5:10AM Olivia is finally asleep in her crib… I think.
Am I asleep? No. I’m wide awake. Coffee Brewed. Googling… “Alternative to Cry it Out Method.” Several message board posts later – I feel horrible about ignoring my gut instinct to ALWAYS comfort my baby when she cries. I talked to our pediatrician, and consulted many friends about their experiences with sleep training and developing healthy sleep habits for/with their babies this past week. Everyone has an opinion about what works – but it all boils down to the baby. (I don’t think I like using the word BOIL and BABY in the same sentence). I never really fully backed the Ferber-type method for sleep training; never judged those who did, just didn’t think it could work for me (and Olivia). Most of my friends made suggestions like, “quit nursing her at night,” and “let her sleep with you until she decides she’s ready to sleep in her own bed – cribs are prisons” and of course, the flip side, “you just need to let her cry it out!” We were at the pediatrician on Tuesday for an ear re-check when Dr. Diaz encouraged me to try the CIO method. She made arguments like, “It’s your responsibility to help your baby develop healthy sleep habits in the same way that it’s your responsibility to help them develop healthy eating habits” and “Babies cry, that’s just what they do.” I really couldn’t disagree with these statements more – It’s not like I’m encouraging POOR sleeping habits! and I certainly don’t think that letting your baby cry just because “it’s what they’re supposed to do” is acceptable. Babies cry because they NEED something – food, diaper, cuddling… etc. (We’re switching Doctors, by the way – more on that later).
OK – So I’ll set the stage. To help paint a picture of what the past few months have been like… and show you just how sleep deprived I am.
At around 6 months – Olivia’s sleep habits changed… and I have a feeling it’s mostly my fault. (This is where I do agree with owning the responsibility of developing healthy sleep habits.) Pre-6 month old Olivia would nurse to sleep in the evening, go down in her crib… wake up to nurse once, maybe twice, but generally sleep for 10-12 hours in two 5-6 hour stretches. During her nighttime feedings, she frequently fell asleep within a few minutes of nursing – a big sign that she probably wasn’t REALLY hungry, just needed a snuggle. Here’s what I should have done at this point – Slowly eliminate nursing at night, instead just rock, cuddle, sing her back to sleep. Instead, at 6 months, when I was so totally sick of the zombie feed, I started bringing her to bed with us, (
BIG MISTAKE family cuddling is kind of the best) where I could roll over, nurse, then fall back asleep. Just as I was convinced that I needed to be the one to break this habit and let Olivia start sleeping in her own bed again… we had 4 straight weeks of cough cold/ ear infection/ cutting teeth… and my plan was shot. So here we are (Oct. 31)- a typical night (for the last 2 months) for us looks like this:
8:00PM I nurse Olivia then usually rock her for 15-20 minutes, sing, say prayers, etc. until she’s pretty much konk’d out
10:30PM We usually get to sleep – It’s really nice to have that extra couple of hours alone!
1:30AM (or so…) Olivia wakes up, I nurse her in the rocking chair in her room, then rock her for 15-20 (sometimes 30 minutes) then put her down in her crib… and her little eyes POP open… like, “BUT MOM! I want to sleep with you!”
2:00AM So I usually make a second attempt to get her to go back to sleep… Another 30 minutes of rocking… and I put her down… and her eyes POP open.
2:30AM Occasionally I make a third attempt – but usually I’m frustrated and tire by this point so I usually just let her come to bed with us – where I give her a pacifier and she crashes pretty quick.
3:30AM Somebody squirms, coughs or rolls over and Olivia wakes up – so I nurse her back to sleep.
5:00AM Daniel gets up for work, Olivia starts to squirm so I give her a pacifier and pray that she’ll go back to sleep.
5:30AM Still squirming, I make another attempt to feed Olivia thinking that it might help her sleep a little longer.
5:30 – 6:30AM I endure an hour or so of kicking and squirming… which gradually escalates to hair-pulling and poking (She really likes to poke my nose and eyes and stick her pointer finger in my mouth)…
so by 6:30… I get up.. make the coffee… turn on the news, pump, etc.
So basically, I get a 3 hour (or so) stretch of sleep, then am up for an hour and a half, then get another 2 hour stretch, then an hour and a half of “half-sleep.” NOT ENOUGH SLEEP. I do feel guilty that I don’t want to share our bed anymore with our squirmy baby. HOWEVER, “Ain’t Nobody Happy if Momma Ain’t
So last night. Actually… this morning. or today. We let Olivia calm herself back to sleep – I won’t really say we let her cry it out – because I definitely didn’t follow all the rules to Ferber’s method. We had a bit of an off night, (Olivia boycotted her afternoon nap yesterday then fell asleep at 6:30 while we were out trick-or-treating) so we extended her bedtime a bit. When she woke up at 3:30AM (actually much later than usual!) – I went in and fed her, we cuddled for 30 min or so then I put her down with a pacifier (eyes popped open), tuned her mobile on (I don’t usually do this – but figured maybe it would help her drift off to sleep) and walked out of her room. She fussed a bit (not even real crying) for about 10 minutes then I let her cry or 5 minutes before I went in to find her standing in the crib. I gently kissed her head and helped her lay back down, gave her a pacifier, rubbed her tummy a bit, turned her mobile on and again walked out. Tears definitely welled up in her eyes (mine too) as I was going through the process… and she started to cry as I walked about again. I waited 15 before going back in and repeated the processes. When I walked out this time, I set my stop watch for 30 minutes… thinking, “there’s no way I’m going to be able to endure this!” – but she cried for less than 5 minutes.. and that was an hour and ago.
So I’ve been awake since 3:30AM. Not the desired result but I do see more sleep in my future. And a more rested Momma (and Olivia) will make for a happier family. Stay Tuned for night #2 of “Healthy Sleep Habit Building”… that’s what I’m going to call it.
UPDATE: Night 2 was much easier… Olivia, again, woke up around 3:00AM – I fed her, rocked + snuggled her for a few minutes then put her down in her crib with a pacifier + mobile on. She cried for about 20 minutes (which was much less heartbreaking on the second night since it was more of a whine than a cry). I checked on her, rubbed her back for a minute or two then left her room. She cried for 12 minutes (I’d set my stopwatch for 45 minutes this time) before falling asleep. Again – she slept much later than she would have if she was in bed with us… until around 7:15AM. Go Liv!
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