MK joked that sleep training is what babies do to us, and not the other way around. Funny and all so wise.
We’ve been talking about letting Plum try to go to sleep on her own since her 4-month pediatrician visit. Basically, the conversation went like this: Dr W: “How is she going to sleep?” I uttered, “Well, I nurse her to sleep”, knowing that Dr. W would probably not approve. My suspicion was correct. “You’ve got to stop that! Do a little sleep routine; let her know that she is going to sleep and close the door.” CLOSE THE DOOR?! Easy for her to say, she is not in our apartment with a crying infant! I can’t close the door! We have not closed our bedroom door since the day we brought her home.
Plum and I have a set evening routine for the past two months: we take a walk outside of our apartment complex, and sit outside under her favorite tree to let her enjoy the view, the air, and the people walking by; return home; bathe her and let her splash and kick around in her big Eurobath; followed by a soothing nursing session until she falls asleep. At that crucial golden moment, I would gingerly cradle her up from My BrestFriend pillow, walk gently to her crib and slowly put her down in an almost imperceptible interval and pace so that our Plumster would remain ASLEEP. This went on happily for all of us until our pediatrician pointed out how inadequate and underdeveloped our routine had been.
Time to visit the sleeping issue, we were urged. Armed with several books and methods, we came up with a plan. We would bathe, nurse, and when she is still awake, bring her to her bed, then clean her gums, kiss her forehead and walk out of the room.
The first night was tough. She cried and cried and was very resistant to the idea. We eventually had to hold her and rock her for a few hours before putting her down for good. We regrouped and decided she was not awake enough to be put down this way. Basically she needed to know that she was going to sleep on her own while she was awake, instead of nursing her to half asleep. Because if she was half asleep while nursing, she expected to be nursed all the way.
Tonight while MK and Dad went out to pick up dinner, I decided to give sleep training another try. I thought she was ready for several reasons: 1) she can easily communicate to me her wants and likes. Example, she wants to take her bath earlier when we are still outside, whining a bunch on the blanket until I put her back into her Baby Bjorn and when MK is putting the blanket away, she kicks and laughs to display her delight of the prospect of going home. When we come home, she whines again until we get her bath ready and I am undressing her onsie; 2) she remembers routine and came to expect the order of things. Example, she knows that bath follows walk; 3) she understands and trusts us. Example, when she is hungry and is about to cry, Dad would carry her to the kitchen and show her that he was warming up her pumped milk. Her crying would halt immediately as she watches him prepare food. She smiles when I call her name and puts her to my chest. She would look at it appreciatively for a moment before plunging in for a big meal. Based on these reasons, I am reassured that my being firm with her tonight may not traumatize her and make her trust us less. In fact, I believe that children look to us for guidance and boundary. As parents, we are responsible for helping our children grow up to be competent, happy, responsible, self-sufficient, and confident humans.
Tonight when it is time for bed, I bring her to her crib, put her down and tell her, “I’m going to get the gauze to clean your gum.” She smiles and waits for me. She likes to have her gum rubbed since she was a tiny little infant. When I come back, I realize that the blind was not closed all the way, and she is enjoying the moonlight. At that point, I remember the books saying that it’s better to have some light. I rub her gum, twice, since she likes that so much. Then I sing a little song, kiss her forehead, and walk out of the room quietly. She talks a bunch, presumably to the lion drawing I made for her when I was pregnant with her. MK and Dad came home, and were surprised that I was neither nursing nor pacing/rocking with Plumster in my arms. Everyone was shocked but remained calm. Soon enough, her babbling turned to whining. I walked into the room, brushed her head and talked to her briefly. Kissed her forehead again and walked out again. This time, her whining soon escalated into crying. We let her. For about three minutes. Then I walked into the room, she looked at me with her tearful eyes. I tried to remain calm and told her, “Silly Plum, why are you crying? You know we are all here; we all love you so much. We are here to help you no matter what. And right now, we are helping you to go to sleep on your own. That’s an important step for you.” She looked at me, not buying the idea, and started to cough. This 5 month-old Plumster knew I would pick her up if she coughed. I picked her up, kissed her, and gently rocked her back and forth, all the while telling her how much we love her. I felt her head getting heavier and heavier on my shoulder. Her warm milk breath resting on my neck. She sighed a happy relief as I held her close and tight.
I paced for another moment, then put her down to her bed and kissed her good night. This time I walked out of the room knowing that Sugarplum is growing up fast and I will be ready for every step.