After a nearly sleepless night of reflection and consideration (sleeplessness that for once was not bug-related), I've decided to pull out of the baby sleep book project. I want to thank everyone for all their advice, tips, strategies, and stories, though, because I really did learn a lot in this whole process (the process of researching and writing sample material for the publisher). Here are a few things I got out of it, for anyone who's interested:
1. Routine, consistency, and structure are important in helping the bug sleep well at night. The bedtime routine doesn't need to be long, and it doesn't need to happen at the same time every night, but it definitely helps to give her lots and lots of cues that bed is going to happen. I haven't had a lot of day-to-day structure in my life since I left the regular workforce to freelance full-time, but I've learned that for most babies it does help if their days follow some sort of pattern, and the bug seems to respond to the little advances I've made in that direction.
2. For some babies (the bug is one), at certain times in their development (last week), it makes a lot of sense to put them to bed slightly awake one night after a long wind-down period, kiss them goodnight, tell them you love them, and leave, closing the door behind you and not coming back until after they're asleep. The first night was hard, but I came to realize that the bug is so interested in things, and so keen to engage everything she sees and hears, that her parents' presence at her bedside only makes sleep less appealing to her—it's not comforting, it's distracting and it makes it difficult for her to get the sleep she needs.
3. Babies almost always sleep better at night if they've had plenty of long naps during the day. Ours is no exception.
4. Keeping a sleep log, while dorky and lame-sounding, has helped me figure out when the bug tends to get sleepy naturally, and has helped me realize how much sleep she actually needs during the day. If you're not inclined to watching the clock or keeping to a schedule or routine yourself, as I'm certainly not, a log can reveal things you might have sensed vaguely but didn't know for sure. Plus it's a good excuse to buy a pad of graph paper. I kept a log for about a week, and if I squint hard I can see some patterns:
5. It's okay to let your baby fall asleep at the breast, but it's better if you let her disengage just before that point, then carefully transfer her to bed so she can continue falling asleep on her own. I think the bug might be learning to put herself back to sleep better when she happens to wake up at night because I've started doing this.
6. An early bedtime may mean waking up one more time at night, but it's worth it: the bug gets more sleep overall, she's happier the next morning, and her parents are happy because they've had some down time to devote to each other (and Project Runway, and last Sunday's Times, and the new road atlas . . . ).
We've entered a little Golden Age here at the homestead: content and well-rested bug, no more hack writing to do at the moment, and fall's in the air at last.