I think our main job as parent’s is to teach life skills.  We start small (eating, sleeping, kindness/gentle) and gradually move up to bigger things (decision making, money smarts, future planning).  The goal is that when it’s time to send our dear sweet little children into the big scary world, we’ve successfully taught them the necessary life skills needed to join society as useful and productive members.

Now, let me add my little disclaimer!  Regarding what follows, I’m going to write in the absolute; I did A and then B every time.  It would be more honest to say I would strive for A and then strive for B.  But that manner of writing would lead to a very long and ever so slightly confusing entry.  So just know; some days we met our goals and some days we didn’t.  I never once got mad at myself or little baby J for our off days.  We would just start fresh tomorrow and hope for the best!

About the time J was 3 months old I began to think and give serious thought to how I wanted naptimes, bedtimes and middle of the night awakenings to work.  I wanted to teach J to become fully self sufficient when it came to sleeping.  I did not want him to physically rely on us for the security and comfort needed to rest.  I wanted him to know he was safe and be able to self comfort.  After all, I do not plan to sleep beneath his bunk bed in his college dorm room!

After some thinking, I developed a modified cry it out method.  J was young, so I didn’t feel comfortable plunking the kid down and effectively saying “best of luck to ya”.  I didn’t feel that would teach him anything besides “Momma and Papa have abandoned me, OMG!!!”.  Not *quite* the message I’m trying to get across.

Here is my modified cry it out method.  Once I established my pattern I (strived to) followed it religiously. This is 100% my philosophy and not substantiated by any medical research.  It’s just what I came up with from the knowledge I had and what I thought would work for my family.

Bedtime routine.  The main point here is to DEVELOP ONE.  Get a pattern going that will condition the baby to know that sleep time is coming.

Our pattern:

  • Change the baby’s diaper
  • PJ’s on (be it nap or bedtime, those PJ’s went on)
  • Lights off
  • Snuggle and rock for 5 minutes, eye contact but no voice.  If he was quiet, I would look at him, but no talking.  I would just stare and make sweet eyes at him.  (Boy would he try to engage me though!)  If he was crying and hollering, I would turn my head far away.  As soon as he stopped crying, I would look back.
  • After my 5 minutes were up, baby would go into the crib and I would walk calmly out without saying anything

(Aside: Still totally useful today!  If he’s playing and crying for *no reason* (he’s fed, changed, napped…fussing for the sake of hearing his own voice), I’ll either turn my head or walk away from him.  He almost instantly stops!)

Walk your butt over to the microwave and set it for three minutes.  This is very important.  It will allow your mind to be free.  You know crying for three minutes won’t scar your sweet baby and it won’t be a minute more because you have an alert when time is up.  This step is FOR YOU!

Parent Comfort
If baby is still crying (aka: screaming his fool head off) you go back into the room.   If there’s minor fussing or the cries are spacing out, give it a little more time.  Rushing in there just because the timer went off may not be the best response.

KEY (OMG PAY ATTENTION OR EVERYTHING WILL FALL APART…or something similar but not so drastic)
Do not speak to baby at all.  It doesn’t help.  It goes against everything you will be feeling at that moment and it may actually cause you physical pain.  BUT DON’T DO IT.  Your closeness, your warmth, your embrace, that’s what is comforting to your baby.  Your voice is stimulating.  Opposite of what you are trying to achieve.

Additional Key
No eye contact either.  That’s engaging and you don’t want to engage.  You want rest.  Remember, your ARMS are doing the work.

Rock and cuddle baby again.  I did it for two minutes, I put a light up clock in the nursery and I timed myself vigilantly.

Back to the microwave.  Timer goes for 4 minutes.

Parent Comfort
If baby is still crying (aka: screaming his fool head off) when timer goes off, back in for another 2 minute cuddle with no eye contact or voice.

Timer for 5 minutes.

Parent Comfort
If the baby is still crying (aka: screaming his fool head off) cuddle for 2 minutes

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I wouldn’t go much past 5 minutes when J was this age.  It was a “go by feel” process, but the time between parent comforting gradually increased with his age.  Now, at almost a year, if he pulls a “I don’t want to sleep!!” stunt, I have my process to fall back on and we *start* at five minutes.  If J wakes up now (thunderstorm) I rarely have to do two cuddles before he’s back down.  Shoot, the kid barely makes it through 30 seconds before he falls back asleep.  But on that occasion that there’s some serious fussing going on, that pick up and cuddle seems to solidify the “I’m fine” for him and he can rest.

The overall gist I feel baby gets: “Mommy will always be there to comfort you and make you feel secure (the repeated coming in for cuddles) but she’s going to let you try to sort yourself out first.

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