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.
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.