I am a firm believer in that if you have a baby who is a good sleeper it is hard for you to understand/offer advice/relate to people who don't. I also know that during that time that Lemon slept through the night, mostly every night for that one glorious month (11 months) it was completely different being a parent. Getting sleep, not being exhausted and not trying to rationalize why your baby isn't sleeping and arguing with your husband about what you should do - changes your life. For reals. I remember saying to Ian a couple of times during that magical month - is this what other parents feel like? This is easy!
Lemon doesn't like to sleep and she definitely takes after her dad in this. I love sleep, I miss sleep and I don't really understand how my body is functioning without it, and has for so long. I don't think I've slept well in almost 2 years (because who sleeps well while pregnant?!). I hit my breaking point and I think Ian did too, since he was the one mostly getting up with her since her first birthday (so she wouldn't nurse at night, yes still nursing). We were running on empty and felt like we had tried everything, and googled everything, and were out of options - except for one. The dreaded - CRY IT OUT. Ugh. But even just saying it I felt like a bad parent - how could I let my little muffin cry all night?
We had tried it once before, on a friend's recommendation, and using the Ferber Method where you go in at different intervals and comfort for a second. Well, Lemon cried for over 3 hours that night and when she woke up in the middle of the night, it was the same thing. That ruined it for us and I swore I'd never do it again. This girl has stamina, like her mom, and when she doesn't want to do something she won't do it, even if she has to cry all night. I read about babies who made themselves throw up from crying so hard/long/much and knew that was something Lemon was totally capable of so I definitely didn't want to put her through that.
But, what do you do when you are at your wit's end? What do you do when you are just mentally and physically exhausted and no one, including your baby (who needs it!) is getting any sleep? I told Ian that I think we keep her up at night putting her to bed, sitting with her for hours (sometimes 3 hours!) in the recliner while she climbs all over us. Or he keeps her up falling asleep with her, then plopping her back in bed and then getting her when she cries again and falling asleep in the chair together again. Or me, when he brings her in bed with me at 3am, and she rolls around for hours trying to sleep again while I lay there unable to for fear she will somehow fall off the bed.
And what about our relationship? Ian would fall asleep with Lemon almost every night, leaving me alone until about 10 when I'd finally go to bed. Then I would sleep alone because he would head out to the couch, after trying to put her in bed, so that he could listen to the monitor and go get her if she woke up. We hadn't slept together in months - Super Nanny would be appalled.
So, we were desperate and here's what we decided. Lemon still took 2 naps during the day and I always had a sneaking suspicion that was why she sometimes wouldn't go to bed until 8:30-9pm at night. She napped at 9am and 2pm, like clockwork, and everything I read said that if they go down right away, which she usually did, they were not ready for a nap transition. Well, at this point we wanted to try anything (desperate remember?) so we just decided, last weekend, to do it. We had a lot of parties/activities/etc always planned for 12 (her usual, happy awake time) so it was hard and daunting to want to change it all. But, we had nothing planned and we decided to give it a go.
Day one went pretty good, she was in a better mood than I thought she'd be. She woke up at her normal time, 6am and I put her down at 12pm and she went right to sleep. She popped back up at 1:15pm, was overtired for sure, and wouldn't go back down even though I left her crying for about 20 minutes. She made a few small blunders like trying to sit on something that wasn't there and taking a tumble on her face but that was to be expected because she was so tired and out of sorts. She went to bed earlier that night, 8:30pm I think (her bed times were like 10pm at this point for some reason), but was up in the middle of the night with Ian - totally up - and had a hard time getting back to sleep. Her schedule was definitely off and he said he could tell.
Day two was with our nanny, Ashley, and Lemon slept better that afternoon - for 2 hours. She woke up at 7:30, so later than normal (but probably because she was up with Ian) and was a space case at a morning Gymboree class (since she normally goes in the afternoon).
Day three was tough, she fell asleep in the car on a less than 8 minute ride to the library. But, she slept for about 3 hours when she finally went down (later at 12:30pm). She was up all night with Ian the night before and slept with me half the night too so she was probably super tired.
Day four this girl had had enough. She was so overtired that day. She took an hour to go down for her nap (down at 12:30 again) and only slept for an hour. She was exhausted at dinner time and never before had I seen her just lay down somewhere. We had a laundry basket full of laundry sitting in the kitchen and next thing I know she's taking all of the clothes out and is laying on them, singing "sleepy bear" the song we sing to her when it's bed time or nap time. It broke my heart - how could I be forcing this sweet baby to stay awake when she's tired? She had no idea that this same night was the night we decided to start CIO - the dreaded night she was going to be forced to go to bed on her own instead of laying with one of us. Ugh.
On Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving, we put our girl to bed by herself. She drank a bottle, nursed, watched some Bubble Guppies after dinner while cuddling on the couch, and then I took her in her room at 7:15pm, read her stories, sang "Twinkle, Twinkle" and put her in her crib. I was prepared for the worst and Ian and I hunkered down with a movie and cocktails. But guess what? Lemon cried for 20 minutes and then was out! She surprised the heck out of us and guess what else? SHE SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT FOR 12 HOURS STRAIGHT. Yep, you read that right, 12 hours. Who was this baby?
I was worried it was just a fluke and we all woke up the next day feeling so out of sorts - we hadn't slept through the night (all of us) in FOREVER. It was a weird feeling, especially since I was so prepared to be really tired from sleep training all night, on Thanksgiving. But, we weren't. It was crazy. Was it just a one night thing and that night was going to be the horrible one?
Thanksgiving night my dad was here and stayed to watch a movie with us. We put Lemon in bed by 7:30pm and she cried for an hour. It was heartbreaking and we had to turn the movie up a bit to hear it but then she was asleep by 8:30, still earlier than normal and guess what - she slept almost 12 hours again! Friday night she cried for 30 minutes and slept for 12 hours and last night she cried for 25 minutes and was asleep by 8pm and slept until 8 this morning. Can you believe it?!
People told us we'd be kicking ourselves this upcoming week, when she finally got it, and I wanted to believe them. But you know what? The very next day, on Thanksgiving, we were kicking ourselves for not doing this sooner. And even tonight, although she has been crying for 45 minutes (really off and on though, and after an ER trip today), I know that it is what is best for HER. We may sound like crappy parents to you and you may be thinking, "I could never do that" or "how dare they, just because they want sleep or want to spend more time together, how selfish" but believe it or not I wanted to try this for Lemon. I knew that we were keeping her up, I knew that she was a big girl and could go to bed on her own and I also knew that if she was smart enough to say "thank you" after I had her something or tell me "bless you" when I sneeze, she was smart enough to know that she was safe in her room at night and would know she wasn't all alone or abandoned. And look at her now - look at how much she sleeps! We haven't had a night wake up yet and she has slept for close to 12 hours, or more, every night since we started this and has cried for an hour at the most. She is a big girl and I am so proud of her, she's getting it and pretty soon she'll be able to do it all on her own and won't be upset at all, I know it.
And we've gotten to hang out together for the first time in I don't even remember how long, aside from when Lemon has stayed overnight at my mom's. We've actually watched whole movies, all the shows on our DVR and guess what - we've slept together every single night. How cool is that? Do I feel like a bad parent? No. Would I have done this sooner than a year? Probably not. I am happy that we waited until Lemon was a bit older and knew she was ok, in a room inside a house, and that we weren't far away in case she really needed us. I don't think I could have done it any sooner than a year. Do I wish I would have done it back in the summer around her birthday? Heck yes!
If you are considering nap transitioning and/or CIO, here are some things I've learned that may make it a little easier:
- Don't plan too much for the first day, nothing big and nothing too far away. But, do get out of the house during your babe's normal nap time. Go do something fun, but something close, so they can't fall asleep in the car. A couple of times during this nap thing we've just gone to the grocery store or gone out front - something to get them up and moving so they don't get sleepy, or realize that they are sleepy.
- Change diapers more often. For two naps we were changing Lemon's diaper in the morning, then before her first nap, after her first nap, before her second, after her second and then when we got home and before her bath. So much diaper changing that you don't realize when you switch to one nap you lose a lot of it. We have had her sitting in poopy diapers for a couple of days, not realizing it, because we haven't changed her diaper as often as we should, just because we didn't have to since we weren't doing two naps. That made for a cranky baby during a family photo shoot and a pretty rashy butt while trying to put herself to sleep, uncomy for sure. So we just had to make an effort to change her still, around 9 and 2, even if she wasn't napping then.
- Be consistent. When trying to move from two naps to one, make sure you put your babe down at the same time every day, that way they know this is their new nap time. Also, see what they are doing and how tired they are. Maybe you need to adjust by a half hour or so. The earlier the afternoon nap, the earlier the bedtime and the earlier the wake up time so plan accordingly. A schedule is lovely, especially if you are a working mama.
- Start on a weekend if you leave your baby with someone else during the day. I think that sleep changes should be handled by moms and dads, especially since it's something totally new for your babe.
- Keep with their routine as much as possible. We actually moved Lemon's bath to before dinner, instead of after, because we thought it may be waking her up after she was already drowsy. Make adjustments but stick with your bedtime routine. I like the down time/TV (Bubble Guppie) time so I can still snuggle her and stroke her hair, getting her ready for bed, and she can drink her bottle and nurse. Then books and a song in her room before I put her in her crib.
- Tell your babe what is going on. I think they understand more than what we give them credit for and if we say, "You are going to be a big girl and go night night on your own," they will understand it. We make a big deal about kissing daddy and saying "night night" and then I kiss her and tell her it's time for "night night" when I put her in her crib. She knows what time it is and I think telling them, saying it out loud, helps.
- Be on the same page. Before, when we tried the Ferber method, Ian kept telling me, "but she's just a little bear and needs to be snuggled" and that didn't help me feel any better while she was crying! This time we talked about it, agreed, and came up with a plan - something that we were both comfortable with. You are going to have to lean on each other and support one another, and sit with each other while your babe cries. You will need to be supported, and will need to support your husband.
- Plan this for a weekend and a night you will be home together - a couple of nights you will be home together. I could never have done this alone (see above).
- Be flexible. This is something I never am so it's funny to write this here. We would have done the Ferber method again, going in at intervals, but after talking about it we realized that Lemon got more upset the last time we did it. It seemed like her seeing us just woke her up more, every time. So this time we decided just to leave her, for an hour at the most, and then go in and check on her to see if she pooped or was thirsty. Ian also wanted to be able to go in in the middle of the night, if she woke up, just to check on her as well. I had to be flexible and do what he was comfortable with too. Compromise. (Something I really suck at!)
- Don't be hard on yourself. If you put it out there that you want to try this, you will get more positive responses than negative ones. I was scared to put in on Instagram that this was the only thing we hadn't tried, but the comments I received were encouraging. It made me not feel so bad for wanting to try this, for my family.
Thanks for reading and thanks for lifting me up. I really felt like I could do this, even though in my heart I was secretly against it. Am I against it anymore? No way. Would I encourage you to try? An overwhelming YES! Get your husband back, get some time for yourself back and get your baby some much needed sleep! :)