woke up once a night, usually at 3:30. I would hear her cry and stick with my timeline of 5 or 10 minutes. Usually she would be back asleep before I went in, but I still checked on her. (When she wakes up, she forces herself into the seated position. The effort of this is like something out of an old movie. It’s as if she is alone in the desert with no food or water, about to take her last breath when she finds a canteen only 15 feet away and she reaches deep into her very core to find the strength for going after it. Watching her sit up while still mostly asleep and cranky as all get out is amazing. But then she usually falls back asleep in the seated position. I mean folded in half with her face planted firmly in the mattress directly between her feet. So I go in once it has been quiet for a few minutes and situate her in a normal sleeping position because once again, OMG.)
We seem to have more good nights than bad. She seems to go down pretty quickly. She still cries every night, always gets anxious after bath time, but when we actually leave her alone in her crib she only cries for about 2 minutes before she’s conked. She has only woken once on one night in the last week, but that I’m sure had to do with company staying over and flushing the toilet in the middle of the night. She sleeps pretty soundly.
And at the risk of jinxing it and basically setting myself up for a horrible regression, she sleeps 10 – 12 hours. 9ish PM – 7:30ish AM. On the weekends when I’m not putzing around getting ready for work, she’ll sleep closer to 8:30/9. Uh. Maze. Ing.
And there you have it. No books. No strict adherence to any one method. Just working with my baby, powering through, and listening to her cues. When she’s upset, she cries big belly cries with her tongue rolling and hissing. When she is tired crying and about to give in, she bites on her lovey which muffles the sound. I can generally tell pretty quickly if I should sit upstairs with my phone and timer, or if she’s gonna be asleep before I get out of the room. I can also tell if she’s dead to the world, or only on the edges of sleep and how to avoid upsetting her if that is the case. We’re figuring it out.
Now, if we could just figure out a new work week morning routine that fit all of us, that would be delightful.