Family Update | Iva Jane is 8.5 Months Old . . . And Is Sleeping On Her Own

Things have been a lot more chaotic around here as Iva continues to grow and change. She has just come out of a mental leap (read about those here) and all sorts of new skills and personality traits are surfacing at the same time. She can now:

  • Sit up unassisted very well
  • Army crawl (which results in a lot of mischief-making)
  • Rock back and forth on hands and knees
  • Sit up without help from lying down
  • Feed herself soft finger foods (she skipped right over the pureed food phase, and will not let anyone help her eat any solid food)
  • Drink water from a cup with help
  • Say “mama,” but only when she’s upset and wants Mama
  • Clap her hands (somewhat)
  • Make funny faces
  • Dance
  • Pull herself onto a kneeling position with the help of furniture

And . . .

  • Sleep in her crib, in the nursery, for naps and nighttime

Yeah, that last one surprised me, too. But before we get into that, it might be helpful to read this other blog entry first. If you don’t intend to read it, here’s the post in a nutshell:

I’m something of a survivalist parent, and I’m not sorry about it. What I don’t mean is that I intend to do whatever keeps my kid(s) happy without regard for the fact that Devynn and I are authority figures, or that children don’t need boundaries in order to thrive. What I do mean is that I always want to be flexible in the kind of mother I am because children change. What works best in one phase may not work best in another. Their capabilities and priorities as newborns, as 8-month-olds, as toddlers, and so on do not look the same. And even within the same age brackets, different children are, well, different. Anyone who has spent time raising, watching, or studying children knows they are not all the same. What that means for how I parent is that I can make a certain decision for Iva as a 2 month old that I can then shift, according to my research and my familiarity with Iva as an individual, later on in a different phase of development, without apology.

As far as sleep goes, that meant that as we walked through intense breastfeeding struggles (and sleep struggles, because what newborn sleeps when they’re not eating enough?) I decided to bring Iva into our bed, following the necessary safety precautions. Suddenly she started sleeping, she started nursing well due to better positioning, and therefore I, too, started sleeping . . . after having only slept for 5 cumulative hours for the first four days of her life.

Bed-sharing saved our breastfeeding, which was truly important considering Iva’s dairy allergy and our post-COVID financial troubles. And in the months that followed, I continued it for the sake of my own ability to sleep while giving Iva her necessary feedings during the night (most pediatric research societies have determined that babies need night feedings until one year of age).

I would have continued our bedsharing, nursing-to-sleep, and so on for even longer if it had worked; that is, if it were in the best interest for us as a family. I don’t regret it and would probably do the same thing again if I could go back. But practically, now that Iva is mobile and big for her age, we don’t all fit in our bed and she is no longer content to stay asleep if not being held. And while I’m a passionate advocate for families who are comfortable with such arrangements to continue as long as they want, I have not been comfortable for at least a month now. I cannot be glued to our bedroom, in the dark, unable to make a noise for fear of waking her, for the majority of each day. And I cannot be the only one in the world who is able to put (and keep) her asleep. And I can NOT endure any more week-long stretches where she wakes up at 5 from the commotion of Devynn getting ready for work. It was all beginning to affect my mental health and my marriage, neither of which is beneficial for Iva.

So I did some more research and asked trusted friends, and came upon the program called Taking Cara Babies. Their sleep-training plan met the qualifications I was looking for:

  • It involves timed intervals of reassurance (acknowledging the real, research-acknowledged harm of aggressive extinction models of sleep training, which damage babies’ immune systems and cortisol production over time)
  • It promotes night weaning, but allows for at least one feeding to be kept toward the middle of baby’s night
  • It allows for nap training to happen after nights have been conquered, which helps baby adjust more gradually
  • It agrees that physical needs like diaper changes, illness, and so on are more important than consistency and fast results

Iva is at a good age for this kind of gentle sleep training, since she is beginning to understand object permanence (“things that I cannot see still continue to exist”) and gives very clear sleepy cues. So we transformed our walk-in closet into a tiny nursery, and had our first training night last Saturday. And honestly, I am shocked at how well she has adjusted already. Even her first night was a breeze after the initial 40 minutes of crying (we went in to comfort at 5, 10, and 15 minute intervals).

What’s even more miraculous is that she has also taken to independent naps from the first experiment I tried. This happened the day after our second night, which was totally unnecessary according to the TCB plan, but I was curious (and desperate). I was prepared to get her out of the crib and nurse to sleep if she cried longer than 5 minutes, but she fell asleep right before I went in . . . and slept soundly for 1 1/2 hours. One and a half HOURS! I spent most of that time staring wide-mouthed in shock at the video monitor.

Anyway. I’m still an advocate for co-sleeping and all the rest of it, but I’m thankful that God has made this endeavor successful thus far. Iva has been in a great mood now that she is getting enough sleep for the first time since she was tiny; Devynn is getting better sleep since he can stretch out without fear of waking Iva; and while I’m a little sleep deprived currently from all the middle-of-the-night note taking, scheduled feeding, and monitor-watching, I feel like a brand new person now that I have time during naps to catch my breath, go out on the balcony, and read my Bible without constant fear of interruption.

I’m sure there will be bumps in the road as we all adjust to this new normal, but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in quite some time.

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