Well, I've finally decided to do something about Vanessa's midnight bedtime. I am usually the sort of mom who responds immediately to Vanessa's cries or signs of discomfort so that she really hardly ever cries. There are times when she's grouchy and needs to be held or bounced to keep her from crying, but I hardly ever hear her cry and I always feel like I'm doing something about it when she does cry.
I've been doing a bit of research and there are compelling studies that show that babies who are put down to bed while awake learn to put themselves to sleep. The only trouble is, being put to bed awake usually means crying, at least in Vanessa's case. So, over the past two days, when she is really tired and needs a nap, instead of feeding her and then putting her down for a nap, I put her down by herself and let her cry for 10 to 15 minutes before she falls asleep. Then I feed her when she wakes up. The couple of times that Vanessa cried for longer than 15 minutes, I picked her up, checked to see if she needed burping, held her for a few minutes, and set her back down.
Last night, we finally cut the apron strings and had Vanessa sleep in a different room from us. I put her down when she was tired at about 10 PM, crossed my fingers, and after 10 minutes of crying, Vanessa slept through the night for the first time and woke up at 5AM.
There are several reasons why I think this is good for Vanessa. First of all, if I put her in bed to sleep when she's tired at 10, she won't be up until midnight and be so tired and grouchy that she can't get to sleep. (I think I've actually been keeping her awake past her bedtime by trying to comfort her for two hours.) Second of all, if Vanessa can learn to go to sleep on her own, she'll have an easier time going to sleep as a toddler. Third, she'll have an easier time adjusting to a daily schedule, getting her sleeping and eating rhythms to follow a predictable pattern, and should eventually take her naps without much fussing at all. As an added bonus, mommy and daddy will get a good night's sleep too.
In the meantime, 10 minutes is still a long time to hear a baby cry! I hope she learns to nap without crying soon. I think in any case, she'll get used to putting herself to sleep before I'll get used to her cries. We'll try this for a week or so and see what happens. But no matter what, we're definitely going to keep the crib in the other room!