I'm pretty lucky in that I have a baby who sleeps. He's always been a good sleeper, ever since we came home from hospital; never waking more than once or twice and sleeping right through until morning from about twelve weeks. However, we have had one stumbling block that we just haven't been able to overcome: bedtime.
Bedtime in the Meaney household has been traumatic ever since Blake stopped falling asleep at the breast and going to bed only when I went. Soon he wanted to sleep from around seven o'clock, but was too big to snooze in my arms while I waited for my own bedtime to roll around. Sadly for all of us, Blake is not a fan of being put in a room and having his parents walk out of it, no matter how tired he is. Before long, bedtime had become a tear and stress fuelled dance of rock-sleep-cot-wake, in which I would be backwards and forwards to his room for up to two hours before he finally gave in; both of us exhausted and upset. Cuddles would soothe him, the transfer back into his cot would wake him and we'd start all over again. When I did manage the transfer without him waking, he would inevitably rouse himself in the middle of the night, suddenly aware that he was alone, and howling would commence. More than once I have ended up sleeping on the spare bed in his room, cuddling an overtired and emotional baby to me, feeling pretty overtired and emotional myself.
Something had to change.
It was after a particularly frustrating evening in which I didn't even have time to feed myself between comforting baby, that a friend suggested I tried Jo Frost's Controlled Timed Crying method. I was unsure; crying it out is a fairly controversial technique these days, with many preferring a much more natural and intuitive approach. However, I know at least one child who was allowed to cry it out as a baby, and who has never once had an issue with bedtimes (she's now nearly three). But I was at wit's end and decided that I had to at least try it, my intuition was getting us bloody nowhere.
Last night we took the plunge. As recommended by Jo, I let Blake cry, comforting him (briefly without picking him up) at increasing intervals until he fell asleep. He cried, I expected that, and then he got angry, I also expected that, but to my surprise he was fast asleep within half an hour. He woke around an hour later, at which point I comforted him in the same brief way as before and walked away; he was asleep within minutes.
I awoke this morning at 6:40, hearing a happy little boy chattering to himself over the baby monitor; a pleasant change from the desperately unhappy wail that usually wakes me at 5am. I went into the nursery and was greeted by an enormous smile and the happiest morning we've had together in weeks.
But was it just a fluke?
Tonight was day two of using controlled crying. I put Blake to bed at around 7pm. I gave him a kiss and told him it was time to sleep and, having done so for the past three months or so, I offered him his dummy. He refused it. I was stunned; Blake never takes a dummy during the day but it is nigh on impossible to settle him at night without one, yet here he was happily indicating that he didn't want it. I turned on the monitor and went downstairs, waiting for the inevitable to begin. After about ten minutes I turned to Mr Meaney, "I think he's asleep...".
We crept upstairs and peered through a crack in the nursery door. He was indeed asleep, and neither of us had shed a single tear!
He has just woken up and I'm currently on the four minute interval, desperately straining to hear our movie over the wailing through the monitor, but he's already starting to lose momentum. I expect him to be asleep before I make it upstairs to comfort him again.
Crying it out (or controlled crying, as in our case) is difficult at first, but it works. Crucially, my son didn't hate me this morning. He was rested and happy, whereas he's usually tired and grumpy and one hundred per cent holding me responsible for the whole sorry mess. It's tough, but it's bloody worth it.
Jo Frost claims that the crying will stop altogether within seven days, with baby effectively (and happily) soothing themselves to sleep before the week is out. I'd be amazed if it takes us more than a few days, and I'd emphatically recommend this method to anyone.
Oh, as I wrap this up, the monitor is silent. Baby boy is sound asleep...