A preemptive message to warn you that this post is written mainly as a reminder of Sophie’s journey to sleep. It will probably be very boring to most, but I want to remember this stuff, as it’s already fading from my memory.
When Sophie was born, for the first two weeks, she would sleep anywhere, anytime, all day long, and we would have to wake her every two hours so she could eat.
For the first few weeks of her life, we had lots of family visitors, so there was never a shortage of arms to hold her.
She loved to be held, and wanted to be near a warm body all the time, which I was happy about, although she NEVER wanted to be put down.
This is how we slept, for the first two weeks anyways. She would sleep on both of us, giving each other a bit of a break. Skin to skin. It’s kind of a dreamy time, because you’re so spaced out from the whole birthing experience, having a baby, lack of sleep, it’s like a dream world, where morning mixes with night, it doesn’t really matter what time it is. I remember watching the first season of Survivor everyday at 3am – it was replayed at the time, and Sophie always woke at that time, and it just worked out that way. Weird.
During the day, she was pretty much held all the time as well, and we had various carriers to do the job. This is the baby buddha, which I really liked for the super early days, when she’s so light, and can be molded to your body. Once she got bigger I found it was a bit bouncy, but for when she was super tiny, I thought it was great; I could be hands free, and she was securely held close to my body.
As you can see, she obviously didn’t have a problem sleeping in it. She was close to me, could hear my heart beat, smell her food :), and stay nice and snug.
For the first 4 months of her life, she slept in a bassinet, if we could get her to. In the middle of writing this, I had to ask Eran, how did she sleep for those first months? It becomes a total blur, and you just forget, but I do remember that she would sleep in the bassinet, for a few hours at a time anyways.
You hear about babies who sleep in swings. Sophie was not one of those babies. We had this for maybe a few months, she just wasn’t a swing baby. She was a carrier baby. Put her in the carrier, she would be out for hours. They have this thing called Movies for Mommies, and they had it at a theatre a 10 minute walk from our apartment in Vancouver. They were held every 2 weeks, at 1pm. I remember walking to the theatre with Sophie in the Ergo, and she fell asleep literally 2 minutes out of our apartment, and slept through the entire 2.5 hour movie, waking up as I was walking home.
The Ergo is such a great carrier, I would recommend it to anyone, because we are still using it at 22 months and 29 pounds, she goes on my back, and it’s like a hands-free piggy back ride!
I think once Sophie was around 4 months old, she was getting too big for the bassinet, so we moved her into the crib. We had discovered that she liked to be swaddled, and followed some of the recommendations of Harvey Karp, things like swaddling, swinging, shushing, sucking, stuff like that. We found we could get her to sleep if we swaddled her tightly, and bounced her on a bouncy ball, until she fell asleep, with a pacifier in her mouth, because she was calmer when she was sucking on something, and I didn’t want it to be me all the time.
We went to visit our families in Toronto over Christmas for 3 weeks when Sophie was 7 months old, and we got into the habit of co-sleeping. It worked for us at the time, because we could sleep, and she would be quiet, and not wake up everyone in the house. The downside (for me at least) was unlimited access to me, and she got into the habit of nursing to sleep, and nursing throughout the night whenever she wanted. I was not too fond of this plan. It worked for us while traveling, and I know people who co-sleep and love it, and I am not against co-sleeping, I know some people are for safety reasons, but I am not. It’s just not for me. I enjoy sleeping without a baby attached to me at all times, call me crazy. So I knew that once we were back home, I wanted things to change.
She would regularly nap pretty well, we would just shush her and swing her and rock her to sleep, then gently lay her down, and we were free for about 2 hours.
Once we were back home, we realized she didn’t need to be swaddled any longer. We were concerned about blankets on her, because she moved around so much, they would get tangled, get moved around, not keep her covered etc, so we found these sleep sacks called Grobags, and we have been using them since. They are pricy, but they are literally a sleeping bag that you wear, with a zipper along the side, and snaps at the top. It stays on, keeps her warm, we’re all happy.
At this point, she’s probably around 9 or 10 months old, and I’m still putting her to sleep by nursing her, then laying her down. I know it’s a horrible habit, but it’s easy, and it works, and, well, that’s all really. But I was tired of sometimes having to go to sleep with her because she would wake up every hour or two until we went to bed, at which point she would join us at her first night waking, because it was easy, and we all wanted to sleep.
But, I decided something drastic had to be done. I was tired of being a slave to her demands during the night, I was also tired of having to go to bed at 9pm, because she just wouldn’t sleep without me. So, sleep training was in order. I know there are a lot of strong feelings about sleep training, people who are totally against it, totally for it, totally for parts of it, for it at a certain age, the list goes on and on. We decided that for me to have some freedom after Sophie went to bed, and for her to learn that she needed to sleep on her own now, it had to be done. I had the babymamas helping me, telling me to call if I needed help if I was feeling weak as Sophie’s screams pierced my eardrums, telling me to drink wine, all that good supportive stuff. I had decided to just let her cry until she fell asleep. There are those who say let her cry for 10 minutes the first night, 12 the next, 15, 20, etc. I don’t see the point myself. I had a friend Roz, who has her Ph. D., who also went through sleep training with her son, and had read all these studies, and found there were no negative lasting effects because of sleeping training- but those kids who never learned to put themselves to sleep did have difficulties later in life – attention issues, sleep issues, etc. I’m probably not getting it all right, and leaving out lots of details, but I believed her, and wanted to give it a shot. Stop reading if you don’t want to read about sleep training. Stop now.
Still here? okay.
First of all, Eran has a really hard time listening to Sophie cry. We decided that he would leave during the sleep training. He just went to the gym, and I was to call him when it was over, when it was ‘safe’ to come home. I was fairly confident that the bulk of the crying would be done and over with in a few days. I don’t like listening to Sophie cry either, but I can handle it if I know it will lead to something better. And Sophie sleeping on her own in her crib, was definitely better. The first night, I fed her as usual, told her I loved her, and that she was going to sleep on her own, closed the door, and left the room. 53 minutes later, she was asleep. The second and third night, I thought were better, after 40 minutes, the crying stopped, but when I snuck into her room to check up on her, she was sleeping, but sitting up in the middle of her crib. I had two options. Leave her, and wait for her to fall down, most likely hitting her head on the crib. Not a good option. Or, try to lay her down, most likely waking her up in the process. I went with option b, and she woke up. This continued a few times, until she fell asleep lying down.
The next few nights were like the second, her falling asleep sitting up, she would fall down, and wake herself up again, until she would finally fall asleep lying down. After about a week, if my memory serves (and it probably doesn’t too accurately) she was probably crying for a few minutes before falling asleep on her own.
Some may call this process cruel, but what works for one family, may not work for another, and ultimately I believe you have to do what works for you. I try not to judge other parents because I know that for the most part, people struggle with these sorts of decisions; every family is different, every child is different, people have different needs, some people enjoy co-sleepign in the family bed, but it didn’t work for us.
Anyways, it wasn’t all rosy. Of course I was so happy that I got some time for myself and for Eran and I to spend some time alone at night, but Sophie still woke up a few times in the middle of the night.
Usually, after a wake up, as long as it was after this specific time, she would come into bed with us. I realize this isn’t the best solution, but again, it worked for us, for a while anyways. I started to push back the time that I would let her come into bed with us. It had to be after 3am, then the next time, after 3:15, 3:30, and so on, and so on.
Eventually, the hope is that she will sleep all night in her bed, but we wanted it to be a gradual process. Sometimes she would cry in the middle of the night for a few minutes until it was “that” time, and we brought her into bed. Other times, she would go back to sleep on her own, and the time that she was to come to our room was extended – yay! Who knew sleep could be so complicated?
It was definitely a gradual process, but it worked for us.
We were eventually able to push it all the way until 7am. I don’t remember how old she was when we got to that landmark, probably around 13 months? But ever since then, it’s been relatively smooth sailing.
There are obviously some nights when she wakes up, and may cry for a few minutes until she puts herself back to sleep. Other nights where we will go into her room, pick her up, give her a quick cuddle, some reassurance, and tell her it is time for bedtime, and we are right outside her door, and we loved her and would see her in the morning. But for the most part, she now sleeps from 7:30pm, until 7am, give or take.
She did go through a phase where she babbled to herself for up to an hour before she eventually fell asleep, but she was in her own room, and we know, that at 7:30pm, it’s bedtime, it’s time to relax. Last week, at almost 22 months old, I stopped nursing Sophie to sleep. I had always given her milk before bed, for like 5 minutes, as a comfort thing, because she clearly was not needing it for nutrition anymore. I always intended to breastfeed Sophie for as long as she needed it, and know that some people may think it’s too long, some may think it’s too short. Whatever, she’s our kid, our decisions, and I try to keep the judgment out of it.
It’s so funny, people become so judgmental when you have a baby, offering unsolicited advice (but that’s another post).
Anyways, I just stopped nursing one night. Sophie didn’t ask for it, I didn’t offer, and it hasn’t been an issue since. She obviously was ready, and so was I, so we are done with that relationship. Eran is now able to put Sophie to sleep without me and not like I have anywhere to go, but if I did, it wouldn’t be a problem. So, that is our sleep story, up until this point anyways. We’re all happy, and sleeping, and if only we could get her to sleep in on the weekends, then that would really be something!!