Just when you get the hang of this whole motherhood thing, that baby in your arms decides to change it up. At around 4 months, Kiddo wasn't doing "the transfer" -- my husband's term. When she was a newborn, she'd fall asleep in my arms after eating as most babies do, and we'd "transfer" her to the crib. Now, she was waking up as we'd oh-so-gently place her in the crib. I'd pick her back up, try to get her to sleep again. She wasn't getting good sleep, she was having a hard time figuring out how to fall asleep. Something had to change.
I always knew I would probably do some sort of sleep training. I know. That's a weird term, a dividing term, isn't it? Many moms don't like that it ... but it makes sense to me. We say we potty train our kids -- and everyone uses that phrase. Anyway, that's probably a topic for another post. I had a baby who was struggling with sleep. Somehow, I was going to sleep train my daughter.
I read the books -- from the strict "don't ever go in and pick up your kid even if she's wailing for hours as if she's getting mauled by a lion" books to the "mega-super-duper anti-letting your baby cry one tear" guides ... and all of the others. I talked to my doctor, I talked to my sister who is a doctor and a mom, I talked to friends who cried it out and friends who didn't. And then I made my own choice, figured out my own plan.
I introduced the idea of a lovey, a blanket. I tested quite a few blankets over my face to see if, for some reason it was over her face, she would be able to breathe. I made sure Blankie was around during the day to snuggle with. When she was fussing at other times, I'd hand it over to her as a comfort tool. They started building that lovey friendship.
And I realized that Kiddo liked routines, which I figured would be key to teaching her to self-soothe. So, we set up the whole bedtime ritual: reading the bedtime books, singing songs, starting some background music for her to fall asleep to, and then, before she was asleep, putting her in her crib with Blankie ... and leaving.
Did she cry? Yes, she did. Did I go right in? No, I didn't. I would wait a bit, then go in and pat her. Then leave again. Was it hard? Yeah, it was really hard, but not because I felt I was harming my baby. I didn't feel that at all. I listened to my instincts and my mommy gut to make sure I didn't feel like I was. It was hard because, well, no mom likes to hear her baby cry. It didn't take weeks. It took a few nights, each night better than the previous one ... and our bedtime routine was born and she was sleeping better than ever.
If she had cried for hours, if she hadn't responded like she did to this, would I have kept going with it? Probably not, I would have tried something else, but this is the way it happened for me, this is what worked for my kid. I let my baby cry it out.
Breastfeeding, epidurals, and crying it out. All hot button topics here at The Stir. I am not baffled as to why: they hit at the core of all mothers. Our inner mom monologues are constant, always questioning if you're doing what is best for your baby, the precious gift in your life that you would give your life for. It's only human if someone opts for something different than what you decided to do to get a little defensive -- because it may make you rethink your choice.
But it doesn't have to ... really, it doesn't. When new moms ask me my opinions on these things, I tell them what I did, but also remind them to be confident in whatever they choose to do. I think we all can be open to hearing others' stories. Maybe, instead of telling another mom she is doing it wrong or is hurting her baby, maybe, just maybe we can say, "Wow, you are doing it differently than me. Just as I found what is right for me and my baby, you found what is right for you. That's a good thing." Have a mommy high-five? A female fist-bump? Maybe?
How did I get my baby to sleep? I did a modified, personalized version of crying it out. That's my story ... and I hope you find what works for you and your baby.
Did you have your baby "cry it out"? What kind of sleep training did you do -- or not do?
Image via Pedro Klien/Flickr