well, in case anyone remembers and actually cared or was curious as to how it all turned out -- let me tell you, it turned out wonderfully. river immediately responded to the new routine. in a matter of days, he knew that when he took a bath, next he was getting his pajamas on, and then he was going to sit down on the bed with me a read a book, and then he was going to nurse and that is when it was time to fall asleep. he would sleep on his mattress on the floor until i went to bed, and then he'd join us in our "family bed." it didn't help much with him waking up to nurse at night, but it absolutely worked for setting a proper bed time (not midnight) and helping him stay in sleep mode (not waking up and wanting to play until four in the morning). i was impressed with how well it worked, and i know i should have tried a sleep routine long, long ago! it would have saved a lot of trouble and sleep and i wouldn't have had room to complain.
after two weeks, i became pretty lazy with the routine (we go out of town and have visitors quite often) and he began waking up to nurse six or seven times in the night once again, especially on the nights when i did absolutely no routine. it was frustrating, because i couldn't always do the exact same thing at the same time. i considered night-weaning for a couple weeks, but decided against it since i don't want to lessen my milk supply just yet. so instead, one night i decided to nurse him for just a bit, until i could tell that he had a full belly, and told him it was time to lie down and go night-night and "no nurse." he cried and begged to nurse for about five minutes, but finally realized i wasn't giving in and then snuggled for about five more minutes, and was out. the next night, i did the same thing, except this time he only cried for about two minutes, and then snuggled again for a short time before falling asleep. it was easy... too east! on the third night, it was obvious to me that he wanted to continue nursing, but i decided to try it again, the past two nights having been so successful. the poor baby cried and cried. after about ten minutes of sobbing, he almost got to the point where he was going to throw up. i decided i could not continue further at all, and nursed him to sleep, both of us feeling a bit sad and confused.
but what i learned through that experience was something great. if i offered him options that may be better than what he thinks he needs, but still stayed in tune to what he really needs and listened to his cues, we would both be happier and well-rested. i still nurse him to sleep almost every night, and when he knows it's time for bed he falls asleep at the breast fairly quickly; but sometimes, he makes the choice himself to fall asleep just by snuggling. this doesn't mean he doesn't nurse, but instead of taking twenty restless minutes to nurse, he will stop nursing when his tummy is full and just lie there with me until he falls asleep. it is a special moment for both of us. i just love the way he wraps his tiny arm around my neck, or rests his head on my stomach.
he has since learned also to sleep more soundly at night and now only wakes up a few times during the night, generally two to four times as opposed to six or seven times, and nurses for only two or three minutes at a time as opposed to ten to twenty minutes. these small changes make a world of difference. i don't know if this is attributed to the routine which i was not strict about, or if it's attributed to helping him learn how to fall asleep without nursing, or if it's just because he is older and sleeping better. he is also back in our bed full-time, and it is working out great since he is not waking up as often. whatever the case, whether he falls asleep at 11:00 or 8:00, there finally feels like some order and peace to our evenings, and i think we are both thankful for that!