I’m sorry for what may appear to be an excessive use of exclamation points, but I assure you that Seppo and I are as excited for this new development as we’ve been about just about anything in our lives.
The baby has been sleeping through the night (sort of).
Yes. I’ll give you some time to digest this bit of news.
Are you done digesting?
This is how things went down. Seppo and I have been haggard with lack of sleep. The baby — I hope it’s obvious that I’m intentionally omitting his name, as I’m trying to give him a tiny modicum of privacy, as lame as my attempt seems — has had a lot of trouble falling asleep and staying asleep over the last four months.
He had been sleeping anywhere from 4.5 hours to 7 hours in a chunk at night by the time he had hit three months. He then got sick for the first time, then started to teeth in painful earnest, then got hit with another cold which lasted a painfully long time, then after a short reprieve, got hit with another cold. Then he sprouted even more teeth and got sick again. The last time was mercifully short. That poor kiddo has been through a lot in 2010.
When he was sick, he woke up a lot because he was stuffed up and had trouble breathing, despite our best efforts to decongest him in the steamy bathroom, with a humidifier, and with a buffered non-medicine nasal spray + suction doodad. We even had nights when we sat up all night and held him upright so he could get some rest. And as hard as it was for him, the little trooper continued to be his happy, sweet self throughout it all.
When he was teething, he woke up in the middle of the night from the pain. He settled down when we let him chew on our knuckles or one of the teethers we got for him. Again, despite the pain, when he was awake, he maintained a happy demeanor that I found truly remarkable.
I know — every parent really does think their kid is the most amazing, best baby in the world, and I am no different from those others when I think our little baby bear is the greatest baby the world has ever seen. 😀
Anyway, all those physical trials messed up his sleeping, and he became very dependent on being rocked for a very long time or having a full-on meal in the middle of the night in order to fall asleep and go back to sleep when he inevitably woke up. At its worst, which was only about a week and a half ago, he was taking about an hour to fall asleep, then waking up literally every 1.5 to 2 hours, increasing in frequency to every hour as the morning drew closer.
It was hell on him and it was hell on us. It was so clear to see that he was sleepy and suffering because he could not fall asleep and stay asleep. We had spoken to every person we could think of and read everything we could find on figuring out a good sleep solution for him. We had tried several different methods throughout the four months, and it had been clear that things were getting worse, not better.
At our six month checkup, our pediatrician recommended letting the baby “cry it out,” which I had historically been adamantly against. We were desperate, so we tried it for a night or two, but it was nightmarish for all of us. I think Seppo and I might have gotten about 4 hours of sleep per night those two nights, and the baby was so tired that he slept a ridiculous amount at daycare. We also went on a trip right around then, so we abandoned that plan.
For a couple of weeks, we tried the “No Cry Sleep Solution” method, which seemed promising at first. I think it may be that the way we adapted the method may have worked against us, because by about two weeks ago, things were as bad as they could be: not only did he have trouble going to sleep, his wakings lasted up to 1.5 hours each night.
Last week Wednesday or Thursday, we started the Ferber method, which people often call the “cry it out” method, but is not quite that. I think if I had read the book earlier, I might not have rejected my mistaken notion of the method. I had thought it was about letting your baby cry until he is so tired and traumatized from crying that he fell asleep. I’ve done this in my angstful youth and did not relish him going through such pain, albeit a fleeting one that would not leave any lasting memories.
Upon reading the book, I was gratified to find clearly stated data on baby sleep patterns and what that means in “sleep training”. I was also reassured that the intent of the method is not to let the baby cry his little heart out and grow exhausted and scared from fruitlessly calling for help, then feeling abandoned, but to keep the baby from trying to choose “fun time with mommy and daddy” over easing his tiredness.
The method basically consists of establishing a pre-sleep routine, putting the baby in bed, then leaving the room. When he cried, I let him cry for 5 minutes while watching him with an aching heart through the video monitor, then went in to pat him and reassure him that mommy is there and everything is normal. The hard part was not picking him up. His face was dark red from the exertion and wet with tears that streamed from his pinched-shut eyes. His hand shook and reached out to me. He had only learned to reach out after he hit about 5.5 months, so it was all I could do not to snatch him up or cry myself. I could feel his pain and frustration that I wasn’t holding him and helping him calm down.
I was not sure I could do this, even for just one more minute. I’d spent the entirety of his life trying to protect him from hurts and pain, and now, I was standing there, looking down at my desperately crying baby and not reassuring him that the world was ok in the only way he understood.
I felt like the shittiest person on the planet. I was sure that Ferber was a monster and that all the people who had done this were in fact crazy and selfish who were just thinking of their own tiredness. Do I really need to sleep?
The thing that made me continue is that he really needs the rest too. His little yet remarkable brain is developing at such a tremendous rate right now, and he needs sleep in order to be healthy and to grow.
So I kept on. Oh, I forgot to mention that this was for a nap and Seppo was still at work, so that’s the only reason I was doing this alone. That was stupid.
As I was saying, I kept on. I went in after another 10 minutes, then another 15 minutes, then 20 minutes. I did this for about 1h 15min, then Seppo came home and I decided I had tortured the baby long enough so I brought him back out. The baby was so tired but he hadn’t been able to rest at all.
That night, just a little bit of time later, we put him down in bed to sleep. We repeated the process with the ever-increasing gap before going in to sooth him. Because he was so tired, I think he fell asleep after the second round. He woke up a couple of times but we kept on with the time intervals throughout the night. I think he was awake for 1.5 hours in the wee hours of the morning.
The next night, we did it for about 30 minutes before he fell asleep. He woke up a couple of times but went to sleep faster than the night before.
The third night, we did it for about 10 minutes before he fell asleep. He woke up only twice, I believe, going back to sleep faster.
From the fourth night, he’s literally let out one half-hearted “wah” before falling asleep almost before we had a chance to leave the room. Either that or laid in bed, quietly looking around himself for a couple of minutes before going to sleep on his own. At night, he sometimes woke up due to ending up on his stomach, which he doesn’t like, but has fallen straight back asleep after we roll him over and put the pacifier back in his mouth.
Last night, he slept from 8:15pm to 6:45am with only brief — literally seconds — wakings. That’s 10.5 hours!
Not only that, but he’s been waking up with happy babbles as he used to before that big streak of sicknesses/teething bouts. During the rough spell, he woke up crying from the discomfort of either the stuffed nose or painful gums.
WOW. He’s well-rested, he’s happy, he’s falling asleep so fast that I feel like someone is playing a prank on me. Tonight, he seemed happy, even relieved, when we finished up our sleep routine and I put him in his crib.
I love this kid so much that I think my heart is going to burst out of my chest. Seppo and I constantly marvel that we have the greatest kid on earth, half acknowledging that that’s how every parent feels, and half convinced that we must be right nonetheless.
And Dr. Ferber is awesome and those parents were not the evil things I thought in my head (and wrote down here). Thank you, Dr. Ferber!