This is a cathartic post. It is written quickly, off the cuff, after a long twitter convo with some of my online friends. We were talking about Attachment Parenting and Crying It Out and the book Baby Wise…all topics that people, in general, have very polarizing opinions about. And I realized that, the more we talked, I was getting really anxious.
Well, first of all, I think it’s important to recognize a few things about myself. One is that I’m a new parent and I’m not always confident in the decisions Mr. Wetzel and I make for our little one. We’re feeling our way through parenting and doing our best, but I know we have a lot to learn. Mr. Wetzel and I trust our intuition, but we also know it’s good to listen to other’s advice, even if that advice ends up not being the right thing for us.
In addition, I have found a great community of friends, on twitter and in real life, that have helped me learn a lot about mothering. I respect these ladies. I need my friendships with them to get me through rough days. So, when I make a parenting choice that may or may not conflict with their convictions, there is a part of me that is worried that my friends will withdraw if we are not all the same. Which is, of course, immature and incorrect. But I said this was a cathartic post. So, I’m confessing it.
Dear friends, on twitter and in real life, we may not always agree about methods, and our parenting patterns are not identical; however, we love our children and we are drawn to each other because of that strong and genuine love. Good friends discuss the things they believe in. Good friends give advice. And good friends remain humble and loving.
I want to release my silly anxiety and my silly fears about what other parents think about sleep in the Wetzel household. I want to simply open up my life and share it with you, whether you be a “real life” friend, an online acquaintance, or simply a reader who stumbled across my blog. Anxiety has a tendency to make us self-conscious. I choose open-heartedness.
So, now that the emotional baggage is out of the way, let me give you an update on how Phoebe is sleeping now that she’s 3.5 months old.
At the end of May, when Phoebe was about 1.5 months old, we had no structure to our days. We simply kept things low-key at night and tried to encourage more stimulation during the day. I nursed Phoebe to sleep every time she went to sleep. And she cried to sleep. Often. And when she did, she wailed.
These are the changes we made that stuck:
DAYTIME & NIGHTIME
We have constant night hours and day hours…although the border between these hours is fuzzy. Phoebe goes down for the night between 4-6pm. In the morning, we wake up between 5:30-7:30. She sleeps 12 hours every night, waking up for diaper changes and nursing back to sleep. Every once in a while, she’ll wake up and be alert, which means it’ll take 1-2 hours till she’s ready to go down again. This, however, is rare.
I love sleeping with my baby. I love nursing her to sleep during this time and cuddling up with her throughout the night. Sometimes, she’ll wake up for a bit when I come to bed, and lift her head up from nursing with a big goofy grin as if to say “Hey, Mom! Look at me! I love you! This is such an awesome relationship we have here!” Seriously. It’s like she just wants to soak up a moment of love with me. And it slays me.
I stopped nursing Phoebe to sleep for naps at 1.5 months old. I’d nurse her to sleep for some naps, but it was not the standard. And, at first, Phoebe cried herself to sleep. But it wasn’t any different than when she’d cry herself to sleep when I was in bed with her, trying to nurse her. When she was young, my daughter always cried herself to sleep, no matter what I did.
So, I would sit in the bedroom with her, placing my hand gently on her, and talking to her from time to time. I’d say “Your Mama’s here,” or “Your Mama loves you.” I would wait until she fell asleep to leave the room. My gut told me she needed me to be there, with her, as she struggled with the emotional difficulty of going to sleep.
If she cried for too long or the cries changed to a more serious wail, I’d pick her up and we’d try something else. I might let her nap on me in the rocking chair. Or we’d do a babywearing nap. Or I’d try and see if she’d nurse to sleep. How long was too long for us? She’d typically calm down after a maximum of 5 minutes, and might whimper or cry on and off for another 5 after that.
After a few days, she cried less and less for daytime naps. By “less” I mean that the cries became calmer and shorter. We got to the point where I could lay her in her co-sleeper, she’d coo at her animal pictures until she was ready to sleep, and then she’d do a little “sleep whimper” for 2 minutes and drift off. This was the standard.
We would still do babywearing naps or co-sleeping/breastfeeding naps. And they were nice treats for both of us. I no longer felt unrested and chained to my baby. She was sleeping well. I was sleeping well. Mr. Wetzel was sleeping well. And I was getting an opportunity to have some “Mom” time for relaxation or chores while she napped during the day. A real sanity saver. And it helped me be more giving and nurturing during Phoebe’s awake times.
We had a really great napping/sleeping rhythm worked out during Month 2 of Phoebe’s life. We weren’t on a schedule, we just found a rhythm that worked. I relied on my intuition to guide me in knowing what Phoebe needed, nap-wise, at each given moment. I came to recognize a very distinct cry that meant she needed to be picked up and consoled, and I would respond immediately. I also came to recognize her distinct “sleep whimpers” and knew that she was working herself to sleep when I heard them. When she cried longer, I finally realized it was almost always because I forgot to change her into a fresh diaper before laying her down (oops! Mom fail!). Things were going so well…
Yes. Around 3 months old, Phoebe started teething. And everything got more difficult, including sleep. However, if we had not helped Phoebe grow emotionally enough to feel secure falling asleep in the co-sleeper, I believe things would have been a lot worse.
Let me explain.
Phoebe is constantly developing and growing. At any moment, she can regress to earlier patterns or be pushed to try new, more matured patterns. If we push her too hard, we can do more damage that good, but if we are there for her and give her a loving and supportive context in which to grow, she can have an opportunity to mature.
When teething pain and irritability started, she did not want to go to sleep on her own in the co-sleeper. So we didn’t make her. I’d let her fall asleep in the ring sling, which was a comfort. If, however, it was the norm to fall asleep in the ring sling, this would not have been comforting for her, and we would have had to find another way to soothe her.
In helping Phoebe find a way to sleep well, we inadvertently created a safety net of comfort for her. If she is not comforted by one routine, we can switch things up and give her the next option. Some people call this “regressing.” I call it smart parenting! Keep a couple tricks up your sleeve so that, when your baby needs them, you have a way to help her. Don’t withhold your affection, but affectionately push the limits that your baby is capable of based on your own baby’s needs at that moment.
Here is latest progression of “how Phoebe falls asleep” (for daytime naps):
- In co-sleeper, with Papa sitting by
- In co-sleeper, with Mama sitting by
- Drift off in ring sling & transfer to co-sleeper
- Sleep in ring sling
- Fall asleep nursing in rocking chair
- Co-sleeping nap with Mama (nursing to sleep)
I believe it is important to give Phoebe as much love and support as possible. We are not trying to train her. We are not trying to impose an external system upon her. Rather, as we watch her grow and develop, we try to see what she needs and where she could use a little challenge. We only do for her what makes her feel happy and secure.
For the record, Phoebe sleeps about 25-35 minutes when she sleeps alone, and is awake 1h45-2h30 between naps. Co-sleeping naps can last up to 3 hours.
These days Phoebe barely cries. At all. Yes, she’s crying because of teething pain. And she’ll wail frantically if she accidentally poops her diaper (we’re doing EC with her). But she’s not grumpy, and she doesn’t cry because she’s tired. Not really. When we’re in the car, she cries herself to sleep if she needs to, and sometimes she’ll cry at home, but in general crying is a rare thing for her.
One reason I believe she cries less is because we learned how to better understand when she needs rest. Some days I start her bedtime routine at 3:30pm, which seems crazy to me, but if that’s what she needs, that’s what she gets.
Another reason I believe Phoebe is a happy baby is because we are very present in her life. We co-sleep. We babywear. She gets held and tickled and carried all the time. And, at night, if it takes Phoebe 2 hours of nursing to willingly unlatch and drift off, then that’s what she gets. That’s her prerogative. Even if I have no milk left and she’s comfort-nursing, or simply wants to have her face pressed against me, that’s what she gets. She gets her Mama. And if she’s having the worst day of her life, she gets that all day long.
But not every day is like that. And not every night is like that, either. And Phoebe sleeps 12 hours every night, which is golden. And, right now, I think it’ time for me to go to sleep, too.