Posted in Amelia, Amelia on sleep, Baby sleep, Blog, Mother

Sleep training: One of many ways to get there

Let me start by saying that infant/toddler sleep is a minefield—in many ways. Sleep unto itself is one, how you get said infant/toddler there is another. Your child’s sleep has the power to make or break your day—a good night’s sleep + long nap = A Good Day. Waking every–hour nights + one sleep–cycle naps = Feeling Like You Want to Chew Your Arm off in Frustration Day.

How and where your child sleeps is a Political Topic. Co-sleep, crib sleep, cry-it-out, etc., I believe that everyone should do what works for their family. Thus, I want to make it plain that is post is not meant to Tell You What to Do or That I’m Judging You if You Don’t Do Like I Do. Rather, I just wanted to share our sleep story, in the event that it could be helpful.

We co-slept with E until, at 10 months, being kicked in the ribs all night long was no longer cozy or appealing. Let me just say that I loved, loved co-sleeping and was sad about the thought of giving it up. But it had gotten to the point where nobody was getting good sleep.

So we decided to bite the proverbial bullet and “Ferberize.” This was after much agonizing, no-cry-sleep-solutioning, and consulting with both a parenting expert as well as a medical intuitive (who told me, when I asked if giving E time to sort out sleep on her own would be traumatic, that it’s traumatic NOT to sleep). So I went to the trusty Internet and typed in the word “Ferber,” which, as it turns out, is not what I expected. I had thought that it meant let your baby cry it out alone until they fall asleep; this is not the case. Ferberizing is the “graduated extinction” method, where you give your baby a few minutes to settle, then go in and comfort, but don’t pick him/her up, and then leave for another period of time, gradually extending the time between visits. So I took this information, wrote out a sleep plan for E, and taped it to her bedroom door. It looked like this:

Sleep Plan

Naps:
9–11 am
2–4 pm

Bedtime:
7:30 pm

Night Feedings (up to 1 year):
10 pm
2 am
4 am (gradually eliminate)


Graduated Extinction Rules:

• Don’t stay longer than 5 minutes.

• Don’t pick her up—comfort from the crib. You are her Sleep Coach! [Meaning she is in training, learning how to fall asleep on her own. Just like a coach pushes you harder than you might push yourself, so too must the parent-sleep trainer lovingly encourage their child to master sleep.]

• Cue words: “It’s time to have a rest.” Use before putting her down and when comforting. Also, be v. boring when comforting—say cue words and not much else.

At the advice of our beloved Ann Keppler, we started on a weekend night (that way if your family’s sleep is difficult that night, at least you have a day or two to take it easy). The plan for implementing the plan was for me to do our regular nighttime routine (rock and nurse), put her down awake, and then my husband would do the subsequent comfort visits. So that Friday night, we steeled our resolves, and strove to implement Operation Shut-Eye.

(Caveat: This all took place nearly a year ago. Though I’m doing my best to remember what it actually felt like to implement said plan, it’s entirely possible that, like many things involving babyhood (ahem, childbirth?), my memory of just how painful this was has faded.)

My recollection is that there was crying, lots of it, for about 45 minutes. Mathematically, I guess that was about nine visits (give or take, in actuality), with much patting and soothing tones of “It’s time to have a rest…” It’s definitely hard and horrible to listen to your child cry, especially for a long time. (Some mothers who undertake sleep training choose to leave the house so they don’t have to hear it.) But eventually, she went to sleep. I did a dream feed and then nursed her when she woke in the night, as I usually did.

And the next day? She took a two-hour nap that morning. And a two-hour nap that afternoon. This was after a long stretch of 40-minute/one-sleep-cycle naps that drove me crazy. That night, I think it took about a half hour of crying and soothing visits.

With each day that we implemented our plan, with rigid consistency, the time it took E to get to sleep lessened, until there was little to no crying at all. My best estimate of how long it took to smooth out was about a week or two, but again, see my caveat above.

And then, enter The Golden Age of Sleep. Two hour naps in the morning and afternoon, a 7:30 bedtime where I could just lay her down and she’d put herself to sleep. It was a beautiful thing, of course, until

1) the 13-month sleep regression skids

2) E was in the process of going down to one nap, and

3) we went on vacation and all slept in the same room. Then sleep sucked for awhile, a long while. So we decided to call on an expert, the aforementioned Ann K. (More on that in a later post.)

As with all babies, sleep-trained or otherwise, there will be sleep blips. Sickness, teeth, travel, regressions, etc. all can wreak their havoc, and you may find yourself having to sleep train all over again. (Like, say, THREE TIMES.) (Though I will say though that the redo takes much, much less time.) But for us, the net effect of sleep training has far, far outweighed the amount of work and anguish it took to get there. (Though in all honesty, there was plenty of both!) But that’s just us. Every baby, every family, every person is different.

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  1. You are so awesome for sharing your detailed story. I think it’s so much easier for new mommies to feel comfortable making a decision about how to sleep train if they can read that, as you’ve said, there are “one of many ways to get there” and quite frankly, none of them are easy! I wrote about my experience too, hope this will help: Sleep Training, Birth to 6 Months- http://www.newmommyandbaby.com/?p=192

  2. I have a 7 month old baby and have actually considered CIO, yet after studying some blogs I located this post that broke my heart. It’s called 8 reasons to avoid sleep training http://www.alternative-mama.com/8-reasons-to-avoid-sleep-training-your-baby/ made me think twice.

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