Remember my obsession with Ingrid’s sleep, and how powerless I felt about her bad sleep? Other babies seemed to go to sleep on their own (and without crying, would you believe it!) and sleep through the night, while Ingrid would only go to sleep in a sling (crying even there) and wake up every few hours at night. Even small achievements such as me being able to soothe her back to sleep were post-worthy news.
Somehow, very gradually, things changed. The latest and greatest development is that she can now go to sleep all on her own. Magical! We go into a dark room and nurse. When she’s done I lay her in the big bed surrounded by pillows, wait a short while to see that she really was done and is content, and then I leave. Most of the time she lies there quietly for a while, sucking her thumb, and soon drifts off to sleep. Some days she can jerk half-awake after a while, which seems to make her a bit confused and worried. She complains a bit, I go in and pat her on the back, she lies back down again and goes straight to sleep. But most days I don’t need to go back in at all.
It took me a while to figure out that she was able to do this, because for weeks (or maybe months, I haven’t been counting) we’d get a lot of that slightly anxious jerking awake and sitting up, and I needed to lay her down repeatedly. Then I found myself sitting in the dark bedroom, more and more bored, until one day I realised that I probably didn’t need to. Even then it took several days before I was able to really believe this. It feels like such a turnaround compared to the early months.
Once again I am glad that I let her learn this at her own pace without forcing the issue. I know several of you said it would work out like this in the end, but at the time it seemed quite impossible. You were right after all!
Regular night-time waking, however, seems to be here to stay. Ingrid wakes roughly every 3 hours and will not go back to sleep without a good-sized meal of breast milk. It’s not a matter of needing comfort and company – we still co-sleep and I’m as close as she could possibly want me. The “feed me” wakings are very obviously different from the times when she wakes up and just needs a pat on her back. Sometimes she accepts a drink of water first (and is then clearly quite thirsty) but she always wants to follow up with milk. A combination of thirst, hunger, and habit, I think.
I’ve been thinking off and on about night weaning her. On the one hand I’d love to not be woken at night. On the other hand I’m actually quite used to it, and despite my broken nights I am not nearly as tired as I was when she was younger – I’m not even joining her for naps because I don’t feel I need them. I’m only really bothered by her night feeds when our sleep cycles don’t mesh at all for some reason, and she happens to wake me just as I’m in my deepest sleep. In fact I’m more bothered by her early morning waking (she’s back to around 6:30 which is far too early for my taste) than the night feeds.
And there is no doubt that breastfeeding is still important to her, during the day as well as the night, emotionally as well as nutritionally. My few attempts to get her to settle without feeding have been total failures. Sometimes she just gets more and more upset until I give in because I don’t want to see her in such distress. Other times she does her best to try and go back to sleep, but only manages a very light doze, while she whimpers and keeps looking for the breast. So night weaning would probably take quite an effort. Eric and I had been thinking that Christmas would be a good time for night weaning, because we’ll both be home for a few weeks. But now I am again leaning towards just letting her continue until she seems more ready to stop.