I went through all the books again, talked about it at length with Thomas and my doctor, and we decided we would try to let him cry for short periods of time and see where it took us. The first night was awful. He shrieked like a banshee and I was pretty sure if it was possible to destroy a mother child bond in a night I had just done it. We checked on him every five to ten minutes and after about an hour he was out. However he woke up again quite often that night and although he did sleep some longer stretches I still wasn’t sure if this was the right path for us. We had decided to give it 5 days so we plowed ahead.
Each day got better and the change happened so fast. We never had another night like the first. We also were able to customize our plan to suit our son. Both my husband and I came up with soothing strategies that only took a minute or two but calmed him right down. We also started doing checks more often, every 3-5 minutes if he sounded angry. We found that by doing this he never really got too angry and often was asleep within fifteen minutes. I still nursed him on demand up until 10pm and then would just soothe him if he had nursed within the past 3 hours.
Now a few weeks later we almost never have any crying whatsoever. We do our bedtime ritual and put him in his bed. He grabs at his blanket looks around and within five minutes he is asleep. He only wakes when he is hungry and would like to eat. Although recently I do think a bit of teething got in the way but that still just led to two extra wakings in which we snuggled him nice and tight for a minute put him back down and then he was out.
He has now managed a 10 hour stretch (although I am perfectly happy with a 3-5 hour stretch- I let him lead the way, if he wakes, he gets fed/comforted, and if not, well then I enjoy the extra winks) and he is so well rested. The best part is how much happier he is. Most mornings I get a cooing little guy from his crib and then get to enjoy a smiley happy baby with energy until he goes down for bed at 6 or 7. I love it. I love how much this has made a difference in all of our lives.
I know that in those first hard days I did not ruin our bond or teach him not to trust me or call out for me. I know he just needed that little push to figure out how to fall back asleep without any help. It was like he had been begging me all that time to just help him get some more sleep and now that he was finally able to, all was right with the world.
I also know that this path isn’t right for everyone or every baby and I do wish that we had never even had to consider it. But I don’t regret or feel ashamed for one minute that we took this route. It was the right one for us and I truly believe that it was one which involved much less tears then if we had continued on as we did.
In my circles here in “the real world” this is something that almost no one talks about and I wanted to share my experience. I hope I haven’t alienated some of the mummies too much who I know took a very different path.