Warning: This is a long, rambling post!
For the last 15 months, L. has slept with us. Up until recently, this worked really, really well for us. I know it's not for everyone, but I'm glad co-sleeping worked for us for such a long time. When done safely, I think co-sleeping is fantastic. It allowed us to nurse and cuddle and get the most sleep possible when we needed it most.
That said, I've always wished we had more of a bedtime routine. It just never really happened. Work schedules, school schedules, and a million other things always seemed to get in the way of a regular routine at bedtime.
If I'm really honest with myself, I know part of the reason our attempts at a bedtime routine didn't work were because I wasn't ready. It was just easier to take her to bed when I went to bed or vice versa. There was a time when I didn't have the energy for a routine or I didn't want to miss an opportunity to play or snuggle. Selfishly, J. and I didn't have to make any sacrifices. We didn't have to say no to dinner with friends or family because L. had to be in bed at a certain time.
Not that I kept her awake and out on the town...I always tried to make sure she got a good nap during the day (for a long time she napped on me in the Ergo) and we usually went to bed at a decent hour even if we had an evening out.
Anyhow, my point is that co-sleeping worked for a long time and we managed without a regular schedule. We got to a point where L. slept between 11 and 12 hours a night with very little disruptions to either J. or myself. Even though I thought I wanted a bedtime routine, I never followed through.
But I've been needing more space in the evenings. L. has turned me into a human teething toy since she stopped using her binkie last November and I slowly came to terms with the fact that I'd like her to spend a little time in her crib--at least for naps and when she first goes to bed at night.
So, over the last few months (disrupted by holidays, traveling, guests, etc.), I've been trying to put L. down to sleep in her crib. I started nursing her to sleep in our bed and moving her to her crib and hoping she stayed asleep for at least an hour. Again, we didn't have a routine.
I decided this wasn't working very well. I re-read, The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantly and decided to have another go at the routine deal. I read this book last summer after we moved but wasn't able to successfully follow through. Consistency is important and we didn't have it then.
Essentially, she talks about creating a routine so that your baby (or toddler) has multiple cues telling them to go to sleep at a certain time (that's the super simple version). She has a lot of tips for both breastfeeding and bottle feeding, co-sleeping and not, moving from co-sleeping to crib, etc. There are so many details and suggestions I'll stop at that.
But, re-reading it was good. It reminded me of several things...
1. L. sleeps better at night when she naps well during the day. Counter-intuitive as it may be, it's true for her.
2. I'm not a failure at attachment parenting or co-sleeping if I want my daughter to sleep in her crib for a little while after 15 months.
3. I'm providing her with useful tools to sleep on her own.
4. I'm giving her a little independence (something she's been experimenting with lately).
5. I'm not abandoning her and I don't have to let her cry it out.
6. A bedtime routine is relaxing for all of us, not just L.
So, I ordered white noise machines for both our bedrooms (love, Love, LOVE them), got out her Snoedel (her lovey), logged L.'s sleeping patterns and made a routine.
Here is our new routine: Start time-6:45pm
1. Bath (while one of us is supervising bath time, the other gets her room ready...dim lights, noise machine on, lotion, hairbrush, PJ's, books, etc. all out and ready to go)
2. Brush teeth and brush hair
3. Lotion and mini massage (which means trying to rub lotion on her while she runs around her room)
4. Diaper and PJ's on
5. Read two bedtime books
6. Turn lights out
7. Nurse to sleep
8. Transfer to crib
I should mention that she generally starts nursing while we read and sometimes we only read one book. I've also been trying to unlatch her from my boob every time she starts just sucking and not nursing. This means we spend a lot of time latching and unlatching, but it's getting better.
According to the book, we stick to this routine for 10 days (or maybe 12, I should double check) and then do another sleep log to see if we're making progress and figure out where we need to tweak the routine if necessary. But I'm impatient. I tend to make mention notes of how things go each night. And...
It's going GREAT so far. Don't get me wrong, it's hard work. Sometimes there is a lot of putting her down and picking her up and soothing her back to sleep. But she's been going to sleep about 7:30pm EVERY night. We've gone from not sleeping more than an hour in her crib to sleeping in her crib for two and half hour stretches. Sometimes I still need to go in and nurse her or sooth her but I've been able to do this and get her back in the crib. The last two nights she slept in her crib for a total of 5 hours!
But it's HARD!!! As much as I'm enjoying my independence in the evening, I'm having a horrible time sleeping without her. I'm fine if I'm watching a TV show or writing, so long as I'm not trying to sleep. As soon as I lay down to sleep without L. I get jumpy. I wake up at every noise that could be her.
For example, last night she started crying at 10pm. I went and soothed her back to sleep and then went to sleep myself. She cried again at midnight and I woke up totally confused. I woke up thinking she'd crawled out of our bed and was stuck in the hallway. I kept thinking, "how did she get out of our bed?"
Other times I've woken up kind of frantic, thinking I've lost her. I'll feel around in bed for her until I realize she's in her own room.
The good thing is that I know I'll adjust eventually. Also, the few hours she's spending in her crib are helping me to really, really enjoying the time that she is sleeping with us. I still get to cuddle with my baby in the early morning hours.