Q&A: another sleep deadline question

Cas was having problems with her daughter waking repeatedly in the night. Those problems have mostly resolved, but Cas has a new problem:

"The problem: a couple of weeks ago after my daughter refused all but a teensy bit of dinner I was worried she would still be hungry....so I offered her a bottle before bed. She fell asleep in my arms, rocking, took the whole bottle (too sleepy to fight the sitting still) and slept straight through the night. Thinking this to be a wonderful development I began rocking her to sleep every night with a bottle. All was good I thought. In addition to the obvious appeal of a 7-7 sleep, I like to rock her, it's a nice way for her to fall asleep and she wasn't having any problem with nightwaking...if she was waking at night she was putting herself back to sleep without incident. She was falling asleep on her own for naps.

Then things began to deteriorate. She began fighting against taking her bottle, only wanting to be rocked. But she still wanted to be rocked and cried furiously when I tried to put her to bed awake (even though she was still going for naps awake with no fuss). So I rocked her or my husband did.

We didn't mind and once asleep she stayed asleep. After a few days of that she decided she wouldn't settle for hubs....only mama could put her to sleep. I rocked her to sleep and she went to sleep for my husband easily after her 3am bottle. Then she stopped accepting his comfort at night and cried until I got up to rock her to sleep again. Then she stopped accepting going to sleep at naps on her own.

I accepted each new development as just part of this phase of her life...she has started walking in earnest and has also hit the sep. anxiety just recently too...I didn't think it would be an issue because hey, here I am right? So what if she needs me to put her to bed? I'm never not here.

But I am looking at surgery on the the 30th of this month. I will not be here. Not for naps, not for bedtime, not for her nighttime feeding. I thought I had all the time in the world to let this pass but now I feel I have a huge deadline for fixing this...that I should fix it while I am still here to offer her reassurance and comfort even if I am not rocking her to sleep. I am trying desperately to find a way that she will not need me to sleep so that she doesn't have to face the fallout of my not being able to
fill that need.

I of course have been advised that my wee dictator simply has a bad habit and that it is nothing a few nights of crying herself to sleep wouldn't fix. But I honestly feel that **I** started the habit (in hopes of getting more sleep) so it is patently unfair to make the baby cry herself to sleep because I want to stop."

(Cas is going to be in the hospital for one or two nights, and then won't be able to do any care of her daughter for 3-4 days after that.)

Before I answer the question, I have two thoughts:

1. Rocking to sleep isn't a bad thing unless you get caught by not being able to rock one night. So it isn't the rocking (which she'd grow out of anyway) that's the problem--it's the surgery. Don't feel bad about the rocking, just feel bad that you got busted.

2. Crying is horrible if she's by herself alone and scared, but it's not that bad if she's being comforted by your husband and is just angry. It doesn't make it any easier to listen to, but it's a different experience for her.

Now to the question:

I'm wondering if your daughter would allow herself to be rocked to sleep by your husband if you're not home. At that age, my older son only wanted me to put him to bed, unless I was gone (book club without fail once a month, whether I've read the book or not) in which case he was perfectly happy for my husband to put him to bed. Now that I think about it, my younger son is the same way. He won't even take a bottle from my husband, but will allow himself to be rocked to sleep easily by him if I'm not home (whereas he'll put up a fight if I'm home and my husband tries to put him to sleep).

It may be worth a try to go out one night during her bedtime and see how your husband does getting her to sleep when you're not physically there. If she's fine with it, then the problem of your hospital stay nights is solved.

If she won't accept your husband putting her to bed, then you and your husband should go out on a date and see if someone else (one of your parents or a babysitter) can get her to bed while you're gone over her bedtime hour. It never fails to amuse me that kids who are locked in iron-clad nighttime routines that can't! be! deviated! from! ever! with their parents will often just go with the flow with a grandparent or sitter.

If she'll do it once, she'll do it again, so you just have to go out at her bedtime once a week until your surgery to get her more used to it.

The next problem is the days that you'll be at home but unable to put her to sleep at night. I'd suggest that your husband try to get her to sleep in her crib, but if she won't go in or won't go back in when she wakes up, just bring her into bed with him. You should sleep in another room so she isn't tempted by your presence when she wakes up (you may also need to sleep by yourself for a few days because of your surgery anyway).

For naps, every day your husband should just pull an audible. She may be too stressed to nap easily, or she may go down for him with no problem. He may end up driving or strolling her around to get her to sleep or rocking her for naps, too. Since naps are less predictable in general than nighttime sleep is, there's really no way to predict what will happen and he should just try to go with the flow of each day and not worry too much about the next day.

I think if she'll allow herself to be rocked by someone other than you when you're not in the house, you're basically home-free for the end of the month. If she won't, then your husband is going to have a couple of really tough nights and he might have to give up and end up sleeping on her floor with the lights on. Really, though, the worst case scenario is that she's mad as hell and won't sleep for a night or two and then crashes the next day. It'll suck for those few days but I don't think it'll leave any lasting damage to her psyche or sleep schedule. Your poor husband may not recover so easily, though.

I hope your surgery goes well and you heal quickly.