So today is Day 1 of trying the Gradual Extinction Method to get my baby to sleep. So far it sucks.
A few weeks ago I started nursing the baby in bed for a few reasons, one of them being that when she fell asleep nursing I wouldn’t have to deal with the whole baby-wakes-up-the-second-I-put-her-down scenario. I have a bad back, and trying to get her to fall asleep was just absolutely killing me. We’re talking virtually no napping for baby, hours and hours of crying, followed by a 2:30 am conk out. My actual vertebrae were sore to the touch, and I started to get what felt very much like carpal tunnel in both wrists. I was exhausted and I needed a break. The other reason was that Little Peanut frequently has diarrhea after her morning feeding and sometimes has gas during the day. I did some research and learned that it was probably due to having an oversupply of breast milk and what’s called “forceful letdown”. First I worked on the oversupply, which helped but didn’t totally solve the diaper problem. Then I decided to try the “laid back” position, which was supposed to use gravity to help with the letdown problem, but was super awkward, not helpful and only seemed to make my baby angry. “Side-lying” seemed to help prevent sputtering and choking at least, and was way more comfortable for both of us. And she would fall asleep every time I nursed her this way. All I would have to do was wait until she fell asleep, and then oh so stealthily roll off the bed, and then I would have myself a sleeping baby. So it seemed like I had found the perfect solution. Sort of.
I’ll admit in the back of my mind there was a nagging thought that I was starting a bad habit. I don’t want my kid sleeping in my bed for the rest of her childhood. My bed is mine and my husband’s and I want to keep it that way. I don’t want nursing and falling asleep in my bed to be the only way she can go to sleep. Not to mention that letting a baby sleep in an adult bed is on the list of no-nos to prevent SIDS. This is only temporary, I kept telling myself. She’s finally napping at least the first half of the day. Just a little while longer– I’m still so tired and so is my baby.
But then it happened.
Little Peanut started turning nursing into an endurance sport. She was actually fighting sleep so she could stay awake to suck after what was already a reeeeally long feeding. My new go-to had failed. The fact that I felt kind of guilty about my go-to in the first place didn’t help. I cracked. I had been doing this out of desperation, and now I was totally screwed.
I’ve been reading bits and pieces of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, employing the no more than two hours of wakefulness rule and watching for drowsy signs to begin soothing, but I still couldn’t get my baby to sleep without nursing her. I didn’t feel like a had a really good grasp on the best method out of the four discussed in the book to use for sleep training my baby. I HATE listening to my baby cry, and really doubted my ability to be consistent with letting her “cry it out” which the book calls “extinction”. Before I got the book, I had read a few articles mentioning this method, and I had made a few attempts at it during the day for naps, and she cried for HOURS. It was awful. I liked the idea of “gradual extinction” better, which starts by soothing your baby to a calm state and then putting her down whether or not she’s already asleep. When she cries, you then let her cry for for 5 minutes and then soothe her, and repeat the process in increasing increments of 5 minutes, until she finally falls asleep. I procrastinated implementing this method, because my baby is colicky, and the book says not to sleep train a colicky baby until four months (which I assume is because that’s when colic typically subsides). When I read this I felt discouraged and wasn’t sure what to do.
Well, after enough super late nights waiting for the golden moment of deep sleep to transfer my baby out of my bed and into hers, and her attempts to fight sleep to keep nursing, I realized I needed to make a change pronto before the habit became totally embedded and cemented. I imagined waiting until four months, and I just couldn’t see it being any easier at that point, colic or no colic.
So today, on a Tuesday, I decided to commit.
It’s now 11:32 pm and my baby finally fell asleep a half hour ago, eleven hours after her last nap. This is an hour later than she usually goes to sleep with side-lying nursing in my bed. She also missed the only late afternoon nap she’s been consistently getting.
But she’s in her bed. Which means that I can go to bed now, fully relaxed, instead of staying up for two hours completely anxiety-ridden thinking about the moment when I move her to her bed.
So…yeah. We’ll see how this goes. Supposedly, according to the book, gradual extinction is supposed to be successful between 4 and 9 days. Not sure I’ll last 9 days, so here’s to hoping success comes sooner.