Tags: cry it out, Ferber, sleep training, Weissbluth
Would you really let this guy cry it out?
My son does not sleep. Does. Not. Sleep. Or maybe, more accurately: my son likes to nurse. Likes. To. Nurse. I suspect it is a combination of the two, but the result is that he is nine months old, and we are in state of deep sleep deprivation. This is not a post to elicit sleep-training advice. If you have tried it, so have we.
Here is my rational analysis, although anything I say or do these days is far from rational since — have you heard? — I am really, really tired.
My daughter, Little Bug, was sleeping 6:30-7 by seven weeks. I know, I know, this is a statistical anomaly. As a result, however, I never had to contemplate “sleep training.” I thought I didn’t believe in it. Babies slept through the night when they decided to and mine, fortunately, just so happened to do so at a very early age. I admit: I was smug. My former nanny used to say to me in her Caribbean lilt: “Your second baby will NOT be like this. You will see.” Of course, I did not believe her.
When Little O turned seven weeks, and then eight weeks, and he was still up two or three times a night, I thought, well, yes, most normal babies do not really sleep until three months, and yes, we got lucky with Little Bug. So that milestone came and went. Fourteen weeks — the age at which most of my friends instituted a no-holds barred sleep training policy — came and went but still, I thought, he’ll do it any day. At six months — the oldest age at which I’d ever heard of anyone initiating sleep training — I thought: hmmm, we may be in trouble. But then he started to sleep. A bit. I was hopeful, and I was relieved because at seven months I was headed back to work. By this point, I’d put him down at 7 p.m., and some nights he’d wake at 2 or 3, but I could nurse him for all of five minutes and he’d go back down. Some nights he’s sleep all the way through, and some nights he wouldn’t. By that point I barely registered that little 2 a.m. blip. And, anyway, he’d be sleeping through the night any day now, right? These were the final throes of night wakings. They had to be. If he didn’t start sleeping by the time I went back to work, we’d do some sort of sleep training. Ferber, no-cry, whatever. We’d address it firmly.
Then I went back to work. And he started to teethe. And started daycare and, as a result, started getting sick. Colds, fevers, ear infections. How could I not go to him in the night? I went to work every day in a fog of exhaustion laced with caffeine jitters. Tim and I worked out an unconscious division of labor whereby when I heard Little O stir, I’d nudge Tim. He’d trudge down the hall to get the baby out of his crib and bring him into the bed. After nursing, and maybe falling asleep in the process, I’d eventually bring him back to the crib. Still, at this point, this was maybe only happening once per night.
Then, somehow, around eight months, just as my little baby was turning into a solid little crawler with six teeth and inhaling “real” food all day long, he had a total and utter sleep reversion. I swear he wakes up more than my three-week old nephew. At least he’s consistent: 10 p.m., 2 a.m. 5:30 a.m. And I indulge. I indulge because I’m too tired to sleep train. Because he doesn’t nurse all day and so I feel like I’m at least making up for it at night. Because he’s probably my last baby and I can’t bear the thought of giving up nursing (although, if he’s still nursing at 3 — no offense to you stalwart nursers who are still nursing at 3 — please say something to me!)
Last week we decided to get tough. Although I don’t — didn’t — really believe in sleep training (but, note that my reasons for this are because I assumed that, since my daughter slept so easily that children eventually would learn…), I felt borderline dysfunctional. I basically subsist on caffeine, a fact that is reflected in my complexion. I do not have the energy to exercise. I move through work as if I’m in a thick soup — simple projects takes me three times as long as they should. I am dull, in every connotation of the word. I am irritable, as many of those close to me have discerned. Perhaps noting my bloodshot eyes (for real), a co-worker gave me a book that seemed a rational amalgamation of all sorts of different types of sleep trainings, from Ferber to Weissbluth. In short: you pay attention to when your baby wakes and how much they eat each time. You anticipate the waking by one hour and, slowly, over the course a week, feed them a bit less every time. So, if your baby wakes at 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. and nurses for 8 minutes, you wake him at 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. and nurse him for 8 minutes the first night, 6 the second, 4 the third and then not at all. If they still wake, you can let them cry it out. The hard part of this is that, while it’s easy to go in a 9 p.m., it’s not so easy to set an alarm and go in a 2 a.m. We thus tried a bastardized version of this method and it backfired utterly — clearly you have to follow it to the letter. Here’s how the past several nights have gone.
Three nights ago: wake him up an hour early and give a bottle of breastmilk at 9 p.m. He wolfs it down. He sleeps till 5:30. Hallelujah! It works.
Two nights ago: forget to wake at 9, but at 9:30 give another big bottle of breastmilk. Perhaps we should have followed through and done the 2 a.m. precipatory wake up… anyway, he woke up about 3 a.m., but just cried for a little bit (we didn’t even go in the room) and went back down. Hooray! We are saved!
Last night: nurse (not bottle) at 10 p.m. (oops). Crying starts at 2 a.m. We will ignore. Be strong. The crying goes on and on and on. At 4:30 a.m. Tim caves and goes in and gives him a bottle. Writing this, I realize how harsh it sounds that we let him cry (now, granted he wasn’t shrieking the whole time, but he was definitely awake and fussy) for two hours. And — a ha! There’s the rub. Would you let your baby cry for two hours? No, us either.
So here we are with a big, jolly, nine-month-old baby who won’t sleep and parents who are utterly spent and have no idea what to do next. I’m not complaining — TRULY I am not. I’m just confused. In the end, maybe I simply have a child who likes to get up and be warm and cozy next to his mama in the middle of the night and, if this is the heart of the matter, do I really need to do anything anyway?