For two weeks when Selah was 3 months old she slept through the night. The extra sleep I was getting was glorious. Though any nursing mama will tell you it’s uncomfortable to go cold turkey like that.
Since those blissful two weeks ended, however, she has been a once/twice a night waker. This week she has begun to wake anywhere from 2-6 times a night. After several nights of a very exhausted me, and a baby who nurses just enough to fall asleep…we’re putting a stop to this.
Selah is ten months old on the 18th, and I believe–in broad daylight, that is–that she is ready to begin moving toward a full night’s sleep. (At 2 in the morning I just want her to go to sleep easily, so I stop believing anything rational.) I also believe that she is not waking because she is hungry but because she hasn’t figured out how to put herself back to sleep if something wakes her.
Two things you need to know: One, we don’t comfort nurse. (Except at night, apparently.) Two, we employed a cry-it-out method.
I don’t adhere to any one parenting practice; I do what works for my daughter, what works for my family. In return, we have a very happy, very confident baby. (Who is also going through her clingy stage; they tell me this could last until she’s 18 months?!)
Last night was really the turning point for me. The night before I’d gotten little sleep, so I took an afternoon nap, which made me restless at bedtime, which meant I was just falling asleep when Selah woke for the second time in 6 hours. I knew she wasn’t hungry. I knew it in my mom-gut. And I was tired. I went in to check on her, and to settle her back to sleep without the minute long nursing she wanted. And all hell broke loose.
When we started doing cry-it-out it was because Selah was 4 months old and I couldn’t rock her until she was asleep and then put her in her bed without her waking in a torrent of rage. She wanted her pacifier, she wanted me. Whatever the case was, it was ugly. So we initiated cry-it-out to avoid the hours I was spending running into her room every 10 minutes to re-pacify her.
I thought I had learned this lesson with her the first time around, but now as we’re moving past the learning to fall asleep on her own and on to learning to go back to sleep on her own, I’m having to relearn.
I make it worse.
It’s true. For whatever reason, if I step foot into her room when she’s crying and don’t whisk her away into another room she will turn into a banshee. So, the first time around I started with the CIO method of checking every 10-15 minutes. That was bad news bears. I then decided I would let her cry if she was safe after an initial check and only go to her her if she kept crying for 30 minutes. That second night (after the failed attempt) she cried, with long pauses, for an hour and then slept. I only let her go that long because of the pauses, so I knew she wasn’t that upset because the stormy tears ended after about 15 minutes. The next night she was asleep in 40 minutes. The night after that 5 minutes. Now she’s a regular pro.
I know some of you may think it sounds mean, but it really was the best for her in the long run. She was still a happy baby. She wasn’t crying out of pain or fear; they were very distinct angry cries. I would never use this method until after a child hits the 3 month mark and I am well acquainted with the differing cries of my baby. I fully believe that you cannot spoil a newborn. (Newborn defined as a baby up to 3 mos old.)
So back to last night.
In the end, David was able to rock her to sleep. (First time she’s ever let him do that which makes me so happy.) That told me that she wasn’t hungry; David would never have been able to get her to calm down had that been the case. And after that she slept until morning, without waking for her usual 3/5:00 feeding. And she woke up and played happily in her crib for about 15 minutes which meannt she wasn’t hungry.
Tonight I don’t know what will happen. Maybe she’ll be back to her once-a-night feeding. Maybe David will have to help her back to sleep. Maybe she’ll figure it out on her own. The only thing I feel confident about is that she no longer needs her nighttime feeding like she used to; she’s a big girl now who eats 3 square meals a day, has two snacks, and nurses 5 times a day. Now it’s time for us to help her get ready for the big kid world of sleeping through the night. It could take weeks. Maybe months. Or last night could have been all she needed. We’ll get there eventually. I won’t deprive my child of food if she needs it, but a night feeding no longer needs to be the go-to.
This could mean a lot of trial and error. It could mean sleeplessness for me. It could mean very angry screams from a suddenly willful child. (More on the willfulness later, I’m sure.) It could mean a whole slew of things. But it won’t last forever. The newborn cluster feeding ended. The pacifier runs ended. Someday this will just be another one of those things that came to an end.
(Update! Apparently, David didn’t put Selah to sleep and she was wide awake and content when he put her back to bed. That’s even better! Huzzah for wonderful daddies!)