December 30, 2013

sleep training

My husband and I are currently in the middle of sleep training our nearly seven month old baby. She was a great sleeper the first few months of her life. She could fall asleep and stay asleep in the room with music playing while family and friends visited. Most of the time she slept in a cradle next to our bed. Sometimes I would nurse her in bed, and we would both fall asleep together. If I wasn't asleep I was still able to move her to her cradle without any trouble. Right around 3 months was when she started crying hysterically anytime I tried putting her in her crib. So we began to co-sleep, which was never something I planned on or intended to do. It just seemed like the easiest thing at the time. 

This worked out just fine for a few months. I enjoyed spending so much time together snuggling and resting with her. Then it got to the point where she needed to nurse almost all night long. She would cry if I removed my nipple from her mouth and wake up during naps if I got up to use the bathroom. We were hardly sleeping at all. She was also starting to move around more and roll over. I was afraid she could potentially fall out of bed. Spending the majority of my days laying around was also beginning to take a toll on my mind and my body. I needed time for myself and also time to physically work on getting back some of the strength I lost from pregnancy and co-sleeping.

After a lot of thought and research I decided to start sleep training her. Unfortunately, my husband has done very little to help me out with this. In his defense, he works odd hours at a full time job and is also a full time student. I started out trying the no cry method and used a slightly tweaked rocking technique from The Happiest Baby on The Block. I would rock her in her crib almost constantly to get her to fall asleep. Eventually she would fall asleep, but after about twenty minutes or so wake up crying. For three nights in a row we got little to no sleep at all, and late one night I gave up and brought my baby back into bed with me. 

I co-slept with her again for a little while until I got up the nerve to try Ferber's CIO method. From my understanding this involves creating a bedtime routine and making sure your baby is ready for bed; meaning tired, fed and of course wearing a fresh diaper when you put him/her down. Then you put your baby in the crib while briefly checking in at intervals. This method is supposed to help your baby learn to soothe itself to sleep, so that he/she will eventually be able to fall asleep on their own without crying. It also gives your baby the comfort of knowing you are still nearby. 

I had/have a few issues with this. One issue is that I feel and act crazy when she cries. I'm sure that it's a combination of hormones and some sort of ancient biological instinct to protect my baby when she's crying. So I have to continuously remind myself that she's not in any danger of being attacked by a wild animal, and that this is going to help her/everyone sleep better in the long run. Another issue I have is that my husband has gone in and picked her up a few times while she's been crying. So did a family member during the holidays. As far as I know this is not good, because it teaches her that if she cries long enough eventually someone will pick her up. So it reinforces her crying. Another issue I have is that when I go in to check on her it usually makes her cry even harder, which is obviously the opposite of my goal.

We have had some success with this method. She has had quite a few nights of sleeping ten hours straight. We've all woken up fully rested and able to really enjoy our day together. There have also been many nights and naps that took over an hour for her to fall asleep. That means over an hour of crying. There was even one night that she cried almost all through the night. We started this newer method just under two weeks a go, and it's still very inconsistent and challenging for everyone. 

I am now at the point of trying out a less severe version of the straight CIO method. I will not put my baby down and just leave her to cry. There have been a few times that she just needed her diaper changed again, and then she was able to fall asleep. So now I will let her cry for a little while, then check in only once to see if she needs a fresh diaper. From what I have read periodically checking in on your baby could potentially reinforce the idea that more crying means more visits from mom and dad. So they may end up crying more for that reason. I'm hoping that this method will be the winner. 

There are several other factors that make me wonder about the success, or lack of success, with my sleep training attempts. I wonder what set backs occur trying sleep training during the holidays, in a new environment and with all sorts of new stimulus. She actually did sleep great once she was finally able to fall asleep at her grandparents' house. I also wonder about teething while sleep training, because she has been showing some signs. 

I would also like to add that even though lately my baby has been crying herself to sleep most nights, she is still the same smiley happy baby with us when she is awake. Overall, she is actually sleeping way more than when we co-slept. I am also sleeping more. My husband and I finally have some much needed alone time together. I have been able to find some time just for myself again, too. 

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