As a mom, I have found that I make some weird rules for myself. For some reason, I find that these rules help govern the decisions I make regarding my daughter. Specifically, I make rules related to sleep.
It’s as though I feel like setting these ultimatums for myself will allow me to feel like I’m doing things right, or something like that. Although I have definitely learned, there is no right.
The first rule I made for myself a few months ago (which is definitely the whaciker of the two) is the Rule of 500. What is it, you ask?
When attempting to get my baby back to sleep, I made myself count to 500 every time, obviously.
This started back before Christmas when my best method at getting my kid back to sleep when she woke up during a nap or during the night was to hold her pacifier in her mouth and pat her bum. For some reason, I made myself believe that if she stayed still and quiet for the time it took me to count to 500 that would mean she was definitely asleep. And if she didn’t? It clearly meant she was finished napping and/or hungry and needed me to pick her up.
Um, what now?
How exactly I ever came up with this logic is beyond me. Granted, I definitely formulated this rule at some disgustingly horrible time of night that no human should ever have to face. But still. I’m not sure why exactly I chose 500 as the number, but it seemed to work. More often than not, by the time I hit 500, she was sleeping peacefully.
If it weren’t for the fact that most of my counting expeditions took place in the middle of the night, when all the lights were off, and the Dude was sleeping, I may have even asked him to take a photo of me in the process, just to show you how pathetic I am sure I looked. I am also almost positive that most times, I probably skipped a number or two (or fifty) while counting, and a few times, I may have even fallen asleep with my messy haired head resting on the edge of her crib. But I always woke up to say “500”.
Eventually, the Rule of 500 got a little old. Because the soother was popping out of her mouth a billion times per night and she was constantly calling me in there to put it back in her mouth. I was counting to 500 a ridiculous amount of times per night. Heck, I did it so often, I could count to 500 in my sleep (wait – I think I did).
A few weeks ago, we started attempting to wean Eva off of her soother**. In short, it was way easier than I expected. So now, the Rule of 500 no longer applies because I am not standing over her crib multiple times a night holding the darn thing in her mouth.
Instead, I’ve now implemented the 10 Minute Rule. One night last week, after having a few insanely terrible nights (I do not like seeing every hour of the night, thankyouverymuch), I was facing some Mommy Insomnia, as my friend Katie calls it. So, when my dear sweet woke up just 2.5 hours after eating, I decided since I wasn’t sleeping anyway, I might as well use some of Jess’ tips and try some impromptu sleep training. To me, at this point in her life, unless there is something unusual going on, Eva should not be eating more often through the night than she does in the daytime. Since she goes 3.5-4 hours between feeds in the day, that is the minimum for at night, too. Of course, there are always exceptions, but I want to try to avoid getting her in the habit of getting the boob every time she wakes up.
So that night when she woke up complaining, I forced myself to wait 10 minutes to go to her. I will tell you one thing for sure – ten minutes seems like an eternity at 2:50 in the morning! After the 10 minutes was up, I went to her room, rubbed her hair, patted her bum and counted to 60 (yea … I guess I am just not ready to lay this counting thing to rest). Then, I left. And climbed back into bed, turned on the light, read a chapter in my book, creeped on facebook, checked my e-mail. Over the next 10 minutes she would go between talking to herself, complaining, and being quiet for a few seconds at a time. When 10 minutes was up, I went back in, rubbed her hair, patted her bum, and shushed her. I repeated this 4 times. And then, silence. She was back to sleep. On her own. Without the soother. Without nursing. Without me picking her up. She then slept the rest of the night, until 8:30 am.
So since that night, we’ve stuck to the 10 minute rule for the most part. That is, I leave her for 10 minutes before going to her in the night. And I am so glad that I made this genius discovery because so many times, like the other night, at about 8 or 9 minutes in, just when I’m gearing myself up to get out of my warm cozy bed, the complaining stops. And she’s silent. So then, I wait 4-5 minutes before allowing myself to drift back to sleep, to be sure that she’s really asleep. And usually, she is.
There have been a few times where I’ve had to go in after 10 minutes, but usually never more than twice since that first night. When I do go in, I turn on the bathroom light for a nightlight and leave her door open as I go in and out. It is a bit creaky so I don’t like to have to open it to check if she’s sleeping in case I disturb her. So, of course, there are times, like the other night, when she’s been silent for 4-5 minutes, and I go to turn off the light and shut her door, only to hear her tossing and turning. At those times, I have been known to drop on my hands and knees and crawl into her room so she will not see me. No joke. I am stealthy.
Like any other “rule” I make for myself, there are exceptions. I know her noises and cries. I know when she’s grumbling and complaining in her sleepiness and I know when she needs me. Like last night for example, she woke around 11:00 and both the Dude and I could tell she wasn’t just doing her normal complaining. She was crying (okay, screeching). Something was wrong. So I went right away. She had spit up all over herself and was clearly uncomfortable. The 10 minute rule applies only if I can tell she’s just complaining. I don’t let her scream herself to sleep.
Since scrapping the Rule of 500 and starting the 10 minute thing, Eva has started sleep much better. Longer stretches at night, more solid/predictable naps, less accidental wake ups, and more successes at getting herself back to sleep on her own. She has gone from nursing 3-4 times and waking up 5-10 times per night, to nursing only once or twice between bedtime at 7:30pm and wake up around 8-8:30am and rarely waking up in between.
I’m sure, like counting to 500, the 10 minute rule will change and adapt as time goes on. And it will be replaced by another “rule” that I set in place for myself. I guess the important thing is that we find what works for us and roll with it. Even if it does mean crawling into her room on my hands and knees or sprawling myself exhausted self over the side of her crib at 3am.
**Just a side note with respect to my references to the pacifier this post and the post from the other day: I do NOT regret giving her a soother. Not even a little bit. It gave me a very very much needed break when she was younger and wanting to nurse constantly. I am not anti-pacifier and I would not have attempted to get rid of it so soon if it hadn’t caused such a disturbance to both of our sleep patterns. That is all.