From Co-Sleeping to Crib
A couple months ago you answered my breastfeeding sweat question. The clinical Secret is now working great, apply every evening, no sweaty armpits during the day unless I’m working out.
Now my daughter is just over four months old. She is still sleeping in bed with me. I really need my sleep and my space back – she is waking 5-8 times a night to breastfeed – not cool. BUT I read all these attachment parenting blogs and am brainwashed against crying-it-out, which honestly worked fine for my now 3 year old daughter when she was 9 months old. She never co-slept so we didn’t have to transition her. You’ve said that you co-slept then transitioned the boys at around 4-5 months old. Can you and your readers give me some detailed explanations of this process? How much crying? Swaddle or sleep sack? Was the other kid in the house disrupted by the crying if there was any? How many days/weeks before you could put the kids to bed, on their own, preferably in their own room? etc etc. Two nights ago at 4am I lost it, was coming down with a cold, feeling exhausted, and my baby would.not.sleep unless attached to my boob while I sat up leaning on the headboard. I woke up my husband who took her to the guest room where we’ve set up her crib, and I put in earplugs and went to sleep, just said “I’m DONE. You take her. I don’t care if you take her for a drive or walk the house with her or whatever, I just need SLEEP.” He changed her diaper (which was fine but sometimes helps), put her back into her sleep sack and put her in her crib where she screamed for 45 minutes before passing out. I didn’t hear any of it, was both appalled at CIO on a 4 month old baby, and thrilled to have a few hours of solid sleep.
So there you go – HELP!! And thanks!
Okay, first of all, the last time we did the transition from co-sleeping-to-not was two full years ago, so let me admit that my memory has already faded enough to prevent me from giving you a super “detailed description” of the process. Steel trap, my brain is not.
Noah basically made the transition himself. He simply fell asleep in my arms one night before I was ready to sleep, so I put him down in his crib. He stirred, bleated once or twice, but did not wake, and then proceeded to sleep for a stunning six solid hours or so while I sat in bed staring at the silent baby monitor, alternatively terrified that OH MY GOD HE MUST BE DEAD and waking my husband up to regularly report on how long he was sleeping, ISN’T THIS AMAZING? Why are you glaring at me like that?
We got the memo: Noah slept much better away from us, and particularly me and mah boobs. So from then on, he went into the crib from the start. Being clueless first-timers, we improvised, but essentially went with what I supposed you’d call “fuss it out.” NOT “cry it out”, NOT 45 minutes (oh God no no no, you’re right, that’s too much and she’s far too young), more like chunks of barely five or 10 minutes, with us letting him know he was not alone, but with as little interference from us as possible. Noah was definitely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a “tension releaser.” He needed to cry a little bit, just to expend that last bit of energy before falling asleep. If you’ve never read about the tension releaser/increaser sleep theory, RUN, GO NOW, to this great article at Ask Moxie. It will change your life, or at least really help you determine what sleep approach to take with your particular child.
Let me say, though, that as “easy” and “ideal” as that transition probably sounds — it wasn’t a straight shot afterwards. There were good nights and bad nights and nights where we simply couldn’t get him to settle down for hours and hours after our newly established “bedtime.” Eventually, it happened. Sooner rather than later, once we were lucky enough to figure out the right approach for him that at least worked MOST nights.
With Ezra, like you, WE made the decision that it was time for him to sleep in his crib. He was waking too much, getting too dependent on my boobs to fall asleep and stay asleep, and starting to roll and move around a bit too much for my liking. I was comfortable co-sleeping with a baby who stayed exactly where I put him when I fell asleep, but I never warmed up to sleeping with kicking, thrashing kids. For every time Ezra woke up, I woke up even MORE, jerking awake with his every movement because my brain felt compelled to check to see if he’d rolled someplace unsafe or was caught in the covers or smushed under my pillow or or or etc.
At first, I think we mostly aimed to just get him to fall asleep in his crib instead of our room. If he ended up back in bed with us at some point (i.e. 2 am feeding), that wasn’t a big deal. At least I felt like he was gaining the skill of falling asleep without me being *righttherethewholetime.* We instituted a strict bedtime routine (bath, boob, lullaby) and put him in the crib swaddled but with one arm out for thumb-sucking, usually at least half-awake. Once he started busting out of the swaddle, we tried sleep sacks (he wasn’t a fan) and different musical/white noise gadgets and ultimately settled on getting him down with a lovey — a Taggies blanket that he liked to clutch to his face while sucking his thumb.
Ezra was tougher than Noah, because he was a tension increaser — some nights he would protest just a little and conk out, while other nights his crying would escalate and we’d have to go back in and repeat at least some of the bedtime routine. But our bed was never part of it. If he was really mad, I’d nurse him again, but upright in the rocking chair. Then the waking after that, he got a lullaby but no milk. After that, he got some back-patting and music from his crib aquarium.
After a couple nights, he got the memo that Mama wasn’t going to come get him and crawl back into bed with him, where he could have unlimited boob buffet access all night again. After a week, we saw a very sharp decrease in his night wakings, and after two weeks of a 2 am feeding (after which he went back to the crib) and a 5 am (after which he did usually stay in bed with me), he slept through the 2 am feeding and we officially had a kid who USUALLY slept through the night. I think he was about five months old.
Of course, there are always sleep regressions and oddball nights — teething, illness, fussiness for ABSOLUTELY NO DISCERNIBLE REASON — that will baffle and challenge you. There is no book or sleep system that will work 100% of the time for your child. Be flexible. Read that Ask Moxie article and see if you can place your daughter in the tension decreaser/increaser camps, and then read about the four-month sleep regression.
There probably will be some crying, and nights where it seems to get worse before it gets better. But it won’t be the end of the world or mark your failure as a parent, or mean that you’re selfish and awful for recognizing your own biological need to sleep. (Quoth the mother who once agonized over 10 minutes of crying in the crib but now gets to hear her five-year-old accuse her of making him cry ON PURPOSE on a near-daily basis over GOD KNOWS WHAT, OH CRY-IT-OUT-A-RIVER, KID. GO CLEAN UP YOUR LEGOS.)