Teething sucks. Or, infancy sucks. Possibly I just suck. All I know is, Eli's sleep habits are beginning to get me down. He's never been what I'd call a good sleeper, but the past week or so, it has been a freaking three ring circus trying to get him in the perfect state of sleep readiness: Addy in bed, house is quiet, he is full, but not TOO full, burped, changed, relaxed, thumb in his mouth, eyes drooping, water cup at the ready in his crib. I rock him and sing to him and gently lower him into his bed and... Bam. As soon as his butt hits the mattress his eyes are wide in outrage, his mouth a perfect O of screaming, his back arched and limbs flailing. From slumber to meltdown in point five seconds. Over and over we repeat this cycle, from an hour to three hours depending on how tired he is. And then he is up one to three times in the night. It is getting Officially Old.
I should mention that we have never been cry-it-out fans. It seems a little cruel- he is a BABY and we are his PARENTS. Comforting him is our job. It's what we signed on for. Usually we operate by a little parenting theory called Whatever Seems To Be Working This Week. We don't attempt to set arbitrary schedules and then mold our kids' sleep patterns around them: if anything, we go the other way, and have tried to set our timetable based on their tendencies. For Addy, this has worked just fine. Eli, however, is a different breed. He would stay up until one in the morning, I think, if permitted, get up three times at night, and then wake up around nine and not nap until five PM or so. It's just not a timetable that works for the rest of the family. So, we are in new territory, and while we have sort of dabbled in enforced bedtimes and limited crying it out (ten minutes at a time, for example) we have never actually let him scream himself to sleep. We always end up either actually rocking him to sleep, or rocking him to an exhausted enough state that you can lay him down and tiptoe away.
But tonight... I just did it. Because I knew he was full, I knew he wasn't thirsty, I knew he'd recently pooped, I knew he was sleepy, I knew it was ten forty-five PM. I also knew he hates going to sleep and that his gums are likely sore, but I knew there wasn't shit I could do about it other than giving him his ba-ba with cold water and the gum massaging nipple, which I did, and rocking him to sleep, which I tried to do several times to no avail. (I could have tried pain meds or Orajel, but I have had no luck with either of those in the past. The Orajel freaks him right out, and analgesics seem to keep my kids up rather than make them sleepy.) So, I had had it. I was ready to be DONE for the day. I was tired, too, and hadn't had any grown up time with just Jim and me yet.
So I kissed him, sat him in his crib, turned on the lullaby CD, and left. He jumped and screamed in his crib for a solid half hour, you guys. It was, to say the least, not relaxing. A seriously crying baby can make a half hour seem like about two hours, and it can make you feel like the worst, most heartless person in the world to deliberately ignore a crying child. Your own crying child. But... I tried to help him fall asleep gently for a LONG time. I swear. I have never let him cry that long. I always assume after about fifteen minutes that he just plain isn't settling down and I go in and cuddle him some more. A few times I've tried laying down with him, but that doesn't seem to work unless it's the middle of the night and he's already BEEN asleep. So I just rock him and walk him and sing to him and pat him and sigh and try to convince him of how sleepy he really is.
Sometimes he is so hysterical he won't calm down until we remove him from his room altogether, back out to the living room to play on the floor for awhile or cuddle with us and watch TV. Often he just doesn't seem sleepy- he'll have seemed sleepy an hour earlier when we first began the process, but I guess all that screaming wakes him up. So he has to tire himself back out with toys before we can start the ni-night routine again. It tries the patience sorely, this up and down, back and forth business, when all you want is to be done for the night, and to kick back with a nice rerun and an Adult Beverage.
So tonight was the night I finally snapped. I did it, and now everyone in the house is quiet and sleeping. But... My baby cried himself to sleep. That hardly feels like a success.