Daily Play-by-Play. Sleep training: Part 2.

After realizing we were scrapping the bottom of our “go to sleep” bag of tricks, Brad and I had decided to use Ferber’s sleep training method with 6 month old Vivi. Here’s what went down.

We settled on a nighttime routine that included a bath, a nursing session, and lastly, a “Goodnight Moon” style wind-down.  After a mellow bath, I nurse Vivi until she either pulls away or starts to fall asleep. Then Brad, Vivi, and I all walk around the house and tell it goodnight: “goodnight kitchen, goodnight front door, goodnight books” etc. For me, the “Goodnight house” step is  the most important part of the routine because it’s something that anyone – Mommy, Daddy, grandparent, or otherwise – can duplicate at any time of the day. For example, I usually nurse Vivi before naps, but even if I don’t nurse her beforehand, I always do the “Goodnight house” step.

I also opted to give Vivi  her “lovey”, a little stuffed elephant with a 12×12″ blanket attached. [Since Vivi is 6 months and rolling easily both directions, I feel that she is safe with the lovey, but that’s a personal decison for every parent.] Brad and I kiss her goodnight, hand her the lovey, and turn on her mobile. The mobile plays music and lights for a few minutes then turns off automatically.

After we settle Vivi into her crib, we close her door, and the rest is up to her!

Day 1 re-cap: Napped 2 hours, Slept 10 hours, Cried 2.3 hours

This was probably a little backwards, but we started with her morning nap. Ideally, I think the first time using the technique would have been bedtime, but we figured since she was so tired from little sleep the night before, ferberizing during the first nap wouldn’t be too bad. Boy, were we wrong! The crying was rough. I mean, really rough! Vivi didn’t just cry, she screamed! To be honest, in her lifetime I’d never let her cry this hard, but we stuck it out. It was a huge relief to have Brad there with me for reassurance. I think I would have ended up in the fetal position otherwise. Also, quick note about naps – Ferber doesn’t recommend letting babies cry for more than 30 minutes before naptime, but because we knew Vivi was super tired from little sleep the night before (and because it was a first time sleep training), we pushed through until she fell asleep.

  • nap: cried 50, slept 30
  • plus: quick 20 minute cat nap in car
  • nap: cried 40, slept 45
  • nap: cried 28, slept 25
  • night: cried 20, slept 10 hours

Day 2 re-cap: Napped 2 hours, Slept 10.5 hours, Cried 1 hour

All in all, this day felt like a success. Vivi woke up well-rested in the morning, but she did seem a bit blue all day long. Brad and I both noticed her sad mood. This was, of course, disheartening. I was particularly concerned and began to wonder if the end justified the means. The 40 minutes of crying before bedtime was brutal! Brad shouldered most of that load while I scrubbed the shower in an effort to avoid hearing the crying. Upside: my bathroom has never been so clean!

  • plus: quick 20 minute cat nap in car
  • nap: cried 23, slept 40
  • nap: fussed 13, slept 40
  • plus: quick 20 minute cat nap in car
  • night: cried 40, slept 10.5 hours

Day 3 re-cap: Napped 3.6 hours, Slept 9 hours, Cried 54 minutes

This was an interesting day. The first nap felt like a dream; she never really cried! She just fussed a bit and then slept. The next two naps were harder. I especially struggled with the fact that she was crying for almost as long as she was sleeping. She woke up red-faced and cranky. My heart was hurting, and she just wasn’t her usual happy self. Vivi’s never been a great napper, always preferring to cat nap several times a day rather than sleep in a long stretch. Towards the end of the day, she fell asleep while nursing, and I cuddled her while she slept an amazing hour and a half! I’m sure that’s against the rules, but I honestly didn’t care. Bedtime was a breeze – just 4 minutes of crying, and we had a sleeping baby. This gave me a little reassurance that we were doing the right thing.

  • nap: fussed 13, slept 45
  • nap: cried 20, slept 48
  • nap: cried 17, slept 35
  • plus: 1.5 hour nap in my lap!
  • night: cried 4, slept ~9 hours

Day 4 re-cap: Napped 1.5 hours, Slept 9 hours, Cried 52 minutes

This was my challenge day. I remember around 2:00 I called Brad and asked him when he would be home. I hadn’t felt that discouraged as a parent in a very long time. Vivi cried hard during all of her CIO sessions, and I was so stressed by bedtime. Honestly, the stress of hearing Vivi cry had really taken a toll on me. I felt like I had less patience than normal, and the waking hours weren’t as happy as usual. Luckily, I can now look back on this day as a turning point! I think Day 4’s issue was twofold: Vivi had an earlier than usual morning wake-up, and I probably pushed naps too much. Pushing a “every two hour” nap schedule just created more stress for both of us. At the end of the day, I decided to relax and loosen up, and I gave myself the leeway to use rocking and nursing when I thought it would help ease her into a relaxed drowsy state.

  • extension of night sleep: woke up earlier than usual, nursed, then stayed asleep when I put her back down in the crib. Slept another 1.75 hours
  • plus: quick 20 minute cat nap in car
  • nap: cried full 30 minutes so I ended the nap
  • nap: nursed her to sleep, she woke when put in crib, cried 5 minutes, slept 25
  • nap: nursed her to sleep, she woke when put in crib, cried 2 minutes, started playing… I eventually got her up.
  • nap: cried 3, slept 47
  • night: cried 12 (woke up briefly after sleeping 55 min, soothed herself then woke again at 1hr 7min, again at 1hr25 min – got her up and nursed her back to sleep), slept 9 hours

Day 5 re-cap: Napped 2 hours, Slept 10 hours, Cried 51 minutes

This is really when I started getting the hang of meshing crying with my usual touchy-feely approach. I started nursing her to a relaxed state before putting her in her crib. She was relaxed and happy – no stress getting into the crib! I also stopped naps if she was acting super upset, especially if it was a third nap of the day. If she was screaming, I ended the nap. Vivi and I both were much happier with this more lenient approach!

  • nap: 27 min of talking or mild fussing but no crying, slept 25
  • nap: fussed 4, slept 1.75hr
  • nap: got her out after 15 minutes of crying
  • night: cried 5, slept 10 hours

Day 6 re-cap: Napped 2.5 hours, Slept 10 hours, Cried 15 minutes

By today, I was absolutely on the “sleep training works” bandwagon! Vivi went down for a nap and to bed with nary a sound. She actually smiled at me when I put her in her crib and rolled over to her side to fall asleep. It was like a dream! Sadly, every time I put her down isn’t that easy, but it can happen!

  • nap: didn’t make a sound! slept 1.5 hours
  • plus: quick 25 minute cat nap in car
  • nap: cried 15, slept 30
  • night: didn’t make a sound! slept 10 hours

Day 7 re-cap: Napped 1.5 hours, Slept 10 hours, Cried 12 minutes

A totally different kind of day… we were go, go, go all day with limited opportunities for her to nap in her own crib. She ended up falling asleep in her carseat at the restaurant while I lunched with some friends. I was impressed that she was able to relax in a loud, interesting public place like that (with just a little help from Mommy, who rocked her carseat until she fell asleep). Nighttime was tough, but I wasn’t surprised – the poor darling was overtired. A super tired baby does the opposite of what you’d expect: instead of falling right to sleep, they fight sleep like crazy! When I put Vivi down for bed, she screamed so loud that I decided to “restart”. I got her out of bed, rocked her, nursed her…  and she seemed calm, we did the end of our nighttime routine again.

  • plus: 40 min nap in restaurant/car
  • nap: played for 20, slept 40
  • night: “restarted” when she was really upset, then cried 12, slept 10 hours

So, in the end, I do feel that this sleep training approach was very successful for us. Vivi is sleeping in her crib, and bedtime is no longer a struggle. Naps are still difficult, but I’ve decided to follow the beat of my own drummer. If I think a nap in the swing would yield better rest for her than a crying session in her crib, I go that route. If I just want to snuggle her while she naps in my lap, I indulge myself. If her cry is hurting my heart, I get her up. I was originally concerned that allowing her to nap elsewhere would hurt our nighttime efforts, but I’m happy to report, none of those things hurt her ability to go to bed at night.

I’ve definitely learned quite a bit along the way. Interested in my tips? Check out Part 3.

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