Up until this point in Joseph’s life (he is 71/2 months old), he has never gone to sleep without me. He has been nursed or cuddled to sleep, and then continues his sleep in our bed. This has worked out fine, until it hasn’t worked. He is actually a great sleeper at night when he is with us, and usually sleeps in until 9:30-10. He is so much more mobile now, so napping in our bed is no longer an option. Additionally, going to bed at 10-11 with mom and dad is no longer helpful to him; he certainly needs an earlier bedtime and it does not make sense for me to go to bed at 7 pm. Additionally, if I don’t go down to nap with him during the day, his naps last a maximum of 30 minutes, which really isn’t enough time and leaves him progressively more cranky as the day goes on. I do have to say that one of the reasons I became truly motivated to help Joe learn how to sleep on his own is that I would love one day to have a babysitter so Josh and I can go on a date!
I know that Joseph is capable of sleeping for long stretches, because he does it when I am right next to him. But for him, the only way he has learned how to fall asleep is with me. It’s no use getting frustrated at him for not knowing how to sleep on his own if he has never learned any other way. Josh and I must teach him that it is safe to fall asleep and stay asleep on his own.
So why have we stayed away from teaching him how to sleep for so long? That’s an easy answer: I can’t stand it when my baby cries. There are many theories out there on how to get a baby to sleep independently, with or without tears. I know in my heart that it will take at least some crying before he will learn, and I just haven’t felt ready to deal with that.
A couple of weeks ago, a veteran mom who has three kids of her own, shared a book with me that really helped her. I trust her advice, because while I was visiting, her 7 month old was starting to show signs of tiredness. She said, “Just a minute, I’m going to go put her down for a nap.” I was getting ready to make myself comfortable, because surely it would take the better part of an hour to get her to sleep. Literally 2 minutes later she was back down with the baby monitor. I was stupefied. “You mean she can fall asleep on her own?!” I had read about freak babies like that on the internet, but I doubted that they actually existed. I immediately went into defence mode, thinking that some babies are just “good sleepers” and mind would never be able to sleep like that. She shared that she had been like me with her first, and then someone shared the Sleep Sense Program with her. She felt like it empowered her to teach her child to sleep on her own. That is DEFINITELY what I needed. Empowerment. Most of the time I go around feeling like I have absolutely NO idea what I’m doing, and that I’m screwing my kid up and we will NEVER figure this sleep thing out.
I started reading it and got really pumped up about it. Essentially the book was saying that yes, getting your baby to sleep on their own will involve some tears, but it’s ok! The baby will adapt and learn (because thank heavens that is one thing babies ARE good at…LEARNING). Instead of feeling helpless and overwhelmed by the idea of Joseph learning, I felt ready and empowered that we can do this as a family.
Here are some of the highlights that I knew I needed to try:
– Early bed time (6:30-7:30pm for 6-12 months)
– Bedtime routine that lasts 20-30 minutes
– Having a blankie or stuffed toy as a “prop” to sleep (as opposed to mom) so that when they do wake up in the night, they are able to soothe themselves back to sleep
– Allowing them a chance to go to sleep on their own (aka crying). She offers 2 methods for this: either staying in the room or leaving the room. I opted for staying in the room.
– Having nice, long naps during the day
Stay tuned for more on how our first day has gone!