We have a vision: Rosie sleeping in her crib, with a regular schedule of naps and a 7:00 pm bedtime. We see the destination clearly, but right now we’re still searching for the roadmap.
Photo: Look at our happy girl! We know that a good night’s sleep is the best way to keep her that way.
We’ve been conscious that our co-sleeping nights and Baby BjÃ¶rn–napping days are numbered. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! But, since independent sleep is a value for our family, we’ve been planning to move that direction.
So when Rosie accidentally fell asleep in Lucy’s crib this past Monday while we were getting ready to go the park — and then slept there for over three hours! — it seemed that she was trying to tell me something. I’ve since been putting her down in the crib for many of her naps, and successfully! I’ve learned to identify Rosie’s “dang it, I’m trying to fall asleep” cry (which sounds oddly like our bread-machine’s kneading cycle), which helps me feel okay about leaving her to settle herself down for a nap.
But last night, we went out on a limb and tried to put Rosie down for an earlier bedtime in her crib. And it was quite clear she was trying to tell me something else entirely: “NO!” After about an hour of crying (and not a few tears from us, too), our sweet baby Rose fell asleep, but only for twenty minutes. At that point, Mama had had enough. Too many transitions at the same time makes for a stressed household, so we bailed on the trial run.
But, as a mostly-loyal disciple of Marc Weissbluth, I am committed to the vision of our baby sleeping independently and on a flexible schedule. It took about nine months before Lucy was at this point, and I’d love to see us do it in five with Rosie. However, although Rosie doesn’t have sleep problems (she seems actually quite well-rested), we have to pass through several stages to achieve the final vision:
- A quiet, dark place to sleep. Before this week, Rosie was sleeping pretty much anywhere except a crib — in the bouncy seat, in the baby Papasan, on the futon, in the Baby BjÃ¶rn, on the Boppy after nursing. And since this girl has been growing leaps and bounds, she is getting too big for the co-sleeper. Plus, Rosie doesn’t have a room of her own — yet.
- Naps in a crib. We are already making great progress here! Even when Rosie does fall asleep in the carseat when we are out, most of the time I can bring her inside, put her in a quiet room, and she’ll sleep for a long time. We’re actually really amazed at her ability to sleep.
- Nighttime sleep in the crib. Co-sleeping with the Roz has been great for these past few months. We’ve all gotten the sleep that we need, and that’s been the most important thing. However, we’re confident Rosie is getting old enough to sleep in a crib on her own. And Mama would like to have grown-ups-only sleep again in the near future.
- Asleep for the night around 7:00 pm. Because we’ve been co-sleeping, Rosie has been going to sleep for the night around 10:00 pm. We need to help her transition to an earlier bedtime, but she still seems to believe that she is merely napping in the evening. And Mama isn’t willing to go to bed at 7 for the night with this little munchkin.
So we have our work cut out for us. We aren’t opposed to some crying, but we would like to minimize it if possible, and try to tackle the transitions one at a time to reduce trauma on everyone. Here are the plans we have:
- Create a good place for Rosie to sleep. Our two-bedroom house requires some creative thinking on this point. We are borrowing a crib from some friends (thanks, Dori & Carson!) to substitute for the now-too-small sleigh-bed co-sleeper. (Lucy will probably move into a big-girl bed in a few months and free up her crib, but we’re not quite ready for that yet.) Mama and Papa are planning to move out onto the living room futon for nighttime sleep and loan our room to Rosie. We’re even considering dismantling our bed and moving it into the fun room, though that’s not certain yet. Someday (but who knows when?), we plan to move Rosie in with Lucy. I see bunk beds in our future!
- Naps in crib whenever possible. This is working well, and she seems to enjoy it. And, I must say, it is so much easier to chase a toddler around without carrying a sleeping baby in the Baby BjÃ¶rn. It’s also a real bonus to have hands free to put Lucy down for a nap — and much more snuggly!
- Do some research. Although Weissbluth clearly approves of a family’s decision to begin co-sleeping and then transition to independent sleep when the baby is about four months old, frustratingly he gives absolutely no instructions about how to do that. Do you move the baby into a crib first, and then work on the earlier bedtime? How do help the baby transition from next-to-Mama sleep to in-the-crib sleep? Is it possible to prevent the baby from screaming in protest in the middle of the night? (What experiences do other people have?)
- Limit nighttime feedings. It has been really easy just to roll over half-asleep and nurse the baby when she makes the slightest fuss, but this is resulting in two, three, or even four feedings in the night. That won’t work for me when I have to actually get up and feed the baby. Last night I tried feeding once and then gently turning my back to Rosie when she started rooting around later, and she fell right asleep! Only one feeding in the night — a first for Rosie’s lifetime. (Sometimes a really simple idea just works!)
- Experiment with alternate soothing strategies. So far, we’ve pretty much used only motion and nursing to soothe Rosie when she is sleepy. But there are other tactics to try. Perhaps we’ll swaddle her again? (Amazing that we haven’t swaddled her since about week three, when Lucy was swaddled until she was nine months old!) Or try a pacifier?
- Establish a bedtime routine. I hope to end up with some combination of bath, pajamas, nursing, and a book before too long — just as with her big sister.
We’re keeping our eye on the prize. One of these days, Jon and I will sit down for a candlelit dinner after our babies are happily sleeping in bed, and that will be cause for a celebration!