Last I left you, I had come around to the sense that sleep training my baby was worth trying for both his good (getting age-appropriate sleep) and mine (recovering my sanity). I’d read countless websites, taken the advice of other moms, gotten my husband on board, and importantly, tuned out the din from the interwebs that allowing my baby to cry in intervals was a barbaric practice. I had a plan. I was still worried that our secure baby would revert to one clingy and needy but figured we’d tackle that if it came up, at this point the stakes were too high not to try it. Which I know sounds pretty dramatic.
The Friday night of the long Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, we started “Ferberizing” our baby. The process is to put your baby sleep baby in his crib while he’s sleepy, but still awake. If he cries, you go in to soothe him at set intervals of time. So at his normal bedtime, I put on our baby’s lullaby music, changed his diaper, gave him a massage, put on his PJs, read to him, then turned out the light, said “It’s bedtime” one last time and placed him in his crib. I left the room and started timing how long before we’d go in again, which was at this point three minutes. I sat at the table with my phone in front of me. He cried. We flinched and looked at the clock. After three minutes I went back in and patted his back gently and shushed him, then left quickly. His crying intensified but never reached the level of screaming. Five minutes after that I returned. Then ten minutes. As as we waited for the next ten minutes, he stopped crying. I tiptoed in his bedroom and lo and behold, my baby was asleep. We were stunned.
I waited for him to wake up. Normally this would be about an hour and half after he first fell asleep, and could take up to an hour to rock him back to sleep. An hour went by, then two, and after another couple of hours I went to bed. He woke up at 3am, I went to him, picked him up, nursed him from my super-engorged boobs and put him down. He began crying. Hubby then went in to soothe him at the staged intervals and after a few rounds, he fell back to sleep.
Over the remainder of the weekend we consistently put him in his cribs for naps, at bedtime and nighttime wakings sleepy but awake. We soothed him at staged intervals when he cried. We both slept longer than we had in months.
My hubby was worried however, since our baby did seem different to him. Not as smiley in the mornings, a bit more fussy. Initially I didn’t see it myself, but didn’t dismiss his concerns. I gave him more attention during the day, holding him versus putting him down to play on his own. A few more days into the training and I noticed it myself, he was more cranky. I thought about whether we should abandon or modify the training, then reconsidered, thinking we needed to give it a week. The fussy/clingy period lasted a couple more days and cleared up. Our little dynamo was back to his old self.
There were times of course where the crying saddened us immensely and we doubted what we were doing. I was prepared for some possible backtracking since the Troublesome Tots blogger had covered the topic of the “extinction burst“, which is when the crying worsens and can cause parents to think the sleep training isn’t working. So we remained consistent and extended our soothing intervals to five, ten, and fifteen minutes. He fought us on night wakings, but that smoothed out over time. Trying to sleep train him during his first waking of the night proved difficult, so I realized that he was waking up to eat so I nursed him, and eventually was able to put him back down quietly with no tears. Naps were rough over the first two weeks, and I was convinced we’d need to revert back to driving him around to get him to sleep, but after I introduced a simple routine at naptime, that settled down. Eventually we didn’t need the timer anymore since when he fussed it was less than five minutes.
Most surprisingly, I discovered that I could “dream feed” him by picking him up while he was sleeping and nursing him. He went back in his crib calmly, at which point I could head to bed confident I wasn’t going to be woken up in a short period of time.
As he approaches his eighth month, we are seeing some challenges. After months of drooling and grabbing his mouth, some little teeth are popping through his lower gums, undoubtedly with a lot of discomfort. I’ll pick him up during those wakings and sparingly give him acetaminophen. Naptimes have reverted back to some crying jags, but I chalk that up to his eight-month sleep regression and am remaining consistent.
Reflecting upon all of this, I’m glad I co-slept and backed off the sleep training until past his sixth month. The crunchy attachment parenting mama that I am, I’d never recommend CIO (especially NOT for a newborn), even though controlled crying clearly worked for my family. I will say that it’s been a game-changer overall, with my son developing healthy sleep habits and getting Z’s crucial to his development. This has also translated into me being happier and more secure in my parenting, having left themishigas behind. He’s still waking up at night, and while two wakings is much better than several, I’m still pretty tired and my husband is still leaving for work late so I can sleep in a bit. But I’m no longer in a torturous haze, and that’s a relief. I feel that my baby and I are just as bonded as before the sleep training and can see he’s clearly thriving. The next frontier is night weaning, which I’m holding off on while he’s teething and working through his current sleep regression. You can be sure I’ll be following theTroublesome Tots advice on that. Goddess bless that blogger.
I know that many of the AP parents out there decrying sleep training mean well, and their hearts just break at the thought of a baby calling out for his parents. I’d venture to say those parents just haven’t seen that sleep training can often mean just a matter of days of rough goings for the parents, yielding a baby in dreamland and a settled household. Maybe they’ve considered that and the potentials risks are just not worth it to them. Or perhaps they can just simply handle the wakings and wish not to rush their babies’ development. All of that is commendable. There are those however who don’t hesitate to condescend. I admit that when I read the admonishments of sanctimommies bashing sleep training or CIO, I have a momentary flash of fury (one of which precipitated my first blog post on this topic). All the power to them if they can handle multiple nighttime wakings while shaming others; I’m sure their babies are being held in loving arms nonetheless, which is what counts.