Eli is sleeping in a crib.
In his own room.
Without any fussing or whining about it.
Let’s back up.
Since his birth until now we were co-sleeping–rather successfully I think. I never experienced the kind of sleep deprivation I had been warned of and duly dreaded. Sure, Simeon and I were tired after the birth and our regular night time schedules were wonky for a few months, but overall I’d say we were lucky to experience quite a quick return to what amounts to a normal night’s sleep for most adults, roughly 6-7 hours per night.
Since we were getting sleep and Eli was still night nursing like a champ, it was only reasonable not to fix something that wasn’t broken. And I definitely had no interest in moving him to another room just to get up every few hours to walk over and nurse him. I’d prefered staying half asleep myself and moving hardly at all. So co-sleeping continued. Until the wheels started to come off…
Maybe a month or so ago I started to get this antsy feeling like Eli was really ready to sleep on his own. He certainly appeared to want Mama to put him down and fall asleep nursing but I also want to eat ice cream for dinner. Just because I want it doesn’t mean I actually want it, you know? It was starting to take longer and longer to get him to fall asleep and it was harder and harder for me to leave the room without him waking and crying out. Plus, night nursing was taking too much from me. It didn’t seem like he really needed all those calories. I had to respect my mama intuition–something had to change.
Before Eli was born I had purchased a few books on sleep to prepare for what I thought was going to be that epic battle for shut eye. But since we hadn’t found a battle to fight, I had put the books away. Recently, I brought one back out and now I can’t help but to sing it’s praises.
The Happy Sleeper by Heather Turgeon, MFT and Julie Wright, MFT gets all the gold stars. This book gave us a game plan to win back our bed and our nights. Simply said, in two days the transition was done. I’m still picking my jaw up from the floor.
Essentially, the program requires that you brave a night or two of crying (NOT crying-it-out style) in order to help your baby discover their capability and trust their independence.
The book carefully explained that the crying is really just a reaction to a shift in a deeply entrenched pattern not a result of insta-trauma from a newly negligent parent.
The protocol is as follows:
- Put baby down awake, but drowsy.
- If baby cries, wait five minutes, then go in a do a “check.” Stand by the door and say a phrase that communicates your love for and confidence in your child. Ours was, “Good night Eli. I know you can do this. I love you.” Then leave.
- If crying continues, repeat step #2. Continue your five minute checks as long as baby cries. (The checks make it clear to baby that you’re there and that you’re responsive, just not taking on the responsibility of “soothing” any longer.)
- If baby is making other noises, don’t interfere. This is baby learning how to self-soothe.
- Rejoice because the baby is down and you have your evenings back!*
*(I added step #5, can you tell?)
In all seriousness, night one was difficult. Eli protested mightily when we put him down and for many hours after. It was torturous to hear him cry and not be able to swoop in and save the day. But I thought the analogies offered in the book were apt. For example, just because he wants to climb a bookshelf doesn’t mean I’m going to let him, even if he cries.
I wasn’t prepared for what happened on night two.
We went through our newly minted bedtime routine: bath, nurse, play, books, songs… I picked him up and put him in the crib. One little wail… And then nothing… Still nothing.
He went to sleep! And stayed asleep until a few hours later to nurse. A few minutes later I put him back in the crib… And no noise. Not a peep. Just back to sleep he went! The program worked. And he is right this very second asleep in his crib in his own room. He went down awake and now he’s asleep. It feels like a mini-miracle. Was it always this easy? Could we have done this months ago? I don’t know, because honestly, part of me probably wasn’t ready for my baby to leave the bed. Eli grows up on his own timeline but my mama heart has to keep up. And sometimes, I think my heart gets heavy with the passage of time and slows down. But then, of course, I see how well he’s doing and what it means to our boy to be present with him right now and I’m back to my lighthearted self. And I keep up. So here we are. With a child on his own and guess what?
We are thrilled. What a discovery! I’m so grateful I listened to my instinct that he was ready to do this–that we all were ready to do this. And I’m especially grateful that Simeon was game to try out the protocol, even though he hated every minute of it. That’s partnership!
So, may you ‘sleep like a baby.’ Because right now that statement is truly making my heart sing.
And how about a couple of cute pics of Eli sleeping in our bed just before we transitioned him? 🙂