We spoke with the Kaiser Health Education sleep specialist, and she gave us some really great support. We talked about Margie's current patterns and our needs and wants. We talked about what I feel ready for and what I don't. We talked a lot. And we came up with a plan that incorporates it all.
Here's what we decided:
- We're not night weaning yet. I'm just not ready to give up nursing Margie to sleep (my baaaaaaby I want her to neeeeeeed me) (yes this feels selfish but it is what it is), and she is still getting a decent amount of calories overnight. I'm ok with two night feedings, and I know she can go 4 hours between night feedings (biologically, she could go all night). She will likely drop one of these night feedings on her own, and at that point, I'll support that and go with it. But I don't want to force the issue yet.
- We are doing a modified version of crying it out. It's an "intervals" approach. I think this is technically Ferber.
- Nurse her to sleep, but try to put her down drowsy and awake. Ideally, after I nurse her, I pass her along to Will so he can put her down. The goal here is for her to not be asleep in our arms - to get used to falling asleep in her crib, so that when she wakes up she isn't surprised not to be in our arms, and she knows she's safe to go back to sleep. This really resonated with me. It's a concept that makes sense.
- If she starts fussing, let her fuss.
- If fussing turns into crying, let her cry for 3 minutes. Then send Will in (as the non-lactating parent, so she doesn't think she's getting fed) to pat her, shush her, and reassure her. Stay in the room for no more than 20-30 seconds and then leave.
- If she keeps crying, let her cry for 5 minutes. Repeat Will going in.
- If she keeps crying, let her cry for 7 minutes. Repeat Will going in.
- If she keeps crying, let her cry for 10 minutes. Repeat Will going in.
- If she keeps crying, let her cry for 10 minutes. Repeat Will going in. Repeat indefinitely.
- Once she falls asleep, if she wakes up and it's been 4+ hours, I'll feed her. If it's been less than 4 hours, and she is fussing, let her fuss. If she starts crying, repeat the 3-5-7-10 intervals.
We started this last night around 8:30pm. By 8:45, we were putting her down, drowsy but awake. She went from fussing to crying in less than 5 minutes...and the crying was rough. She cried these loud screaming cries, guttural and heartbreaking. I cried. A lot. Big, unsuppressable sobs. Poor Will was dealing with a crying baby and a crying wife and I just couldn't stop myself. But he stayed strong, though I know it was hard for him too, and we kept an eye on the clock and stuck to the schedule.
After 3 minutes, she was still crying. He went in, did the shush, and left after 30 seconds. Still crying. After 5 more minutes, she was still crying. He went in, did the shush, and left again. Still crying. During the 7 minute stretch, she seemed to be calming down when Will went in, like she knew he was in there to reassure her. As soon as he left, she started crying really hard. That might have been the worst. But then...she didn't even make it to 10 minutes before falling asleep (I think it was around the 7-8 minute mark). She just...fell asleep. Around 9:15pm. We're talking a total of around 20 minutes of "crying it out." It was horrible. Some of the worst minutes of my life. But then it was over. And she slept.
Just before midnight, we heard her start to fuss, but didn't go into her room (it had been less than 4 hours since she'd eaten). She must have fallen asleep, because she didn't ramp up to crying, and we fell asleep (and I can't sleep while she's crying). At around 1am, she woke up and was fussing a bit. She hadn't eaten since 8:30, so I figured it was time. I fed her, she fell asleep, I put her down, and she slept until 3am. At 3, we heard her start to fuss, didn't go into her room (again, it had been less than 4 hours since she ate), and we all fell asleep. She woke up at 5am, and since it'd been 4 hours, I fed her. She fell asleep, I put her down, and she slept until 8am. She successfully put herself to sleep twice in the night - that's two times when ordinarily I would have gone in and nursed her back to sleep.
So. More details than you maybe wanted, but I wanted to document this situation. I know it's a pattern of one. And there's no guarantee that tonight will be the same or better. But we're going to try it again, because it seems like she's ready. And knowing that she can do this, and be ok (better than just ok - she was great, her normal happy self today), will (I think) make it easier to do it a second night. We'll see. I might cry the whole time tonight too. If she fusses to crying in the middle of the night instead of self-soothing, I might feel broken again. There's no way to know until we're there.
But for now, I'm glad we started trying. And I'm hopeful for better sleep ahead.
PS my friend Lyz has an excellent new column at Jezebel and her latest piece is very timely.
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