Tough Love

Co-sleeping with my little guy at 9 1/2 months old was becoming impossible. He would kick me in his sleep, and I would wake him up with my snoring. And boob-feeding him wasn’t working as usual. In fact, I think the proximity to his “favorite restaurant” was extremely distracting when it was time to lull himself back to sleep.

In the morning, he stumbled about his toys. My mellow baby had become Mr. Cranky-Pants. It was one thing if I lost sleep, but now I could see that he was suffering from sleep-deprivation and that was unacceptable.

I asked the Angels of Baby Sleep to give me a sign.

Right then, clicking through television land, I came across this movie, The Miracle Worker… the famous fight scene with Helen Keller, at that time a spoiled child who would eat off everyone’s plate, instead of sitting down to eat her own meal.

And I had an epiphany. I realized that sometimes being a good mom means I will have to do something that my baby doesn’t like. In this case, I had to help him fall asleep in the crib, even if he hated the idea. He just didn’t have an inkling of how much more sleep he would get, and I had to show him that this was the best way.

That night, I breastfed him until his eyelids got droopy. He was sleepy, but not asleep. I scooped him up, and lovingly put him down in his crib. And he would have none of it. He sprung up and protested loudly. I didn’t pick him up, but I leaned down, held him in my arms and said, “Sweetie, it’s time to go to sleep. Love you.” Then I lay him down and left the room for one minute.

I got myself a box of tissues in the living room, held my husband’s hand, and cried. Then when the minute elapsed, I dried my face, went back in and did the same thing. Without picking him up, I shushed him while patting his back, and lay him down.

Basically, I was following The Baby Whisperer’s method: don’t pick him up, but continue laying him down every time he sits or stands up in his crib, shush and pat his back so he knows you are still there. I decided to add incrementally longer breaks, so my baby would get the message that I would come back, but that his crying was not making me come back faster. At the most, I left him for 5 minutes. I don’t think I could do more than that.

In the end, after laying him down for the 100th time, he fell asleep with my hand on his back.

The next night, he immediately fell asleep in his crib with my hand on his back. I was so proud of him! Since then, there have been good nights and bad nights. He no longer wants to sleep in my bed (just play), and prefers his crib for naps and nighttime.

Being the mean mommy for one night was the toughest thing I had to do, but it taught my baby the skills he needed for a good night’s rest.

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Filed under Basic Tips, My Personal Experience

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