It all started with a shower.
Seriously. It did. But first, let me talk about what we were going through with Luca before we trained him off cosleeping.
Luca’s sleep story
Luca started off a great sleeper – on his own, he started sleeping through the night by 9 weeks, from 7pm to 7am. We thought we were the luckiest parents ever! Then, around 6 months, he started teething real badly and would wake up all night. The only thing that would work was nursing him in the middle of the night. Instead of sitting in the rocking chair a la the newborn days, I took him into bed and side-lay nursed him and we’d all fall asleep peacefully until 6:30am. And then, surely enough, after a couple months of this, he was “trained” to wakeup in the middle of the night and expect to come into our bed, even though we weren’t nursing anymore (the teething had ended.) He’d wake up around 1am or 2am and was inconsolable unless we brought him to bed. So we did.
And don’t get me wrong, we loved it. As I wrote here in this post about co-sleeping, there’s really nothing better than waking up next to that precious little face. And smelling him and seeing him breath his sweet breath in your face. Actually, shortly after Luca started sleeping in his crib again (I’m getting there, I promise!), I asked Lu, “Don’t you wish we had done this earlier?” and he sweetly said, “No way, I loved sleeping with Luca. It’s for the best now, but those months were the best!” It was true.
But then, shortly after the one year mark, Luca started waking up shortly after we’d put him down to sleep for the night. We’d put him down around 7-7:30pm and around 8:30pm, he’d get up and stand up in his crib, screaming for us. We’d go in, put the pacifier in his mouth, and walk out. He’d go right back to sleep. He would do this multiple times, sometimes every 30 minutes! Then, he’d do it again one “final” time around 10:00pm. And this became the “inconsolable” time when he refused to go back down with the pacifier, he was ready to come into our bed. The problem was, was that we weren’t ready for bed. So what did we do? We went to bed early with him! Luckily this wasn’t every night, but it was a couple nights a week.
Finally, I found out I was pregnant! While I loved sleeping next to Luca, the older he got, the more he moved in his sleep, kicked us, and started keeping us up at night. And he kept kicking my belly or wedging his head in my ribcage. And I started to think, “What am I going to do once this pregnancy progresses? It’s hard enough to sleep without a toddler punching you in the middle of the night.”
Someone must have been listening, because then it was time to shower.
I had just put Luca down for the night, around 7:15pm. I went to take a shower and knowing it would only be a few minutes, I didn’t bring the monitor in to the bathroom with me. I always do, but for some reason, that night, I didn’t. I was nervous the whole time, “What if he cries for me?!” and I literally must have taken a 4-5 minute shower.
When I turned the shower off, I heard it: Luca was crying. I wrapped myself in a towel and started running for the monitor in the living room. And then, all of a sudden, he stopped crying. I look at the monitor and to my complete disbelief, I watched him lay down, put his pacifier back in his own mouth, and fall back asleep. WHAT?!
That’s when the lightbulb went off: every time he cries a little, I immediately go in and put the pacifier back in so he can fall back asleep. SO, he thinks he needs Mommy (or Daddy) to do that in order to get back to sleep when he wakes up, when in reality, he really doesn’t. I couldn’t believe it. Lu was out at that time, but when he got home shortly after dinner, I said, “That’s it. We’re done running in there and putting that paci back in to get him to sleep. When he wakes up, we’ll give him 5 minutes and then go back in, if he still needs us.” We both agreed we wouldn’t let it go longer than 5 minutes, no matter what. Lu was with me.
Later that night, sure enough, he woke up crying. But his cry was different. It was like his whine. We didn’t run in there, held our breath, and within 30 seconds, he literally did the same thing: went back to bed. WHAT?!
Now, I realize people who sleep train go through something similar in the way beginning. We chose not to sleep train for many reasons, so to us, this new “training” was leaving us amazed. And frustrated that we hadn’t done it sooner!
Then, night time came. Sure enough, at 10pm, he got inconsolable. I wanted to stick to my new resolution, so after 5 minutes, when he was still screaming, I went in there, put the pacifier back in, put his blanket over him, rubbed his belly a little, and walked out. He cried the second I left. We repeated this, in 5 minute increments, for about 1 hour. Brutal, I know, but this was the way we wanted to do it, what we were most comfortable with. By that hour, the last time I put the paci back in his mouth and walked out, he didn’t cry. And he just closed his eyes and went to sleep. And he slept until 7am!
We went through this process for 2-3 days (over a single weekend) and then on Monday morning, we woke up and realized that Luca had slept 7pm to 7am, without a peep. WE DID IT!
And ever since then, he’s been sleeping in his own crib, from the time I put him down until the morning (7am.) And he sleeps better, clearly – it’s uninterrupted sleep. And also, we sleep better. But we don’t get to miss out on morning snuggles – every morning when he wakes up, we grab him from his crib and let him hang in bed with us. It’s our favorite way to start the day – I nurse him, we all snuggle, and we’re just so happy.
So that’s how we trained Luca to sleep in his own bed! And I’m happy we did it now, so I didn’t have to struggle through it when I was much more pregnant. Also, when the new baby arrives, I don’t have to worry about him being older and thinking I’m kicking him out of the bed for the new baby. That’s heartbreaking!
While we do miss him in our bed sometimes, we know this is for the better! The next stage? Ditching the paci! Stay tuned.