So I admit it. I’ve read about 50 pages of anything on sleep training ever. I’m just not. that. interested.
I also feel really strongly that anything that goes hard against maternal instinct in caring for your baby is probably not a good thing. Those instincts are there for a purpose. Where they’re overly powerful, I find that good sense and reasonable arguments as to the benefit of a thing go a long way toward balancing the “cuddle and protect at all costs” instinct so that things like shots, babysitters, and bed times can happen.
I have happily ignored anything about sleep training up till this week, mostly because I have been very happy with Del’s sleep, and because I saw how stressed and worried moms who were doing it felt about it. How could that be good for anyone?
But over the last week, in addition to beginning to show some signs of teething, Del went from taking nice 1.5-2 hr naps a couple times a day, and sleeping from around 10pm until 7:30 or 8am (with 2-3 nursings in the night) to taking one, maybe two, half-hour long naps and staying awake past 10, and getting up at 6:30am. The loss of those morning and afternoon naps was leaving us both too cranky to handle the later bedtime and early rising. We were both exhausted.
I was talking it over with another mom and she asked what I thought about sleep training. I told I thought phooey on it, or something pretty much like that. She told me that after a couple hard nights of baby girl crying (and mom wearing headphones, blaring music, hiding in a bunker under her house – ok, maybe not that drastic but something like that), they’d achieved relatively peaceful, consistent bedtimes.
Sooo, I pulled out my copy of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (gift from an early childhood ed teacher friend of mine!) and proceeded to read the annoying Dr. Weissbluth. I admit I have not yet read the whole book, and might never, but what I gleaned was that there’s great benefit to the brain development of babies and children (and adults!) who are getting adequate sleep. Once babies pass out of their newborn stage they can begin to resist sleep for no reason other than to just not sleep, and an exhausted baby is even harder to get to sleep. Babies around Del’s age need around 12 or more hours of sleep per 24 hours. And following his simple steps will result in a baby that is likely to cry for no more than five or ten minutes before drifting into blissful slumber, leaving mama and daddy to bask in the heavenly glow of a parenting job well done.
That didn’t happen. Attempt one at early bedtime was kind of horrible. We did the “pop in and out” thing. About every 10 minutes one of us would go in an
d try to soothe the poor guy. He had nursed and was fairly obviously tired, but he was distraught and would NOT settle down. We cooked dinner a little at a time, but after two hours of Del’s misery, we got him up, and had him on the couch with us while we ate dinner. He finally nursed to sleep around 10:30, four wretched hours after we’d begun the bedtime routine… and his usual late bedtime.
Attempt two was the next day. We’d been out in the city all day and he’d napped well but intermittently. His latest nap was the train ride home, lasting about 45 minutes and ending around 5:15. We started bedtime routine around 6:30 which I think in retrospect was too close to his last nap, though he was acting drowsy. We fed him a little bit of solid food then he got a nice warm bath. Next, we nursed in bed and he drifted off to sleep. I moved him to his crib where he woke almost instantly and began to fuss. I had read in a book that like LOTS better than snippy Dr. W (The Essential First Year, Penelope Leach) that staying in the room with baby is perfectly legitimate, and helps both mom’s feelings of resisting her crying child, and baby’s sense of being abandoned. Following Dr. Leach’s advice, I brought the rocking chair into the bedroom and sat nearby reading a book while Del hollered at me. He’d occasioanlly quiet, then start in again. Every half hour I’d walk over and pat his tummy or head, and each hour I picked him up, rocked and nursed him. I read my book, I posted my angst on Facebook and got lots of supportive comments from my amazing mom friends and realtives. I also drank a beer because it felt horrible to sit and let him cry, and the beer calmed the edginess of the ordeal. Maybe it was the beer that finally did it for Del too, because the second nursing at 9:30 did the trick. He nursed for about 20 minutes and was sound asleep just before 10pm.
A whole whopping half hour earlier than the night before.*sigh*
I got so much great feedback from the moms who replied to my FB updates. From “Be strong!” to “It’s ok to change your mind!” and I appreciate those and every sentiment between. I am not convinced this plan is for us. But I am happy that after the bedtime ordeal last night, Del slept over six hours before waking to nurse, and slept till 7:30 this morning.
We’re moving naps up an hour today to see if that better suits the “asleep by around 7:30” goal… and we’ll try again tonight. The jury is still out on whether we’ll continue if it does not go much, much more smoothly tonight.