I’m not sure I’m actually a believer of “methods” when it comes to parenting. I believe more in doing what feels right and what you think will be best for your child, yourself and your family. However, this is something that has worked great for us. I’m not saying this is for everyone and granted, I only have the experience of one child who has her own unique personality, but nonetheless I think it’s worth considering. Especially if the “crying-it-out” method doesn’t feel right for you. Personally, it would make me physically ill to listen to Inara cry if there was something I could do to help her. But that’s just how I feel.
This is what we have done since the day she was born (with a few tweaks):
She goes to bed at the same time every night (except on the rare occasion that we’ve brought her with us to a dinner or if we’re travelling). Now that she’s older, she helps clean up her toys at 6.45, has some porridge, washes her face and hands (we’ve given up on brushing her teeth for now) and picks a couple of books to read before bed. When she was younger, I would nurse her and then we would interact with her for about 15 minutes before starting the bedtime routine. We change her diaper and put her pajamas on while winding down with a bedtime song (the same one every night but Andrew has a different song). We then read her books and turn the light in the room off, keeping the one in the hallway on.
We lay her on our bed and quietly sing another song (also the same one every night), get in really close to her face, pet her hair and snuggle her. At this point, she usually looks pretty sleepy, but when we put her in her crib, she’s still awake. I tell her goodnight and walk out of the room. Nowadays she usually just falls asleep without as much as a peep, but when she was younger she would sometimes cry out just as we left. We then go right back in, i.e. don’t let her cry at all, and tell her in a gentle, but firm, voice to lay down if she’s standing, pat her back a few times a go: “Shh.” Then we walk out. If she cries again, we do the same thing until she falls asleep. Sometimes it took up to ten times, but usually a few was enough.
The way I see it, it creates a great sense of security for her. Since small babies can’t use words, it’s like she says “hey, are you there?” when she first cries out. When we come in, we are responding to her question by saying, “yes, we’re right here.” Because of this, she actually likes her bed and rarely fusses about going to sleep. I also feel that I want her to know that we listen to her and that there is no need to yell. Naturally, there have been a times that she’s cried really hard after we put her down, probably due to new teeth or a belly ache. Then, it wasn’t a matter of “hey, are you there?”, it was “something is wrong! Help me!”. Then we pick her up, rock her and try to calm her down. This has never seemed to make her think that she should be rocked to sleep the next night.
Even though she sleeps through the night now, she's had some rough patches of waking up a lot later in the night, which is sometimes difficult. We try to pick her up for a little while and then put her back, but if we have to do that too many times, we lay down next to her in our bed. Neither one of us have the energy to keep going after a little while. The problem is that I don’t sleep well when she’s squirming around, laying on my head and twirling my hair. In other words, the nights are not always perfect, but I’m very happy about the bedtime routine and recommend it. If anyone uses a similar method, I would love to hear about it and also get tips on how to use the same philosophy during the night.