It is 5:47AM. I am awake because you are learning how to self soothe. “Learning how to self soothe” usually means a caregiver is camped outside the closed door of baby’s room during “Cry it Out”. Since we’re following a baby-led schedule and using “Wait it Out” instead of CIO, things look a little different.
You sleep beside me and wake quietly, moving your head from side to side with your mouth open and your back arched. I stir awake and pull you close and you latch on for a night feed. You nurse briefly and roll away onto your side with your back facing me. You lay perfectly still and quiet. Then your legs start to kick and you say “Uhh uhh” and fuss. You roll back towards me and I rub your belly. You lay perfectly still and quiet and your breathing slows. Ten minutes later you kick your legs and fuss and dig your feet into the mattress and move around, your hands grabbing onto my arm. You settle and lay still and quiet. Your breathing slows.
When you learn to crawl you first learned to sit. Then you rocked forwards onto your hands and knees and you rocked back and forth back and forth and you built your muscles strong enough to propel you forwards.
Now you wake up again and flail around a bit. I offer to nurse you and you push me away, just as you used to get so upset if I picked you up when you worked on crawling. You accept certain comforts these days. Comforts that help your breathing slow and that help your body relax. But you are no longer interested in being totally dependent on me for sleep.
In the end you needed some extra help. I picked you up and climbed out of bed and bounced with you. You kicked your legs a few times and settled your heavy little head against my collarbone and melted into my arms fast asleep.
This is what learning how to self soothe looks like. You want to sleep at night. You want to be able to resettle yourself. You are pushing away from the need to nurse. You are trying to soothe yourself. You cannot do it perfectly just yet, as you are a baby still. But you have internalized the comforts that I offer you, and you have that peaceful quiet place inside that you are trying to reach for all on your own.
You are learning.
As with anything new that you learn, you try.. you don’t succeed.. you try again.. you become frustrated.. you seek comfort. With WIO we wait until you try. And then when you don’t succeed and you seek comfort, we offer you comfort. With CIO we would decide when you were “ready” and we would leave you to learn on your own in ways that we don’t leave you to learn anything else.
Already you are deciding that you do not need to nurse so much. Already you are deciding that you do not wish to sleep belly to belly on top of me. Already you are rolling into your own space. Already you are trying to find that position that you want to sleep in. Already you are trying to settle yourself. By your own choice. On your own schedule. Without pressure. And without me dictating what you should or should not “need” right now at ten and a half months.
And me? Our sleep cycles have been so in sync lately that when you woke me up I was ready to get up for the day. So now I’m enjoying some quiet me-time while the rest of the house sleeps.
Each child’s journey towards learning how to self soothe looks different. Your brothers learned differently than you are learning. A large part of this is that with you I have simply accepted that this is the pace at which things will happen. I have come to understand that I do not need to train you to sleep any more than I need to train you to crawl or train you to eat.
You are a wise little creature who is well in touch with her needs. I do not need for you to learn anything magically overnight. I can take it slow and easy so that you will find it slow and easy. After all, sleep should be deep, sweet and comfortable in a safe dark room snuggled down in a sense of security.