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Sleep Training for the Uninitiated

July 17, 2012

I guess this is a controversial topic, and I don’t want to piss anyone off.  So I apologize in advance.  If you are anti- sleep training, then go about your merry way and please ignore this post.  I don’t want to be berated or flamed for doing what I deliberated long and hard about, and ultimately decided was best for my family.  Thankyouverymuch.

That being said.  I knew sleep training was inevitably going to have to happen.  Ethan kept having better and better nights, only to take a big step back and be waking every two hours.  He doesn’t nap well during the day, so the result was that he was overtired and cranky, and we were overtired and cranky, too.  The pediatrician gave us the okay at four months to start sleep training whenever we were ready.  It took us another month to feel ready.  Then he hit five months (is he really five months old already??) and I knew it was time.  This not-so-little boy was ready to start sleeping in his own room, in his own crib, and we might as well start sleep training at the same time.

I read articles both for and against, and detailing various methods of sleep training.  I read the Sleep Easy Solution and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.  Both books are proponents of very similar methods, basically modified Ferberizing.  The idea is to put your child down sleepy but awake (more on that later), and let him “cry it out” – but to check on him in increasing increments.  You come into the room after 5 minutes of crying and say some soothing things; then you leave.  You come in again 10 minutes later, then 15 minutes later, and then continue in 15 minute increments until he falls asleep.  The goal is to help your child learn how to settle himself back to sleep, so he won’t always be dependent on your arms or your breast to help him get there.

This is where I agree strongly with the books.  I don’t want my child to lack what I consider an important skill; the ability to fall asleep.  My husband suffers from insomnia and I don’t want him to pass that gift along to our child.  Sure, I also wanted a decent night’s sleep.  But there were a lot of reasons, and they weren’t all selfish.  I promise.

The first night was Friday.  I put him down asleep, but his eyes opened briefly so I was reassured that he knew he was in his crib and no longer in my arms.  He drifted right back off to sleep again.  I am not brave enough to try to put him to bed while he is still awake for real.  I’m just not.  He woke up a mere 12 minutes later and started to cry.  Commence the incremental check-ins.  It took him nearly an hour to fall back to sleep.  The crying broke my heart a little bit.  Then he slept until 3 am and cried for another hour.   At 4 am I decided to go and nurse him, since he hadn’t really been night weaned yet and I was worried he might truly be hungry.  Then he went back to sleep, and slept until about 6:45 am.  Not too bad for the first night.

The second night, again, I put him down asleep.  He slept for about 40 minutes and then woke up.  He cried for about 20 minutes, with check-ins, and only woke twice during the night, each time crying for under five minutes and therefore not even getting a check-in out of us.  No night feedings at all.  Not bad!  I definitely could see that this was working.

The third night, he woke up about 12 minutes after I put him down.  This time he only cried for about 12 minutes, with one check-in at the 5 minute mark, and then he slept the entire night until nearly 6 am.  (That is 10 hours of sleep without any breaks!!)  Miracle of miracles!! I couldn’t believe it.

Tonight is the fourth night, and he did cry for about 45 minutes soon after I put him down, but now he appears to be asleep.  I am optimistic that he will sleep through the night now, but we will see.

Can I just say (without being flamed) that this whole sleep training thing has changed everything?  It has shown me that we can work with our son and help him learn the things he needs to learn.  It also has brought some predictability to our nights – now we can actually guess what time our son will go to bed and what time he will wake up in the morning.  This is huge.  The crying is really hard to take, and I doubt it will get any easier, but hopefully it will diminish as time goes on.  The glass of wine and the chocolate that I ingest to soothe myself between check-ins can only do so much.  It doesn’t help that my husband works late every weeknight so the last two nights I’ve had to do all the check-ins by myself and listen to him cry with no one to keep me company but the cats.  But it’s working, and therefore I know it’s worth it.

Now if only we could sleep train the cats.  Even though Ethan is no longer waking us up during the night, the cats are still waking us at 4:00 in the morning.  Anyone know a good cat whisperer?

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