I must feel like living dangerously this week, because if there are two things people seem to get worked up about, it's lawyers and babies. Oy.
Because one of you Pretties asked, though, and because I've found this sort of post helpful myself in raising Master P, I'm talking about how I went about sleep training him. (Note to the Cheerfully Child-Free: did you know many babies have to be taught how to fall asleep and then sleep through the night on their own? True, truly tedious story.)
Let's get one thing straight here first . . . I am not taking sides here or claiming there is One Magical Right Way to Go About This. NOT NOT NOT, you can't make me! I'm entirely agnostic about this, firm in my belief that each child presents his or her own sets of both abilities and challenges, and that there's a different right answer for every family.
As long as what you're doing is safe and pediatrician approved, have at sleep whichever way it works. I will judge what shoes your wearing, but I only care that we all find what works for us individually here.
Also, I do not proclaim to be an expert on this, or even remotely qualified. To the extent I can take credit, I've only sleep trained my one child - one who is staging a nap strike at this very moment, with all the indignant rage of an Occupy Wall Street protestor - so this is only me recounting my one & only experience.
To summarize: he started sleeping through the night at 6.5 months and took a couple of months beyond that to fall asleep on his own comfortably. He continues to need less naps and shorter ones than the average kid for his age - I suspect he'll drop them entirely before the norm too - but he remains an excellent nighttime sleeper, usually clocking in a 7:30 pm / 8:00 pm to 8:00 / 8:30 am snooze.
All of that being said, here are three steps that worked for us:
Baby Books are a Good Starting Point, But Trust What You See More (i.e., Books are Lying Liars)
Before Master P made his arrival into the world, I read what I was told by parent friends as the Holy Trinity of sleep training books - "Babywise", Ferber, and Weissbluth - under the "start as we mean to go on" mentality of establishing healthy sleep habits.
And then my fussy, willful, actual child arrived, the one who would only sleep when held and bawled the remainder of the time. We had nursing problems, we had sleeping problems, it was . . . it was something, I'll tell you that much.
|The "before" photo - please enjoy my multiple chins!|
I could whine for hours here about what this article so perfectly called my Post-Colic Stress Disorder, but suffice to say - my child wanted to sleep less often than any old book said he should, and that was that. No amount of carefully planned "Babywise" nap schedules were going to cut it - he would not be scheduled to their specifications, and when I tried much crying and unhappiness ensued (mine and his).
It took me more than six months to let go and really pay attention to what Master P had been trying to tell me all along, but I finally allowed him to drop to less naps (2 per day) than the Magic Books and all the other experts
And lo, the heavens parted - not only did he start napping on more of a schedule then, but he started sleeping through the night too. You'll hate me for this, but he actually started sleeping through the night on his own, on the very night I'd intended to Stand Firm and Let Him Cry Damn It.
Once I got over my Type A Minus scheduling tendencies, I figured that lesson might apply elsewhere (duh). I then got serious about his falling asleep on his own, which by far was our greater challenge.
Routine, Routine, My Kingdom for a Bedtime Routine
One of the biggest mistakes I made was not getting a set pre-nap and bedtime routine down (and the same routine for both) early to help with the falling asleep on his own bit.
My baby just wasn't a good soother - no thumb-sucking, pacifier, or calming vibration chair would do for the wee CEO. Pre-sleep training he fell asleep on his own a grand total of twice, meaning I had to do beg, plead, dance, and cry to get him there the other times.
Picture an Usher video minus the rhythm and sex appeal - that was the level of choreography involved in coaxing my bundle of crying joy to sweet slumber. Yeah.
I tried various stories and songs, in different orders, but it took me until the six month mark to realize I needed to do the exact same songs and stories, in the same order every single time, to create the soothing routine he couldn't pull together for himself.
At first, I tried it only at bedtime, which just created confusion and further frustration. At long last, I got it - duh - we needed the same routine at both naptime and bedtime, adding only a bath at the latter.
When I tell you I did - and do - the exact same routine, every single time, I mean it. You could set your watch to the military precision of my actions. Oh, how I was tired of those same songs and Sandra Boyntons - we even said "bye bye" to the living room in the same way each time - but slowly, slowly, I could see the calming effect it had. Some of that had to be a factor of his getting older, but I believe the ritual helped too.
|The "after" - now he sleeps like a champ but with strange objects, never the adorable, photo-worthy lovies I promise are in there too. Of course.|
Think of a Catholic or Episcopal church service - stand up, sit down, say this the same way, forever and ever, amen. For many of us - self included - there is comfort in ritual, and so it was with my child and sleep.
There was one other piece to the sleep puzzle - that is, the dreaded "C" word . . .
Some Kids May Need to Cry, and Mine Was - and Sometimes Still Is - One of Them
Please skip this step if it's not for you. Believe me, I didn't want it either.
Once I let Master P drop a nap and got a good routine in place, he was doing better but still not falling asleep on his own easily. I'd try to rock him through his fussing, though as he got older my interventions only seemed to make him even more upset.
On the advice of a friend - a friend with one of those easy sparkle babies that slept on command and was irritatingly cute and nice, just like her - I started gradually putting him down awake around the six month mark, just barely initially. At the first sign of a cry, however, I'd swoop him up again. When that didn't work, I tried the Ferber "go in, soothe, leave" routine. Rinse, lather, repeat.
Seeing that none of those was working, I reluctantly braced myself to truly let him cry on his own until he fell asleep. One night I set him down in his crib, he wailed with abandon (though not to the point of being sick or harming himself, I hasten to add) for a healthy while - and then promptly fell asleep.
And so it went, not for the three days as promised by Mr. Ferber, et al. but for weeks. WEEKS of my sprinting to the wine bottle immediately after setting poor Master P down, of staring down the video monitor feeling like a terrible excuse for a mother.
A funny thing happened as I watched the monitor - he seemed to be comforting himself through the fussing, which would hit a crescendo and then gradually ease off until he finally, happily fell asleep.
And so slowly, though - sensing a pattern here? - ever so slowly, the crying grew less intense, and there was less of it. As he got older, he showed interest in reading himself a book or playing with toys to calm himself to sleep instead. For a long while now he has happily played in his crib until he falls asleep, with the occasional fuss fest if he's overtired, sick, or traveling.
I'd love to hear from other parents - what magic combination worked for you? Still trying to sort it out? Especially since there is no one right answer here, I'd love to give some newbie parents some different points of view . . .