I love taking the time to reach out to other mamas and answer their questions about schedules, Babywise methods in general, and help them troubleshoot any particular “issues” that they may be encountering with their little one(s). The most common comment I hear from other moms is that they “don’t want to create bad habits”. They are so scared of this that they are trying to follow the perfect Babywise schedule, they are trying to not rock their baby to sleep, trying to not nurse their baby to sleep, and they get super distressed if they aren’t successful at any of the above.
So, it got me thinking about all of the times I feared that I was “creating a bad habit”. In those first few months, you are very aware of everything you’ve read NOT to do. And you are very aware of the moments that you do those things. You sit there wondering how it is even possible to not rock your baby to sleep. Many moms even go so far as to think they are doing something wrong, and not succeeding at their job as a mom.
Fear not, ladies! You are NOT creating bad habits- especially if you are aware of the habits that you don’t want to create. The fact that you are trying to teach your baby to not rely on you to rock them to sleep, or to not nurse to sleep, etc., is the part that is going to make you successful. You have good intentions and you will succeed at your goal- even if you have setbacks here and there. The first few months are not about creating the perfect baby. The first few months are about helping your baby adjust to the new world, helping your baby get to sleep, helping your baby learn day from night, and helping your baby start routines and a schedule. It is not easy, but the day will come when you look back on these months and laugh at how hard you were on yourself. If you’ve heard the phrase “the fourth trimester”- it is real! Once you get through it, things get easier!
To start with, let me give you some insight as to when we were starting to see the success shine through:
- Month 1– she learned day vs night
- Month 2– she was starting to nap “on time”
- Month 3– she was able to stay awake after the last nursing session (so I no longer felt like I was nursing to sleep)
- Month 3- she was napping “on time” and was in her crib
- Month 3– I was able to lay her down in her crib (awake) for naps and bounce the mattress for maybe 5 minutes as she fell asleep
- Month 3– she FINALLY moved past the 45 minute naps
- Month 4– after sleep training was completed, she put herself to sleep for bedtime and naps with no crying (we’d lay her down wide awake and walk out)
- Month 4– she dropped all MOTN (middle of the night) wakings
My daughter is now 7 months old. She has been putting herself to sleep for bedtime and naps for 3 months. She has been sleeping through the night for 3 months, as well. She takes a 2 hour nap and a 1.5 hour nap. She is happy, healthy, and very content when she is awake and when she is sleeping.
I definitely had my moments of thinking I was “creating bad habits”, however.
Here are some of the things that I did:
– When my daughter was about 2 months old, she had a MOTN waking in the early, early morning. I would feed her and then I couldn’t get her to let me lay her back down. Nothing worked. I could get her to sleep (rocking and bouncing her), but I’d lay her down and she’d be wide awake and crying. The only thing that worked was to hold her. SO…. I took her to bed with me. We CO-SLEPT from that MOTN waking until our 7 am wake up. She slept in my arms, and I closed my eyes a few times, but mostly stayed awake because I was worried about her. It at least allowed me to get some rest. We did this for nearly 2 weeks!
– We pretty much rocked her to sleep every night until she was 4 months old. We knew we didn’t want her reliant on this, so as soon as she’d close her eyes, we’d try and lay her down in her crib. She’d wake up and we’d repeat the process again and again. Eventually, however, we’d lose our patience with the process and just hold her until she was dead asleep in our arms, and then put her down. It made me nervous to do this, but we did it. And, despite this, she was still able to learn to put herself to sleep at the early age of 4 months!
– I nursed her to sleep and I nursed her for comfort. There were so many times she’d fall asleep while nursing in the evening in those first 2 months. We’d lay her down asleep. She ALWAYS woke back up in about 30 minutes, however, because she was so surprised to be in her crib and not in my arms. So, I started waking her up just enough to let her know she was being put down and that seemed to help. I also nursed her for comfort many times. There was a point when she was 3 months old and only waking once in the MOTN- I knew she was not hungry as she was not asking to eat. I fed her anyway, because it was the easy thing to do. It comforted her and got us both back to sleep sooner than later.
– At 12 weeks old, I couldn’t seem to lay her down for naps. She had to be held. I had read about all of these other moms just laying their baby down and walking away. I had read she should be able to sleep without me at this point. I even posted on some Facebook forums asking if other moms were having similar “issues”. The minute I’d lay her down she’d wake up and I’d have to start all over again trying to get her to sleep. So I held her and enjoyed her.
I was very aware of my choices when I did all of the above. I had read about “creating bad habits” just like we all have. So I kept it in the back of my mind. I TRIED with all of my effort to lay my baby down drowsy, and to not nurse her to sleep, and to not rock her too much. At the end of the day, however, I also chose to do what seemed right in the moment. I chose to do what I thought she needed from me at the time, and I remembered that she was only a few weeks or a few months old. Sometimes that meant holding her for a nap. Sometimes that meant nursing her back to sleep in the MOTN. And sometimes that meant co-sleeping.
As I look back from the “other side” of the fourth trimester now, I try to tell other mamas of my experiences. I try to comfort them and tell them that they are not creating bad habits. Those of you that are trying to implement Babywise or something similar- if you are making the effort to implement the schedules, to create routines, to not always hold your baby for naps, to not always rock them to sleep, to try and lay them down drowsy but not completely asleep, etc.- You are already doing so many great things! You can’t mess it up- so don’t even think like that. And don’t worry about the stories that you read about moms that are able to lay their 6 week old baby down awake and walk away for a nap. It’s the exception. Enjoy the moments and don’t stress too much. Try and try again. It will pay off. Don’t worry if one day you don’t have the energy to try. Tomorrow is another chance to try. Don’t worry if one day you co-sleep- it doesn’t mean your baby will never be able to sleep in his own crib. Coming from a mama that did all of those things- if you put in the effort in the first few months, and have the occasional set back- you will still make it to the other side. You will still be able to help your baby learn how to self soothe and put himself to sleep. You will soon be on the other side of this. Just hang in there and try, try again.