Before I start, at 13 months Penny is happily “sleeping through the night”...even as I write this.
This is our sleep story for Penny’s first year. (I think more parents should share their sleep stories like they share their birth stories. Learning from other people’s experiences reminds us that we are not alone in this journey).
Penny was born 4.5 lbs, tiny but healthy. I was a bit beside myself; all I could think was I need to hold and feed this baby until she’s “big enough” (not sure how big “big enough” was). With my first, I read the sleep books, and eventually learned and followed the sleep rules.
My favorites were to start with a sweet bedtime routine that included a massage and a bath (with our 3-in-1 of course) and songs. We also kept the room dark with black-out curtains, kept it calm with white noise and kept baby’s temperature regulated with a wool sleeper.
But the one routine that really worked for us was “putting baby to sleep in a crib, in his or her own room at six months.”
That was the one thing I could NOT do with my Penny, at least not for the first year. She slept in my arms for two months, then at my side the next two months, then in a bassinet in my room, and then at six months, she slept in the crib (still in my room). No matter where she started sleeping, she always ended up in my bed in the middle of the night, right next to me, dream nursing.
The minute she made a sound, I picked her up and fed her. Why did I do this? It was a mix of me trying to get her to gain 1 oz a day for the first few months, me feeling some guilt that she had to share me during the day with 3 other children and me realizing that she was my last baby and I would one day miss the sweet cuddles.
How did I feel about this? Most of the time, I didn’t mind. I was the one making and following the sleep rules. I did what seemed right to me, and made me and my baby feel comfortable. I did not let the books dictate my routine, I did not let my experiences with my other children influence me and I did not feel bad when someone asked: “Is your baby sleeping through the night?”
When did this end? Well, when Penny turned 12 months I was ready to move her crib from my room into her own room. I thought she would sleep through the night like the others.
She did not.
She was too smart at 12 months and she knew the minute she made a sound, I would pick her up and bring her into my bed. She even had this “I am going to mommy’s bed smile.” I would side-nurse her to sleep and I would unlatch her when she fell asleep and go back to sleep myself.
But then at 13 months, she thought she deserved to nurse all night and she would scream when I removed the boob from her mouth, even though she had fallen asleep. She would not only scream but sit up, pull my hair, poke her dad, roll around...she was a menace and I created her.
What was I going to do?
I broke the sleep rules, now how was I going to get a self-aware, manipulating (I say this with all the love) baby to sleep on her own. Her habits were starting to make me lose sleep and worry more than I did when she was a newborn.
I then, of course, complained about this to my pregnant sister and she advised, just let her dad put her to bed and let him get her if she wakes up. It worked! The first few times her dad came into the room, she screamed in shock (in her head she was probably thinking, you are not mom and you do not have boobs) and then quickly calmed down after he started humming (that’s all he had to do, he didn’t even pick her up,🙄). She fell asleep.
After 1 or 2 days of this, she stopped waking up during the night. I’m still a little amazed...and even when she wakes up, she is just going to get boob-less dad.
People often wonder how I manage four children...as I look back on our sleep story and all the other stories I have collected over the years, I feel the need to quote Pabbie form Frozen 2: “When one can see no future, all one can do is the next right thing.” Haha…
Seriously, this is how I DO IT. I don’t overthink too far into the future, mostly because I don’t have the time and with four children things DON’T always go as planned.
I just learned, there is a book called “The next right thing” https://www.amazon.com/Next-Right-Thing-Practice-Decisions/dp/0800736524
I did not read it, but I put it on my list.
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I try not to think of the weeks or months ahead or what “could” happen and just focus on the day at hand (kind of like when you have a newborn and you are just looking forward to the days when you can some sleep, you know it will come, but not sure when).
It’s after dinner and all the demands of the day are almost done. I get comfy on my bed, read stories and give out massages… my kids love them.
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