Here’s a little story about Mommy learning curves:
When Diddy was born, I couldn’t get enough of her. I literally could not ever put her down. Not because she needed to be held 24/7, but because I needed to hold her. She was just so damn cute. And I’d made her. I’d grown her, I’d delivered her — and without an epidural, to boot! I used to tuck her under my bathrobe and let her fall asleep on my chest. Mr. Big(Ideas) used to do it, too. We just couldn’t get enough of our Diddy.
She started out sleeping in a Snugglenest in our bed. But she was a pretty loud sleeper, so around four months, we moved her into her crib in what we called her “n-office” (half her nursery / half our office). Thanks to my obsession with The Happiest Baby on the Block, she was properly swaddled and shushed and swung to sleep each night. This took about forty-five minutes of rocking her down. I’d start, then Mr. Big(Ideas) would come home from work around 7 and he’d take over while I went upstairs to make dinner.
After about a month of this, it became clear we needed a better system for getting her down. This was just too labor intensive — so I read around, decided The Baby Whisperer’s method for patting, and pick up / put down was also just going to take too long (I told you I don’t endorse EVERYTHING in that book, and moved on to The Sleepeasy Solution.
The Sleepeasy Solution is basically a Cry-It-Out (CIO) / Sleep Training approach, along the lines of Ferber. But, unlike Ferber, there is a lot of flexibility in the Sleepeasy plan. Waldburger and Spivack are family therapists in LA, and their business, Sleepy Planet, is mindful of the fact get that all families have different sleep-values system. For instance, they will work with you even if you share a family bed.
In general, though, they endorse setting up a consistent bedtime ritual, which includes putting your baby down in his crib, alone, and letting him figure out how to put himself to sleep.
Which is a nice way of saying, it’s his party, let him cry if he wants to.
I have friends for whom this wasn’t palatable. Here’s what I told them:
If you don’t like the idea of letting your baby cry it out, you’re not tired enough to try it yet.
I was tired enough. Diddy cried for forty-five minutes the first night, fifteen the second, and we never looked back.
I figured this would work great for Gaga, too. And it did. Eight times. Unlike her sister, Gaga had growth spurts. She woke up with poop rashes and screamed her eyes out. She was a very very sensitive teether. Her sinuses sucked from birth. Oh, and she just couldn’t adjust to time zone changes when we traveled around visiting family. Every time we hit some little growth / rash / teething / stuffed nose / travel-induced stumbling block in Gaga’s sleep patterns, we had to start the Sleepeasy Solution all over again.
Still, it was a system that I continued to swear by because it delivered consistent results after three days, every time. Even though we did it all eight times while Gaga was sleeping in a bassinet next to our bed, screaming her head off while we played dead.
(This, by the way, is totally silly. Sleep train your second kid in your first kid’s room. Your first kid will learn to sleep though it. I know this now because both of my girls can sleep through their sister’s middle-of-the-night mishegas like champs. If I’d figured that out when Gaga was a tiny baby, I could have saved myself the residual ringing in my ears.)
In addition to offering a wonderful, simple, and clearly written guide to sleep training, this is the only book I’ve seen that actually offers you real step-by-step instructions for how to night-wean properly, or how to determine how much daytime sleep your kid needs. And it’s chockful of checklists. Plus it provides sample nap schedules, which even after four kids, I still refer to constantly.
And about those four kids:
Enter Pancake and Sausage. Here’s where I finally got smart: I didn’t hold them. At all, really. I didn’t have time, what with chasing after their sisters. So, unless they were stuck to my boobs — yep, I nursed these boys — I wrapped them back up in their swaddles and put them down. And lo and behold: I never had to sleep train them. They learned to put themselves down, without tears, from birth — and short of some particularly painful teething episodes, have continued to be excellent sleepers. They just turned one, and they’re still sleeping strong.
But I don’t believe most first-time parents are capable of being so cavalier about their tiny newborn pieces of perfection. Most first-time parents can think of nothing so delicious as staring at their little bundle of baby while she sleeps curled up in their arms. I get it. I was that Mom. I hear you.
And I’m telling you:
If you can’t put that baby down, you’re gonna need to pick up this book.