If you've been reading a while, or know me at all, then you know that I am firmly against the idea of sticking a baby in a crib and letting them cry it out to go to sleep on their own. I breastfeed on demand and my baby sleeps in my bed with me. When he cries, I attend to him promptly. Of course, Bear is nearly 2 years old now, so if I'm in the middle of something I sometimes tell him he needs to wait a minute, because I know he's gaining understanding about that kind of thing...but I still attend to him when he asks for me. Perhaps a dozen times in his life he has gone to sleep somewhere other than my arms or by my side (ok, not counting roadtrips!) Some nights I've wished I could lay him in his crib at 8pm and he'd snuggle in and go to sleep on his own, but I have never regretted having him be a confident, attached baby.
The thing about attachment parenting is this: it needs to be working for both child and parent. Obviously I support breastfeeding, but if mom is unable to get two consecutive hours of sleep because the toddler keeps waking to nurse, well, nightweaning is a valid option. If mom likes the idea of co-sleeping, but is on medication and can't safely share the bed with an infant, then alternatives should be considered.
Last night had been a long time coming. For the last few months I've been working on getting Bear to go to bed at a regular time, and also trying to help him transition into a crib in our room. He's big, and we have a little bed. I snuggle and nurse with him in our bed, then once he's asleep i put him in his crib. I get him when he wakes, and sometimes nurse him then replace him in his bed, or sometimes he just ends up back in our bed again. He's never made it a full night in his crib, but he's done more than half on a couple of occasions. (I also want to night-wean him because I'm hoping to be pregnant again soon (now that I'm finally fertile again!) and extreme breast tenderness has always been my earliest sign of pregnancy.)
In spite of my efforts to make bedtime a peaceful quiet time with cuddles and lullabyes, Bear often uses it as an opportunity to play...he'll say "uder side" as he climbs over me, asking me to roll over and nurse him on the other side. Two minutes later it's "uder side" again, with more climbing... when this starts happening I know that his tummy is pretty full, and that he doesn't really want to nurse anymore...but he's too tired to know what he wants. He will keep this up for an hour if I let him. Well, last night after about 40 min of cuddles and nursing (20 of it with him goofing off), I had sore nipples and was going nuts. So I finally just put him in the crib with his stuffed tigger and his blankey, said "night night" and I went out.
He called for me of course, and I came back in, hugged him, explained that it was time to lay down and sleep, and left again. There is a nightlight near his crib, and the ambient light of the hallway comes in, so it's dim but not totally dark in there. I could tell that he was upset with me, but he was not scared. He called out to me a couple of times "hug!" and I came and gave him a hug--then set him back in the crib. Once he asked for "nurn" so I offered him a breast (but left him standing in the crib), and he turned it down flat. Clearly it wasn't the nurn he really wanted, and I knew that, but I still offered it because he asked. Once he started calling "mom! what doin?" and I called back that I was getting ready for bed and that he needed to lay down and go to sleep. Several times I snuck a peek at him (where he couldn't see me) and I heard him talking quietly to himself "way down, way down, way down..." [lay down] or "seep, seep, seep, seep" [sleep]. He complained a little, but never worked himself into a crying fit. He talked a bit and called out to me--and I responded to him, but always put him back in the crib.
He fell asleep in about 15 minutes. When I went to check on him, he was laying peacefully in his crib, snuggled under his little blanket, and with tigger laying on his tummy.
We'll be doing this again--cuddle and nurse, then into the crib to go to sleep. It's a major step towards his learning to sleep through the night (going to sleep without the breast!) He is almost 2, and that's certainly old enough to night wean and sleep through the night...I'd like a couple of months of real sleep before the next one comes!
Yes, Bear cried a little bit. But here's the thing: I believe that he didn't really "cry it out." He was never scared, he was never abandoned. He knew I was close, and I heeded his calls. He was upset with me for putting him in the crib rather than playing with him (or, rather, allowing him to play with me), but that is a very different thing from But at some point every child has to learn to go to sleep on their own. Someday I will need to be able to go to a meeting without having to take Bear (and keep him up late). Someday he has to learn to go to sleep for daddy or grandma or a babysitter. Leaving an infant alone is one thing, but Bear isn't an infant anymore, he's a toddler, and he knows he's not alone. It's just that at bedtime, mommy and the nurn have become a distraction rather than a help, so it's time to take them out of the room for a while.
Here's an interesting observation--Bear woke up around 1am (as he always does) and wimpered a little. I decided to remain silent for a minute and see if he would drop back off to sleep... He continued to wimper though, so I spoke to him, and immediately his light wimper turned into a full out cry and "mamamamamaaa." I think if I had left him longer he might have managed on his own...tonight I'll wait longer and see what happens.
I try to parent in a Christlike way...so if I'm not sure how to handle something, I try to think of what Christ would do. I do not believe that Christ would ever leave a (spiritual) infant alone in the world. However, as we get older and stronger, with increased understanding, He does stand further off to the side to allow us to do things on our own...