At the same time I was fishing for advice from other women, both experienced and new moms. My grandma urged, "Just let her cry. Eventually she'll go to sleep." Another new mom recommended On Becoming Babywise, by Gary Ezzo, adding that it was the reason her small baby had learned to sleep through the night at 6 weeks.
If there was one cardinal rule of infant sleep among all the experts and moms I consulted, it was this: do not, I repeat, do not nurse (or rock) your baby to sleep!
The problem was that I was already nursing my baby to sleep. I felt right nursing my baby to sleep. I liked nursing my baby to sleep. And I felt wrong letting her cry. In the end, my heart won out over the "experts."
Now, almost six years later, I have nursed-to-sleep and slept-with three babies. Fortunately, I ended my subscriptions to those baby magazines early-on and found my own parenting niche with Mothering Magazine, all things Dr. Sears, and helpful books such as Our Babies, Ourselves, by Meredith Small, and The No-Cry Sleep Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley.
I love this excerpt from Elizabeth Pantley's book:
Your baby . . . has learned to associate sucking (having your nipple or his bottle or pacifier in his mouth) with sleeping. I have heard a number of sleep experts refer to this as a “negative sleep association.” I certainly disagree, and so would my baby! It is probably the most positive, natural, pleasant sleep association a baby can have. The problem with this association is not the association itself, but our busy lives. If you had nothing whatsoever to do besides take care of your baby, this would be a very pleasant way to pass your days and nights until he naturally outgrew the need. After all, this is natural. You may not even see this as a problem, in which case it is not. It's all a matter of your perception and your personal needs. (Click here for more excerpts)I couldn't agree more. It definitely is all a matter of our perceptions and personal needs. And those perceptions and needs can change over time as our children grow older or our circumstances shift.
So I broke the rules. Did it take a long time for my daughters to learn to sleep through the night? You betcha it did! Do I still need to help them fall asleep at night? Yes. (My husband and/or I lie down in my daughters' bedroom almost every night until they fall asleep.) Do I regret my decision to nurse them to sleep and respond to their night-time cries? Absolutely not.
I share this not because I believe my way is the "right" way, but because I want to encourage other parents to "break the rules." Whether it be your grandma's rules, your next-door-neighbor's rules, the baby magazine rules, or your pediatrician's rules... don't let them dictate how you choose to parent your child. When it comes to your baby's needs, YOU are the expert. Follow your heart.
If you're anything like me, it will tell you that there's absolutely nothing wrong with rocking that sweet, precious baby (or toddler, or big kid) in your arms or cuddling them to sleep. In fact, in my view, it's the greatest thing in the world.
P.S. You get used to the sleep-deprivation. :-)