So yesterday my Walking Friend gave me the gist of the sleep training consult she had recently - the same thing I almost did, until I saw the $400 price tag. Not surprisingly the trainer told her pretty much what I had figured out when I did my modified CIO back in January - that you let them cry, but touch them and reassure them the whole time. And no picking up.
So what happened to my modified CIO, you ask? Well, it was going great for a while, but then he had that terrible teething episode where he was pooping every five seconds, and then we had back to back colds for weeks, and, well, the whole thing just fell apart. So we were back to the routine of some so-so nights of a four or five hour stretch followed by lots of waking, to some awful nights of him waking to mangle my nipples every couple of hours. And he's a year old now - I kind of want my bed back. He sleeps all over the place, is harder and harder to get to sleep, and plays around so much that he keeps clonking his skull into my face, resulting in lots of fat lips and bruised eye sockets on my part. So, I'm over it.
Why did I co-sleep in the first place? Well, mainly for convenience. I figured I would be more rested if I could just roll over and pop a boob in his mouth rather than getting up every time. Which was no doubt true in those first months, when I could at least make up the sleep later because he would sleep in with me until 10 or 11. But then he started waking at 8 every day. And then it was months of never having had unbroken sleep. A lot of the co-sleeping was about fear and neediness on my part. I wanted to cuddle him, and I did, and that was great. I also was terrified to have him away from me in case god forbid he stopped breathing or some other nightmare scenario happened, especially in those early weeks.
Looking back on it now, I wish I'd done this around six months when I knew he was strong and healthy and didn't need to eat in the middle of the night anymore. I just let it drag on way, way too long.
So I wasn't really planning on doing any sleep training right now, but after talking to my equally sleep deprived friend, I decided what the heck and put him in his crib as we went to bed, rather than in bed with me. I put one of my pillows in there as a sort of mattress so he could still smell me. An hour later he woke up hysterical...and screamed for 1 1/2 hours. What did I do? Well, I held his hand, rubbed his back, and told him I was there, but didn't pick him up. It just went on and on. Finally it dawned on me that he was completely exhausted but didn't know how to just lie down after standing at the edge of the crib all that time, so I physically laid him down, put a blanket over him, and he immediately conked out. I probably could have done that way earlier.
He woke up again about four hours later, but this time I laid him back down and he went right back to sleep. And that was it, until now, when I figured it was ok to just be up for the day so I brought him into bed to feed him (my boobs were huge and angry) and let him nap a little more since technically he'd only had about nine hours' sleep, which is not enough.
I will keep up this routine and see how it goes. I imagine it will be like my modified CIO in which tonight was the worst but then it gets easier...if I stick to my guns. I will also make the crib a little more appealing - I won't use that big pillow because it's too dangerous; I'll take out the books and toys and use his favorite cushy blanket, maybe bring in a little stuffed animal or something. Yes, all of the things I should have done ages ago.
Again I will say it was almost entirely my own neediness that kept him in bed with me this long. It helped quell my anxiety to have him at arm's length. But in the end it wasn't good for either of us. I am exhausted and he has to learn to sleep alone before it's too late - I mean, he can't sleep with me forever, can he? My dream is to someday have a real bedtime where I can put him in here alone and I can have an evening to myself. That would be amazing. But, one step at a time.