It's not a secret, and I'm not embarrassed about it: Lily Mae still gets rocked to sleep every night. Whatever judgements may be associated with being attachment parents I guess we'll have to live with, but that's our style and it's worked out wonderfully for our family. We've never put our baby on a schedule of any kind, but instead prefer to respond to the needs she communicates to us; doing so has developed a great and effective language between us as parents and her as a non-verbal kid. We've never done the cry-it-out method - it's not for us. We don't believe that infants have the ability to manipulate; we believe that if they are crying or expressing discontentment, that there is a problem that needs to be responded to. Because we respond to her cues, Lily Mae trusts us to be there for her if she ever needs anything. Instead of feeling the need to cling to us constantly, Lily Mae seems to have the boldness to explore the world on her own, knowing that we'll be there for her to help if she gets into trouble. Different things work for different families - this is what works for us.
So, back to the sleeping thing. I feel very strongly about breastfeeding, and I wish I were still able to do it now. My milk supply dropped when I got pregnant and Lily Mae self-weaned because of it at just over 13 months. Up to that point, I had nursed her to sleep every night in our glider, so that's what she had become accustomed to and how she felt most comfortable and safe. Three months later, I'm still rocking her to sleep at bedtime and naps and it can be quite a long process - a process I'm getting a little weary of and nervous about having to continue once I have a new baby in the house. It's a process that is manageable for naps at just a few minutes, but can run upwards of an hour or more at night. The need for a change has come, and she's a toddler now and can totally handle it.
The Goal: just to not have to rock her. I don't feel the need to put her in her crib wide awake, turn off the lights, and leave her to tuck herself in and fall asleep by herself - my ideal night would be to do our normal bedtime routine, read her a quiet story, turn off the lights, and rub her back in her crib for a few minutes until she drifts off. I have no desire to make her do it all on her own... I do enjoy putting her to bed, after all. I just can't afford the time it takes for our current process. Clark is away for work this week, so it's the perfect time to begin making the change (I expect that the first few nights could take quite a while, so this way it won't be cutting into valuable quality time with my love). Tonight we started our bedtime transition experiment, and I'll document my methods in case I need to reference them for future kidlets or in case someone wants to try something similar.
The Plan: to start, I will rock her until she is drowsy, but not asleep. I'll lay her down in her crib and pat her back until she falls asleep in there. If she starts to wake back up and asks for me (by reaching or fussing), I will respond and rock her for just a few more minutes before putting her down again. I'll do this until she gets tired enough to fall asleep while in her crib. The theory is that after several nights of this, she will learn that her crib is a safe and cozy place to fall asleep. My hope is that after several days the number of times I need to pick her back up and rock her again will drop, and I will only need to rock her once for a few minutes before laying her down and she will go to sleep with no fussing. After that is established, I will attempt phase two, which involves reducing the rocking from a few minutes to none at all and just laying her down with a loving backrub. I'm expecting that the transition will take 2-3 weeks, but maybe I'll be luckier than that. I think this first week will be the hardest since it's a totally new way to fall asleep for her.
I was originally going to include a summary of every night in this post, but you see I'm long-winded. I'll just include what happened tonight, and link up subsequent nights as they happen.
Night 1: went better than I thought it would - took a total of around 45 minutes from lights out. I rocked her for 10 minutes before patting her back in her crib. She reached up for me a few minutes in, so I rocked her for another 5 minutes. I rubbed her back in her crib for 10-15 minutes but she wasn't falling asleep. I rocked her once more for 10 minutes until drowsy again, put her down, and she drifted off after 3 minutes. It was more work getting up and down so much, but it still took less time than rocking her completely to sleep. Off to a good start!
Nights 4, 5, & 6