Jack’s sleep has never been terribly consistent, but we found our routine and things had been going well most of the time (for the last few months, at least). Jack learned to fall asleep in the crib, not entirely on his own, but quickly, so it was working for us, and he usually slept through the night. On any given night, I would (or John would – we did it the same way) put Jack in the crib and then sit or lie down next to him and slide one hand between the crib slats. Jack might ask me to rub his back until he fell asleep, or he might grab my hand and hold it, roll over on top of it, or lay his head down on it. Not too long after that (most nights), he’d be asleep and I would pull the magician-tablecloth trick and get my hand back without waking him up.
It worked for a long time, and actually, it’s still working, but for the last few weeks, Jack has been waking up in the middle of the night and very clearly telling us that he’s upset because he woke up and we weren’t there. We were there when he went to sleep – what happened? That’s EXACTLY the reason all those sleep books give for why babies need to learn to go to sleep completely on their own. They wake up freaked out because things are different and they don’t understand. I read those books forever ago, but it’s only now that it’s actually a problem for us.
So now we need to fix it. It’s finally really truly time to teach Jack how to put himself to sleep without Mommy and Daddy in the room. It’s going to take a SUPER long time, though, because we have found out that we’re just not cry-it-out people. Can’t take it. Not gonna do it.
So instead, we’re going to take baby steps. First, no more hand. We’ll still put him in the crib and lie or sit down next to it, we’ll still talk or sing to him as needed, but no more falling asleep on top of or under the hand. Once we have that down, we’ll start moving farther away from the crib, toward the door, until we can put him in the crib, say good night, and leave. It’s going to take FOREVER, but I’m hopeful that it’ll work. There will be crying, but we won’t have left him alone to deal with it.
That’s the plan. And we have begun! Barely. On night one, I put him in the crib, sat down next to him like usual, and when he asked for my hand, I said “No hand.” Cue the crying. He cried and sobbed “Yes, hand! Yes, Mama hand!” for 32 minutes and then he passed out. Success? Sort of?
The next day at nap time, I did the same thing, but there was only an hour of crying, no nap. Which is pretty much what I expected for naps. The second night was John’s turn, and Jack was exhausted from not napping, so he fell asleep in John’s lap during story time. Doesn’t count. Day 2’s nap is where I think I turned our baby steps plan into even smaller steps (not on purpose!).
He was crying, asking for my hand, not napping, threatening to climb out of the crib, and then I got him to lie down and giggle a little by pretending to offer him my pinky, outside the crib, and then YOINK! He couldn’t have it. We did that for the last 10 minutes of the nap attempt. No nap, not surprising. Then we got to Night 3, my turn, and Jack didn’t ask for my hand! He asked for my pinky. I let him have it, his hand outside the crib, my pinky clutched in his fist, and he was asleep within minutes.
That’s totally cheating, I know. But at the same time, it’s kind of a step in the right direction, so I’m letting it ride for a few days before I take it away.