Friday, July 18, 2008

Goodnight Noises Everywhere

Elliot has been learning so many remarkable things. The flagship of her recent milestones, of course, is her increasing courage to take a few steps on her own. Add to that her new ability to communicate, and you can safely assume that sleep is about the last thing she wants to do.

While she calls for mama and dada (usually dada!), she is more fond of the sound "ba." With varying inflections "ba" can appear to mean "give me that book" or "guys, I'm headed up the stairs... catch me!" or "more potatoes please."

Even more exciting are her hand gestures. I had all but dismissed the idea of teaching her sign language. I worked on it with Maya a bit, but all that stuck were the signs for "all done" and "more," both of which she mastered right around the time she could say the words. Elliot deserves a shot at learning some useful signs though, given that in the last 12 hours she has mastered raising her arms to mean "so big," shaking her head to mean "no," and waving her chubby little arm to mean "night-night."

But to be an effective signing student, she must get more than 8 hours of sleep a day (average is about 15). Lately she has been boycotting bed time until she absolutely passes out at 11:00.

With Maya, I read all of the various experts with their endlessly complex recipes for sleep. Letting her "cry it out" seems cruel and damaging for the sort of trust I'm trying to build with her, but rocking and nursing her from 8 until 11 turns me into a raging, kid-free-time-deprived nutcase.

So between Joe and I, we've cobbled together a method that might work for us. We're going to really stick to the bedtime rituals: bath, jammies, brush hair and teeth, read a couple of books including goodnight moon, give her a little snack, and put her gently into her crib. If she cries, let her go three minutes and then head back in to comfort her a bit. Back in the crib for three more minutes. Eventually she stops crying and starts playing, and then falls asleep. In theory, it takes a bit less time (fewer cycles of three minutes plus comfort) each night.

Hopefully this will teach Elliot to fall asleep on her own, deprive her of the one-on-one attention and play time that appears to be keeping her awake, and build her trust that though we may leave her alone in her room for a bit, we always come back shortly.

We're trying to achieve this with Maya in the room at the same time! Ultimately, we do want them to share a room (not ours!). It seems silly to go through the relative torture (seriously, no one is going to sleep or relax well for the next two weeks as she learns to fall asleep quietly) of setting up a routine that works, only to move them into the same room later and go through the craziness all over again.

Wish us luck. With Maya we waited until she was over 1 year to stop nursing her to sleep and start the real sleep training, but once it was done, I kicked myself for not doing it sooner. With all of Elliot's gusto for learning and interest in mimicking Maya, let's hope that the bedtime skills come quickly.

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