Friday, February 19, 2010
I honestly never thought I'd be a parent who would willingly let my baby cry. When I was pregnant I envisioned rocking my sweet little one to sleep in my arms, and then gently transferring my slumbering bundle into her crib without a fuss....to be followed by a full night of peaceful, restful sleep. Ha! In Zoey's defense, she has honestly been a good nighttime sleeper from the beginning. She started going 4-5 hours stretches within her first 8 weeks, and by 12 weeks she was sleeping 8 hours straight. Now for the past 6 weeks or so Zoey can easily sleep 10-12 hours without a single peep - impressive! I know we are very lucky in this respect.
But for us, the problem wasn't getting Zoey to sleep for long period of time, it was getting her to FALL ASLEEP and STAY ASLEEP in her crib initially at the beginning of the night without having to pick her up many times, rocking her over and over. For awhile this was working out OK - i.e. I would nurse Zoey to sleep, lay her down in her crib, and she might wake up 1-2 times crying lightly...so we'd go back in to soothe her and help her fall back asleep. But it got to the point where we would get her dead asleep in our arms, but as soon as we laid her down she'd wake up screaming and we'd have to repeat the cycle over and over and over...for hours! It was exhausting, our backs were killing us from all the rocking (she's getting heavy!), we had lost all of our evening time together as a couple, we were eating dinner in shifts, and basically we were both frazzled and at our wits end. So we had to look at our options - we both felt strongly that we weren't willing to let her sleep with us in our bed (not down with co-sleeping personally), so we started researching other sleep training methods.
Anyhow, for those of you that don't know, sleep training is basically the process of getting your baby to fall asleep and STAY asleep on their own beginning as early as 4 months of age - and there are many different approaches for how to do this (babies up to 4 months still need their parents to respond to them and it's prob too early for sleep training before that point). Anyhow all the approaches basically fall into the two categories of "cry it out" and "no cry" methods. There are TONS of opinions and theories out there about baby schedules and sleep training, and believe me if you read all the books and all the websites you will literally go insane and end up more confused than you were before you even started. So I decided to narrow down my information by checking out the sleep resources on Baby Center (a site that I personally LOVE and turn to first with my baby-related Q's).
After reading about all the pros and cons, we decided to go with the uber-popular Ferber method. Contrary to popular belief, the "cry-it-out" method does NOT advocate for simply laying your baby down in her crib and just leaving the room indefinitely. Ferber actually supports the fact that every family and every baby is different, and there are many ways to handle sleep troubles based on the child's temperament, the family value system, and the health/age of the infant. But for those that choose to experiment with cry-it-out, Ferber has setup a timetable for his "progressive waiting" technique which basically involves going back in to check on your baby at set time intervals. For instance, the first night you lay baby down while drowsy but still awake, and if she cries you go back in to check on her in 3 min, then 5 min, then 7 min, etc. The waiting period gets longer as the night goes on, and also increases each consecutive night during the sleep training process. After reading so much about this approach online, I decided to buy Ferber's book and it is wonderful! Not only does it clearly outline his sleep training method, but also addresses many of the common baby and child sleep issues and challenges that families face, including bed-wetting, nightmares, and how to keep your toddler in their own bed.
So what was the verdict you ask?! Well honestly, it worked like MAGIC! The first couple of nights were a bit rough, but Zoey never cried for more than 1 hour, and even that hour wasn't consistent crying. By the 4th night she only cried for less than 5 minutes! And now we basically go through her whole bedtime routine (singing lullabies/read a book, clean diaper, lotion, pj's and then a feeding). I nurse her, burp her and sing to her, and then we put her down in her crib and she rarely cries for more than 1-2 minutes before falling asleep now - amazing! The great thing about this development is that she no longer needs those sleep associations (i.e. rocking/nursing) for her to fall asleep on her own, which means she can also put herself back to sleep easily if she wakes up in the middle of the night. SCORE! Now David and I can actually enjoy your evenings together as a couple, eat dinner at the same time (while its still warm!), and just overall enjoy being parents on a whole new level!
Now I realize this method is NOT for everyone, and many parents just can't stand to le their baby cry. I understand this, and honestly my opinion is that each family should choose the method that works for them. I am not here to judge, and I hope that nobody judges me for our choice to sleep train Zoey. I realize that parenting involves lots and lots of decisions along the way, some small and immediate, and other more complicated decisions such as how to discipline your child and how to help them get the crucial sleep that they need. All I know is that David and I followed our guts on this one and so far our decision has paid off and it has worked for all of us! Zoey is a happier, more well-rested baby, and we are happier, more well-rested parents! : )