For the first three months of his life, Judah didn’t really have a “bedtime.” I realize the importance of starting a bedtime routine early on, but for a number of reasons, I’m only just now beginning the process.
In the beginning, I spent all of my days holding Judah anyway (I still do, for the most part). I enjoyed it. I’d let him drift to sleep in my arms in the evening, and I enjoyed the fact that he was so still and quiet. I was also anxious about being more than a few inches from him, so the idea of “putting him to bed” made me nervous. The evenings are quiet in our home, so it wasn’t a problem for me to hold him after he fell asleep until I was ready for bed. He sleeps in a bassinet next to my bed, so when I was ready to sleep, I’d bring him into my room, feed him one last time, and then we’d both go to sleep. For the first four months, that’s what worked for us.
As Judah gets older, it’s becoming clear to me that he needs a clearer bedtime routine. He doesn’t fall asleep as easily as he used to, and some nights I can tell that he badly needs to sleep, but the lights and television and general awakeness of the house are keeping him up. He gets fussy and frustrated, and even though he doesn’t particularly want to sleep in a room alone, he needs to go to sleep. This usually happens around 8 p.m. Because I’m not ready to sleep at 8 o’clock, I realized that I needed to let go of my anxiety, and let my baby go to bed.
The first time I successfully put him “to bed” was last weekend. We were visiting Tony’s parents for his mom’s birthday. They threw her a surprise party. Because we live a few hours away, most of the extended family there hadn’t seen him since Christmas, and everyone wanted a chance to hold him. By 8 o’clock, I could tell that he was done. He needed to sleep, but there’s no way he was going to fall asleep with all the commotion like he used to in his newborn days. So I took him into our room, turned off the lights, turned on his white noise machine, fed him, and lay him down in the Pack n Play next to our bed. I lay down next to him and put my hand on his chest to let him know I was there. Within minutes, his eyes grew heavy, and he was fast asleep. I went back out into the house to socialize. I was amazed at how easy it was.
BUT. He was uncharacteristically exhausted that night from all the commotion and the travel. The next night was not so easy. After half an hour of screaming and fussing and refusing to settle down, I finally gave up, put him in his sling, and left the room. After a few minutes of walking around the house in the sling, he finally fell asleep. I had to wake him up to get him out of the sling, but it was much easier to get him to sleep again after he’d already settled down. I would have fought him more, but we weren’t at home, and it was easier to just give in.
In the great sleep debate, I fall somewhere in the middle. I’m not comfortable putting him in his crib and letting him “cry it out” on his own. It’s not because I believe it will do lasting harm. My mom let me “cry it out,” and I grew up to be a perfectly well adjusted person. I don’t believe it’s cruel and unusual punishment for a baby if it’s done properly, and the baby is old enough. I do believe it would be cruel and unusual punishment for us if we had to listen to him scream, though, so I’m not into the idea.
Sleeping right next to him has been a life saver for the first few months. I don’t even have to fully wake up to feed him, and that’s made sleeping much easier for both of us. There is no nighttime screaming. I feel more at ease knowing he’s right next to me, and I can easily check on him throughout the night. It’s been a wonderful experience. But the older he gets, the more I feel I need to put him to bed. The sooner we can teach him to sleep on his own, the better it will be for both of us. I loved sleeping next to my 2-month-old. I don’t think I would enjoy sleeping next to a toddler. My husband and I are ready to have our bedroom to ourselves again.
Because he’s still not sleeping through the night consistently, I’m not ready to move him to his own room yet. I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night and trudge across the apartment to feed him, nor do I want to let him get worked up enough in the night that it will be a struggle to get him back to sleep. However, I am beginning the long process of transitioning him from his bassinet to his crib in the hopes that we’ll both be ready to complete the transition when he’s around 6 months old.
Here’s my strategy:
He’s slept in a bassinet right next to my bed for the last four months, so he’s not used to his crib at this point. I want him to learn that his crib is a place for sleeping. Beginning this week, I’ve started putting him to bed in his crib around 8 p.m. After changing his diaper and putting on his pajamas, I turn off the lights in his room and turn on his white noise machine. Then I feed him in the chair in his room. He’s usually pretty sleepy at that point, sometimes even asleep, but he wakes up when I set him down. I sit on the floor next to the crib with my hand through the rails resting on his chest and try to soothe him. He fusses some, but eventually settles into sleep. It can take 10 minutes or 45 minutes. If he gets too worked up, I pick him up and rock him to settle him down, and then I put him down again. Once he’s sleeping, I leave the room.
His room is right next to the living room, so I can easily hear him if he stirs. Tony and I watch TV, work on our computers, or whatever. We try to keep things quiet to avoid waking him.
Around 11, he usually wakes up hungry. At that point, I bring him into our room, nurse him in bed, and put him back to sleep in his bassinet. It’s usually not difficult. Once he’s asleep again, I read with the lights dim until I’m ready to sleep.
He’s still waking up once in the middle of the night to eat, and I’m not sure how to discourage that. I’m hoping he’ll drop the habit on his own, but if he’s still waking in the middle of the night in two months, I plan to try harder to break him of it.
In two months, Tony will have a few weeks off between the spring and summer semesters. My plan is to begin the transition to his crib at that point. I know we’ll probably have some tough nights where none of us get much sleep as he gets used to sleeping in his own room (and I get used to having him in a different room), so I want to make the transition when Tony’s off work so he won’t have to be a zombie.
So. Those of you who transitioned a baby from your room to a crib: do you have any constructive advice? Please don’t try to talk me out of it, though. I’ve made up my mind. But I could use some tips if you’ve got them.