I know this is a touchy subject for a lot of people. I’m just going to share my own personal experiences here and you can decide what you will from that. =)
I have 4 children, as you know from reading my previous posts. My older girls are 10 and 8, my younger 2 are 15 months and 3 months. My husband and I did things much differently with our older 2 than the younger 2. We were pretty young when they were born (both 20 when the oldest was born). We did a lot of things “by the book”, and a lot we just copied from our parents’ parenting styles.
Our oldest, Elizabeth, always had trouble sleeping. She liked to be swaddled TIGHTLY. We called her “baby burrito”! She had trouble falling asleep every night. Definitely what you would call a colicky baby. I developed what I called the “bounce walk”. I would put her in the carrier and bounce walk her for sometimes an hour or more to get her to sleep. She slept in a crib in the room with me for about 2 1/2 months. At about 3 months old, my husband took over bedtime anytime he wasn’t working. My nerves were shot. So much crying! I honestly don’t know how he got her to sleep those nights. I had to go for a walk while he did the nighttime routine because hearing her cry was so hard on me! The colic eased by about 4-5 months. But by that point, we were still waking every couple hours during the night with her and she would have a bottle every time to go back to sleep. By about 10 months old, I was asked by her doctor about her sleeping and eating habits. She was a little on the chunky side from drinking so much formula. He suggested I try a gentle method of “sleep training”. Instead of going in as soon as she cried, I started waiting just a couple minutes. Then I’d go in and do our same routine. Each week, I waited an extra minute. After several weeks, she would put herself back to sleep most times. But she didn’t start going to sleep initially without a fight until about 2 years old. We switched her to a toddler bed at 18 months. She would get up over and over, crying and crying. Because we chose to spank her for other incidences of “disobedience”, we chose to spank her for that, too. Bedtime was something I dreaded every night. =( She started having night terrors shortly after we switched her to the toddler bed. She also had horrible tantrums pretty much every day from about 18 mo until 2 1/2. Looking back, I believe that all these things were interrelated. I regret the “sleep training”, and I definitely regret the spanking. But moving on…
Our 2nd daughter, Meghan, was always a great sleeper. She slept 8 hours the 2nd night after birth! I kept waking and checking her breathing! She slept in a bassinet right by my side of the bed until she was almost 6 mo old. I also got to spend every day pretty much alone with her when she was about 1-3 weeks old. My mom and MIL took care of my oldest those 2 weeks and my husband was at work. I would just lay on the couch with Meghan on my chest. She would sleep, wake up and nurse, get changed, then go right back on my chest until she fell asleep again. Then repeat all day. Eventually, she would just fall asleep on her own when left in the bouncer or swing. I also carried her in a baby carrier a lot to be able to keep up with Elizabeth. Once she was in her crib in her own room, I could just nurse her and put her in bed and she would fall right asleep on her own. However, at 14 mo, she climbed out of her crib, so I decided to put her in a toddler bed. She did NOT want to stay in bed. It took a few weeks of basically trying everything. We tried spanking…didn’t work. We tried just walking her back to bed saying “it’s time to go to sleep”… didn’t work. Eventuality, I just stood at her door and held it shut until she gave up trying and passed out on the floor or bed. I didn’t know what to do! I didn’t know anything about attachment parenting. I had been told and had read that babies could be spoiled by “too much” holding, rocking, etc. Looking back, I hate myself for doing that to my baby. =( Especially now, since she still has trouble falling asleep and doesn’t want to sleep alone. I feel like my decisions ruined her good sleep that had begun because of my early attachment parenting style.
By the time Natalie, our 3rd daughter, was born, my husband and I had read a lot about parenting. We had talked about different styles and methods. We had decided that spanking wasn’t a good thing. We had adopted a very attachment-styled method. Natalie started exhibiting signs of colic at about 1 week old. She slept in a bassinet right by my side of the bed, but she would cry for hours before falling asleep and woke up sometimes every 30 minutes, all night long! I let her sleep in my arms a few times, out of exhaustion. That seemed to help a little, but I was afraid of bed sharing. I started to lose my milk when she was about 3 mo old and I got pregnant again. I started using bottles at night, but still fed her on demand. I was so exhausted from being pregnant and waking so often that I started feeling the effects of sleep deprivation. I experienced micro-sleeps, where I would fall asleep for sometimes just a few seconds at a time. My blood pressure went up. I was extremely irritable. It was awful! Finally, at about 8 mo old, we switched Natalie to a crib, because she was a few pounds over the bassinet weight limit. I had hoped it would be better for her, but it was much worse! After a few even more sleepless nights, I made a decision. I took the side off her crib and pushed it up against my side of the bed! She loved this arrangement! Some nights, she would just scoot over and touch me in her sleep. I could reach over, half-asleep, and give her the pacifier, or just put my hand on her back when she fussed. She still woke often, but at least I didn’t have to get up every time. That was a huge improvement! The week before our 4th baby was born, a little over a week before Natalie’s 1st birthday, she slept all the way through the night for the first time. I think she knew somehow that she was about to be a big sister. =) It didn’t happen again, though. My plan had been to put a crib mattress on the floor next to my side of the bed, then put Robert in the crib. Right away, I realized that Robert didn’t want to sleep in the crib. Since Natalie was still waking at least a couple times a night, getting up with him every hour or so plus her, too, was just too hard on my body. So I ended up bringing him to bed with me after the first time he woke every night. I got a bassinet for him and put Natalie in the crib. She continued to sleep better and better. But I rocked her to sleep every night. After Robert was born, I was rocking both of them at the same time most nights. That was quite difficult, too say the least. But I had tried letting Natalie cry a few times and it just made her cry more, and I felt awful for it. I decided that the difficulty of rocking her to sleep was worth it. It was what she needed.
Recently, it started taking longer and longer to rock her to sleep. She fought sleep more and more, even though I knew she was very tired. I knew a change needed to be made, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I wondered if maybe she was ready to lay down on her own. The chaos and lights seemed to bother her. Out of frustration one night, after a couple hours of unsuccessful rocking, I decided to give it a try. I took her upstairs, put her in her crib, gave her a bottle, blankie, and clipped on her pacifier, and told her it was time to go night night. I turned off the light and went out, expecting to at least hear her fuss. But she fell asleep without so much a peep! That was 4 nights ago. The 2nd night, I did the same thing and she cried off and on for about 5 minutes. The 3rd night, no crying. Tonight, about a minute of fussing. Not only that, but she’s consistently slept through the night also! I’m so thankful that I decided to take a gentler approach to sleep with Natalie. Now I can see how attachment parenting pays off. Creating a secure bond between mother and baby, giving baby just what they need, and allowing baby to develop at their own pace; it all really does pay off!
I’ve taken things a step further with Robert. He sleeps with me all night, or at least most of the night, every single night. I think we both sleep better this way. And I hope that he will feel even more secure than Natalie did. Hopefully, he won’t ever go through a phase of waking every 30 minutes. That’s not healthy for mom OR baby. But even if he did, I would get more rest simply for the fact that we would be cuddling in the same bed instead of fighting him to go back to sleep in his own bed.
My conclusion is that attachment parenting definitely works when it comes to babies and sleep. I’m not including links in this post, because I feel that this is purely a matter of opinion. I truly believe I did the best I could with my older kids. Hindsight is always 20/20. We can always look back and think of ways we could have done things differently, and possibly better. I’m glad I can look back and see what I think were mistakes and decide to try things differently now. And I hope that my own experiences will help others to at least think about and research various options. Maybe even try a few different ways of doing things instead of just sticking with what you read in a book or were told by a family member or friend. Research is good, knowledge is power. And being capable of admitting you might have done something wrong in the past and deciding to do it differently now is a sign of great maturity.