Just as background for this story, I’ll say that I’m not really a fan of the cry-it-out method of sleep training a baby. I won’t go into my reasons why, as that’s not relevant at the moment, but I just want to establish that it’s an approach that makes me uncomfortable personally.
However, I found that when The Husband was out of town over Labor Day weekend and I had to put both kids to bed by myself, there were a small handful of times that I didn’t have much choice but to let The Little Sis cry while I tended to The Big Sis (otherwise The Big Sis would freak and I’d have two crying children on my hands). At no point did she cry for any longer than 10 or 15 minutes, which is still outside of my comfort zone, but it was necessary in this situation.
As additional background, I will offer up the fact that bedtime with The Little Sis often took at least an hour — I’d nurse her for probably 20 to 30 minutes then have to walk around her room rocking her in my arms until she fell asleep — and the concept of putting her down drowsy but awake (as you’re “supposed” to do ) was completely foreign to us. She had to be completely asleep before I could put her in the crib, and even then I risked waking her up when I set her down in the crib (especially since lowering the mattress).
But boy wasn’t it interesting that she went to sleep well each of those nights and didn’t wake up once overnight. Quickly I realized that when I was done nursing her, she was leaning toward the crib, so after The Husband had returned from his week away, I started putting her in her crib awake but drowsy. She protested with a couple of halfhearted cries, rolled over, and went to sleep nearly instantly. Huh. Interesting. But also: Yay!
Additional background: The Little Sis still used a pacifier for going to sleep at night and for naps. She never used it during the day (it stayed in her room), but she did require it to go to sleep. I was trying to figure out how to get rid of it, as I personally don’t care for older children with pacifiers, but I found it tricky to formulate a plan since I wasn’t comfortable with taking it away and making her cry for it, but she’s also too young to make up a “paci fairy” or something like that.
Last Wednesday night, I realized that I gave her the pacifier at bedtime merely out of habit; she hadn’t really asked for it that night. So I figured I’d play with fire and try to not offer the pacifier the next night. She fussed for about the time it took me to walk out the door after I put her in the crib, but she went to sleep fine and didn’t wake up for the paci during the night. (She didn’t much before, as she usually found it herself, but sometimes she’d throw it out of the crib and she needed our help retrieving it. Thankfully that wasn’t a regular thing, though.) The same was true for Friday night, Saturday night, Sunday night, and all naps over the weekend.
Looks like we got rid of the pacifier, as we just experienced night five of no paci last night, and we’ve met no resistance. Her bedtime now takes about 20 to 25 minutes total, with me nursing her for most of that time, snuggling with her for a few minutes, then placing her in the crib and leaving with her still awake (a couple times pretty wide awake). Most nights she rolls over and goes right to sleep, though sometimes she’ll lie there with her eyes wide open but she remains calm and quiet before finally zoning out and going to sleep.
So: Yay for The Little Sis. Even though we used it very minimally, I was ready to be done with paci use LONG ago. And it’s good timing too because she’ll be moving to the toddler room at daycare next week and I really wanted to have her off the paci by then.
Next up: Weaning her from nursing. Right now I nurse her when she wakes up in the morning and when she goes to sleep at night. Truthfully, I think she’s started the weaning process on her own over the past month or so, as she loses interest in nursing now pretty soon after she starts. I nursed The Big Sis for 14 months, and I’m still aiming for that with The Little Sis. It’s a complete mind game, I admit, but I’d like to hit that age so I feel like I did the same for both girls. Will it be a “failure” if we stopped with nursing today? Of course not! I’ve nursed her for 13 months, and what’s a difference of one month? Not much. I didn’t say it made logical sense, but I’d still like to hit that 14-month point if I can, if The Little Sis doesn’t completely lose interest in the next month. At this point, though, it seems like weaning is going to be a mutual decision, which I think is overall a good thing.