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Archive for May, 2013

Eat- Play- Sleep… Eat: check! Play: check! Sleep: But what if baby doesn’t want to sleep?

Here’s our back story. My oldest son was a horrible sleeper. Well, he slept fine as long as I held him, nursed him, rocked him, laid down next to him and rubbed his back, the stars were all aligned and God sent a miracle. The only sure-fire way to get him to sleep was to put him in the carseat. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time sitting in the carport with the car running, wasting gas.

So when our latest bundle of joy arrived, I was prepared. I had done all of the research on creating a good sleep environment. We swaddled, used white noise machines, had a bedtime routine, yada yada yada. At 2 weeks old, our little guy was sleeping 6-8 hours at a stretch. Alleluia!!! I was convinced that I had paid my parental dues and this child would be easy; God had smiled on us and we were thankful.

Then he hit about 11 weeks old and the dreaded “4 month sleep regression” began. He woke every 2-3 hours at night. I had to rock him to sleep for naps and then hold my breath as I laid him down ever so gently in his crib, praying he would not wake. My husband helped when he could, but mostly our baby just wanted me. So I began doing what most desperate moms do- I scoured the Internet for help and information, I wore him in the wrap during the day, I let him sleep on my chest, I nursed him on the couch at night so we could both sleep. As a result, our quick-learning genius child got used to some really bad habits that had been formed out of necessity.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with nursing and rocking my baby. It is precious and beautiful and I adore it. But my husband and I are both of the opinion that at some point our baby has to learn to sleep somewhere other than in my arms.

So our little guy turned 5 months old and we felt that he was old enough to start ST. Since I was a researched expert, it should go smoothly, right? It turns out that when you have 2 parents who are as stubborn as the day is long, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Who knew?

We tried checks.
We tried extinction.
We tried sitting by the crib.
We unswaddled.
We moved up bedtime.
We made bedtime later.
And on and on.

Nothing seemed to work. After several weeks, we finally admitted defeat and went back to doing whatever was necessary, even if they were “sleep crutches” frowned upon by the ST experts.

Then our precious bundle of joy turned 7 months old. One day, in a full-blown “I’ve failed as a mother” pity party, as I was rocking Levi and he was screaming on my shoulder fighting sleep, I texted my best friend. She had successfully sleep trained both of her girls and I knew she could help. I didn’t have time to read books. I had already read so many things, much of which contradicted the others, and it was all garbled up in my sleep-deprived brain. I needed help!

She quickly shot back a reader’s digest version of the Ferber method. Put baby down awake but sleepy. Set timer and do checks and increase the amount of time between checks. Do not pick baby up or talk. Just pat a minute or so and leave. Rinse and repeat. She also linked some good articles that included concise explanations.

I shared her advice with Kevin. He was on board. Go Team! The next day I started with naps. Previously, a huge part of the problem was that I had been sending Levi mixed messages because I was inconsistent. Everything that I read claimed that if we focused on nights that naps would work themselves out. The opposite was true for Levi. Naps actually got worse and nights were touch and go at best. I would rock him during the day and hold him while he slept, but at night I expected him to be able to soothe himself? All we were doing was teaching him if he held out long enough, we would eventually come in, pick him up, and rock him back to sleep.

Now, armed with my new Ferber knowledge and a plan, I was ready. I would not veer from the plan unless I could tell something was wrong (diaper cry and hunger cry sound very different than his “I’m exhausted, please pick me up” cry). I set the sleeping stage, went through our nap routine, checked on him at increasing intervals… and he slept! And the next nap he slept. And that night he slept. And the next day, and the next. Each time resulting in less protest and quicker sleep.

It has now been 1 week since we began our true ST with the Ferber method. Now our little guy doesn’t even really cry- it is more of a fussy few minutes of whining, and then he is sound asleep. He is napping 2-3 hours during the day and sleeping 12 hours at night, with 1 night time feeding. He occasionally wakes up at night very briefly and puts himself back to sleep.

We know better than to claim victory and celebrate too soon. We know that teething, sickness, travel, growth spurts, and a host of other issues will invade our lives and we will have to hit the reset button. But this is what we’ve learned this far:
– Consistency is key. That pretty much applies to everything about parenting. It is good to have a reminder that ST is no different than any other form of discipline.
– In spite of what some people claim, I don’t believe that he is “giving up” when he stops fussing and falls asleep. I believe he fusses and unwinds and goes to sleep. He rocks his head back and forth. He tucks his arms underneath him. He rubs his lovey “Patches”. He makes a little tired sound and drifts off to sleep. I know that this is a hotly contested issue and I am certain I won’t settle the debate in my blog, I’m just sharing my opinion and observations.
– Parents have to be united on whatever ST method, or lack thereof, that they choose. If one parent wants baby to do CIO (cry it out) and the other can’t go 5 minutes of hearing baby cry without intervening, it will never work. If one parent is adamant about co-sleeping or bed-sharing and the other is determined the baby will sleep in a crib in the nursery, it will never work. Again, I think that being on the same page about parenting philosophies is essential to successfully raising your children and maintaining a healthy marriage.
– Flexibility is crucial. Sometimes we research and discuss ideas with other parents, and we decide exactly what we will do when our kids are born. Then we meet our sweet babies and our best laid plans go south. We have stubborn babies. We have babies who genuinely need to nurse more frequently than others. We have babies who have acid reflux. We have babies who hate the dark or who can’t sleep when it is light. You get the idea. I think we have to be willing to try other methods and be flexible and see what works best for our baby, rather than what we think will work best for us.

I know that our journey through sleep training is not over. I know that there will be times when we have to retrain or possibly even have a complete “do over”. But I know that if we’ve had even some small successes this week, that we now have a bit more confidence and the next time might not seem so bad. We might not feel quite so hopeless. And hopefully, by the Grace of God, we will all continue to enjoy more peace-filled nights of slumber.

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