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Candle in the Night

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ferberizing or "The No-Cry Sleep Solution": What Works for My Baby

Well, the title of this post is a little deceitful  because it makes it sound like I've figured out what works for my baby when in all honesty, I have not.  I have now at least partially read three books on helping your baby sleep and am still at this point, exhausted.  I ought to start by giving some background on my daughter's sleep habits.  H is not a bad sleeper, she's just not great either.  She used to be great when she was small enough to swaddle in her Miracle Blanket, but since outgrowing that, we've woken up a lot in the nights.  

When I read cases of babies waking up every hour and a half during the night, I think, "Wow, I should be thankful that H sleeps better than that!"  But at three in the morning, I could really care less how other people's children sleep.  I want MY child to sleep through the night!  And I don't mean the medical definition of sleeping five hours.  I mean until at least six in the morning.  I don't care if the sleep starts at 7:30 pm or 11 pm.  I want it to end after six.  

I also know that her naps are not great.  I know from my reading that a complete sleep cycle is at least 45 minutes and if they wake up before that is up you're in for what the third author mentioned here calls a "disaster nap."  H has a lot of these.  She sleeps 30 minutes or so and wakes up too rested to go back to sleep, but too sleepy to be happy.  And I end up with a cranky baby much of the day.  

So, I went in search of a technique that would work.  I did an internet search and found several recommended books which I proceeded to check out from the library.  Below, I give a brief overview of each book and tell you how they worked for us.  The overview is in red and my thoughts are in green.  That way, if you've already read the book, you can skip the overview.

Solve your child's sleep problems [Book]
This is the first book I read.  It drew my attention for several reasons.  First, the site where I found the recommended books stated that Dr. Ferber is the only one who has done extensive sleep research.  Second, I confess that I was impressed by the "M.D." on the cover.  Third, I knew that Dr. Ferber advocated the "cry it out" method and H was already to the point that no matter what, she was crying.  Even if I tried nursing her to sleep, eventually, she'd pull off and start crying.  And even if I did get her to sleep, as soon as I laid her down, she'd wake up and start crying.  So I figured, what could it hurt?  She was crying anyway.  Why not cry herself to sleep?  If she would just SLEEP!!!  

Dr. Ferber's method is for babies about 4 months and up. It's main purpose is teaching parents to break sleep associations. For example, H associated nursing with going to sleep. Therefore, if she'd wake up in the night, or even as I was laying her down, she couldn't go back to sleep on her own, she had to nurse. It's not that she was hungry, it's just that that was her association. Some kids associate watching tv, being rocked, having a certain bedtime story or song, having mommy lay down with them, and the list goes on and on, with falling asleep. 

To break that, Dr. Ferber says the best way is a progressional method. You don't put the baby in their own bed to cry and cry all night. That just leaves you and your baby exhausted. Instead, you lay them down, say goodnight, and leave the room. You let them cry for 3 minutes, and then go back in, reassure them (without picking them up), and then leave after 1-2 minutes. Then, you wait 5 minutes. If they're still crying, you go back in, reassure them again (same as last time) and then leave the room. Then, you wait 10 minutes. If they're still crying, you go back in again. After that, you continue to wait 10 minutes and go back to reassure them for as long as it takes to go to sleep. 

That's the first night. The next night, each time is a little longer. I believe it's 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes. Then the next night longer until eventually, the baby knows how to fall asleep on their own. 

At first, I couldn't believe how quickly H caught on!!  I was thrilled!  The first night or so, she probably cried for about 20 minutes and then was back to sleep!  It was great!  Our only problem was those three to four a.m. wakings.  I was following the method and going in at increasing intervals and she would cry and cry and cry.  Sometimes for an hour.  When she did go back to sleep, it would only be for ten minutes or so before she'd wake up screaming again.  So, I decided she really was hungry.  After all, she'd normally been asleep for eight hours by the time she woke up and she's so little!  So I got her up to feed her.  It worked pretty well.  If she woke up after that early morning feeding, she'd go back to sleep fairly quickly.  

I thought I'd solved H's sleep problems!  ...until we went on vacation.  You see, when you're staying with your grandpa, or with your little brother in the next room, you can't let your baby just scream.  It tends to bother people.  And H wanted to scream much more than normal because we were at a new place.  The vacation wasn't that bad though and I figured when we got home, it'd all be back to normal.  Not so.  She was back to crying all over again and it was worse than it had been even when we'd just started.  I wasn't sleeping and she was crying, and worst of all, her two or three hour naps had transformed into thirty minute naps.  NOT okay!  I discovered that instead of getting rid of her "sleep attachments" all together, she'd become attached to crying herself to sleep.  She couldn't fall asleep without crying first.  That's when I decided it was time to get out some of those other library books I'd checked out.  

The no-cry sleep solution: gentle ways to help your baby sleep through the night [Book]
This book is very appealing not only because it seemingly promises no tears, but also because of the sweet, sleeping baby on the cover.  If that baby can sleep deeply enough to have his picture taken for the cover of this book, the method inside must work, right??  

I must confess, I read very little of this book.  The beginning of it was enough to make me question if it would really work.  Basically, according to the author, if you have a solid routine and use the right methods, your baby will not cry when going to sleep.  Ever.  She offers different ideas to try with your baby to help her to fall asleep easily and says that if you use some of these methods, for example, getting your baby so sleepy while you're rocking her that when you put her down, she'll fall right to sleep, when your baby wakes up, she'll fall back to sleep on her own.  

We got busy on this right away.  I set in place a solid routine.  At night, I'd bathe her, nurse, read a couple books, sing, and then rock until she got nice and sleepy.  Then I'd lay her down and she'd go right to sleep.  Sounds great, right??  Only problem was that it didn't work.  Not the first night, or the second, or the third.  In fact, H was getting worse, not better.  Now, I'm not saying this wouldn't work for some children, but it sure didn't work for us.  As I would rock H, she'd get more and more agitated.  She'd squirm and push and struggle.  I think she knew that if she got too sleepy I was going to put her down and she didn't want that.  When she would finally calm down, I'd lay her down and she'd wake right back up.  

Well, this is the no-cry sleep solution, so I would pick her up, rock her again and start all over.  Over and over and over.  Finally, she'd fall asleep for the night only to wake up at her normal 4:00 hour to do it all over again.  And naps were even worse!!  I would rock her and soothe her and she'd finally calm down until I laid her down.  The biggest problem here was that with naps, she would get her second wind faster than at bedtime.  Naps basically stopped happening or I would put her down and let her cry herself to sleep because if I didn't, I would go crazy.  Even when I'd put her down to cry, I'd often go and get her up because she just wouldn't stop.  

This was NOT the solution for us.  It was all cry and no sleep.  So, I pulled out the next book.  

The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy [Book]

The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy.  From the introduction, this book sounded like the most logical thing I'd heard.  The Sleep Lady (Kim West) does not promise no tears.  She also doesn't tell you to put your baby down and let them cry in the dark.  Her method is a combination of the two methods above.  West also breaks down her instructions into age groups which I think is wise since little ones change so much as they grow.  She teaches parents what she calls the Sleep Lady Shuffle.  Basically, her method (for 6 to 9 month olds) is this.  

Have a STRICT bedtime routine.  About a half hour or so before bedtime (which should be around 7:30) start your routine.  Have it quiet and dim.  Go through your soothing, gentle routine and when the baby seems sleepy, lay her in the bed.  (Sounds like the no-cry sleep solution so far, right?)  If she wakes up or begins crying, which she probably will the first night, pat her, reassure her, let her know you're there, and then shut up.  But don't leave.  For the first three nights, sit right by the crib where you can pat her back and she can see you.  It may take time to get her to sleep, but that's okay.  On the next three nights, move your chair to the middle of the room.  You can still talk to your baby, but don't get up unless you absolutely have to.  If your child is hysterical or you can't handle it, pick her up (over her bed) and reassure her.  Then, when you're both calm enough, put her back and return to your "shuffle" position.  The following three nights, move your chair to the door, then out into the hall, then to where she can't see you.  By that time, she should be going to sleep much better on her own.  When she wakes in the night, go to your "shuffle" position and talk to her from there.  

I just read this book and am beginning to apply the practices for H.  I haven't seen results yet, so I'll have to update you later.  The whole approach makes more sense to me than either of the above ideas though.  Letting your baby scream in terror that you're gone is not going to help her sleep better.  Likewise, always going to her when she cries simply to make sure she doesn't is not going to teach her to be a good sleeper either.  In this method, when your child cries, it's not because she is scared, but because she's saying, "HEY!  Why are you putting me down here?  I'm tired and you've always put me to sleep before.  What am I supposed to do now?" and you can gently help her learn to fall asleep on her own.  

It sounds good anyway.  Let's just hope it works!!  

What sleep methods have you found work on your children?  

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At November 8, 2010 at 4:31 PM , Blogger Caroline said...

Nursing them to sleep. ;-) I'm sorry, I couldn't resist saying that. I know people say it is a no no, but honestly I use that method for as long as I can! At this point Olivia doesn't go to sleep while she is nursing very often, but it gets her nice and cozy so sometimes she will lay down and go right to sleep. Other times (like right now) she fusses.


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