Tuesday, May 25, 2010

In Training

Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing will likely depend on your point of view on such matters, but we finally had to bite the bullet and start sleep training Nate. With crying.

Dang if it isn't working like a charm.

Earlier this year, one of my girlfriends, whose daughter was born within weeks of Nate, sleep trained her baby. Well, her husband sleep trained the baby. They used Ferber and said that the first few days were bad, but the results had been astounding and completely worth it.

I never thought we'd do any sort of cry it out. If you'd asked me, I probably would have said I was actually pretty anti-CIO, and so I thought of my friend's daughter with a mix of envy over her good sleep and wariness over the means used to achieve it.

Nate has been, shall we say, widely varied in the sleep department. After he left the round-the-clock-nursing newborn stage, he would sometimes go six, seven, eight, or even nine hours before waking in the night to be fed. He has always slept in his own bassinet or crib. But we always had to rock him to sleep and then wait until he got into the middle of a sleep cycle before easing him gently into the crib, holding our breath and praying the whole time that he wouldn't wake up. He had to be swaddled to sleep, otherwise his arms would flail around and he would clutch at his face and pull out his pacifier and generally work himself into a frenzy.

His naps, with notable exception, tended to be problematic, because he'd almost always wake up after one 45-minute sleep cycle, unwilling to be coaxed back to dreamland. After I discovered that I could hold him through that first cycle and into a second to get longer naps out of him, I spent several months holding him through huge chunks of every nap.

Then he started waking up multiple times every night. If he woke after 4 a.m. or so, it was more or less impossible to get him rocked back to sleep and placed back into his crib. Occasionally I could lie down with him in the guest room and nurse him back down, but if he didn't fall asleep nursing, I was completely out of luck. As David can attest, I am not a pleasant person to be around when I've been awake since 4 a.m.

He also started rolling over from back to belly, and keeping him swaddled began to scare me. He was busting out of even the Miracle Blanket, but he wouldn't go to sleep with his arms loose, so we bought a Woombie. The Woombie kept him contained, but he seemed to be getting pretty annoyed at being able to move his arms within the blanket, but not up to his face where he wanted them to be.

He started to refuse his pacifier. Like, BOOM, he was just done with it altogether. Spit it out every time it was offered, and screamed about it, as if to say, how dare you stick that thing in my mouth?

Mostly, though, he just seemed really mad as I tried to rock him to sleep for naps, or as one of us tried with varying degrees of success to get him back to sleep at night. Clearly, the kid was tired and wanted to just be asleep already, and whatever it was that we were doing wasn't helping.

All in all, we were confounded, and frustrated, and I was beginning to dread the nighttime as much as I had in those early, sleepless months. I reasoned that if he was crying while we rocked him or held him, was it really that much different if he cried in his crib? (Obviously crying alone because he's scared or needs comforting would be something altogether different, but I trusted that we'd be able to tell the difference.)

So two Saturdays ago we set out to begin sleep training. I expected him to cry for an hour or more when we put him down that first night. This was not, I thought, a kid who knew how to just go to sleep on his own.

I'm thrilled to say that he proved he wrong.

Nate cried and fussed for about 20 minutes that first night when we put him in his crib-- unswaddled, no less. And then he WENT TO SLEEP. He woke up a couple of times through the evening, fussed for less than 10 minutes each time, and WENT BACK TO SLEEP.

We did have a nasty bout of crying after I got up around 3:00 to feed him. I changed his diaper first, then nursed him, and I think it all just woke him up too much. But he did get back to sleep, and he slept until ten after seven.

Naps have been more difficult, just like every "sleep expert" says they are. If I catch him at the right time, there is almost no fussing, but if he gets overtired at all, there are definitely tears. But here's the thing-- his crying sounds exactly the same whether I am holding him or not. I honestly believe he is upset because he is tired and wants to be asleep, and when I just get out of the way, he'll go to sleep. He still takes more than his share of one-cycle, 45-minute naps, but he's getting better and better about stretching them out, and even going back to sleep after waking up a bit. (In fact, he is in a second sleep cycle right now, after some momentary transitional noises a while back.)

PEOPLE, IT IS NO EXAGGERATION TO SAY THIS IS LIFE-CHANGING FOR ME. I have more predictable chunks of time during the day to, say, shower or eat. I know that we're not going to be running upstairs for a half hour at a time all evening to get him back to sleep. He immediately dropped from consistently eating twice in the night to only eating once, and I'm not entirely convinced that he still needs that one feeding. (He doesn't wake up crying in the night, but if he wakes and doesn't go back to sleep within 10 minutes or so at a certain point in the night, I feed him.) He is still such a lark, and often wakes around 5:40 or 5:45, but I've been waiting until 6:00 to go to him in hopes that he'll eventually stop waking quite so early.

I kind of want to smack myself in the head for being such a naysayer and waiting for so long. Perhaps it wouldn't have worked before, though, and he is just ready to sleep on his own now. I don't believe this is right for every baby, but it is working amazingly well for mine.

Now if only I could train myself to fall asleep more easily after that 3 a.m. feeding . . . .


Sarah in Ottawa said...

I was also a nay-sayer, but it worked for us, too. Sometimes, in order to wind down, Teddy just needs to cry a little bit. Not an "I need you" cry, but just a little one. He was/is generally a great sleeper, but it was the night soothing that got to us. Once he could settle himself in the night - bliss! For both him and for us.

I am so glad that you have found something that works for you!!

hopeforcambodia said...

I haven't left a comment on your blog before, Lauren, but I have time today! I came over to you from Arwen's blog ages ago when you were struggling to conceive. I was in the same boat, and we have a little miracle baby, too. She is five months old, and the joy of our hearts. I SO resonate with what you have been going through! I think when a child comes to you after much suffering, we are so careful to try and make their world safe and beautiful. I have never let Amelie cry herself to sleep, and have done the whole feeding, rocking, holding thing! We still rock her to sleep, but she sleeps great at night - twelve hours with a dream feed at nine. I hear her waking up now (I am in Australia - it is mid-morning here) so I will have to finish this later.


hopeforcambodia said...

I'm back, like 28 hours later! Ha ha! This whole sleep thing gets me. I can't bear the thought of letting her cry to sleep at this point - she has reflux, and I worry that she is in pain - so we rock to sleep. I have found having a predictable pattern to the day and how she falls asleep has really helped. We do the whole sleep-feed-play thing with her. Oops, awake again. Anyway, hope things continue to improve for you! Gives me hope!

Lisa said...

Oh, yay for the sleep training! It is so hard at first, but SOOOO worth it. We did this with Olivia and then with the baby I watch during the day, and it worked like a charm, both times. I've also found that they wake up happier and tend to play well alone in bed after learning to fall asleep alone.

Lauren said...


Nate has reflux, too, but we have it VERY well controlled now that he is on Prevacid. He used to pop off a bunch when he was nursing and scream in pain, but those days are, thankfully, long gone.

I've already become a big believer in the whole "do what's right for your family" mantra, so I would by no means advocate sleep training for anyone who wasn't comfortable with it (or who thought it wouldn't work for her child). But if you ever decided to take the sleep training route, know that you will ABSOLUTELY be able to tell the difference between an "I'm in pain" cry and a "I want to be asleep" cry.

So happy for your miracle baby, too!

Sarah and Lisa, thanks for the support! Lisa, you suggested this long ago, before I was willing to give it a go. Glad you were right!

hopeforcambodia said...

Miracle babies are the BEST! Loving five months, too. I would love her to have some medicine but doc is very cautious and says she is not 'serious' enough. Apparently there is an increased risk of pneumonia, and although I would be willing to take that chance to help my baby, he will not prescribe...so...there we are. Also, my liddle bean seems to have just one cry whch goes something like, "I'M GONNA DIE! I'M GONNA DIE!" so I'll never know what she is thinking and feeling, ha ha! Very dramatic, is our girl.

If the rocking thing stops working (!) we might have to give the crying thing a go. I've actually stopped feeding her during the night. She goes from nine to seven am. We put her to bed at 6.30 or 7, and the 9pm is just a dream feed. We 'helped' her go from waking at five to waking at seven over about two weeks. She will still take her dummy so that helped.

The 45 minute naps drive me NUTS! Hope she shifts back to longer ones soon.

maggie said...

I was NOT a naysayer, simply because everyone says it works and I am all about Things That Work. BUT. It was SO HARD. I hated it. I had to leave the house the first night. But talk about lifechanging! And for us it took all of two days, if I remember it right. (Look! I can't even remember! It will all be okay!)

Molly, however, slept on her own right off the bat, and if SHE was crying there was ALWAYS a problem. Kids are so weird, so different from each other. Sleep training with her was more about manipulating WHEN she slept and THAT was a pointless endeavor. We just had to wait it out. But the sleeping on their own and getting back to sleep, it totally sounds like Nate was just ready (crying whether or not you held him!) and YOU were ready and I'm so glad it's improving! Yay you!