Transitioning to Independent Sleep, better known as: Parental Torture

It would seem that sleep continues to be the subject of greatest importance in our household. We had fallen victim to bringing Addie to bed with us in the night a bit more frequently than we should have. What started out as trying for a while to get her back to sleep in her room slowly turned into just giving up when she woke up at 1 AM and bringing her into bed with us for the rest of the night. This was getting out of control so about a week and a half ago, Curt and I finally got up the courage to start the "cry it out" method. Yikes! We tried it for the first time and we learned that we have an extremely strong willed (aka stubborn) child! Ms. Addie kept it up for an hour and a half, that's right, 90 minutes of non-stop crying. I went in and checked on her every 10 minutes for the first hour, and then about every 12 - 15 minutes for the remaining half hour, which by then her cries had turned into mostly whimpering (oh my heart hurts to even type that word!). Curt admitted that he could not be the one to go in and soothe her because he wouldn't be able to walk away. Lame, but true. I resisted the overwhelming urge to comfort her by picking her up and just rubbed her face and belly to try and calm her down. Then I would leave the room and the howls got worse for about two minutes before they returned to general cries. Of course, these cries were interjected with "ma ma ma's" and at one point, Curt had to come and actually pick me up off of the floor in the hallway outside Addie's room. But we were determined to bring Addie into the land of independent sleepers, which meant no giving in or we would have to start over. We made it through that first night and the days that followed, with the crying growing less and less frequent and severe...

Until Addie got her first real cold. Then she woke up crying, but for a different reason. She couldn't breathe because her nose was so congested and she had a cough that would rival any man around age 65. She was still in the middle of this sleep transition, but allowing her to cry for a while no longer seemed to be a reasonable option, as the crying only made her runny nose worse, and the coughing more intense, etc. So our process was put on hold and once again, we returned to the family bed until the cold eased up. I was hoping that her cold would get better, just enough so that she could feel a bit more comfortable, but not enough that we had to put her back in her crib and suffer through more of this first real test of our parenting endurance. The pediatrician told me it would be 10 - 14 days until it would pass. OK, I could live with that. Then we would travel for the holidays and we could start project independent sleep in the new year. Perfect. But I didn't account for Addie's equally strong-willed immune system, which kicked this cold straight in the butt in about half the time that was predicted. Sigh.

So...With about two weeks still to go before we plan to travel, we decided to begin again. The strong will was still alive and well in Addie, not quite as persistent as the first time, but extremely dramatic. The first time I went to check on her she was on all fours with her head down, reaching one tiny arm up towards me. So cute, so pathetic... stay strong!!! I turned her over on her back, but didn't pick her up and mercy, that made her mad. I stroked her hair and wiped away her tears, all the while telling her, "Mommy loves you. Mommy knows you can do it. Take some deep breaths. Shhhhh. Mommy loves you." An hour and a bottle of wine later, she was finally asleep. After about 20 minutes of silence, I tiptoed in to make sure she was OK and she was huddled in the corner of her crib, sleeping with her favorite two fingers in her mouth and the other hand covering her face. Precious. 

We still have several nights to go before this will work itself out, at least according to all the "experts". Deep down I know it's the best thing for her. We are setting limits and she is learning that she can't always have everything she wants when she wants it. It makes for the hardest pockets of time in our lives and it's only the beginning. I called my mom in the middle of one of these sessions for some support and asked her if Addie hates me. Her response was, "Probably, but get ready because this certainly won't be the last time. Just wait until she says 'I don't love you anymore, Mommy.'" WHAT!!! That was so not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear that she understands it's all done for her benefit and to make her a well-rounded person and that she knows I love her so so much. I guess the bottom line is that my mom is right. This is the first of many struggles and I (we) will have to remember that being her parents sometimes means making unpopular decisions and sticking with what we know is best for our girl. 

That hour just after bedtime is really a tough one, but it all seems to be erased in the morning when Addie wakes up all bright-eyed and full of smiles, ready to spend her day with us. She knows she is loved and we know she is happy... and we all made it through one more night.  

Sleep is the name of this game

Our Addie has always been a fairly good sleeper. She started sleeping through the night like a champion at ten weeks. In talking to my girlfriends, I learned that we have been incredibly spoiled... until September when I was recovering from an appendectomy. I needed to increase my milk supply so we went back to feeding every two hours for about five days. My milk came back in so we then attempted to go back to our usual routine. Wrong. Ever since then, we have had trouble breaking Addie from enjoying a middle of the night meal. We've spoken with our pediatrician, read books and articles and sought advice from friends. Granted, she's not yet eight months old, but seeing as we know she can do it (because she did for about three months) we're working toward that goal. 

We are following the sleep-through-the-night recommendations: waiting a few minutes if she fusses before we go in to check on her, not offering her any nighttime feedings, not picking her up all the time and soothing her instead with a rub or verbal reassurance. I am always reiterating these points to my husband, as he tends to be the softy and wants to rush to her side at the first peep we hear. However, my husband is a pretty deep sleeper, so usually I am the one who deals with the late night wake up calls. 

Last night began no differently from any other. We followed our bedtime routine: read Goodnight Moon, said our prayers, then rocked it out (in the rocking chair, of course) to a little Bedtime with the Beatles. Addie was in a deep sleep after our usual two songs when I laid her down in her crib for the night. We enjoyed silence all through the remainder of the evening and went to bed around 11. 

I awoke around 12:30 AM to Addie's usual stirring sounds of rustling and mild fussing. I resolved myself to "follow the rules" and give her a few minutes to try and settle herself down. After just a few moments, she whipped out the big guns and began babbling, "ma ma ma ma ma." (hook) I know in my rational mind that she is not calling for me and doesn't know that I AM Ma Ma. But hearing those pretend words prompts an involuntary physical reaction... I get up and go to her. I peer into her crib and when she sees me she gives me a huge smile and kicks excitedly because ma ma ma ma is here so of course I pick her up. I rock her to sleep (just this once) and I place her gently back into her crib. I tiptoe back into bed and get comfy again only to hear the same fussing begin about ten minutes later. This time I don't want to wait as long because I don't want her to get worked up again so I rush in, pick her up and begin rocking her. She tilts her little head back from the crook of my elbow and begins gently sucking on my arm.  (line) She is ridiculously cute and MUST be hungry so I decide to give her a little snack. She nurses for a few minutes and falls into what seems to be a deep sleep so I once again gently place her in her crib. This time it takes about twenty minutes for the fussing to begin again. By now it is about 1:45 AM and I am starting to lose patience. I give her some time and after her fusses turn into a cry I go in for a third time. She is wide awake, smiling and kicking and when I pick her up--yes I picked her up again--she lays her head on my shoulder and gives me a little sigh. (sinker) I am beyond exhausted and it is quite obvious that Addie is not going back to sleep anytime soon. So, against ALL advice, I bring her back to  bed with us. We get in bed and NOW Daddy wakes up to ask what is going on. I explain the events of the last 90 minutes and he pulls Addie to him, they snuggle up together and they fall asleep. Ahhh, sweet slumber at last. Too bad I had to trade in my "World's Greatest Mom" t-shirt for one that says *SUCKER*.