Adventures in “Sleep Training”

To cry it out, or not to cry it out… that is the question.

Our story starts a little over a month ago. Around the 3-month mark, T started to regress in his nighttime sleep. Seriously. He had been going to bed around 10, sleeping a 5-6 hour stretch, waking to eat sometime between 3am & 4am, then sleeping another 2-4 hours. Perfect. Amazing. I can handle that!

Suddenly he was sleeping for 3 hours, waking to eat at 1am, sleeping for 2 hours, waking to eat at 3am, then waking up every hour after that until finally starting the day at 7am. With John working nights, I was alone and responsible for every night waking. Needless to say, I was exhausted! Dr. Brown had warned us that this would happen. At T’s 2-month visit she said that he would likely regress soon because between 3-4 months babies begin to remember being rocked to sleep in mom’s arms. She warned us that he would likely wake up in his crib frightened and unable to soothe himself.

I vaguely remembered her words as I rocked T to sleep for the millionth time one night. So, naturally, I did a google search for “sleep training.” I found dozens and dozens of cry it out techniques… but that totally freaked me out.

Some of them suggested letting your baby cry for more than an hour! NO WAY could I just leave T in a crib to cry himself to sleep. Just thinking about it makes me tear up. I know, I know… it’s the quickest way for him to learn to put himself to sleep and soothe himself, blah blah blah. Whatever.

I didn’t think he was ready for that. I wasn’t ready for that!

So, we compromised.

I would nurse/rock T to sleep at the beginning of the night. I would teach him to soothe himself during subsequent night wakings by letting him fuss in very small intervals, going to check on him every 3, 5, and 7 minutes. After a 6 hour stretch, I would feed him if he woke up. The first night went very well. T woke up after three hours and cried (not screamed) for a total of 22 minutes before putting himself to sleep. I went in after 3 minutes, then again after 5 minutes, then again after two 7-minute intervals. Before the third 7-minute interval was up, T was sleeping like a baby. He slept until 5am, when I fed him and we snuggled for a few hours before starting the day.

We went through this process for several nights. By the third night, T slept through the night! I was so proud, although my boobs were in serious pain when we woke up. Everything was going perfectly. T was well-rested, I was well-rested, John wasn’t hearing us complain anymore.

Then…

We went on vacation. Oh, vacation. What a love/hate relationship we have. Of course, being in a new place and all out of his routine, T went back to waking up once, twice, or thrice (yes, thrice) a night. Obviously, I felt like an idiot for wasting all that time sleep training right before we went out of town. When we got back, I was frustrated. And tired. And John was working nights. I was in no condition to start the process over. Honestly, it’s emotionally draining to hear your baby cry for any length of time. No one told me that! So, basically, for the past couple of weeks T has been sleeping in bed with me.

After T’s 4-month well baby visit, we decided it was time. Dr. Brown mentioned that it would be easier in the middle of the night if T would put himself to sleep at the beginning of the night. She suggested changing our nighttime routine by nursing first, then bathing/rocking T until he was sleepy, but still awake. She said he is absolutely capable of sleeping for 8 hours at a time. We tried it last night, and ya know what?

He didn’t even cry.

He was asleep in less than 7 minutes. Probably way less. His musical seahorse plays for 7 minutes. By the time it went off, I didn’t hear him crying. I went in to check on him, and he was sleeping like… well, like a baby. He slept for 6 hours. I fed him, then he slept for another 4 hours.

Hopefully, this is the start of something new. I will definitely keep you posted.

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About thedairyqueenmama

First-time Mom & second grade teacher from the great state of Louisiana. Loves coffee. Hates traffic jams.

Posted on July 12, 2011, in Parenting, Sleep, Sleep Training, Trindon. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Lauren, yes 4 months is definitely a great time to get a hold on it…its harder as they get older b/c even at 4 months they know to be manipulative but it only gets worse and soon they will be walking and crawling in bed with you and you don’t want that!
    Anyway I agree its hard to let a baby cry…we never really had to do this except at naptime sometimes…Colby was always a pretty easy baby at night. At 3 months though he did start waking again…he slept through the night at 2 months and for a solid month…it was suggested to start cereal that he was probably hungry so we did right at 4 months or a few days shy of and boom he never woke up again except maybe 2 or 3 times that first year when he was sick or teething.
    not sure if hunger pangs or just the soothing himself is what is wrong but if he continues waking up in a couple weeks I would consider doing 1 feeding at night of rice cereal.
    Anyway definitely putting them to bed drowsy is a good idea Colby would fall asleep eating sometimes and its not like we woke him up but if he didn’t we didn’t continue to rock/snuggle him. His nighttime feeding was always right before bed just b/c it did soothe him and calm him to the point of sleepiness. We just didn’t rock any after that once he was done eating he was either asleep or drowsy enough to be put down. I would say the biggest thing is not get them too attached to being rocked to sleep b/c I have friends who still have to rock their 2 year olds compltely to sleep…I mean snuggle time is ok just not making them dependant on you to fall asleep. Anyways good luck…no one tells you how hard these things are I know! So praying for you that you figure it all out and get the sleep you need!

  2. HI! I found you from the March Mommy WTE.

    We are/were going through the sleep regression. Not fun! Logan starting sleeping through the night all on his own about 2 weeks before I went back to work and I was super excited and was surprised how easy it was! Then I started work and he was eating less because he hated the bottle so he was waking up multiple times during the night to eat. Now that he’s eating enough he’s doesn’t need to be feed in the middle of the night, but is in the habit of waking up and it’s driving me crazy! I’ve been letting him fuss until he starts to actually cry before I go in. It breaks my heart to hear him cry, I couldn’t image letting him do it for longer than a few minutes!

    Hope it continues to go well for you!

  3. Oh I hope Sophia will be that easy. Like T, she was doing GREAT with sleeping at night and then a week or so ago went through that whole sleep regression thing. Now we seem to be getting back on track, but I do think it’s time to help her learn to soothe herself back to sleep. I’ve been trying to not immediately pick her up in the middle of the night if she starts to squirm and fuss (she sleeps in a bassinet next to our bed). I pop her nunu aka pacifier back into her mouth and she’ll knock back out, unless she is actually hungry.

    I’ll have to try doing that bath routine and using her seahorse again. She loves that seahorse!

    Great post!

  4. Peggy Lacourrege

    Hang in there, Lauren. Motherhood is an ever changing roller coaster ride: just when you get used to one routine/pattern/behavior, Jr. decides to throw in a curve or hill. Just know that your maternal gut instinct is the one to go with and not necessarily what others tell you worked for them. The whole letting them cry it out thing was almost impossible for me, personally to do. We always erred more on the “letting-them-in-the-bed/being-there-to-help-them” philosophy. And by the time we got to Nathan, we hadn’t changed our parenting style at all, being reinforced by the fact that the others all learned to put themselves to sleep eventually. And they were all very independent children. It is just a matter of personal choice… Although you have to know that if you go this route, there will be “weaning” from you out of their bedroom (or their sleeping on the floor of your bedroom) at some point. It can be a challenge to the patience. But, once again, they are only little for a few years and I always felt the security was important to their development than my getting my sleep. ( Kelsey was our worst. I had to sit in her room reading my book until she fell asleep even when she was 4 or so!) But once again, I knew what I was getting myself into and it was what worked for us.
    (BTW, Glad to hear the doc’s report and know that there are some type that go away as they grow.)

  5. Ms. Peggy, you are SO right. We definitely had to go with our gut on this one. So many people told us just to let him cry, and we are really just not comfortable with that. I know some crying will be necessary for him to learn to soothe himself, but I simply cannot bear to let him cry for more than a few minutes at a time. He has been in bed with me quite a bit the last month or so, and honestly, I miss him! We both sleep terribly when we’re in the same bed because I’m nervous about smothering him and he smells me and is constantly scooting over to be closer to me (which wakes him up). This morning when he woke up, I just couldn’t wait to go get him and bring him back in our bed and snuggle! I think we’ve finally found the ideal arrangement… If he’ll sleep 6-8 hours alone, we’re both well-rested and ready to snuggle for another hour or two! 🙂

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