I took her to the doctor, who ruled out teething, an ear infection, or any other obvious cause of her frequent nightwaking. The doctor confirmed what I feared – she had grown so dependent on nursing to sleep that she couldn’t get back to sleep on her own.
I’d been working really hard over the past two months to get her to go down sleepy but awake. It seemed like we had made some progress, but when she failed to fall asleep after a few minutes of crying I usually went in and nursed her again until she fell asleep. That was only reinforcing the problem.
The doctor said at this age she should be sleeping at least a 4-6 hour stretch and if we can’t get her to sleep without nursing, it might be time to let her cry. The doctor recommended not going in at all during those initial 4 hours because it would just make her mad that we’re not feeding her.
No one wants to just let their baby cry…but…she’s now waking every two hours and since I have the “magic boobies,” I’m the only one who can get her back to sleep, leading to one dysfunctional, zombified mama. Before this hit, I felt like I was getting just enough sleep to function – when I’m not sleeping more than 1.5 hours in a row, feeding myself and keeping my baby alive seem like two pretty monumental accomplishments.
So…we gave it a try. I moved her bedtime up a little earlier (to 7:00) since she seemed sleepy, did our usual bedtime routine but with nursing at the beginning, put in her crib, and left the room. She cried…for seven minutes! Then she fell asleep, slept for 5 hours, ate, and slept for 4 more. It wasn’t her best performance, but it was a HUGE improvement over the previous nights.
The second night was also seven minutes. We’ll see what tonight brings. She might just need a few minutes of crying to wind down. I have heard that there is often an “extinction burst” a few nights after starting sleep training.