Sleep Training, part two: The Follow-Through
12.16.10 16 weeks old
Oh man, this is hard. And I know, sleep training is an incredibly sensitive subject. Letting babies cry can be seen as cruel or as a necessary step towards independence. Let’s have a no-judgement zone, shall we? There are a million places on the web where you can debate the pros and cons of various methods, but at the end of the day you have to do what makes sense for your family and works for your child.
We were actually waffling on the crying-it-out. But on Saturday night Tucker would NOT go to sleep. Every time he seemed deeply asleep he would startle (in the swaddle) and wake up screaming. Finally after an hour or so we decided to see what would happen if we took him out of the swaddle, stopped trying with the pacifier, and just let him cry for a while. We went to the dining room (where we could just barely hear him) and drank a glass of wine while we tried to choke down dinner. After 10 minutes I called my friend Lauren, who has been through all of this and is a font of wisdom, and she talked me through it.
Listening to your baby cry is so tough. Every instinct and bone in your body says “go fix it!” but I just kept reminding myself that Tucker needs to learn to fall asleep on his own. At first the crying escalated until he sounded hysterical. But then it started tapering off so it was more of a complaint than a heartbreaking wail. After 55 minutes he fell asleep. That night he woke up at 12:30 and we let him cry (since he hasn’t had a midnight feeding since he was about a month old) but after an hour I thought he must be hungry from all the energy expended crying. I fed him and he fussed a bit and then went back to sleep for the rest of the night.
Sunday night he fell asleep nursing and I didn’t have the heart to wake him up. I put him down sleeping and he slept from 8:30 until 6 a.m., when we brought him into our bed for a cuddle and he slept for another hour.
Monday night he was wide awake when he finished eating, and I feared the worst. I sang him a lullaby, laid him down, said our little evening routine (a prayer and a silly thing I always said with my dad when I was little: “Love you, sweet dreams, happy sleep, goodnight”) and kissed him goodnight. I left the room and waiting for the crying to start, but I just heard him sucking on his hand for a while, then silence. He went down at 7:08 and woke up at 6:30, without making a peep all night.
Tuesday and last night he was again awake when I put him down, and once again he just...went to sleep. Wednesday he woke up at 2:20 and played for a while, then started fussing, and again I got up and fed him--he hadn’t eaten as much as usual yesterday and he’s really young to sleep through the night (as in, 12+ hours between feedings), so if he does demand a feeding I give it to him.
Ok, so nights have been pretty good! I’d call that a success.
Naps are a whole different story. He cries about 15 minutes before his morning nap, then sleeps 30-45 minutes (if I’m lucky) and refuses to go back to sleep. The other naps are variable, but by late afternoon he cries for the full 55 minutes (that seems to be his shutoff time) and then sleep an hour to an hour-and-a-half, which of course then brings him pretty close to bedtime.
I know daytime sleep consolidates later than nights, and I’m just figuring that this will happen eventually. Meanwhile I feel terrible letting him cry—it feels like he spends the whole day crying, sleeping or eating, with less playtime than normal because he’s in his room so much longer for naps. But then I think back to how he used to only nap if we were walking, and eventually I got him sleeping in his crib during the day—with hard work. This will work out in the end. I may try the Baby Whisperer approach for naps and see how it goes. Maybe he can’t unwind on his own during the day? God knows I’ve never been a good napper, so I can’t blame him!
Ok, so. We haven’t been leaving the house much (see: eating/sleeping/crying) but when we have it’s gotten COLD out! A generous family friend gave Tucker a really lovely snow suit from the Gap when he was born—I can’t find it online anymore, unfortunately. It’s fleece-lined down, with separate mitts and booties than snap on. I love that because I can use the mitts with other outfits on slightly warmer days. But it’s nice to know that he can’t possibly be cold, all bundled up in the suit! Now that he’s sleeping in the crib we have been using the bassinet more often with the stroller, and if I don’t use the snowsuit I put our JJ Cole Arctic BundleMe (another generous gift) flat in the bassinet and snuggle him into it. He mostly doesn’t sleep on walks anymore, but with that setup he slept for an hour and a half on one recent stroll. I would too—it looks insanely comfortable and cozy! Talk about traveling in style.
I always put one of the thin cotton Hanna Andersson Pilot Caps, which are currently 60% off, on sale for $4, on under the hood of whatever he wearing. That way when he swivels his head around his ears stay covered. Man, I can’t believe that price on the pilot caps—I’m going to stock up on bigger sizes for him and on a bunch for future baby gifts! They are by far the best hats because they don’t drift down over the baby’s eyes but they keep their ears covered. Love them. And in surfing the sale section, there are some pretty good deals right now—I find the prices at Hanna Andersson kind of crazily high for baby stuff that doesn’t get worn for more than a month or two, but the quality is great, so if you can find things on sale, terrific! We got the Best Ever Baby Jacket as a gift and it’s adorable and very sturdy, with sleeves that can be cuffed up and then rolled down as your child grows. It’s on sale for $30 now!
Kate Flaim is a freelance journalist and food blogger based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.