The habit continued. When she stopped nursing, she was already used to snuggling close to fall asleep, so I'd hold her until she fell asleep, put her in her bed, and then acquiesce to her screams of protest when they came--be it ten minutes or two hours later. But they always came.
As time progressed, we tried a variety of tactics to get her out of our bed and into her own, but none of them were successful. I don't have the heart for cry it out (and I'm not trying to open a debate on it. Do what works with your own philosophical, emotional, and physical limits.), but I even got so frustrated that I tried it. My daughter gets her outspoken nature from me, and cry-it-out she will not.
The closest we came to success was putting her in bed (when it still had the crib wall up), patting her back until she fell asleep, creeping like thieves off to our own bed, praying as we slipped beneath the blankets, and then hearing her pierce the night with protesting screams long before a REM cycle took hold. Then we'd go back to her, lay her back down, rub her back until she fell asleep, and do it all over again. Between the ear-piercing shrieking and the trips out of bed and the back-rubbing that could last thirty minutes or more, we were probably getting three or so hours of sleep a night. And that's the closest we came to success.
So, most nights, she slept in our bed. We had to sleep. It's a biological fact. We both work full-time, and we both need to be mentally present at our jobs (I teach, he lawyers), and sleep overrode any other concerns.
Until she started kicking.
My child got the worst of the sleep habits from both me and my husband. I am a light sleeper who takes forever to fall asleep and tosses, turns, and talks throughout the night. But I get out of bed pretty easily in the morning. My husband falls asleep fast (sometimes mid-sentence!) and sleeps hard. In the morning, though, he hates the whole world and takes forever to get up. Our daughter takes forever to fall asleep, wrestles imaginary crocodiles all night long, and then hates getting up in the morning. Lose-lose.
Her roundhouse kicks to the ribs became too much. Since I am smaller than my husband, she sensed a weakness and went for the kill. Sleeping between us, she would start nudging me further and further off the bed. I would be clinging to the side of the mattress as she called out (in her sleep) "Scoot over!" and delivered a powerful blow to my spine.
Something had to change.
This has been a long, slow process.
Step 1: We put blankets and pillows on the floor in our room and put her on them to sleep. We rubbed her back until she fell asleep, which was sometimes (not exaggerating) an hour. A lot of my internet reading took place one-handed with a Kindle. When she fell asleep, we'd go to bed. When she woke up, she's climb into bed with us, but at least we got a few hours of real sleep.
Step 2: After a few weeks of this, we started sending her back to the pallet when she woke up. She would scream and protest, but we'd go to the floor with her and rub her back until she fell asleep again. We weren't getting as much sleep because we had to get up every time she woke up, but she started falling back to sleep faster.
Step 3: We put her on the pallet and then went directly to bed ourselves. If she called out from the floor, we'd talk to her and reassure her we were there, but we didn't do the whole back-rubbing routine. If she asked (sweetly, so adorably, so manipulatively) "Please rub my back," then we'd go and rub her back for a few minutes. Eventually, she started learning to soothe herself to sleep.
Step 4: We put her on the pallet and left the room. At first, she screamed and banged on the door the moment we left. So we'd go back in, put her back on the pallet, and do it again. Finally, she started laying still long enough to fall asleep on her own. When she got up in the middle of the night, we'd tell her to go back to her pillow, and she'd turn around and lay back down.
Last night she went to sleep without protest for the first time in her 27 months. My husband put her on the pallet and came back downstairs. She didn't scream or bang on the door. When we went to bed, she was fast asleep. She stayed there all night long. . . and there was much rejoicing.
This sleep thing has truly been the hardest part of parenting for me, and I feel like I just ran a marathon or something. I know that we'll inevitably have better nights and worse nights, but I think that we're on the right path.
What's been your biggest parenting problem? Did you fix it? How?
Photo: Quiet Here