Last night Wes slept through the night for the very first time. I know very well the feeling of being so exhausted you feel like you are going insane, too tired to play with your baby and even resentful at times, so of course I want to share any insight I have.
This serious novel of a post is six months worth of info so I’m going to try and keep it as short as possible, but it’s going to be hard since I think it’s good for you to know our patterns and trouble areas. I will highlight in bold the things that helped us.
I also want to mention that we don’t use the cry it out method for our family. I don't judge you if you do, we just don't do it. I will have people disagree with me, but that’s not what this post is about. With that said, we have let Wes cry for short periods of time in order to help him learn. We are always there and he knows that. Sometimes it seems there are only two ways: CIO or co-sleep/nurse all night forever. I realized through reading and research I could have both worlds by gently teaching him how to sleep on his own. It’s been hard for me to accept the crying part (even for two minutes) and that is the reason it has been such a long process. I am now at peace knowing he has never felt anything but loved during this, which was my biggest concern. Also, I have not always been the most graceful human in the middle of the night and I am grateful to Darren for always helping me and reminding me of our goals.
I laid awake this morning still in awe that my babe was sleeping, thinking about if he had done this from the beginning. I went over in my mind all that I have felt and learned in the past six months. I honestly don’t think I would do it over. I figure if it wasn’t sleep, it would have been something else because, after all, no child or situation is perfect. Every parent has something that is difficult for them and for us it has been sleep. I have learned things about myself as a mother, a lot I need to work on and areas where I am stronger than I thought, and for that I wouldn’t change a thing. I cherish the 8-9 months we co-slept and have memories that are embedded in my heart forever.
We shared a bed from the beginning and it worked when he was tiny and only eating twice in the night. (I love co-sleeping and would still be doing it if we both weren’t such light sleepers!) I honestly wasn’t tired and didn’t see what the big deal was, but around four months sleep regression hit, he was teething for months on end, growth spurts etc. you know, a baby’s life in the first year. I ignored the feeling that it wasn’t working for us anymore out of being comfortable and wanting to be close to my baby. Since then we’ve had a baby who is up several times a night, awake for hours in the middle of the night, refusing naps, always teething, wanting to nurse several times a night etc. And I’m not exaggerating. It didn’t matter if he was in our bed or his bed- the boy did not sleep!
Even though I was tired, I still enjoyed sleeping together but between 7-10 months old it got hard. They were the hardest months of my life. I went through delayed PPD and felt bad for myself. Resentment crept in and I started to take on the victim role. I had held Wes since the day he was born and always loved him with everything I had, so why was this happening? Where were the feelings I felt in the beginning? Of course I have always loved my baby, but I wasn’t enjoying every moment with him like I did before. I was tired and unhealthy. I wanted out some days. This made me feel guilty and really broke my heart.
I knew something had to change so at the start of the new year we decided it was time to help him learn to sleep in his crib and soothe himself. So my idea was first reduce the number of night feedings from 7 to 2. He had never slept in his crib, so I laid his mattress on the floor and set up a bed for myself next to him. Again, I wanted him to know I wasn’t just throwing him to the wolves, but that I was there to help him. Every time he woke to eat I would simply pat his back instead of feeding him. The first night was the hardest but he caught on and it was almost 100% better by the third night. He fed twice and put himself back to sleep most of the time. But then another tooth started to cut and everything went downhill. So back in our bed he came.
A few weeks later we tried it again and had no luck. Basically the same thing happened with his teething and a cold. He started to learn he could just cry and eventually I’d come pat him to sleep. It wasn’t teaching him to soothe himself. It was miserable and I started to think this would be impossible for us. At this time he would mostly sleep in his crib, but often end up in our bed when we were too tired to try.
Recently our nights have been Darren sleeping on the nursery floor or on the couch, Wes up in the middle of the night wanting to play, and nursing three - five times a night in our bed. Definitely reverting back the other direction! This was my limit and I decided big changes needed to happen. So two nights ago we started again. I don’t know why it worked this time, if I am being honest. But this is what we have done differently:
night weaned: I started to think that maybe he needed to be night weaned. It seemed he could sleep pretty well until that first feeding and I knew he was old enough to go so many hours without a feed. I didn’t necessarily want to night wean and didn’t mind the midnight feeding, but I had the thought that maybe that interruption was affecting everything else. Of course, find out how many hours is safe for your baby to go without eating. You never want to refuse them if they're really hungry. I started looking into it and gave it a try. Last week I tried to night wean in our bed after reading this article, but the method didn't work for us. (I loved her ideas though for an older baby!) Two nights ago I fed him at midnight and skipped the 4 am feeding. When he woke up I thought he would be hysterical, but he wasn’t. He cried for a few minutes and then laid down and fell asleep. I was amazed. Then last night I skipped the midnight feeding and he never cried for it. He woke many times in the night, but put himself back to sleep each time.
overnight diapers: a friend on IG mentioned night diapers working well for them, so I bought some and tried them last night. Wes does pee a lot in the night and I never thought that might be a reason for his wakings. I guess I’ll never know, but it is something we changed this time. We use pampers Baby Dry.
consistent routine: We are not the most consistent when it comes to bedtime or any schedule for that matter. Sometimes Darren gets home and wants to play with Wes longer or we decide to go on a last minute adventure. Everyday is so different and we love being free to do whatever! But we are learning our child does better when we are consistent. Not every child is this way, but for us right now we are seeing the importance of him knowing what to expect. Just me doing the same exact thing before bed both nights, he has learned.
waited to pat him when he’d cry: Normally every cry we would go pat him to avoid having him wake up even more, but we decided to give it a few minutes. We agreed we would put him in his bed at 7pm and commit to not picking him up until 7am. I figured he would eventually learn those were sleeping hours... it’s amazing how quick they catch on! The first day he needed to be pat sometimes through the night and woke up at six am yelling and playing, so I let him. But I didn’t go in until seven. Last night when he’d wake he didn’t cry for longer than a few minutes and put himself back to sleep each time. On top of that he slept until 7:30!
So that’s how we did it. I don’t really know how, other than with the help of God. Really though, I feel it's a huge blessing. I realize things will come up and he will not sleep perfectly from here on out, but now I know those key things we need to keep doing. The parts I was afraid of like, not having that bond or him not wanting to nurse, has been proven to be okay. He nurses more during the day now and is the happiest of babies- even more than I thought he could be. He can finally get that rest he needs and a part of me wishes I could have given him that sooner. I find so much satisfaction if watching him be able to put himself to sleep and not be afraid.
I'm not an expert by a long shot, but if I give any advice it’s to listen to your child and go at their pace. I am so glad we didn’t force anything on Wesley, even though some nights I felt it would be so much easier if we could just let him cry himself to sleep. I’m glad it has paid off and we can finally all sleep.