My daughter, Jozey, is 13 months old today. For months now, we've been trying to figure out how to get her to sleep through the night. No luck. She wakes at least twice, sometimes even more often, and nursing seems to be the fastest way to get her back to sleep. The challenge is I need sleep, too. So, inevitably, I end up bringing her into our bed, nursing her and falling asleep. That means, if she starts to stir, neither my husband nor I get much rest....and she's the only one who wakes up refreshed.
When Max was about 17 months old, we spent a week or so, teaching him to fall asleep on his own. Until that point, it was a daily ritual to rock him in our arms ( a ritual my husband particularly enjoyed) until he was in a deep sleep. Then we would lay him down, and he would be out for the night. But we were beginning to notice that it would take longer and longer for him to fall asleep. We realized that he was probably forcing himself to stay awake because of our company, (and because we were rocking him in the living room, with the television on...yes, we were that naive). So, while my husband was away on business travel, I instituted a sleep schedule for Max. I would put him down for his naps, after a ritual of one book and slow rocking. I would leave the room and he would cry...and cry...and cry. I forced myself to let him cry for up to one hour, then I would rush in and get him up. And, we'd try again for the next scheduled nap. After a week or so, the duration of crying decreased and by the time my husband returned from his business trip, Max was able to soothe himself to sleep. As a result, at the age of 3.5, he's a pretty consistent sleeper and is able to fall asleep on his own about 90 percent of the time.
Now, my daughter is another story. One would think that, since she's the 'typical one', we'd have no problem allowing her to cry it out and get her on a better schedule. But, here's the glitch. She's never really had a schedule. From her early weeks of life, her schedule has revolved around her brother's schedule. She would come along to every appointment imaginable. And, if she fell asleep in the car, well, that would be her nap. Once we got to an appointment, she was sure to wake up. Here we are, at 13 months of age, and she still takes her morning naps in the car, after we drop Max off at preschool. She naps anywhere from an hour to hour and half, then we run errands. I try to get her to take another nap in the afternoon, at the same time Max does, but that's always touch and go. And bedtime is a very long, extended affair.
So, knowing this history, does it make sense to let her cry it out? Isn't it to her benefit to learn how to soothe herself to sleep? What is it that's preventing me from using the same method I used on her older brother? Is it my need to comfort her because I realize that during the day, she gets shortchanged for my attention? At 3.5, Max still needs a great deal of help with dressing, eating and toileting -- stuff that a typical 3.5 year old would be doing on his own by now. And, whenever he shows an interest in standing or walking, I make it a point not only to encourage him, but to be right there supporting him, literally. So, honestly, Jozey gets somewhat neglected. And, she makes it known that she doesn't like it! Recently, she has started to race after me if I leave her to help Max with something, and grab on to some part of my body. I suppose she's trying to tell me that she needs attention, too.
So, late at night, when I am finally able to give her some undivided attention in the form of nursing her back to sleep, I can't help myself. And, I wonder, how much of this is for her, and how much is for me????