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Sleep(less) Training

Yes, we looked directly into the face of
the Beast and are still standing.


With Cora at a healthy six-and-a-half months and still getting up
every couple of hours or more to nurse at night (several times on
vacation I nursed her four times in five hours), she has clearly
been needing to nurse to get herself back to sleep. Which means
it’s been time to teach her how to get herself to sleep
without nursing. Because frankly, the things I’m thinking as
I get up all night are not the kindest, and Cora really needs to
start sleeping through the night so we can have a better

So we planned for the weekend, when Brian wouldn’t need to be
up early to work. And we set up a slumber party at Gamma’s
house for Maddie both nights so she wouldn’t hear Cora
crying. The house was empty, the stage was set, and right on cue

The baby was crying.

We’re a Ferber family; we make sure
the baby is fed, dry, healthy, and not teething, then leave her to
learn to self-soothe, checking in on her at ever-increasing
intervals. We did this with Maddie, and it took half an hour the
first night for her to cry herself to sleep. I still remember that
night and remember lying in the room next to Maddie’s, crying
as I listened to my baby crying and knowing I had the power to stop
it – that I was choosing to inflict this on her. I felt like
such a bad mommy, even as I believed that what I was doing was
better for her in the long run.

Cora’s first night? Way worse.

Cora cried for three hours after we put her down. On and off, but
mostly on. When she finally fell asleep at midnight, we
didn’t dare believe it. We crept off to bed ourselves,
exhausted, only to be awakened by more crying at 1 a.m. Another two
hours, this time more sporadic, and I gave in and nursed her at 3
a.m., reasoning it’d been six hours since she’d eaten.
She immediately conked out and slept for two blissful hours.

Then woke up crying again.

I nursed her again at seven, but this time she dozed off for maybe
half an hour. Desperate for sleep we finally brought her in bed
with us at 8:30 a.m., where she lay quietly for an hour while we
slept like the dead.

After a sleepless night I blearily realized that every day is a
work day for a stay-at-home, and stumbled through the day with
Maddie and Cora as best I could, Brian stumbling right along with
me. Copious amounts of sugar and dark chocolate helped a bit. Cora,
of course, was tired as well, and crashed for a few naps through
the day. The closer Saturday night got, the more angst I felt,
until I was almost sick to my stomach.

Cora’s second night? Definitely better.

She conked out right away and slept for 45 minutes. When she woke
up she only cried for about twenty minutes then was out pretty much
the rest of the night. I vaguely remember her crying a couple of
minutes around 3 a.m., but I didn’t see her again until 7
a.m. when she woke up screaming and most assuredly hungry. The best
part? She went back to sleep until 9:30!

I think this was much harder on Cora than Maddie because Cora went
cold turkey on several sleep aids. For one thing, Cora was still
being swaddled, mostly because unswaddled she’d immediately
take her pacifier out of her mouth with her arms. But we knew that
if we sleep-trained swaddled she’d need to be swaddled to
sleep forever, so it had to go.

Second, we ditched the pacifier, which is a major sleep aid for
her. Maddie found her thumb around three months and hasn’t
looked back since, but Cora’s clung to her pacifier, largely
I think because her arms have been strapped down all night. So
several times a night when she’s awakened in the past, Brian
would stumble sleepily to her bed, put the pacifier back in, and go
back to sleep. This had to stop, so we refused to do that over the
weekend, which I know really yanked the rug out from under her.

So when Cora woke angry and crying and stressed out, I
couldn’t wrap her up into that tight, comforting ball she
likes to sleep in. And I couldn’t put her pacifier in so she
could suck to sleep. All I could do was stroke her face and sing to
her, even as she looked at me with that anguished, “Why
aren’t you picking me up?” look on her face.

We spent all of Saturday second-guessing ourselves. Was it too
much? Should we just remove one aid, and not the other? But when
will we have this Maddie-free chance again? Is Cora not ready for
this? Saturday night, though, was much improved so we know
we’re on the right track.

My daughter can now wake up in the middle of the night in a dark
bed and put herself back to sleep unaided, and that’s no
small thing. I comfort myself with the knowledge that she
won’t remember any of this when she’s older.

I wish I could say the same, but part of being a mommy is
remembering your child’s every hurt – even the ones you
inflict yourself.


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