Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sleep Training = Blurgh

Reformed screaming demon baby.
Dot is a wonderful child. No really. I know people say this about their children, but she's really animated and curious and happy for most of the day. She experiments and explores and socializes eagerly. She's a hard worker and a good communicator. Day care reports to me that the only time she whines is when she's hungry. She doesn't even care when poo is running down her leg. She takes after her father.

But...BUT, we were having some problems getting her to sleep. Bed time was kind of yucky. We would go through our routine (bath, nurse, stories, diaper, crib), and somewhere in there, usually during stories or diaper, she would short circuit and scream until we rocked her all the way to sleep and placed her carefully in her crib. This placing-in-the-crib business usually happened several times before we could do it without her waking back up. Additionally, when she would wake up in the middle of the night to eat, we would go through the same thing to get her to go back to sleep. This could take an hour to an hour and a half, which meant I wasn't sleeping.Which meant I was a crazy bitter witch lady most of the week who harbored secret resentment toward her peacefully sleeping husband who still managed to complain about not getting enough sleep.

So we decided to try the Ferber method. Before you shoot side-eye at me, we did explore other methods that were more gradual, or "gentle." Dot's problem is that she doesn't respond well to rocking or cuddling anyway, and she won't take a pacifier. She will nurse to sleep, but I'm not okay with that, as I deserve a night out occasionally. We had to stop swaddling her because she thrashes all over the crib, and heaven forbid she roll over in her sleep swaddled. And really, I prefer methodology that has hard and fast rules, so there's little room for error or improvisation. Some of the other methods (i.e. Pantley's No-Cry Sleep Solution or Tracey Hogg's method) just seemed to be too unstructured and indefinite for me. Plus our pediatrician told us to do it, and we just blindly do whatever he says.

I read the book. We picked a start date. And that first night, we sat in silence as our daughter screamed for 80 minutes while we checked on her every three, five, then seven minutes. It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. I held up pretty well. I knew in the long run, she would benefit from this (although attachment parenting advocates might say otherwise). But then the next six nights, she still cried for at least 20 minutes before falling asleep, and it started to wear on me. I felt like maybe it wasn't working. I felt like I was ruining my baby.

Then, after about eight days, she went down happy and smiling and talked herself to sleep. This happened the next day at nap time and the following evening. We seemed to have turned a corner. I was so proud of her for gaining this independence. And even when we traveled to Chicago the following week, she went to sleep with minimal complaining despite her upended routine.

I thought I would be writing a success story here, but I'm not. The last few nights she has started screaming again at bed time, and for progressively longer periods. Last night it took her almost 30 minutes to fall asleep. The confidence I felt that first night has waned, and I now feel slightly nauseated as I check on her and resist the urge to pick her up. We're not sure what, if anything, happened to disrupt our peaceful routine. She still puts herself back to sleep after a nighttime feeding, and she seems to be waking less often at night, so it wasn't all for naught. But we may be searching for other options again if she doesn't improve soon.

All this is to say, we have no idea what we're doing. Other parents may confidently tell us that what they do is good or better or best, but I don't think they really know either. They may have stumbled upon something that worked miraculously well for their child, but they don't know our child or our family or our schedule or our mental capacities (which seem to be limited these days). And frankly, I don't know her that well either. She's constantly changing. Every day is trial and error. She spends the better part of her waking hours with day care providers who are also tending to 19 million other squiggly babies. Even more reason why Dot needs to learn independence. Dot will often be cared for by people other than myself. That is her lot in life. My lot is to make sure that despite the first-world woes of working mothers, she can learn to do things for herself, and that her father and I are always here to help. Crying in her crib, while gut-wrenching and terrible, is not the worst thing I will have to watch her endure. I just hope that by her first breakup or bad haircut or college rejection letter, she has at least learned to blow her nose.


  1. Good luck! I wonder how many ways I am making the wrong choices with my kids. Probably innumerable. The more I read about the "right" ways to parent the more confident I am that the "college fund" needs to be reassigned to a "psychotherapy fund."

    Sleep is such a touchy subject to bring up with other parents. You are brave to post it here. I hope you re-turn that corner soon but I am sure that you hope so even more!

  2. Yes. Psychotherapy will likely be part of our monthly budget.