Herein begins a short series about why I am a bad parent (tongue in cheek, don’t worry!). There are so many parenting styles, solutions and tecniques that no one thing will ever work for every child. Nevertheless, parents never fail to recieve judgement and condemnation (even if it’s in a silent glare) about how they do things. Over the next few posts, I am going to talk about the first few months of my husband’s and my parenting experience and why we have chosen to do certain things. Please, feel free to offer input (and judgement) in the comments.
About 6 weeks ago, my darling little daughter began what I am calling a “sleep regression”. She has always been a pretty good night sleeper. From the beginning, she slept 3-4 hour stretches. Those stretches extended to 6-8 hours when she hit 10ish weeks old. Then, around 3 months, all Hell broke loose.
It started when bedtime exploded. We have had a regular bedtime routine from 8 weeks old. It has helped immensely, signaling to her when it is time to wind down and sleep. We would go through our routine, I would nurse her, she would fall asleep, and then I would put her down for the night. The end. But 6 weeks ago, she stopped just falling alseep. It would take me upwards of two hours of rocking, shushing, nursing, swinging, walking, etc., to get her to fall asleep. And then she might only sleep for 15 minutes before waking and beginning the whole thing over again.
And then she stopped sleeping long stretches. Slowly she went from waking twice a night to three times. Then four times. Until she was waking around 10 times a night, not sleeping more than 1 1/2 – 2 hours at a time. It was ridiculous. I was getting no sleep, she was getting no sleep and both of us were frustrated, grouchy, and dreading bedtime every day.
Clearly, something had to change.
I am a fan of Dr. Sears and his Attachment Parenting techniques. This is what we had basically been practicing for the first three months of Babygirl’s life…and it worked very well. She was happy, we were happy, and we had established such a bond and connection with her.
However, it was clear that what we were doing in regards to her sleeping habits was no longer working. And so I started looking to other sources. I went out and bought the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby by pediatrician Dr. Weissbluth. In addition to lots of medical information and actual studies on how babies sleep and what is and is not healthy sleep for them, Weissbluth also has a game plan for getting babies on a healthy sleep schedule. His plan, however, is adaptable to your parenting style and what feels comfortable to you.
The first thing we were doing wrong is putting her to bed WAY too late. Weissbluth says that babies my daughter’s age should be going to bed between 5 and 8 p.m., not 10 p.m. like I was doing. He says that contrary to popular belief, an early bedtime doesn’t mean an early wakeup time (this has proven to be true thusfar).
For getting her to sleep at night, we picked the “graduated extinction” method. Which is where, after our bedtime routine, we put Babygirl down for the night whether she happens to be awake or asleep, say goodnight, and leave the room. If she cries, we wait 3 minutes before responding, then we go in and soothe her until she is quiet again. Then we leave. If she cries, we wait 5 minutes and repeat. Then 10 minutes thereafter until she falls asleep. The next night, we start by waiting 5 minutes. Then 10 then 15 thereafter, gradually increasing the time each night.
This felt the most comfortable to me because I want my baby to get better sleep than she had been, but I just couldn’t be spending 2-3 hours trying to GET her to sleep every night, only to have her wake up 10 minutes after I accomplish that. She needed to learn to soothe herself to sleep, but I didn’t want to just set her in her crib and leave her to cry for hours on end without some sort of reassurance from me. I didn’t want her feeling like I’d completely abandoned her.
And so, I am a bad parent because I let my helpless Babygirl cry in her crib for several minutes at a time.
It should be noted that I do NOT agree with just letting your child cry any earlier than we started this. Newborns need to be responded to in order to develop that sense of trust and connection with their parents. But Babygirl was beginning to cry for no reason at bedtime. She was warm (but not too warm), fed, dry and tired. But she would just keep crying. No matter what I did, she would cry. Whether I walked, bounced, swayed, sang or shushed she would still fuss and cry.
So why not let her learn self-soothing techniques while she’s crying? I feel like at that point, I was only handicapping her because I obviously wasn’t helping her feel any better. So I figured why not give this method a shot.
I have two words for you.
She has been sleeping a full 12 hours at night, and has been waking up only twice to eat. When I put her back down in the middle of the night, she goes right back to sleep. She has been able to put herself to sleep more often. And she has finally shifted to taking 2 or 3 long naps during the day instead of a bazillion cat naps.
She is happier during the day and not as tired. And most of all, when I go to get her out of her crib in the morning, she is still the smiley, happy, loving baby that I adore.
This method won’t necessarily work for everyone. This may not be everyone’s style. But for us and our child, it is going great.
I’m proud to be a bad parent.