Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Unconventional thoughts on sleep training

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Life sucks when you don't get enough sleep and when sleep deprivation goes on for weeks and then months, it is a level of pain you cannot understand unless you have been through it yourself.  Here are some of the unconventional things we did that worked and also how stupid we were for waiting so long to cry it out. It should go without saying but every child is different and health needs trump everything. Given that, here is what I learned:

Good decision #1: Put a bed in the baby's room for the early months and allow one person to get sleep on the other room.
We mostly had Liam sleeping in his crib while one of us slept in his room with him for those early months. This allowed the other parent to get a decent night sleep and if we wanted to have baby in bed, we could do it in his room without waking up the other parent. We chose not to co-sleep in our bed because we wanted to keep our bed to ourselves and not start baby down the road where he was dependent on us to sleep. I think by 3-4 months we were back to sleeping in our bed together while baby slept in his room by himself so this worked for us.

Good decision #2: Daddy does it!
Once Liam was more established, Daddy split the night with me so we would each get some uninterrupted sleep. Or, he would take the baby early in the AM and let me sleep in. This was good for 2 reasons: I was a wreck and needed sleep but also, Daddy understood sleep patterns and how to take care of baby. This is key because what I am about to say will make some Daddy's skin crawl: I think Daddy should handle the brunt of sleep training. Babies react to Mommy differently and Daddy's are more capable of weening a child. Mommy is so full of hormones and maternal instinct that she will hold on too long and rational thought goes out the window when a crying baby is around. Seriously, when I am in a store and I hear a baby cry, I have to stop myself from grabbing the child to comfort it. I AM CRAZY!

One friend told me about how her husband sat on top of her to stop her from rushing to her child every time he cried in the night. A better method night be to have Mommy take a Tylenol PM, put in earplugs, and then let Daddy take over for a few weeks to get through the worst of the sleep training. Yes I am serious. Otherwise Mommy will drag the process out for months on end and Daddy will have to live with it. If Daddy wants to whine about it, remind him about Single Working Moms who handle everything by themselves. End of discussion.

Bad decision #1: Waiting too long to cry it out.
At 6 months, our pediatrician recommended this cry it out method: 5 minutes of crying then check baby, then 10 minutes of crying then check baby, and finally 15 minutes of crying then check baby. I let this happen about twice before I started making excuses and intervening. 6 months of off and on sleeping went by and Liam was waking up 2-4 times a night to be fed and he was not napping well. I let Daddy take over and within a week the kid was sleeping 12 hours with 1-2 wake up that last maybe 5 minutes. He naps well and we're all doing SO MUCH BETTER. Yeah Daddy! Yeah Baby! And Yeah Mommy for giving up control and trusting Daddy to make decisions. It only took a few days of crying it out to get to this point and I drug it out 6 months longer than needed. DUMB!

Bad decision #2: Taking advice from books.
I read some ridiculous books about sleep training, like the one that advised to pick your baby up every time they cry even if it takes a hundred times a night! Observing other parents was the most informative for us but ultimately I think you have to make a plan and then stick to it. Books can give you ideas but I wouldn't follow any book to the letter because every kid is different.

Other things I would try:

  • White noise or music and a night light
  • Bed time ritual every night
  • Pacifier to satisfy sucking desire (we avoided it initially but I think it really helps)
  • Journal sleeping habits so you know the real damage
  • Swaddle wee ones
At 16 months, Liam sleeps 7:30pm - 7am with 1-2 short wake-ups where he fusses for about 5 minutes, sometimes longer. If its a longer cry, we will get him a small bottle but this doesn't happen often. Typically he naps 9:30 am-11:30 am and sometimes 3pm - 4pm. He sleeps in his crib with a pacifier and we are having trouble breaking him of that habit but I'm not worried about that at this point.

Some people are blessed with a good sleeper and we hate those people and their annoying bragging. May you have an awful teenager! Kidding! It is hard to hear those good sleeper stories though when other parents go months or even years without quality sleep. You can't function or enjoy life when you are sleep deprived so the best advice I could give anyone is take all the advice you can get and then have daddy do it! :-)

1 comment:

Amanda Whitmire said...

Thanks for this post, Erika! I love hearing what worked and didn't work for everyone, and reading books, and piecing together what I think will work for us. We were all set to start crying it out when NL started teething and put off the process until she is back to normal. I think we are close. I strongly agree that having Papa intervene is key, and you absolutely have to stick to your guns or you lose your hard work. I'll keep you posted on how things go!