Tag Archives: sleep training

Bedtime Redemption?

(Notice the question mark… after the past three months, I’m unlikely to be declarative about most things…)

As noted, the Pacifier Fairy (and some other things that are still being sorted out) had some unintended consequences in our house. Namely, Boopsie’s ability to fall and stay asleep disappeared. Gone.

At first, we tried to soldier on as we had… two books, potty and brush teeth, one book, go to sleep with some books in bed to look at. And it didn’t work. We tried putting her back in bed without talking to her (one night we did that 32 times). We tried doing bed checks (she would scream bloody murder and kick her closed door). In desperation, we began laying on her floor while she fell asleep, which could regularly take 75 minutes or more.

Reacting how I normally do when faced with a parenting dilemma, I reached for my old standby — books. I re-read pertinent sections in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Family, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, and The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight. I also hired a parenting coach, who suggested that Boopsie may have some sensory integration dysfunction.

In the interim, Daddy-o and I were having to stay in Boopsie’s room until she fell asleep and then we were often  called back in there in the middle of the night to sleep on the floor (in the middle of the winter, in the northland, as an alternative to having her end up in our bed). It. Was. Hell. This was all additionally complicated by travel and tantrums and being generally shell-shocked by the changes in our kid.

So we tried the “sleep shuffle” from The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight. And it took about three weeks. And it worked. Sort of.  But our kid still wouldn’t really nap and was waking still in the night. Oh, and she wasn’t actually falling asleep (usually) until close to 10 p.m. (Side note: Sleep deprived preschoolers and having one parent “booked up” with a kid until 10 p.m. every night are not great marital aids.)

Man and child outside Build A Bear Workshop

Daddy-o and Boopsie with the bunny.

We got a new night light. We got a new clock for her room. We tried letting her color in bed. We started playing music in her bedroom.We tried a reward chart. It took her 42 days to earn 15 stars. She earned a trip to Build A Bear workshop and was so overwhelmed by the crowds that she didn’t want to build a bear. So she picked a bunny she was thrilled about.

Then she got sick (and then we got sick).  And she needed more help falling asleep and we were back to sitting in the rocker in her room, trying to get her to stay quietly in bed, often threatening to leave and do checks (and sometimes leaving and doing checks). I felt like a hostage.

Finally, last week, with help from the parenting coach, I re-made bedtime again. The first two nights were tough, with tears and me having to prove to Boopsie that I would not come back to her until 9 minutes was up (she was gated in her room), no matter what she said. But then I made a little tweak and bedtime has gotten much better. In fact, one night my kid fell asleep on her own before 9 p.m. And she’s consistently falling asleep on her own (okay, is six days enough to say “consistently”?). Without tears. I won’t bore you with the details of her new bedtime routine because what works for one kid has no guarantee of working for another kid. I will say this: I cherish the time and mental energy I’ve gotten back. Getting 1-2 hours back into our evening has made Daddy-o and I much happier people. We can do little things around the house. We can have uninterrupted conversations. We can watch a TV show. We can work if we need to. We can just freaking be.

You may be wondering why we didn’t have her “cry it out.” I was actually very close to doing this in December. I queried other parents via Facebook and got a lot of support and tips. Here’s the thing: One thing that has been reinforced for us over the past three months is that Boopsie is an incredibly intense kid. And with the question of sensory issues still on the table, along with her the length and strength of her tantrums, we truly did not have any confidence that it would work. If anything, we figured she’d cry for hours until she passed out. And that wasn’t going to help her re-learn to relax and fall asleep. I don’t begrudge anyone who tries the “CIO” approach, but for our kid, it was a no-go.

So here I am… enjoying a whole hour of time I didn’t have this night a week ago, feeling like maybe, just maybe, we have found the bedtime promised land again. (As a superstitious person of Irish descent, I’m almost certain that by talking about this it’s all going to hell in a handbasket. Let’s hope not.)

Sweet dreams to you and yours…

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Sleep Training/Fight Night in the Hizzy

Sooo…. I was fired up. We had a video monitor. And then we ALL got another cold. Yuck. I blame it on the endless winter/lack of spring this year. So we waited. Boopsie’s cold got better, but a diaper rash didn’t. So I took her to the doctor. No ear problems, no teeth busting through, nothing that should prevent us from trying. But THEN it was Mother’s Day weekend, and I was exhausted and cranky and we had a babysitter lined up for Saturday night. So we waited again.

And suddenly, without any intervention, Boopsie started waking up once a night (instead of two). And then a few days later she went two nights without waking up to eat. Suddenly not letting her eat at night didn’t seem too scary. Starting last Tuesday, we started reducing how much formula Boopsie got in a bottle if she woke up. (I had a table that included first bottle and second bottle, just in case. Because I AM that much of a project manager.)

We came around to Friday night and I decided it was time to draw a line in the sand. The most she’d had at night during the prior few days was 4 ounces. We knew she could go all night without eating. I declared it fight night in the hizzy, and we went to bed wondering what would happen…here’s what transpired:

2:55 a.m. – Boopsie woke up and started fussing. I thought perhaps she would go back to sleep.

3:09 a.m. – No such luck. She was getting very wound up, so I went in, patted her head and told her, “Shh, it’s time to go to sleep.” She FREAKED OUT, which woke Daddy-o up. He joined me in the kitchen for a video monitor spy session.

3:13 a.m. – She stopped screaming, but continued kicking and rolling. Daddy-o went back to bed.

3:18 a.m. – Back to sleep???

3:22 a.m. – Okay, it seemed she really WAS back to sleep. I trundled back to bed.

Frankly, it felt blissfully anti-climatic. Between the video monitor and going into to knowing she could sleep all night, I was confident this would work out. But then she stopped crying even faster than I thought she would. 23 minutes of fussiness and about 5 minutes of full-on crying? Oh, we can live with that!

Last night, Boopsie slept 12 hours. Yes, 12 hours. She woke up a couple of times for about 5 minutes each and then went back to sleep.

THANK YOU, UNIVERSE.

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Who needs a life?

Apparently, I do. Outside of work. This type of stuff is taking a LOT of my attention. Daddy-o came to wake me from a nap yesterday and found me covered in a pile of books. These books:

Books on Bed

I need a life. Stat.

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We’re Bringing Snotty Back (again)

We’re bringing snotty back… (sung to the tune of Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back”). The whole family has been smacked down with a cold. As a result, all sleep training is on hold.

GAAAAAAAH! Have you ever thought you’ve reached the end of something difficult only to have it extended a bit? I’ve been doing this for almost 8.5 months, what’s one more week? Right? RIGHT?

Off to blow my nose…

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Geeking Out Over the “Sleep Plan”

I’ve read a lot of books about baby sleep. A LOT of books. And Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Dr. Richard Ferber  just came in the mail tonight. He’s the godfather (as far as I can tell) of the somewhat controversial “Ferber Method” or “Ferberizing.” How would you like to have a verb made out of your last name? And what would you want that activity to be? Hmm… okay, anyway:

So “Ferberizing” is where you let your baby cry for increasing amounts of time — five minutes, then ten minutes, etc. — until they fall asleep when you are out of the room. It’s supposed to help a baby (6 months old, healthy, etc.) learn how to self-soothe. And that’s where we’re heading.

But being an over-wrought, over-read, over-tired mommy that I am, I needed to develop a little “project plan” to get Boopsie to sleep through the night. I’m worried because she drinks about 4 ounces at each of two feedings and don’t want to just suddenly take all that food away without allowing for some adjustment.

Without further adieu, here’s a draft:

Goals (Every good plan starts with goals!)

1)    Get rid of late-night feeding.

2)    Then, get rid of dream feed.

Now until Thursday, April 28:

1)    Switch to level three nipples on bottles (assuming she’ll eat more during the day before she gets bored). (done)

2)    Continue to dream feed, 6 oz. (yup)

3)    Start giving her breakfast. (just started today)

4)    Starting, Tuesday, April 26, begin reducing the amount in late night feeding (assuming she will learn to start taking in more food during the day)

5)    Early waking (before 7 a.m.) is not okay. (For the record, she’s only woken up before 7 a.m. like three times.)

  • Intervention (Per The Sleep Lady): Go in quickly, reposition. Put paci in hand. Leave the room. She may cry.
  • If she’s still crying at wake up time (7 a.m.), do a “dramatic wake-up” – open curtains and say hello brightly, to make it clear that it’s time to wake up now (as opposed to earlier).

6)    Begin giving her the paci in her hand, rather than putting it into her mouth.

  • Pacifier rules:  Only at bed time, nap time, or in the car seat.

7)    Daytime feeding: Less snacking, more eating. Try to feed every three hours. (The issue here is more with breastfeeding.)

Beginning Thursday, April 28 – Get rid of the late night feeding:

Options:

Two Weeks After the Late Night Feeding is Gone:

Wean her off of the dream feed, using whatever method we use to get rid of the late-night feeding.

So there it is… “The Sleep Plan.” Yes, a big part of this is just me trying to create order and clarity around something that freaks me out. We’re going to do this, and we’re going to hope it works. But really, we can’t know for sure, because Boopsie is her own being, with her own ideas… and we can only do so much. If I were Boopsie, I would be looking at me and looking at this “Sleep Plan”… and laughing.

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Why Can’t Someone Just TELL ME What to Do?!?

Argh! We’re still struggling with sleep. And I’m not convinced Boopsie is drinking enough during the day to allow her to cry-it-out. I’m just not sure and I wish someone would just TELL ME what the right thing to do here is.

Almost never having a clear answer has been such a struggle for me since Boopsie was born. I’m always wondering what the “right” thing to do is. I wrestle with the idea that there is no single right answer. More than that, I worry that there are several wrong ones, and I’ll make things unnecessarily bad or unpleasant for her (or me, or Daddy-o).

I reached out to her doctor through the fancy e-mail-ish system they use at the clinic. (Side note: Love It! Though I’m not so sure the Dr. loves me being able to e-mail in complicated questions.)

Anyway, this is what I sent:

Hi Dr. X –
I have some questions about Boopsie sleeping and eating. Let me know if this is too much to answer/cover and I should make an appointment.
The questions:
1) How do I know if/when I can eat dairy again? She’s 7.5 months old. Do I need to wait until she’s no longer breast feeding?
2) I’d really like to eliminate the middle-of-the-night feeding (3 or 4 a.m.), but am afraid she’ll go hungry. Right now she eats anywhere from 8-20 minutes (usually somewhere around 15). Does that mean she really needs it and I shouldn’t try to eliminate it?

Other possibly pertinent info:
– She eats 2 meals a day (LOVES eating food) and gets a mix of formula and breast milk
– She’s recently started rejecting bottles at day care. Can’t figure that out, but she’s been drinking about 4-8 ounces the whole day there.
– She goes to bed at about 7 p.m., wakes up to get fed (or we feed her) between 9 and 11 p.m.
– She weighs 15 lb 4 oz (as of last week).

So – do you think it’s safe to try and get rid of that middle-of-the-night feeding? Any suggestions (or warnings against) of how we should go about it? We’ve been considering “cry it out,” but I’m really afraid it won’t work and she’ll end up “damaged.”

Thanks,
Me

And this is what I received back:

Hi!

I think the only way to know if she has trouble when you eat dairy is for you to try eating dairy and then see how she does — it may no longer be an issue for her.

How often babies need to feed can vary. If she eats at 9 pm and then wakes at 4 am, she may very well be hungry, whereas if she ate at 11, then wakes at 3, I’d expect her not be so much. You won’t scar her for life by trying to let her cry it out, but she’ll let you know pretty quickly if she’s just a little fussy and having a hard time settling herself back down to sleep, or livid and really hungry. You could try giving her a little food at that evening feed, to hold her over longer.

Little Happy Elf

Okay, maybe not THIS elf, but wouldn't some specific guidance be nice?

As with so many other aspects of parenting, there is not necessarily one best way — it varies depending on baby’s (and parents’) personality.

Try something for a few days and see how it goes, let me know. Hang in there, spring is here! I am pretty sure that everyone sleeps better when they get more fresh air. Good luck!

*Big Sigh* So I’m just supposed to try eating dairy and see if it gives her a tummy ache. Experiment?!?! On My CHILD?!?! And maybe she’s truly hungry and maybe she’s not? Crap! Not the guidance I was hoping for, even though Dr. X herself points out that, “As with so many other aspects of parenting, there is not necessarily one best way.” Intellectually I agree with that. Emotionally, I wish there was a magical elf on my shoulder telling me the right thing to do…

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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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