It is important to note that Todd and I agree we have gotten progressively dumber with each child we've had. When we brought Joey home from the hospital we had no clue what we were doing and yet it seems we had more common sense with him than we did with any of our other children. Perhaps each child has sucked a bit of sense out of us leaving us nearly empty. Or maybe we are just sleep deprived and exhausted in general. I do not know.
Here is what I do know:
The first night we brought Joey home from the hospital and it was time to go to bed, I changed Joey, fed him, burped him, and laid him down in his crib. Of course he woke up the minute I laid him down but I went back downstairs and let him get himself back to sleep. I sat there and cried right along with him as I listened to his wails on the monitor. Todd and I reassured each other that he was been fed, he was dry, he was not cold or lonely, he just needed to sleep. And sure enough he got himself to sleep fairly quickly. Of course I still went to him every two or three hours when he woke up and needed to be fed. That was the pattern, and by 3 months old he was sleeping through the night. Probably because he had learned how to sooth himself.
The first night we brought Tommy home from the hospital and it was time to go to bed, I changed him, fed him, burped him, and laid him down in his crib. Of course the minute I laid him in his crib he woke up and I promptly picked him up and started the whole process all over again. After all, I had a sleeping toddler in the next room and I certainly did not want my new baby to wake my sleeping Joey. Tommy never slept through the night. And he didn't nap either. When he was almost 5 months old he was getting up every 45 minutes to an hour at night and we were all exhausted. He was not hungry and wouldn't nurse. He didn't even really want to be held. When I would pick him up out of his crib he would arch his back and cry and cry. It was clear that the little boy just wanted to sleep, but he didn't know how.
In my desperation I bought a book called Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child. In the book the author, Dr. Marc Weissbluth, lists signs of an overtired baby like the arching of the back when being held and frequent wakings without wanting to be fed. Dr. Weissbluth then outlines three different methods of sleep training to help the overtired baby (and parents). The quickest method was the "let cry" method. Of course I was loathe to think of letting my poor little man cry up in his crib (and keep Joey awake too) but I was so exhausted I couldn't think of a better plan.
The night we began we warned Joey ahead of time that baby might cry for a while and that he was okay, he was just learning how to get himself to sleep. It was awful. Tommy is nothing if not persistent, and the little fart cried for about 3 hours. Then he slept for 2 hours, cried another half hour, slept for 4 hours, cried for 20 minutes, and then slept the rest of the night. The next night he cried for an hour and slept the whole night. The third night he cried for five minutes and slept the entire night. It was bliss. And ever since then (save for illnesses) the kid slept through the night.
Still, when Ben came along we seemed to make the same mistakes with him that we did with Tommy. I never let him cry it out for fear of waking the older kids. And because he wasn't a chunky baby as his brothers were I told myself he was waking often because he was hungry. When he began waking every hour and not wanting to eat I knew that wasn't the reason. So again, around five months I repeated the same "let cry" process. Ben was not as persistent as Tommy and there was far less crying. Thank the good Lord.
Now Grace. Well, she is just about the most mild mannered baby there is. She has been a good sleeper since she was born. I never had to let her cry it out because every time I would put her back to bed she would remain asleep. By two months old she was sleeping through the night. Then Christmas came and because of all the festivities, travel, parties, and activity her sleep schedule was all messed up. She got out of whack. When I would put her down in her crib at night she would immediately wake up and cry so I would promptly pick her up and sooth her again. Sometimes it took me two hours to get her to sleep. Put her down. Pick her up. Put her down. Pick her up. For two hours. Then she began getting up two or three times a night. My fabulous sleeper was having troubles. I figured she forgot how to sooth herself.
So, I decided that I would nurse her to sleep at night as I usually did, but if she would wake up when I laid her down then she would have to get herself back to sleep. The first night she cried for 40 minutes. And then on and off for an hour, but after that she slept the whole night. The next night she cried for 20 minutes and then slept the whole night. The third night she barely cried and slept the whole night. She has been doing so well ever since and her naps have become so much easier too. It is wonderful.
Now I know that the "let cry" method is not for everyone. It is heartbreaking to listen to your child cry. But it really is the fasted method to use. And after seeing how happy my babies were after finally getting a full nights sleep I knew it was the right decision. If you don't want to do that then Dr. Weissbluth outlines other methods for you to try. The book also outlines how much sleep a child should be getting at various ages and how to implement healthy sleep habits. It is definitely a great book to have on hand.
Before starting the training I always made sure my babies were ready for it. Meaning, they were at the higher end of the growth chart and had plenty of weight on them. That way I knew they wouldn't be hungry in the middle of the night. I also made sure they did not have colds or ear infections, because then all bets are off. On those nights my babies always slept on me and I just planned on getting very little sleep. Sometimes we had to do a bit of sleep training again when their colds were gone, or after holidays and travel, but it was usually very minimal.
So there you have it. I told you I don't know very much on the subject but I have realized that sometimes you need to teach your child how to sleep. As painful as it feels to let your child cry it is far less painful then having a sleep deprived baby.
(And no, I did not receive any compensation for my review of Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child. I just really loved the book and thought it might help another tired mom and dad. It is not just a "cry it out" book. Dr. Weissbluth teaches you to watch your child's sleep signals and gives you tons of helpful ideas on training your baby to sleep. Of course I did not agree with everything that was written but I just skipped over those parts and read the chapters that I needed. It was a huge help.)