As a first time mommy I have learned so much, too much, about how to get my baby to sleep. I knew it would be difficult, but I had no idea it would test my patience this much, every single night for 14 months. It was a grueling process, full of ups and downs, with me in tears for about two months until God graced me with enough patience to slow down and lower my expectations. I cannot let my baby ‘cry it out’ and have her fall asleep out of sheer exhaustion and a feeling of abandonment. I know there are numerous cry it out techniques that work for families, but my heart could not let me do it. I read somewhere that one should always live ones life conscious of the fact that God is watching, He is my audience of one. With that in mind I could not let Sue cry non stop when I was able to help her. Even after months of broken sleep and another night spending two hours trying to get her down.
So I did all the things every article tells you not to, but all these ‘terrible’ methods worked for me, until a year passed and I was ready to help her become bit more independent.
- I nursed my baby to sleep
- I let her fall asleep in the baby carrier
- I co-slept for a year and nursed throughout the night
- I did not let her cry herself to sleep
- I was always the person putting her to bed
I am lucky that I had the time and energy to do all of the above, I know many mommies who cannot be with their babies all day, and my heart goes out to them. I hope my story will help you, at least to let you know you are not alone in your process of helping your baby learn how to sleep by herself. While I was in the middle of the most trying time, I turned to posts from others mommies who were struggling with the same issues, and I didn’t feel so alone.
For the first few months of Sue’s life I nursed her to sleep while carrying her in the Infantino Carrier. Our typical day would be waking up at 7:30 am, then her first nap at 10:00 am for about an hour, second nap at 2:00 pm, third nap at 5:30 pm, bedtime around 8:30 pm, at the earliest. I did not try to put her into any type of schedule or tried to push her nursing session further apart. I nursed her when she was hungry and let her nap when she was tired. The first few months with a newborn is not the time to put them on a strict schedule. They can barely distinguish night from day, even less 1:00 pm from 2:00 pm. So she normally just went to bed when we went to bed. I laid her next to me and nursed her to sleep. I know countless articles advise mommies not to nurse their babies to sleep, but it is such a sweet time, enjoy it! The only advice I would have and what I will be doing differently with my second is to switch the nursing to sleep with another method of putting her to sleep around 4 months. When the baby is out of the newborn phase and out of the ‘fourth trimester’, I would start incorporating different methods. But for those first few weeks and months that fly by so quickly, soak up the baby smells, the little nuzzles, the unfocused eyes and remember that it won’t always be like this.
At 4 months I had a great milk supply and Sue was a champion at nursing. We were in sync and had a wonderful nursing relationship. So I did not feel terrible starting to use a pacifier, especially when we were in the car and I was unable to nurse her. She was also going through a great transition of allowing me to nurse her, lay her in her crib with a pacy and a soft blankie to cuddle against, and a toy to look at, and she would doze off by herself! This was fantastic, and I wish I kept this habit going. But at this time I was traveling a lot and used the baby carrier constantly, we were also moving out of our townhome and in with John’s grandparents. So while we were in this transition, I used the carrier for all naps and bedtimes. This caused her to become very dependent on the carrier to sleep, and while it was great in the beginning, using it for every nap time and bed time became difficult. Especially when 6 months later this was still the situation. My advice to mommies would be to not do something you won’t be okay with doing all the time. This was told to me when Sue was a newborn and I listened to the advice, but I did not understand it.
I’ve enjoyed carrying my first born so much, mostly because I had the time and energy to lavish on her. With my second and subsequent children, if God so blesses us, things may be different as I won’t have the same time or energy. Regardless, from 3 months to 10 months, I carried and nursed and held Sue close to me to get her to fall asleep. At least during this time as she was falling asleep in the carrier on my chest I would read a book. I loved how many books I went through each week but my back and legs were aching!
From 4 months to 10 months Sue was in a very predictable schedule. She would co-sleep with us and wake around 7:00 am, her first nap would be at 10:00 am, after I used the carrier and nursing to get her to sleep. Her second nap would be at 3:00 pm using the same method to have her sleep. And then her bedtime would be well after 8:00 pm, some nights extending past 10:00 pm.
At 10 months I went through the grueling task of breaking the habit I’ve so deeply ingrained in my baby without causing her stress or tears. The elaborate method I used to get my baby to sleep, and her very late bedtime started to get me tired and yearning for dreamland. So if you are struggling with getting your baby to sleep, or changing habits, I hope my story will help you, if just merely to let you know you are not alone. This is how I helped my baby to sleep through the night without tears. Or maybe I am the only mommy for which it took 14 months until my baby fell asleep by herself and slept through the night?