Part one because I have three children who each have quite different sleep stories!
Haley is my eldest, and, apart from the colic of her first three months, was a terrific starter baby. Calm, curious, affectionate, easy to soothe, she was a delight from day one. (Well, excluding the hours spent screaming each and every evening from days 22 through week 12. Textbook colic, that girl.)
The day after she was born, my MIL came to stay for a week. (MIL was the perfect post-baby guest, BTW. No MIL-slamming here: though she adored her new baby granddaughter, she left the childcare to me except when I asked for assistance, and she dealt with the house. My floors were cleaned, my stockpile of food was added to, my laundry was done. The day she left, she even defrosted both the fridge and the chest freezer - "because you won't be getting to it for a while!" How right she was. Righter than she dreamed...)
However, MIL also provided a beautiful hand-made cradle, which had been in husband's family for four generations. Baby Haley would be the fifth to rest within its heritage.
Too bad Baby Haley hated it. I'd bring her to bed to nurse, then try to place her back in the cradle. My nights looked like this: 20 minutes nursing, 40 minutes soothing baby back to sleep, one hour's sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat. Over and over, all the wretched night long. I was miserable, Haley was miserable. Oh, how I wanted to ditch it. But it was the Historic P-Family Cradle! Though I knew she wouldn't say anything, I felt the MIL's joy in sharing the damned thing with us, and didn't feel I could let her down by rejecting the gift.
The night she left, Haley joined us in bed, where, though still nursing every two hours, she slept the rest of the time. I went from being wide awake every other hour to being semi-awake 20 minutes every other hour. Much, much better.
Haley stayed in bed with us till she was four months old, when she made the transition to the crib in her own room. At four months, she was waking about twice each night, nursing, and going instantly back to sleep. I never let her cry. I'd rock her in my arms and gently, gently lower her to the crib, then stand over her with my hand resting on her back till she settled. Then I'd creep out, ready to start over if she fretting. Gradually, she needed less and less assistance, and by six months, I could lay her down, kind of half-awake, and she'd settle with a gurgle. By this time, she was sleeping 10 plus hours at night with three 1 - 1.5 hour naps during the day.
At a year, she was sleeping 11.5 hours at night, and had almost finished the move to one (2 - 3 hour) nap a day in the afternoon. Our nighttime routine included bath and 15 minutes of story/snuggle, then I'd sing one song while rocking her in my arms, lay her down, awake, and leave. No fuss, no muss, no crying.
By three, she'd given up the daytime naps and was sleeping 12 hours at night.
So, there you have it: co-sleeping, no-tears, and a great sleeper. Gentle sleep learning at its best. If I'd stopped with the one child, I'd be an unbearably smug parent, I tell you.
In part two, I'll tell you about my middle child, my son.
The boy who taught his gentle mommy the virtues of sleep training.