With my first baby, I used gentle sleep 'training', and it worked like a charm. She was in bed with us for the first few months, I nursed her to sleep when she was tiny, then moved her to a crib, used 'shushing' and soothing, a gentle hand placed on the back, tip-toing out of the room. She followed all the sleep charts without a hitch, and never gave me more than a few moment's sleep-deprived frustration, and always with easily identifiable causes. (Teeth, illness, travel.) As I said in the first post, the perfect 'starter baby'.
My son seemed to be following much the same pattern for his first few months. A cheerful baby, he only cried when hungry, tired or in pain, and was easily soothed. By six months, he was sleeping 10 or more hours at night, and napping twice or so during the day. And then, at seven or so months, he regressed in a big, bad, ugly way. He woke once during the night, every night for a week. Then twice, then three times, until finally he was waking me every single hour. I tried all the things I'd used with both he and his sister. I nursed, I rocked, I shushed, I sang. I paid attention to his sleepy signals. Still. Every hour. He was not teething, he was not ill, nothing out of the ordinary was happening, and yet still with the hourly wakings, week after week. What had happened to my lovely little sleeper?
And let's not talk about what he was like during the day - cranky, prone to tears and rages, constantly fretful. Plus, he just looked awful: shadows under his big brown red-rimmed eyes, his skin pale, his motions jerky and frenetic. He was a Miserable Baby.
And me? I was a zombie. A walking, talking zombie. I Could.Not.Cope. With a tiny baby, there's a light at the end of the sleepless tunnel. With a six, seven, eight-month-old who'd previously slept well and now, for no apparent reason, was not -- there was no reason for this! How could I know when -- if it would ever end?
I couldn't cope with that. Not at all.
I was relating my woes to a friend, who pulled out a book. "Try this," she suggested. "I used it with my daughter and it saved our sanity." Everyone knows the book now, but back then, it hadn't been out long. It was new to me.
I took it home, read it through, and said to my husband, "We are trying this out." He was not supportive. This plan involved a crying baby. He didn't want to deal with that. Thus far, HIS sleep hadn't been disturbed. (He had to work, you see, whereas I was at home (doing nothing, presumably), so I did 100% of the night-time parenting. And yet still he tried to exert veto power over my attempts to solve the problem.)
No, we are not married any more.
So, anyway. Said to the then-husband, "We are doing this. We will do this for three weeks. If it doesn't work in three weeks, we'll stop, but for three weeks, we do this. By the book. No wimping out."
So, I was seriously sleep-deprived, a couple months' worth by now. I had an older child who also needed my care. I had an unsupportive spouse. I was All Set.
The book's method has the parent go in at gradually increasing intervals. Though you do not pick your child up, you can soothe and make him aware of your presence for 2 or 3 minutes. Then you leave. The idea being that the child knows he's not been abandoned, but that sleep is the only option.
First, though, we had to disassociate nursing from sleeping, so for the first five nights of the program, I nursed Adam whenever he cried, as I'd always done. Each night, though, the nursing time was decreased by one minute. First night, six minutes, second five and so forth. Baby was fine with all this. Clearly this was not about food for him. Seems a three-minute nurse every hour worked just fine for him. Too bad it didn't work at all for me!
When we got down to two minutes, the let-down had happened, but he didn't have enough time thereafter to ease the pressure. Ugh. THAT wasn't working for me, so that was his last night of night-time nursing.
That's when things got loud.
The next night, when he woke, I went in at five, then ten, then fifteen minute intervals. The first time, he cried for an hour. The second, for an hour and a half. The third, for two hours. This was NOT what I'd hoped to see. Each time I went in, he'd have pulled himself up on the side of his crib, and he'd be screaming. He'd calm a bit when he saw me, but when I left, the roars would escalate. He was OUTRAGED.
"WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING, WOMAN???"
So much for the soothing reassurance of my presence. This popping in and out, though good in theory - I liked the idea of letting the child know you were still around - was not working for Adam in practice. Not at all. In fact, judging from the fact that the crying bouts got longer throughout the night, it was making matters worse.
But what were my options? I could give up and -- and what? Go back to being woken every hour, as I had been for the past two or three months? No, I couldn't do that. Going in at intervals was not helping this boy. It was not helping me.
I stopped going in.
Yes, folks, we did total, hard-core, cold-turkey CIO. He was 8 or 9 months old and miserable. I was twenty-nine and desperate.
Night one: first waking - three hours; second waking - one hour; third waking - forty minutes
Night two: first waking - one hour, ten minutes; second - twenty minutes; third - eight minutes
Night three: first waking - ten minutes; second - five minutes
Night four: three minutes
Night five: no crying. NO CRYING.
Yes. In five nights, we went from hours and hours of crying to None.At.All. From the beginning of the program, ten days.
How did I feel during all that crying? Awful, of course. But I'd pledged three weeks to myself, and three weeks it was going to get. All mothers probably feel guilt at making their child so miserable, but THIS mother was also defiantly aware that he child had been making her miserable, too, and it had to stop. Such sleep-deprivation was unhealthy for everyone. He was miserable during the day, cranky and fretful with sleep-deprivation, I was barely functional and a poorer mother to both my children as a result. So, no, I didn't enjoy the crying, of course not, but I never considered not seeing through the course I'd set myself.
And look at the results: Ten days to ten hours. After that, he was a Sleeper. The occasional disruption, sure, but no more multi-night ordeals.
Every method doesn't work for all kids. We say that, but how many of us are willing to try the Other Method? This Gentle Sleep-Training mommy did, and I now know - they both work. They work, and they cause no harm.
The lessons I learned from this were: that in the great balance, my child's health is more important than my discomfort at hearing him cry; that the tears don't go on forever - it's a few rotten hours in a life of healthy sleeping!
Definitely worth it.