We started sleep training Bean this week, and so far things are going well. It has not gone quite as smoothly as the early progression seems like it would, but it seems to have worked well at overcoming the four month sleep regression. She went from sleeping two hours max at a time to now mostly waking up only twice a night for feeding, with maybe one additional wake-up that we give her a chance to self-soothe.
But even if it had been more of a struggle, there’s one major benefit that has shown itself almost immediately. Bedtime is now a defined and limited time.
When you are putting a baby fully to sleep before putting them down for the night (if you can), bedtime is an undefined and potentially unlimited amount of time. Hit the wrong side of the “just tired enough” window and you could be in the room or back and forth for hours to get even a decent sleeper down for the night. Now though we have a set bedtime and routine that starts at 6:15 and goes like this:
- Turn on white noise machine
- Check/change diaper
- Change into pajamas
- Get into swaddle sleep sack with arms out
- Bedtime bottle
- Book (currently “Goodnight Moon”)
- Song (currently “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”)
- In crib, lights out, say goodnight, leave
The only real variable in time here is how long it takes Bean to finish her bottle. Otherwise everything takes basically the same amount of time each night and everything moves along rather smoothly so far.
What this means is that when it’s time for bed, it’s no longer a question of whether I or my wife will get a chance to shower, a chance to unwind, or a chance to spend time together. That makes bedtime much less stressful because there’s no longer a chance that one of us will be stuck in there for hours trying to get her to fall asleep enough to set down or heading back in the room for another 30 minute session of rocking and/or nursing to get her to fall back asleep again. Sure, one of us might be in there every 10 minutes, but it’s only for a minute or two to calm and reassure her, and then it’s another 10 minutes minimum before we open the door again.
Maybe I would look at bedtime differently if my half-hour maximum routine was followed by hours of crying. But even if it was (maybe especially if it was), I think you can look on the bright side of even those struggles and realize that after a few months of needing to block out the whole night once it’s time to put the baby to bed, you can get a little bit of your life back, even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time and has the soundtrack of crying.