So several weeks ago, or maybe even a month ago, we put Little O on a sleep schedule for the first time. There of course are different schools of thought on how and what to do about your baby’s sleep. Ultimately, we decided that a schedule was in order because O was up with us until midnight (and often later) every night. Then he’d wake up between 8:30 and 10:30. During the day, he was unpredictable. Maybe he’d take a 2 or 3 hour nap. Maybe he wouldn’t take a nap at all. And the only way I could ever get him to sleep was to nurse him. We realized that many days, he was going on only 7 or 8 hours of sleep a day. So we decided that we needed a schedule.
I had already read much of Dr. Weissbluth’s book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. So I read a little more and specifically focused on the section of the book that applied to babies who were 7 or 8 months old, like O. He basically says to sleep at night from 7:30-7:00, nap at 9, nap in the early afternoon, and then to bed at 7:30 again. Here is how it’s happened for us:
First day: I woke up O at 7:00. He took his naps like a champ. And then at 7:30 when we put him down, he cried, of course. He was crying for a while, which was absolutely killing Mike and me. Finally, he stopped crying, and of course I had to run and check on him. I peered in the door, and saw his little body sitting up, slumped against the bars of the crib, which broke my heart. I thought for a second or more about what I should do, when all of a sudden his head popped up and he looked at me. Obviously there was no way that I was going to abandon my child again that night, so I took him downstairs and he fell asleep an hour or so later. He stayed asleep most of the night, and woke up briefly to cry for a few minutes but then was back asleep again.
Since this was the first time that O was sleeping out of our room, I had a horrible night’s sleep because I was waking up every hour or so and sneaking into his room to check to see that he was okay.
Second day: I woke up O at 7:00. He did well on his naps. At 7:30, we put him down again but this time we let him keep crying. It only lasted about 30 minutes and then he was asleep. Miracle! I got a bad night’s sleep again, but better than the night before.
And so this has continued. Basically, the routine is this: We get him down to sleep between 7 and 7:30. He cries usually 30 mins max. (He’s never cried more than 45.) He may or may not wake up briefly during the night, but this typically lasts on a couple minutes before he’s asleep again. He wakes ME up at 7. We go for a walk and we play and he eats. He goes down for a nap at 9. He is never asleep when I put him in the crib and he always cries like I’ve just done the meanest thing in the world. But within 15-30 minutes, he’s asleep. He wakes up happy, we repeat our routine, except this time I let him play while I work. Then I put him down when he’s ready for a nap again. He’s awake, he cries, but within 15-30 minutes, he’s asleep. In the evening, after dinner, Mike and I give him his bath and I nurse him and then if he’s not fussing, Mike will read him a story. Then we sing his bedtime song. This causes him to cry every night. Then we put him in his crib awake and we leave the room. He always cries.
I have to admit that I hate the crying. It’s nowhere nearly as bad as how I felt the first night. I’ve gotten quite used to it. But it still makes me sad. But the thing is, I really think that it’s just part of what he needs to get to sleep. Before this method, he was getting 8-12 hours of sleep a day, and never consistent. Now, he’s getting 12-16 hours of sleep a day. I know that people have a hard time letting their babies cry, but I guess the way I see it, a lot of the time, O cries when I’m changing his diaper and he wants to be doing something else. Or he cries when I’m trying to get his clothes on. And if I just stopped what I was doing to prevent his crying, then he’d run around all day naked and poop on the floor. So the sleeping thing is much the same. If I just stopped what I’m doing to prevent him from crying, he wouldn’t get all the sleep that he’s getting now.
(And as an aside, I might mention that while it was O’s sleep that motivated us to make this change, there have been some benefits for us. Namely: The grocery store is empty at 7:30 a.m. so I can do my grocery shopping in peace. I get out and go for a walk every morning, whereas we weren’t getting any fresh air before. I have periods during the day when I know that I can work and get things done. I have the entire evening to either work uninterrupted, or spend time one on one with Mike. So we’re happy with the other consequences of having a baby on a sleep schedule, too!)