This post is part of the 2010 API Principles of Parenting blog carnival, a series of monthly parenting blog carnivals, hosted by API Speaks. Learn more about attachment parenting by visiting the API website.
When Dylan was 6 weeks old, I enrolled us in a mom and baby class at a local parenting center. I figured it would be a good way to meet other moms and to force myself to get dressed and out of the house.
Up until that point, we had been happily co-sleeping. It happened by accident – it was first suggested by a kind and wise nurse at the hospital, and continued at home. When it was time for Dylan to go to sleep for the night, I’d get ready for bed too. We’d both lie in our bed and he’d nurse to sleep and I’d doze off too. As a new mom, it was good for me to go to bed at around 9pm. We were both well-rested. Or at least as rested as you could be with a newborn.
So back to the class. It was run by a wonderful lactation consultant who helped me a lot in the early weeks, and a so-called, self-appointed “sleep expert”. I believe that this sleep expert is well-intentioned and has probably assisted a number of extremely overwhelmed and sleep deprived families. However, her sleep ideas did not work for us.
One week we were talking about infant sleep patterns. The sleep expert stated that if a baby doesn’t fall asleep by him or herself, the baby will keep waking up all night and will need assistance falling back asleep. So in my case, since I nursed Dylan to sleep, each time he woke he would require nursing to sleep. He was waking quite frequently – usually he’d sleep for a 3 or 4 hour stretch when he first went to sleep, and then would wake up every 1-2 hours after that. But since we were co-sleeping, the wakings were not that disturbing to me. The sleep expert told me that I should try to get Dylan to fall asleep on his own, and that would stop some of the night wakings. Also, she suggested that babies need an early bedtime, and a 7pm bedtime would be more appropriate than a 9pm bedtime.
So off I went home after this class. I told Jake everything that the sleep expert had said. She suggested that I nurse Dylan in a rocking chair with the lights on, read him a book, and then give him to Jake, who would rock him to sleep and then place him in his crib. We tried this – at 7pm. It actually worked the first night. Jake got Dylan to sleep and managed to get him in his crib. HOWEVER, Dylan proceeded to wake up every 40 minutes until I finally went to sleep beside him.
We tried this again the next night. Even though Dylan was only 6 weeks, he caught on to our plan. Jake couldn’t get him to sleep. Dylan was crying and it was breaking my heart. So I went in and nursed him and of course he went right to sleep. I got him in his crib but again he woke up every 40 minutes unless I was beside him. We tried this for about a wk, and it did not work. I couldn’t stand to hear any crying, even if Dylan was in Jake’s arms.
After about a week, I stopped the insanity. We went back to our previous routine of my nursing Dylan to sleep in our bed. This felt much more natural to us and met my needs of getting some extra rest by having an early bedtime, and met Dylan’s needs of nursing to sleep and having his mommy beside him in bed.
Over time, as Dylan has gotten older, we’ve moved our bedtime routine to a double bed in his room. And over time, Dylan started to sleep for longer and longer stretches on his own. He is almost 2.5 now and sleeps in his own bed for the majority of the night because he is ready! I still nurse him to sleep, but lo and behold he does sometimes wake up and is able to fall asleep again on his own. Because he is developmentally ready – not because I “taught” him to sleep on his own.