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Friday, August 19, 2011

Sleep Training Part II – Then and Now

sleep training
Baby T asleep on Big T's shoulder
Here’s my history with sleep and Baby T. You’ve probably heard it all before. He woke up often, especially between three and seven months. Sometimes he was waking every 20 minutes. I soothed him to sleep every time; I nursed him to sleep, rocked him to sleep, or wore him in a sling or a wrap to get him to sleep. Even in the middle of the night.

I read Elizabeth Pantley’s “No-Cry Sleep Solution,” and it made a lot of sense. There are people who say that it’s too complicated or it didn’t work for them. But I secretly think that the No-Cry Sleep Solution isn’t anything different than what you would do with a little common sense. It’s just a way to gradually (and she stresses gradually) wean your child off of being rocked, nursed, or worn to sleep. And eventually, they do gradually wean off of it.

But I was never alert enough at night to really try the steps in the “No-Cry Sleep Solution.” I just went back to the old standby: nursing, and if that didn’t get Baby T back to sleep, then rocking or babywearing did.

Yes, I had a few moments of weakness where I let him cry. In the middle of the night, when I was faced with having to go to work in the morning, after he had been up every 20 minutes and he wasn’t falling back to sleep with nursing, rocking, or babywearing. The one time I really let him do it, he cried for 21 minutes. Then he passed out.

I remember feeling glorious. Our baby had fallen asleep without our exhausted help! And guilty. But I didn’t let him cry again, maybe because of the guilt, or maybe because every night was just different. Most nights I was alert enough to try hard to soothe him. If I was exhausted, I made sure to go to bed early enough to be sane enough when he woke in the middle of the night. The crazy nights became fewer and farther between.

(Don't get me wrong--nights were awful. I could handle anything during the day, but the nights made me crazy and miserable. There was a time when I was hallucinating at work because I was so exhausted).

And then he got a little older. When he was about eight months old, he wasn’t falling asleep so much anymore when I nursed him. He was a very alert, very energetic, and very distractable little man. But little squirming babies make me irritable. It’s so hard to hold a baby who is twitching, craning his neck, kicking you, and pawing at your face and try to rock him to sleep. So one night, I nursed him—he didn’t fall asleep—and I put him down in his crib and left the room. He fell right to sleep without a word.

That was pretty much the end of our sleep saga. Baby T is now that kid—the one who asks to go to sleep, whether it’s for a nap or nighttime. He has slept twelve-hour stretches at night since he was maybe 16 months old. And we never had to sleep train him.

He just gradually got there on his own. With our help. We were responsive to his needs at each moment. From eight months to 16 months, there were challenges and setbacks. There were nights where I cut off the circulation in my armpit from draping my arm over the crib, patting his butt. There were nights where I sang him lullabyes (mostly Indigo Girls songs) for an hour. And there were some nights where I still wore him, nursed him, and rocked him. But mostly, he went to sleep quickly, predictably, and quietly.

There was even a phase when he was maybe 13 months old where he would let out a 30-second yell when I would leave the room. Then he would pass out by the time my hand was off the doorknob. At those times, if I had gone back in the room, it would have started a crying fit and possibly a tantrum. But they were always quick enough that I didn’t even have time to double back. So we learned. That’s just what he does. It was about listening to him and learning his habits, his moods, and his actions, and reacting responsively, depending on the situation.

And that worked. It totally worked for us. Which is why I don’t stress about the fact that now, with Little M waking every hour, sometimes I wear him to sleep, sometimes I try to lay him down awake, sometimes I pat his butt, sometimes I nurse him, sometimes I sleep with him, sometimes I don’t, but eventually he will be a good sleeper too.

I used to freak out about lack of consistency, but consistently responding to my babies' needs is my consistency.

Stay tuned for the next post in the Sleep series tomorrow!

Read the other posts in the Sleep series:  
Sleep Training Part I - What's the Problem?
Sleep Training Part II - Then and Now 
Sleep Training Part III - A Momentary Lapse of Reason 
Sleep Training Part IV - The Data behind the Philosophy


Liz Soffera said... Best Blogger Tips

I am having the hardest time right now with Thomas sleeping. He also has done pretty well at going down at night, but since Sunday he has cried and cried until we go and get him and bring him in bed with us. Last night he cried for almost 2 hours with us going in and rubbing his back, singing to him, laying in the twin bed in his room until he finally fell asleep at 9:30. Tj and I both passed out right about then (completely emotionally exhausted from the crying). Well then he was crying again and I stumbled into his room, grabbed him, checked the clock and it was 10:05pm....I couldn't believe it! He is on the couch right now because he wouldn't go down in his crib. I'm starting to think something traumatic happened in his crib!
Any suggestions? I'm hoping it gets better when he starts feeling better. said... Best Blogger Tips

That is so frustrating and exhausting! I bet it was just because he was just sick and needs extra comforting. Could he have an ear infection that makes it hurt to lie down perhaps?

melissa said... Best Blogger Tips

This is so reassuring, and it's a message I'm hearing more and more as I work on "fixing" our sleep "issues": Every child is different, but they all eventually learn to fall asleep and stay asleep on their own. I, too, stress about the consistency, but by your definition I am pretty consistent and maybe that's okay for now. Thanks :)

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Love this! Thank you. My 10 month old wants to nurse every hour and a half all night long.. I do have faith that eventually he will sleep "though the night" I am so tired but lucky that I don't have to be at work during the days so I can nap with him.

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