in project: tough love, there are no winners

A little over a month ago, Brooklynn woke up unexpectedly during the middle of the night. She had been sleeping for around 9 hours each and every night since about 2 months of age. Pretty much every nurse, doctor, and anyone who has ever had children said that was amazing and we should consider ourselves blessed. And we took it for granted. Rhiannon went back to work, Brooklynn slept through the night, and we were a fully functional family unit.

So, when she woke up, she was a little over 4 months in age and we chalked it up to a growth spurt. We fed her a bottle, she took it down ravenously, and promptly passed out. She did this for about three nights.

Then, the middle of the night eating became more leisurely and the sleeping came more and more slowly each night. This was followed by two rounds of sickness, stuffy noses, coughing, and poor sleeping. We continued feeding her during the night when she woke up, but both Rhiannon and I knew at this point, we were enablers helping a strong habit forming behavior. Still, it's hard to ignore a sick baby, and if feeding helped her back to sleep, then feed we would.

It all led up to the point that we found ourselves bouncing her to sleep in our arms each night, rocking her to sleep in her car seat for daytime naps, and still getting up in the middle of the night.

It had to end.

Enter, Project: Tough Love.

We didn't go to Nebraska on Tuesday due to weather, so Rhiannon spent the day looking at strategies for getting a baby to sleep through night. We decided to stop feeding her in the wee hours, and we swore we would not pick her up and bounce her back to sleep. We figured if she normally woke up once at 3:50 am, we could handle a little crying if it payed off in the long run.

She went to sleep at 10pm. We went to sleep at 11:15. She was crying at midnight. What a wonderful start. Somehow, she knew what was coming.

I calmed her in her crib with the soothing hand on chest trick and some quiet words, and then I left the room. She cried for 4 minutes and fell asleep. No eating. No bouncing. No problems.

Project: Tough Love is awesome.

She woke up again at 2:50. And she cried, so we let her alone for a few minutes to see what would happen. She cried more. I went to the old standby of earlier in the night: a soothing hand and quiet words. She cried harder.

We left the room again.

We went back in and soothed. She was almost asleep, so we left again. She cried even harder.

At some point over an hour later, I was tired enough that I fell asleep while she was still crying. I hoped that it would be good in the long run, but listening to your child choke on her own tears while you lay wide awake at 4am is not anyone's idea of a good time.

After roughly 90 minutes, I picked her up. I bounced briefly. I used a pacifier and rocked her body in her crib. A blanket wrapped around the arms and lullaby later, she was passed out, probably more from her own exhaustion than anything I really did to help.

She woke up at 6:30 in the morning. Rhiannon fed her and she went back to sleep.  Night one of Project: Tough Love down.

That night in the trenches was far worse than I expected. I was ready for a half-hour of crying. I was ready to be awake. I was not ready to be awake three times for that length of time. Rhiannon and I were frustrated and snappy and not having a good time

I didn't feel like it helped us or helped her. But we vowed to continue on. Naps in the crib with no bouncing. We let her fall asleep on her own.

Last night, she slept.

All. Night. Long.

And it was wonderful. Rhiannon found a small pink hippo that has a music box in it and that seems to provide the perfect amount of sound to go to sleep by. Tonight, she put herself down without much fuss. One night does not a pattern make, but we have our fingers crossed.

As much as I was not ready to be up for over two hours that first night, I was certainly ready to be up for more than just the first night only. Having said this, I am reasonably certain that I will be up again tonight; this seems to be karma's M.O.

In Project: Tough Love, there is not a winner and loser. We're just one big team, one big happy (or not) family. We win or lose together.

Or one of us sleeps on the couch in the basement as far away from the crying child as possible. Yep, that person is the real winner here. I'll let you know if that's me.