I have been debating whether or not to write about this. I know so many other people who are going still getting up in the nights with their kids or who had to work really hard to night wean and/or sleep train their babies. I hate to sound like I'm bragging about something that can be so hard (and in fact I had assumed it would be very hard for us), so I wasn't going to do a whole post about this.
But I was emailing with someone, and she said that she was amazed that I had once said the Pumpkin sleep trained herself. She said that the internet would have you believe that you always have to do the sleep training because they just can't figure it out on their own. But in our case, that wasn't true. I'm guessing it's not true for everyone, and I thought I ought put it out on the internet so that people would know. Some babies night wean themselves. Some babies sleep train themselves. But none of these things happen early, and they will go through regressions.
Anyway, here goes...
Don't hate me, but the Pumpkin night weaned herself and started sleeping through the night on her own. I wish I could say there was something I did to make it happen, but I really didn't. This was just one thing we lucked out on... I think to make up for the many things that have been so hard with the Pumpkin. Although we did some things to set the stage for this which worked for our particular baby and might not work for others. I really think her sleep training and night weaning herself has more to do with what she was simply capable of and our waiting it out through the early months and the rough periods. (I feel like I should be linking to posts that I've written documenting these things, but it's too late and I'm too tired to try spend time looking them up. Sorry.)
First, there is the baby. From week 3 to 3.5 months, she slept 8 hours at night. Keep in mind, for the first 3 weeks, we had to hold her so she would sleep at all. But then the peditrician suggested the swing, and we'd swaddle her and put her in the swing. That was why she slept through the night. When those batteries would die in the middle of the night, it was a mad dash to get new ones in before she was totally awake and screaming bloody murder. At 2 months, we moved her to the co-sleeper attached to my side of the bed. She was still swaddled and still slept for about 8 hours at one stretch. She did not sleep so well once the 4 month sleep regression hit at 3.5 months and continued into the next, lasting until 7.5 months, a period of utter, living hell.
That whole time, I knew she had it in her to sleep for a long chunk. I knew she didn't need to nurse every time she woke up, so we made up our shifts. Londo would get her if it was prior to 2:00 (although I think we started it at 1:00 in the first months of this and later moved it back to 2:00). I would get her after 2:00. We never did CIO or Ferberize or anything like that. When she woke up, she would go from fussing to crying to screaming. She would not calm down or release tension from crying. It was much easier to just get her right away and rock (for Londo) or nurse (for me) her back to sleep*. In addition, I would bring her into bed with me when I'd get her.
But I really think the shifts and the waiting to nurse her until a certain time were part of what helped set the stage at a later age, especially for the night weaning. Moving her into her crib at 6 months during the sleep regression was actually a good idea for us, too. We figured that as long as she was waking up every 30 minutes to an hour anyway, we might as well let her do it in her own room. I think if we waited to transition her to her own room and her own crib until after the sleep regression, we would have had to deal with an adjustment period that would include more lost sleep. After she moved into her room, the cosleeping I would do after getting her was in the bed in her nursery, which I think also helped, since she stayed in that room so there wasn't some big change, but this could be just in my head.
Mostly, she just started sleeping later. Not always, but here and there. When she was going for longer stretches, Londo agreed to extend his shift until 3, then 4, then 5, because if I went in she would just want to nurse. He could almost always rock her back to sleep. But again, she just started sleeping past his shifts and that was how we extended the times between her nursing. But this wasn't until she was maybe 11 months old.
Once things were going well, we would go through another sleep regression, but usually only a few days to a few weeks. Nothing like before. At first, Londo would mostly go in, but when she was waking up 3 or 4 times a night, I would also go in. She still would always expect me to nurse her, and it was just easier to do so. I worried at first that it would cause a regression to stick and she would continue to want to nurse during the night, but it didn't.
Updated for clarity:
As ImpostorMom noted, we did do some level of sleep training. But I wanted to clarify that we pushed back the time Londo would go in after she already started sleeping that long. For example, after she regularly started sleeping until 3 or later, Londo's shift changed to be that late. I think we helped her continue to sleep late, but we didn't push the times ourselves. If that makes sense.
The other point I forgot to make last night when I wrote this was that I'm mainly trying to show that it's not all one way or another. There are levels in between. We certainly assisted with her ability to sleep through the night. But we weren't worried that if we did this she would always do this or if we didn't start doing that she would never do that. For example, people would say to us that once you brought a baby into bed with you even once, the child wouldn't leave until they were 3 or sometimes older. This was not true for our child. We let her cosleep with the only restriction in that we had her start out in her swing/cosleeper/crib (and this was only because she went to bed earlier than us). We rarely cosleep anymore (even though I sometimes miss it). So my point is that there are many shades of gray in between, and it all depends on your needs and abilities and your baby's needs and abilities. That is why I don't believe there is one right solution for everyone.
Updated part over.
Do you hate me? Do you wish I never posted this? I'm really sorry that not all kids do this. If it helps, things aren't perfect. I still have to nurse her to sleep every night until she is in really deep sleep. There is no putting her down drowsy but awake unless you want a screaming baby who you have to spend another 30 minutes to an hour getting back to sleep. She doesn't nap well or consistently. Every time I think about trying to get her on some sort of napping and eating schedule, she throws it right out the window.
I will take what I can get, though. We are in general finally doing okay with sleep. I do not expect it to last, as it never does. She still is often a very fussy, clingy baby who wants--no make that needs to be held often. Luckily, this is easier to deal with when we are getting good sleep. Speaking of which, I better go to sleep now since I totally jinxed it and she will wake up a ton tonight and have a fussy morning that starts at 5:00. Again. Cause we do at least one of those every week or every other week.
Also, I have some bad memories of being told to go back to sleep by my dad from the other room when I'd cry for my mom as a young child, and I could not bring myself to let my child's cries go uncomforted by Londo or me. I understand now why they did that, but it affected me. I was probably around 4, and I don't think babies as young as the Pumpkin are as affected, but the thought of letting her just cry without our comforting her brought back my memories. What other people do in their houses is up to them. This was just our decision mainly because of my experience as a child.