Ah, sleep. You don't really know how important it is until you haven't had enough.
After 17 hours of labor (2 hours of pushing), I delivered Z by C-section under some heavy anesthesia. I was literally falling asleep mid-sentence, and the next five hours are a complete blur. Zoe was a very alert baby, and as a result, she cried a lot that first 48 hours. When we got her home, we immediately tried putting her down in her bed, but quickly changed course when spit-up caused a choking incident in the middle of the night. She was switched to a bouncy seat in our bedroom so she would be on an incline, and I could keep a watchful eye.
As time passed, her sleep schedule seemed to progress normally...for awhile... I would get up around 2-3 times per night to breast feed for the first 4 months. At 6 months, I just couldn't take it anymore. I don't think I ever recovered from her birth. I was tired, and ready for her to start a regular, more predictable schedule. We quit nighttime feedings at 4 months, but she was still waking. We tried several different methods in our attempt to get her to sleep through the night, but nothing seemed to work. Over the next six months, things began to go downhill. There was no improvement in her sleep schedule, and it was one struggle after another: breaking free of the swaddle, switching to her own bed in her own room, binkie fell out, blankie got lost in the tangle, etc. etc.
Then the one year mark hit, and it really hit me. How long was this going to last? Instead of waking 2-3 times per night, sometimes she would wake as often as 7-8 times per night. I would go in, plug in her binkie, hand her the blankie, and stumble back to bed. Sure, doesn't sound like much, but when it's 7-8 times per night, it really starts to interrupt a sleep pattern!
We made the decision to find a specialist to help. I looked high and low, and found the only guy around that specializes in behavioral sleep problems in childr
en. Here's his link: http://www.ouhsc.edu/otrc/about/documents/Tedsbio_OTRC.pdf
He said that for Z's age and issues, he recommended a "full extinction" method. Basically, we put her down for bed, and don't return to the room until it is time to get up the next morning...no matter what... For the most part, this has worked for us. There have been some issues with sickness and diaper changes that have interrupted a bit, but we have mostly followed the "we don't go in there at all" guideline. If nothing else, this has freed me. I discovered that the doc was right...sleep really DOES win in the end...she may cry for a few minutes, but she always falls back asleep (who knew?!)
The doc also made some changes to Zoe's nap and bedtime schedule, which made a huge impact. We now put her down around 7 (7:30 at the absolute latest), and she wakes at 6. We do two naps: At 8:30 and 12:30. This is a little off from the doc's recommendation, but seems to work best for us. This also took care of the nightmares, as the doc predicted. Since changing her schedule, she has not had a single night terror. Yay!
So how long did it take, and how are things going now? It took a few weeks to get the hang of it. It probably would have taken less time, but like I said, sickness and diaper issues. She still wakes occasionally (once, maybe twice per night, a few times per week), but she goes back to sleep with minimal crying (less than a minute). I don't have to get up, and sometimes I sleep right through it!
Disclaimer: I would not recommend this method, unless you have seen a specialist. It is not right for every child and every age group, so just get a pro's opinion!