One of my good friends is having a baby this spring, and I am completely excited because she is the first of my friends to do so. It’s hard to be the only mom in the group, but my friends are supper awesome, especially my best friend, and they tolerate the mom talk and the mom outings with glee. So since my old college roommate is having a baby, and I completely can’t stop giving advice, much less talking, I thought I would write a few advice posts. Here’s the sleeping one.
No matter if you decide to co-sleep or place that fragile new treasure in a bassinet, the day will come when you want your room back. Then you have to introduce your sweet little one to a crib and a room of her own. Sometimes this is easy. Sean didn’t care where he slept as long as he got his breast milk for the night. Evan was a different matter. He screamed. A lot. For two hours. I would have given in about five minutes in if I didn’t call my mother, who talked to me for two hours, telling me when to go in and soothe him.
My great-grandma had a saying for childrearing. “It takes three times.” You discipline a child three times for an action; there will be no fourth. You put the child in bed by himself three nights in a row; the fourth night he’ll be fine. Those of you who have children know that sometimes there will be a fourth time, fifth time, and sometimes a twentieth time. But grandma was saying that as long as your persistent, you’ll win. (And you new mothers who are horrified by the winning analogy, just you wait: it is a battle of wills from the beginning.)
Now the second night Evan only cried for an hour, and on the third night he cried for a half an hour. The fourth night he whimpered and fell asleep after a few minutes. I assure you that on nights two and three, my mother was on the phone. I couldn’t have done it without her. It was heartbreaking, but I knew he had to learn sometime.
Now I know this technique isn’t for everyone. And originally my mom suggested just leaving him in there. (Not that I think my mom could have done it to her own child; but with distance and time, we forget those things.) I came up with the plan on checking in on him every fifteen minutes to let him know I was still there and I loved him. This technique is great for when the baby or toddler or preschooler wakes up in the middle of the night, wanting to party or just crawl into your bed.
Last night Sean woke up at 3:30, wanting to rock and roll, and Evan was up trying to climb into bed with me. I placed Evan back in his bed, and I hugged Sean and laid him down in his crib with his aquarium playing. I wasn’t even back in my room before Sean started crying. Dude, it was 3:30 in the morning! So I looked at the clock, laid down in my bed, and waited for fifteen minutes. At 3:45am, Sean was still crying, so I got up and placed him back down in his crib, turning on his aquarium. At four am, Evan thought he could sneak into my bed again. Wrong. I put Evan back in bed, which woke Sean up (who probably wasn’t sleeping any way), who started crying. I laid Sean back down and returned to my bed, where my husband sat up and said “Sean!” He couldn’t see me roll my eyes when I told him to go back to sleep, just like Sean did five minutes later.
The other highly recommended put-your-child-to-bed technique is to place the child in his crib and sit or stand where the child can see you until the child falls asleep. Each night you move further and further away from the child. This is a great beginner technique. I used it with Sean, which was less heartache than with Evan. Of course this is a terrible technique when trying to put the kid back to sleep. This technique could take HOURS!! And it does.
With Evan I made the horrible mistake of letting him sleep with us when he woke in the middle of the night. That becomes a hard habit to break. When I was in my third trimester with Sean, I was determined to break the habit. I began with the moving technique. It didn’t work at all. The night I went into labor with Sean I was still using this technique. Yup, Evan woke at 2:30am ready to party, and I began getting contractions at 3:00 am, convincing myself that they were Braxton Hicks. (Hahahahahaha!) By four am, I was willing to entertain the fact that I was in labor eleven days early and that my toddler was jumping around on our bed trying to pillow fight me and my husband. (For the record, Evan never went back to sleep until his naptime after lunch, after he had seen his new baby brother.)
So what will I do with my next child? I will slowly move away from the crib every night, and in the middle of the night, I will check on the child every fifteen minutes until the child is back to sleep. And naptimes will remain at a minimum of two hour crib time. No matter if they whine.
Any experienced moms with more stories or better techniques, please comment.