Lately, (actually let’s be honest, the last 4-5 months) my daughter has been an awful sleeper. She goes to bed at a normal time (7:30 p.m. every. night) but somehow manages to wake up at least 3-4 times a night. This week it has changed to 6-7 times a night to nurse. Now, she is 11 months old, very healthy and old enough to be sleeping longer than 1-2 hour stretches at night.
And momma is tired.
We do co-sleep and I have a love/hate relationship with it. I love feeling close to my daughter. I sleep easier in some aspects knowing she is next to me. But she has also learned that milk is readily available when she is in bed with me. She has been waking up multiple times a night “to nurse”.
Before anyone argues that she is hungry: yes, she does get milk but I know she isn’t hungry. My mother-in-law recently kept her overnight and offered her a bottle of milk and she refused it each time. It is very clearly a comfort thing and she is now dependent on nursing to fall asleep.
I didn’t want to do cry-it-out at first because I was worried about my daughter (and myself if we are honest). I hate listening to her cry. But we are at a point where we need sleep and I can’t keep being used as a human pacifier all night long. And that starts here, with building healthy sleep habits where she learns how to soothe herself and put herself to sleep without breastfeeding.
This is just night one and man, let me tell you it’s hard. I’m typing this as I listen to her scream in her room. It’s been 12 minutes. I’m writing to distract myself from the crying and because I feel like I should share my experience with it with others.
Here are the steps we are taking:
- Establish a bedtime Our daughter will go to bed at 7:30-8:00 p.m. I give us a little bit of a range because life happens and we do visit family often in the evening.
- Breastfeed before bed but not to fall asleep
- Create a bedtime routine We will read her a story and say a prayer before bed.
- Use your words I truly think babies can understand a lot of what we say even though they can’t say much. I think it’s important to explain what is going on and prepare them for what will happen. After we read our story and say a prayer, we then say, “I love you. It’s time for bed. We will be right outside. Night, night.” We let her know: a. she is loved b. she is NOT abandoned c. it’s bedtime.
- Decide whether you will check and console or full-extinction After doing some research, my husband and I feel like check and console is what we would like to do. Decide what you think is best for you and your family.
- Decide who will go in to check on them Originally, We decided my husband would since my daughter is expecting me to have milk. This way she would know milk and nursing was not an option. Daddy ended up needing momma’s help though. She would scream at him when he entered the room and he felt like she hated him (obviously, she doesn’t hate him but I can respect that it hurt his heart to see her like that) so I went in and we decided to tag team.
- When you go in to check on them, let them know you love them Pat their back and say, “I love you. It’s time for bed.” Again, it’s those words of affirmation. I love you. You aren’t alone. But it is time for you to go to sleep.
- Work together This will be one of the most stressful things you do as a couple. Work together and encourage the other when one is feeling like caving.
- Do something Take a shower, read a book, do laundry, but do something to make the time go by a little bit quicker. Don’t sit outside their door crying with them.
- Remind yourself: You are doing this for them, not to them You are helping them create healthy sleeping habits. This is not something you are doing to be mean. They have to know how to soothe themselves. You are a good mom/dad/caregiver. They know you love them. You’ve got this.
*note: the minutes are after the check. We weren’t going in every 2 minutes. We were gradually increasing the time. Babies are smart, so if you go in every 5 minutes, they will wait and know you are coming.
check 1 ~5 minutes: She cried and was super sad. Daddy went to check on her.
check 2 ~8 minutes: This time she was VERY angry. She was clearly upset that she wasn’t going to be picked up. Daddy checked on her.
check 3~ 10 minutes: She was upset but had been winding down a little bit. We decided to take a shower. Daddy was getting overwhelmed and was very sad seeing her like that. He asked me to help out because he couldn’t take it anymore (this is why you need to be a team)
check 4~15 minutes: Mommy check on her. She was still very upset but after this check she seemed to really wind down. I’m not sure if it had anything to do with me checking on her or simply that she was tired.
After check 4, there were periods where we really thought she was asleep and an occasional spurt of crying. It was clearly her last fight but she was so exhausted. This was about 15-20 minutes past check 4 and we didn’t feel it necessary to check on her again.
Day 1 was approximately: 1 hour.
*Edit to add: She started screaming again ~ 1.5 hours past our starting time. I went in because I could tell it was escalating. I told her I loved her and goodnight. She fussed a little bit but I haven’t heard a peep in the last 15 minutes.
They say it gets less and less each day. We will see and I sure hope so! My biggest advice to you would be: don’t cave. My biggest motivating factor is realizing if I stop in the middle of it, she did all of that crying for nothing. ❤
XOXO One Merry Mama