February 20, 2012
The S word
(And sorry for the quiet posting week last week…the stomach virus of death came to our house in full force. I don’t think that you really need to know the details, except that I actually considered taking a pregnancy test at the beginning of it. How sick is it that a stomach bug can actually seem like a good thing for a few minutes?)
Several of you mentioned being curious about our sleep struggles, so I thought I’d dedicate today’s post to our challenges with sleep training. Especially after we just had one of those nights…you know, one where you have to remind yourself how much you love your child as you get out of bed for the eighteenth time in an hour?
A’s sleep has always been great…by two months, I think he was sleeping for 6 hour stretches, and by three or four months, that had stretched to 10-11. So when we hit December (around six months old) and he got a terrible cold, I just blamed the poor sleep on that. He got better just in time to head to Ireland for Christmas, but after having slept in his infant bouncer for a week and a half, and between the jet lag and time difference, I wasn’t expecting great sleep while we were there. He also, as I’m sure you can imagine, was SPOILED ROTTEN, and never once had to fall asleep on his own. There was always somebody who wanted to cuddle and rock him to sleep. Then when we got back, I had my gall bladder surgery and lost my milk (more on that later) and had my mother and S taking care of him for a week. So…all that to say that whatever routine we might have had was truly out the window by that point.
After a week of bad nights, and one particularly bad one where A was up from 11-2 and then hourly and completely unconsolable, I pressed BUY on Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby on my Kindle and started reading every second I got. When he was an infant, our routine had generally been that we’d change him into his PJs, I’d nurse him, and S would sing and rock him to sleep. It was a special time for the two of them, and a nice break for me, so I didn’t see any reason to change that. What the book showed me though – which should have been blatantly obvious to begin with – was that if you rock the baby to sleep, then they expect to be rocked back to sleep every time they wake up during the night (which is basically every time they transition into a new sleep cycle)!
I had already done a few days of cry-it-out to get his naps on track (around five months – he had gotten to the point where he’d only sleep in his swing, and then only when being held, and then not even then!), so I knew how quickly that could make a difference. So I immediately instituted a no rocking policy – harsh, I know. That first night S had his pool league, so I was in charge of bedtime. I did a modified cry-it-out (checking on him and giving him his pacifier after 5 minutes, 10, 15…) and he finally fell asleep after 50 minutes. AND then slept for TWELVE HOURS!
So I considered that a total success, told S how we were doing things going forward and figured we were done. That next night, S took him up to bed (we read books first, then he goes in his crib awake and gets music and white noise). I was doing the dishes and realized they had been gone for a long time, so I ran up but A was already asleep in S’s arms. I actually tried waking him up, but he was out cold, so we put him in his crib and hoped for the best. No dice.
That night A was up at 11, 11:30, 12, 12:30…you get the picture. By 1:30, S and I were screaming at each other because I knew that A was okay and wanted to let him cry, but S couldn’t hack it (HE had to go to work the next day…don’t get me started…). So I finally caved and nursed him around 2 and then fumed my way through to the morning. That morning I told S that if he couldn’t handle sleep training that he could go stay at my parents, that I wasn’t living like this for months and couldn’t handle fighting with him and the baby. S realized I was serious and grumbled about maybe he’d just sleep in the basement.
So the next night I did bedtime and A was asleep in 15-20 minutes. I think he woke up once for his pacifier, but then slept until around 4. Which I also considered a success. By the end of that week, A was going to sleep around 7(ish) and sleeping until 5(ish) and Mommy had won the battle. Then last week I was super sick and lost my milk again (A got a touch of the bug too) and we started slowly creeping from 10 hours, to 9.5…down to 8…and then last night he was up from 2 to 3:30 and at 5:30 for the morning. (He usually goes back to bed after his morning feed and wakes up between 6:30-7 for the day.)
I think it’s all related to him not getting enough calories during the day – we had a few challenges figuring out which formula worked, and I know that he lost a little weight from not feeling well himself – so I’m not going to get too freaked out about it yet. My plan is just to keep pounding the water and the Fenugreek so that hopefully my milk goes back to normal and we can get him tanked up by the end of the day.
So I guess the moral of the story is that sleep training is a work in progress. I think teaching kids limits and boundaries (even babies) is really important – equally as important as compassion and flexibility – and I think sleep training is the earliest way to set some boundaries. I think that a well rested baby is happier and healthier, and a baby that sleeps makes for well rested parents, who have the energy to be more patient and engaging with the baby during the day. And while I definitely don’t love hearing my little guy cry, I consider it a necessary evil (in moderation of course), right up there with vitamins and doctors appointments.
Any other tips out there from mamas who have had success sleep training?