Me and Hugo have been in training over the past few weeks. The goal? Put the baby in the crib at bedtime and let her put herself to sleep. I came home from the hospital with the little stinker intending to do just that from the first, but did I? No. I couldn't. I realized that newborns are not meant to put themselves to sleep. They rely on their mommies (and more recently, their daddies) to rock them and sing them and feed them to sleep.
Now that Sofia is almost a year old and is most definitely past the newborn stage though, I realized that it was time for her to get off the proverbial tit at bedtime. She's been off the literal tit for a good month and a half now. She was getting to be a real pest. Hugo would have to sit there and rock her and carry her around shushing her for a good half hour to get her to go to sleep. When he went to put her, oh so carefully, into the crib, if she so much as stirred, she would wake herself up and all would be lost. We were at the mercy of whenever she decided to fall asleep every night. Usually it was midnight. Plus, if we didn't go straight to bed when she did, she would wake up, sense that we were still afoot, and demand vocally that we remove her from her crib. Once again, all would be lost.
I had given up putting her to sleep some time ago as the carrying around in a cradle position had become a little too much, considering that I am also carrying around someone else on a more or less 24/7 basis. It was Hugo's job. He did it well. But it was getting to be a real pain.
So one night, we decided to see what would happen if we just put her in the crib at bedtime, kissed her goodnight, and went to bed ourselves. One of us would get up every 5 minutes or so and go into the baby's room, under strict orders not to remove her from the crib. We would firmly lie her back down and shush her for a moment and then leave. It was textbook. We followed the rules exactly as they were written (by some Nazi who obviously didn't love their children). And you know what? It worked. She fell asleep, exhausted, after 45 minutes of crying. It was pure torture. The next night it took about 30 minutes. And ever since that night, she has fallen asleep after about 5 minutes of half-hearted wailing.
Now I know. Babies really CAN put themselves to sleep! We don't give her a bottle or a toy or a blankie. We just put her in the crib and she falls alseep. A few nights ago she didn't even cry. She just laid there and went to sleep. I confess I had to get up a few times that night (just like I did when she was a newborn) to make sure she was alive. The trick is to make sure she really is tired before attempting to put her down. If she isn't tired, it takes a lot of crying to tire her out. When I think of all the people who never get past the stage of putting their kids to sleep, simply because they can't deal with a few nights of crying (and believe me; it is heartbreaking) it makes me sad. I shudder to think of what would happen if we waited until she was big enough to climb out of the crib herself (believe me, its coming fast). We might have been SOL if we had waited that long. She wakes up refreshed and happy every morning with no sign that grudge holding or emotional damage has resulted from our cruel ways.
I only hope it goes so smoothly with the next one.