Sleep training has been a blessing and a curse. I tend to like things to go, well, exactly the way I think they should. By the book. Over in an instant. Perfect results. No turning back.
So when Sophie nailed the effort of falling asleep on her own, without being nursed by mom or walked in dad’s arms, I was beyond thrilled. So long two-hour bedtime marathon. So long only-naps-on-moms-lap.
But when she continued to wake at all hours in the middle of the night, I was beside myself. What did I do wrong? Why are all the other moms saying: ‘It worked in just three nights.”?
I wanted to be the one who could chime in and say: “And then she just slept through the night.”
It’s hard to stay dedicated to letting the little one cry at midnight, at 3 a.m. I’m tired. I don’t want to disturb Dominique’s sleep. There’s self-doubt in the haze of sleep. And, to be quite honest, sometimes having been startled from a deep sleep, I just plain forgot about the plan.
We also ran into an issue when, on a particularly difficult night, Sophie woke after one hour of sleep and cried for nearly 2 hours, no matter how many times we checked on her. Dominique said there had to be a limit to the crying.
We had a couple of long talks about the whole business of sleep training, did a little more research, talked with friends and Sophie’s doctor. Now we’ve rededicated ourselves to a sleep training plan for the middle of the night, with some modifications.
Our original plan was the Ferber method. (See Dr. Richard Ferber’s book here) We put her to bed awake and if she cried we set the timer to check on her at ever increasing intervals. Say 3, 5, 7, 10, 15 minutes in the first night. The intervals increase with each passing day.
The idea is that Sophie will see that we are still there to comfort her but that the old ways of nursing and walking her to sleep have passed.
I tend to be one of those “by the book” people. I don’t add extra spices to a recipe to see what it tastes like. I use a tablespoon where it calls for a tablespoon. I am a little worried that if we change the “recipe for success” in the Ferber plan we will be doomed to a life of horrible sleep.
But another truth (for me) is that I need to respect my partner’s parenting beliefs and find a way to merge both of our ideas into a plan we could both commit to. We developed a new strategy with only minor changes and double checked with Sophie’s doctor.
Sophie had her 6-month check up Tuesday and her pediatrician agreed that the little one didn’t need to eat but once, maybe twice, in the middle of the night. Her weight, a healthy 17.8 pounds (8,060 grams) is in the 75th – 90th percentile. She has been fed well. And now she has associated snuggling in for a late night (and midnight and 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. and 7 a.m.) snack with being able to get back to sleep.
Our pediatrician also agreed with the method we were using, which is always nice to hear when you still have a little self doubt rumbling around in your heart.
So I’m changing my expectations. I believe Sophie can cut out these night wakings, but I know it can take time. I know every baby is different. Most importantly, I remembered (and was reminded by many friends) that even after bumps in the road, there is still a path somewhere to your destination. You just have to remember to take a break, look for places that need fixing and find a plan you can stick with.
Here’s our plan for the next couple of weeks:
- Set a minimum time between feedings to start with (6 hours for the first waking, 4 hours for the next)
- Set a maximum time we were comfortable with her crying before we would trying plan B (90 minutes with checks)
- Plan B was a Pick Up / Put Down method we read about on BabyCenter (Pick her up and comfort her until she’s calm, then lay her back down. Repeat until she goes to sleep after being put down, not while we’re holding her, OR she has reached the next feeding time.)
- Once we reached the minimum time between feedings, I would feed her and put her back in the crib awake and start the process over again with the next minimum time between feedings
Some other changes we made:
- Gave her a toy to snuggle at night, a “lovey” named Ziggy, a bear in a bunny costume. She loves to squeeze it, suck on its ears, its tag, slam it into the mattress. It was a suggestion from Elizabeth Pantley’s The No Cry Sleep Solution and a couple of friends.
- Began using a humidifier.
- Stopped using a white-noise maker. She kept waking when the sound timed out after 23 and 45 minutes.
She learned quickly how to go to sleep on her own, I am confident that if we stick to our new plan we will see results. Maybe it won’t be by the book. But sometimes you have to rewrite your own book.