Charlotte has a cold, but it's really mild. Other than seeming a bit tired, a little bit of goop in her eye, a day of green poo, and the occasional cough or sneeze, she's fine. Doesn't even really have a booger situation happening which is awesome. But yesterday she refused to nap. I tried a lot of different things but any time I would put her down anywhere, she would screetch. I had her cuddled up on the couch with me for about an hour and she would go back and forth between content and screetching. I texted K about what was happening because I was frustrated and needed to complain, and because I like to warn him if he's likely to come home to an unpleasant household. He texted me back that while it may be time consuming, a lot of cuddles might be the only answer.
This has been a bit of a point of contention around here. At night, I rock and cuddle the girls, but not for very long. I'm really trying to put them down when they are still awake like I've been taught by the books and by the sleep expert. But when I get frustrated and walk away, K will cuddle until they are fully asleep. I sent K the following email because I communicate better when I write than when I talk.
I think you're under the impression that I'm either cold, lazy, or both. I'm not. I'm trying to teach the girls something they need to learn.
Hours of cuddles to fall asleep are like feeding tubes to eating. A feeding tube will get the job done, but they needed to learn how to suck and swallow so they could eat for the rest of their lives without it. There are reasons why learning this skill are vital.
1) During the day, there's just me. I physically can't spend an hour rocking and cuddling one girl to sleep because the other gets ignored. If they are ready for a nap at the same time, one would simply get an hour overtired and we'd all be totally screwed. Tina just went through an entire awake cycle where after eating and her diaper change, she was stuck alone on her playmat so I could do the bedtime routine with Charlotte (minus the bath) in a desperate bid to get her to finally fall asleep after 4 hours of fighting it. By the time I finally got Charlotte down to the point that I could walk away, Tina was ready for her next nap. Fortunately she's cooperating and calmly swinging while I pump, but what if I had to spend an hour with Tina now to get her to sleep? By the time I did, Charlotte would be awake again. And that's an hour of lost mommy interaction time that she just experienced.
2) At the moment, it's safe to allow one to be ignored for a while, but pretty soon, within a matter of weeks, they are going to be mobile and the only way to keep one safe while tending to the other one will be to strap her to something. [Editors note - I was referring to a swing. I don't strap them to a desk or tree or anything.] I don't want my kids basically strapped down or caged in a playpen all the time because someone needs me to cuddle them for an hour. They HAVE to be able to fall asleep within a reasonable time frame for their own well-being.
3) Insomnia is torture. I don't think you've ever been an insomniac so I don't think you really understand this. I don't know how to fall asleep. It's a skill I never properly learned. It's not just a matter of not getting a lot of sleep because it takes forever to fall asleep, but the falling asleep process itself can be awful. I don't want the girls to have to experience that night after night. If we program their physical rhythms now to understand that when you lie down to go to bed, you quickly fall asleep, insomnia will be a torture they won't have to experience much in their lives. You don't know how lucky you are to be able to simply lie down and be asleep within a few minutes.
I want the girls to learn how to lie down and drift off to sleep of their own accord. It's a skill I don't have and it sucks not having it. And it affects every aspect of our day and the amount of time they can spend with us learning and playing. Every time we give in and pick them up and rock them to sleep, we are teaching them that they are incapable of falling asleep without our help or by just lying down in the crib. When they fall asleep, it must be in the crib so they learn that when they lie down, they can fall asleep. Ok, so rock and cuddle until the stress is gone and they are in a mental place to be able to fall asleep, but the falling asleep itself needs to be in the crib.
I do want cuddles even if it seems like I don't. I can't wait until they are old enough to snuggle in bed with me for bedtime stories as part of their bedtime routine. Or crawling into bed so we can all watch Saturday cartoons together. Or wanting to cuddle on the couch when they don't feel good. But now is not the time to overindulge myself because my desire for cuddles would undo the teaching of the vital lesson they need to learn.
Please stop making me feel like I have to defend myself when I don't want to do endless cuddles at night. I will be a cuddler, I love the mornings with Charlotte when she wakes up an hour early and will cuddle with me before the family gets up. [Editors note - the last few mornings, Charlotte has been waking up but it's not time for her to eat or anything so I've been dozing with her in our bed while K gets ready for work. I'm somewhat anti-cosleeping or bedsharing due to the dangers that have been pounded into my head, but when K is still around to keep an eye on us and she's wearing her Snuza alarm, well, I've been bending the rule a bit while she's not feeling good.] But I won't sacrifice teaching them what they need to learn in order to get those cuddles for myself or by using endless cuddles to make falling asleep for one night a little easier.
We need to bite the bullet, soon, and go through a rough week where we don't allow them to fall asleep while being rocked or cuddled, but only by lying down and drifting off on their own.
So after reading this, he apologized and said he didn't realize he was making me feel like I had to defend myself. I really have been feeling like he must think I'm just a cold bitch or something because I get frustrated when cuddles take too long. But after reading this, we got on the same page and committed to trying cry it out and to putting them down while still awake enough to be aware of their surroundings so they know they are in the crib when they do drift off to sleep.
And now, here's how last night went. All times are approximate.
7pm - Bottle. They aren't eating as much right now because they don't feel very well and don't have a major appetite. We've been making 3oz bottles instead of the usual 4.5 or 5.5oz bottles so we're not throwing milk down the drain.
7:30 - I see a yawn and they are slowing down. Time to start bedtime routine.
7:45 - Bedtime routine of bath, calming lotion massage, lullaby and cuddles, then in the crib with the soothing mobile lights.
8:00 - Asleep
7:55 - Wakes up from the 2.5 hour nap that I finally got her to take.
8pm - Bottle.
9pm - Gets tired really fast so we skip the bath but do the rest of the bedtime routine and put her down.
Tina woke up shortly before Charlotte fell asleep. We cuddle Tina, sing her the bedtime lullaby and put her back down. After only 20 minutes, Charlotte also woke up.
Starting about 9:30pm, here we go.
Screaming babies, wait 5 minutes, go in and soothe them in the crib, sing lullaby twice, turn the mobile back on and leave. Wait 10 minutes, repeat process. Wait 15 minutes, repeat process. We did not successfully soothe them mind you, but rather we limited our contact to hands on the chest in the crib for comfort and only 2 songs and then leave whether they were soothed or not. Reason being, I don't want them to learn that if they pitch a fit, it will be rewarded with endless attention. Once they are down for bed, that's it. Limited soothing.
15 more minutes go by and K says "that's 15, let's go." and I tell him no. If we continue to go in every 15 minutes, they will learn that if they scream for 15 minutes, they'll be rewarded. It's time to teach them they won't be rewarded. We grit our teeth and sit. I start considering caving and asking if we're doing the right thing, is this really teaching them what they need to learn and K holds strong and says yes, this is the way to teach them. No we aren't teaching them bad things, this is good.
We let them scream for I'm not sure, about 45 minutes to an hour. By now, it's about 3 hours since they've eaten and we determine that they're crossing over from angry to hungry and we can't expect them to fall asleep hungry. Besides, I wanted to double check that Charlotte wasn't crying herself into having a snotty nose that would make breathing difficult.
11pm - diaper change (in the crib) and a bottle (also in the crib). Sing the lullaby once, turn on the mobile, and leave. Trying to show them that we'll be there for their needs, but not their wants during the night. Also gave them a dose of Tylenol in case they were achy from being sick and because I know I always have a headache when I've been crying. We only picked them up to burp them, didn't interact or look them in the eye, we just facilitated their eating.
About 10 minutes of quiet fussing and then asleep. By 11:20, we were convinced they were solidly down and I started the sleep clock in BabyESP.
We were prepared to go all night, only going in to feed and change diapers every 3 hours. And I seriously thought it was going to be an all night thing. But it wasn't! It succeeded so much faster than I expected!
Both slept about 5.5 hours before they woke up K and he fed them and Charlotte woke me up about 8:45 this morning, very happy and lively with no sign of being sick. Big smiles when I went to get her up. She is now taking a nap and Tina is still asleep (it's shortly after 11am) which seems to be the pattern. I've got a bottle warming because Tina should be up any minute now.
A month ago, I was totally against the cry it out method. At the time, they weren't ready for it. Some might say they are still too young, but they've demonstrated that they are learning and that the night time crying is somewhat for manipulation. Tina will stop and practically pass out the moment she's picked up. That's why we've decided now is the right time. Anything we do now is what they are going to learn and unlearning a bad habit is harder than starting off with a good one. While it's not fun, I think we're doing the right thing. That it worked as quickly as it did last night (didn't feel like it at the time) further convinces me that this is the right thing at the right time and it should create good habits much faster than I thought it would. Hopefully, we aren't going to have a week of sleepless nights like I anticipated.
I see open eyeballs on the baby monitor. Time to get Tina up and starting her day!