Sleep Story: Ursula, David and Anton

Family: Ursula, David and Anton (8 months)

Approach: Cry-it-out

The Background: We really reached the end of our rope about a month ago. Anton was going to sleep between 6 and 7 p.m., then often up crying at 11, 1, 4, etc. He would nurse and go back to sleep, but it didn’t really seem like he *needed* to nurse so many times! I tried nursing him before I went to bed, but it didn’t make any difference. We tried keeping him up a little later, but he would just run out of steam by 7 p.m. We were exhausted!

Anton

Anton!

The Change:

After some deliberation, we decided we had to try something, but we weren’t patient enough for a more gradual/soothing approach. We’ve been reading the “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” book, which talked about different ways to try to change the patterns, including letting them cry for an indefinite amount of time. So we tried it! It was torture! But it only lasted about two nights! And then he slept right through the 10/11 p.m. and 1/2 a.m. times.

It wasn’t possible for either of us to sleep through the crying. Listening to Anton cry for 30-45 min the first night and 20-30 min the second night was hard, and David and I were definitely grumpy with each other about it. The frustrating thing was knowing that if we just got up and nursed, it would all be over in 20 min or so. But once we decided we’d really give it a try, it made it easier.

Anton he really has been sleeping much better since then. I think this coincided with his developmental changes and crawling (he’s been scooting/rolling/proto-crawling for at least a month), so he is tuckered out after a lot of moving a LOT each day. But, I’d still say for us, it was worth doing. Now Anton pretty reliably sleeps from about 7 p.m. until 4 or 5 a.m., often 6 a.m. Some nights he wakes up around 2, but usually not.

To be honest, I don’t really see us as being “crying it out” people. From the outside, it feels sometimes like this label means a certain kind of coldness, or some ability to let your child suffer. For me, it felt more like helping Anton do something on his own (learn how to go back to sleep by himself), despite my own suffering at hearing him cry!, and also an approach that might keep my own, and my partner’s, limited sanity intact. We were entirely unsure it would work, or that it would be something we could even get through. When we did it, I think both of us felt like we were experimenting, and tried to have an open mind.

So although I still feel a little reluctant to say it, maybe we *are* cry it out people. We did use variations of the cry it out approach with naps, and it’s been working for us for nighttime, too (so far). You think of yourself as a particular kind of parent, but then your baby, your partner, the circumstances, exhaustion and exhilaration all intervene.

Takeaway Tips:

  • It was key that David and I were on the same page about what we were trying to do.
  • I’ve found it’s definitely NOT helpful to try to have conversations about this kind of thing in the middle of the night! Schedule a “sleep summit” or similar conversation for a time when both people are feeling cool and collected!
  • Editor’s Note: Be open to trying “crying it out.” It doesn’t mean you are cold or want your child to suffer
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