So, apparently, all you have to do to help your little one learn to sleep through the night is make up a Sleep Plan and post it on the internet. The universe will then take your Plan and whisper in your child's ear, and the next day they will be Perfect Sleep Angels.
Ok, so maybe not. But our Sleep Training has been going unbelievably well, so I thought I'd post an update.
I'm glad that I made a Plan (I've made some modifications to it - I dropped that part about "nap two hours after waking up and three hours after lunch" or whatever nonsense that was.) because it helped me to focus on what changes I wanted to make, and how to do it systematically, but slowly.
I'm also glad that I made the changes slowly, because she adapted to them well, and we have made some real progress.
Most importantly, there have been very very few tears shed (some "fussing", but it's not crying.) The times that she has been fussing, I have been right next to her to comfort her and help her to understand this is just a learning process. I have felt really good about the gentle way we've done this.
Things that have worked:
Moving nursing to earlier in the bedtime routine. I used to rush through the bedtime routine because she wanted to nurse, and she nursed to sleep. I'd skip the lotion, throw her jammies on, lay her down, and nurse her to sleep. Our biggest problems started when she wouldn't nurse to sleep, but she would nurse for a bit and then be awake. I was like "now what?". Moving the nursing to earlier in the routine let her get right to the nursing that she wanted, but if it didn't make her really drowsy, then we'd read a couple of books or play a little. It helped to separate "nursing" from "going to sleep", which the books say is essential for combating night wakings.
Not nursing her to sleep. At first, she was still going to sleep in my bed. We would do the whole bedtime routine in her room - after the bath I'd put her in her crib to get a diaper and jammies on. Then we'd sit in the special chair to nurse. We'd read, sing, play, whatever. When she rubbed her eyes, I'd pick her up and take her to my bed and we would lay down to go to sleep. Since she had nursed in her room a little while before, I wouldn't nurse her in my bed. The first night she fussed a little. She didn't always go right to sleep, so I'd let her sit up and talk and sing and whatever she wanted to do. At first I'd gently lay her down every few minutes to remind her what we were supposed to be doing. It wasn't an immediate cure - it was still taking her half an hour or 45 minutes to go to sleep once we were in my bed. But she wasn't nursing to sleep.
Putting her in her bed "drowsy but awake" - but REALLY drowsy the first time. The books all say to put them down "drowsy but awake" so they learn to actually fall asleep themselves. I was really anxious about the first time I'd do that in her crib. One evening when nursing in the special chair, she got really drowsy. I nursed her until she was almost asleep. Then I put her in her crib. I thought "if this goes badly, we'll just go to my bed". But she laid down and went to sleep. So having them be pretty sleepy at first builds some success, and then you can put them down more and more awake so they learn to go to sleep on their own.
The Sleep Lady Shuffle. I started out with the special chair unfolded into a sleeping cushion so I could lay down. Since it was taking her almost an hour to go to sleep, that was an hour I could get some laying-down time in. Then I put it back to a chair, and started moving it away from the crib. Some nights I did have to stand very close to the crib and pat occasionally. Some nights I could sit more than arms length away and she was asleep in 20 minutes. But since I've been doing it SO slow (to be Gentle) I thought maybe I was making it so that she would have to have me in the room with her to fall asleep. I was thinking of speeding it up some, but I like that this change hasn't upset her too much. Last night, I actually left the room, and she went to sleep on her own. She woke up after about an hour, crying pretty hard, so I went in and sat in the chair and talked to her for a few minutes, and she went back to sleep.
And of course, the bedtime routine, and the daytime eating, and those things have also helped alot too.
We still have issues with night waking. Some nights she does sleep at least a little longer at first, but she's still waking three to four times a night. And we still have issues with her wanting to nurse back to sleep in the middle of the night, also. For now if she wakes after midnight I'm bringing her to my bed (so I can get SOME sleep) and nursing her if she wants. The few times I've tried to NOT nurse her, she has screamed bloody murder. I just wanted to make sure we had the bedtime thing pretty well established, and to see if we could lengthen the time she spends in her bed at the beginning of the night, before we tackle the night weaning (and screaming!).
I honestly thought it would be much harder than this to get her to go to sleep in her own bed, after cosleeping for the first year (plus) of her life. Doing it in little steps, and doing the same steps, just rearranging a little, seems to be what has worked. So night weaning probably seems worse than it will be, also. I'll let you know how that goes!