Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Stop! Weaning time!

Eleri is 14 months old today. We've been going through a bit of a rough patch for a little while now with regard to sleep. For most of her life, she's been really pretty easy to put to sleep and (more awesomely) transfer from Point A to Point B once she had fallen asleep. I'm not counting the first couple of months after birth, when she wanted to party all night long, but once we got over the initial newborn hurdle, it's been pretty smooth sailing. She has certainly always slept way better in the crib than Soren ever did.

But lately, maybe the past 6 or 8 weeks, it's been kind of a different story. She's gotten much harder to transfer, she sleeps less soundly, she wakes up more often, and some days she goes without napping more than 5 or 10 minutes (if that). I have had quite a few very frustrating days, lately, where I'll nurse her down for her nap, she'll sleep on my lap for 4 minutes, and then the moment I try to move her to the crib, she's wide awake again and no amount of holding/patting/nursing/outright begging will get her to go back to sleep. For a while I chalked it up to teething - molars are notoriously brutal, and Soren was certainly no picnic while he was getting his - but they're all in now and things don't seem to be getting much better. She's also spending more nights in our bed (again, transfer issues) which I wouldn't actually mind all that much except for the fact that she's waking up more easily, and more often, and I've fallen into the habit of just nursing her back to sleep each time.

As it turns out, I'm kind of done with nursing. It's not physically painful, like it was when Soren was this age and I was somewhat newly pregnant with Eleri, so the extra incentive to get the weaning done and over with hasn't really been there this time. But Soren was weaned between 14 and 15 months, and this sleep situation is really starting to be a drag, so it's time. I am totally ready for her to be weaned, but at the same time, I'm not ready at all to deal with the weaning process.

Let me be clear. I'm not particularly sentimental about nursing. I'm 100% glad I was able to do it for both kids, and sure, there's some part of me that will miss aspects of it, but I don't really feel the need to hold on to my "babies" for as long as possible. As infuriating as he can be sometimes, Soren is an incredibly fun little dude, and I love watching him continue to grow and mature develop. (Let's not get ahead of ourselves.) I also totally dig that Eleri is starting to talk more; she's becoming more expressive and interactive every day. I am fully ready to embrace the next phase. And she's actually more or less completely daytime-weaned; we're basically just down to naptime/bedtime/occasional last resort when she's upset and nothing else is working. More often than not, it's about getting her to go to sleep or stay asleep.

Is it a crutch? You bet. It's just that the boob can be such a convenient soothing mechanism. (There's a joke or a t-shirt idea in there somewhere.) Get the kid back to sleep in the middle of the night in under 5 minutes with minimal crying? Yes, please! Half the time I'm almost back to sleep before she is.

Which is fine if she's only waking up once a night, like she used to. Now that the convenience factor is going away, the benefits have begun to be outweighed by the annoyances. But the alternative? Several minutes of sustained yelling several times a night, with the added danger of waking up Soren and then having to deal with two sad and wakeful children? Significantly less appealing.

I've never been a fan of sleep training/cry-it-out/whatever you want to call it. Mostly because it was completely counterproductive with Soren. Eleri, at least, doesn't seem to work herself up into more and more of a fit when left by herself for short periods of time. She's actually probably a pretty good candidate for that method, but I'm still not comfortable with it. And Soren did eventually learn to fall asleep on his own, so I don't think we've done him a huge disservice or anything by not "sleep training" him from early on. Likewise, I don't feel like it's necessary to try it with Eleri. The problem, ultimately, is going to be the fact that she's going to protest mightily, even while being held and cuddled, if her preferred method of pacification is not offered to her. And yes, she'll get over it eventually, and she'll learn to be soothed back to sleep without nursing, but ugh. The interim is going to be kind of a bitch.

We'll get through it, though.

(And then we can start working on getting her to sleep in Soren's room, which will be a whole different challenge, but ultimately very rewarding!)

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