"Is she sleeping through the night?'
This question must be asked about a million times to new parents. And most of the time, we just smiled and said "eh, not quite." Because realistically, most of these people do not want to know the real story. But I thought I'd share it here because the thing that finally worked for us was something I said I'd never do as a parent!
For the first 3 months of her life, Grace slept through the night every night. It was wonderful. I would often have to wake her in the morning to eat because I needed her to eat for my sake (any breastfeeding mom understands this!) But since then, her sleeping record has been less than stellar. She refused to let anyone but me put her to bed at night. She started waking up twice a night to eat, and then 3 times and so on and so on. By last week, she was up every hour to two hours needing comfort or food. I have read all sorts of things about how to get your child to sleep through the night and tried everything I could think of. I tried twilight feedings, putting her down drowsy, letting her fall asleep on me, but nothing worked. She is not a great napper either, she prefers to sleep in her swing (which she is almost too big for) or in my arms. I will admit that this is my fault as I didn't break the habit early, but she is an extremely light sleeper and wakes up almost immediately when being moved. This makes it nearly impossible to move her to her crib to put her down.
After a lot of research, I decided to try the Ferber method. This basically entails putting your child in their crib drowsy, but awake. You tell them goodnight and leave the room. Then, when they being to cry, you go in to comfort them without picking them up from the crib at set increments of time, so after 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes etc. This method didn't seem as harsh to me as other cry it out methods and I've talked to many people who have been successful with it. We tried it for several nights and were frustrated with the results. Instead of being comforted, my going in seemed to make her angrier. She wanted to nurse to go to sleep or suck on my finger to go to sleep, and when I wouldn't give her that, she would get mad (she's got her daddy's temper!!) Even with the Ferber method, she was waking up multiple times at night and both she and I were getting extremely exhausted.
I always told myself that I would never be one of those parents who let their kids just cry it out. I thought it was mean and I've been told that it can cause psychological damage. But, one of the first things I learned as a parent is that what works with one child might not work with another and that you need to do what is best for your family no matter what anyone else says (as long as it is safe for everyone and is legal of course!) So at 4 in the morning one day last week after Grace had been up 6 times since 9 PM, I gave up and just let her cry. I laid in bed and cried and Mike comforted me. I felt like a horrible parent and I knew she just was going to hate me. But then, after 45 minutes, she fell asleep and didn't wake up again until 8 AM. I went in to get her and she gave me a huge smile. And the next night, I put her down drowsy, but awake and after 5 minutes of crying and 10 minutes of talking to herself, she was out again and she slept all night!! We have been doing this every night now and have either had a full 8 hours of sleep or one nighttime wake up to eat, which I'm extremely happy with! We just started doing this for naptimes as well and she just fell asleep by herself after only 10 minutes while I was writing this post. The funny part is that she actually only cries for a few minutes each time, she spends most of the time talking to herself.
So new parents, never say never : ) I know many people will judge me for this post and think I am hurting my child by letting her cry, but seriously the best thing for us is to sleep. It is not healthy for either one of us to be as exhausted as we were. And we are both happier now, although I'm still recovering from 3 months of sleep deprivation! Which is why I'm going to go take a nap now....