2. I need to figure out when it's a healthy boundary to let her cry and when it's cruel.
Well, thanks to all the advice on the blog and on Facebook, I got Eleanor to take longer naps. We still do the 30-40 minute morning nap in the Ergo, which I like, and now she takes a nice two hour afternoon nap in her crib. I started by nursing her to sleep on the bed when Abigail was away at preschool. Once Eleanor fell totally asleep, she didn't notice my departure. When she became too mobile to leave on the bed, I would nurse her to sleep then transfer her to the crib. We've been doing it for five weeks now and it's super easy. Sometimes she wants to be nursed down, sometimes walked down, but within 5 minutes, Eleanor is sound asleep in her crib. Drastic improvements in her personality and my patience level were seen almost instantly. There was much rejoicing.
And my opinion on the cry-it-out method has changed. I used to think the cry-it-out method damaged the mother-baby relationship and caused baby to loose trust in the value of his cry and in his caregivers, but I found out that some really awesome moms with spectacular relationships with their kids use the cry-it-out method, so real-life evidence has demolished my theory. I'm only on kid #2 and I'm already running out of parenting topics on which to judge others.
But even though I no longer think it's cruel, I don't like the cry it out method for Eleanor. I gave it a try, but it rarely seemed to work. She just got louder and more angry. I always feel lousy after the ordeal is over and she is finally sleeping (usually because Matt or I rock her to sleep), and the crying stresses me and Abigail out (sometimes even leading Abigail to cry). Where I am right now, I think it's a healthy boundary to let Eleanor cry when I need to take care of Abigail or when I need a few-minute break. But since we've solidified our routine, daytime naps and initial nighttime put downs are so quick and easy that tears are not needed.*
Now onto the sketchy world of Nightime Sleep.
Both girls go down at the same time, around 6:30pm, and when we stick to our bedtime routine, the put downs are so flawless that we've even transitioned Abigail to a toddler bed. (Really, a crib with one side off. Currently debating how we want to do the big girl bed thing.) Eleanor goes down in her own crib in our room. The evenings are then ours, all ours. When Matt and I go to bed at 10-10:30, she wakes up and I move her into our bed.
As she gets older, she gets bigger (bed hog) and more sensitive to my movement. Especially between the hours of 3am and 6am, I'm hardly getting any sleep. Over the holidays, I not only reached critical mass, I flew past it and exploded. I was so tired during the day that everything set me off. I did a lot of yelling. And swearing. It was ugly. Every single day, I had a meltdown and freaked out to Matt, "I feel so bad, all I do is yell, I hate this, I hate being this way, I'm so tired, everything is pissing me off, something has to change, I don't know what to do!" We spent lots of time brainstorming, "At night, we'll put the crib in the living room and the pack n' play in our room, then we'll put her down in our room and when we go to bed we'll move her to the living room. In the morning, we'll switch the crib back to our room so she can nap in it." Nothing seemed like a good fit, so we never moved forward.
Finally, three nights ago, I woke up with the worst kink in my neck I've ever had. Sleeping in such a way that Eleanor could nurse non-stop all night long lead to a fan of pain up into the head and a streak of pain down into the shoulder. For three days now, I've been fighting off migraines with uber doses of Tylenol. When we all got the flu in December, I found nursing Eleanor all night intolerable, so around every night around midnight, I'd give up and sleep on the couch, leaving her in my spot in the bed. And, as one person mentioned in the Oh, Sleep blogpost, we found that she slept much more soundly without the smell of mommy and milk by her side. So two nights ago, I decided to start small. We moved her crib across the room, I nurse her in a rocking chair when she wakes up, and then I put her back in her crib. I didn't expect it to work, but I figured, I'm not sleeping in bed, so what's the difference if I'm not sleeping in a rocking chair?
Both nights, I nursed Eleanor when we went to bed and put her down in the crib without a peep. Both nights she woke up around 2am, nursed to sleep, but strongly protested going back into the crib. It took me about an hour both nights to finally nail the put down. Both nights she woke back up around 5:30-6am and I brought her back into our bed. The first morning, I was so dang tired during the day, it was actually worse than when we co-slept, even though my sleep in-between nursing was so much deeper. The second morning (today), I am feeling incredibly refreshed - I feel like me again.
Last night's success has me cautiously optimistic, but I'm reserving any finally decisions until we give this method a full week's worth of attempts.
If my children understood how much they'll kill for sleep when they're adults, they'd stop fighting it so hard now.
*Please note, I do find a difference between crying and whining. Eleanor does sometimes whine to sleep. When it happens, it's usually because I missed her tired cues for her afternoon nap. She hits that "over-tired, I-hate-life" stage and fights sleep when I hold or nurse her. So I plop in her the crib and she whines for a few minutes and then conks out. I don't think this is mean or cruel on any level.