For 13 months, I have been firm in my resolve to not let my baby cry himself to sleep. Doesn't it seem horribly cruel? Yes. But does it work...?? Until now, my answer has been- I don't care! Even if it works, is it worth it?
However. Isaac is now a 30 pound 13 1/2 month old. Our bedtime routine up until now has been to take a bath, get into jammies, read books in the rocking chair, turn on a lullaby mix, and then Mommy walks, bounces, jiggles, runs, and jumps Isaac to sleep. (I only go through this rigamarole because he won't let me rock him. Rocking hasn't worked for months. Bouncing around the room like a crazy person has.) Up until 3 weeks ago, it was working. I only had to do the walking/bouncing/jiggling/running/jumping for 2-4 minutes before Isaac was drowsy enough to put in his crib without screaming to get out again. Then something changed and nothing I did was working. I am pretty darn strong by now (if I do say so myself), but I can no longer hold a 30 lb baby for an hour while walking/running. Something has to change.
My first idea was to sit in his room until he fell asleep. So he can learn to self-soothe but not feel abandoned. Perfect compromise, right? No. I sat silently in the rocking chair across the room and he did every silly thing he could think of in the crib. Bouncing on his knees, smashing his face into the rails, saying "Ah! AH! Ah? Ahhhhh????" I could see this was not leading us in the right direction.
The next night I tried a slightly later bedtime. I prayed that this would be enough and I wouldn't have to change anything else (for now, anyway). WRONG. After going through our routine only to deal with a wild baby arm honking my nose and grabbing my hair and doing any and everything else possible to keep himself awake, I put him in his crib and left.
Baby screams. Mommy's heart breaks. Daddy soothes Mommy. Mommy goes in to soothe baby. Leaves. Baby screams. Mommy's heart breaks... rinse and repeat.
Despite the broken heart, it's actually going fairly well. I'm doing a modified version of Ferber's approach; baby cries for set time, I go in and reassure him. (I don't let myself pick him up... I put a hand on his back or hold his little hand) If I think he'll fall asleep, I stay with him for awhile. If it's clear he's not going to fall asleep, I leave again and let him cry a few minutes longer than last time. Go in, touch him... repeat until he's asleep. So far each night it has taken under an hour (!!) and my arm muscles are thanking me for this new plan.
Tonight we try this approach during the night time wakings, too. It's time to get more than 3 hours of sleep at a time...