Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Adventures in Sleep
Our sleeping adventures really began when Penny was 4 months old. We decided it was time for us to reclaim our room and for her to sleep in her own room, the room we slaved over in preparation for her arrival, the room which absolutely had to be in order before I gave birth or ELSE. Well, she was 4 months old and hadn't spent a single night in there. Granted, her crib is exactly 12 steps away from my side of the bed, in the adjacent room, but it was still a rather big change for us.
And it wasn't as simple as lying her down in her crib and saying good night. She liked to be rocked. And fed. And swaddled. All at the same time. So during month four, we transitioned to her room, but month five (October) consisted of SLEEP TRAINING.
You would think that such a little person who used to sleep most of the day would know how to go to sleep. You would think that anyone related to me would embrace their sloth-like tendencies and look at sleep as a hobby, not just a necessity. But it was more complicated than that. And I'm sure there are more complications ahead, I'm just blissfully ignorant of them right now.
As far as I knew, we had two choices: Cry It Out, or Minimize The Crying As Much As Possible To Avoid Scarring Her For Life. Crying It Out sounded barbaric and inhumane. So I looked into "The No Cry Sleep Solution." Then I realized I'm a little lacking in the patience department. This realization came to me as I hurriedly skipped through the first 4 chapters before finally getting to the actual "solution." "Come on, just tell me what to do DAMMIT! I need help NOW!" Not for the inherently impatient. I was responding to crying at midnight, 2 a.m., 3 a.m., 4 a.m., etc. I was getting up A LOT and stumbling 12 steps to the crib to reinsert the binky, or feed, or plead for mercy.
I'm sure the No Cry Sleep Solution works wonders for many families, and I'm glad I looked into it, but it wasn't for us. After talking with my boss, who happens to be a psychologist (who assured me that I wasn't going to permanently damage my baby), we decided to try a kinder, gentler, Cry It Out method, based loosely on "The Sleep Easy Solution."
The first step was helping her learn that she could sleep unswaddled. The swaddling was fantastic for 4 months, but by this time, she was a little Houdini, who was getting out of her Swaddler every hour and yelling out with her limbs stuck up by her ears. I would get up, reswaddle her, and she would eventually go back to sleep.
The next step should probably be to get rid of the binky, so she can learn to fall sleep without it. However, I was worried that losing the Swaddler (in combination with going back to work part time at that point) would be too much for her. So she still has her binky. That will be another bridge, I'm sure.
I also stopped letting her nurse herself to sleep. I still fed her before bed, and then put her in her crib while she was sleepy, but not totally zonked. Then came the hard part. The crying. It. Was. Awful. I felt horrible and thought multiple times that I was The. Worst. Mother. Ever. Friends texted me with reassuring messages, which I really appreciated. I played soothing music, which was more for me than for Penny. The first night she cried for 45 minutes before finally falling asleep. But the kinder-gentler approach was to go in at 5 minutes, 10 minutes, and then every 15 minutes until she fell asleep. My personal version of this strategy included briefly talking to her, patting her, and then leaving. Sometimes I had to help reinsert her binky. But at least she knew she wasn't totally abandoned. (She might have seen it as a huge tease, though). The next night, we endured 30 minutes of crying. Then 20 minutes for a couple of nights, then 5 minutes. Now she goes to sleep when she is put in her crib. It's amazing and I can't believe it.
And she still wants to be my friend! She smiles at me in the morning, and laughs at me, and cuddles with me. And we even take naps together sometimes, in our bed. I think this is a nice compromise. You veteran parents may be thinking I'm in for a heap of trouble with the co-napping in the big bed. But for now, she naps for me, and for her grandma and grandpa, and she gets a lot of sleep. And so do we.
So the going to sleep is fantastic. The STAYING asleep still needs a little work depending on the night, but it's getting better all the time. I can tell because I'm actually dreaming again.