I wold just like to start off with a big fact disclaimer. In case it wasn't obvious, I am by no means a professional sleep trainer. Or a professional anything, for that matter. I just thought I would share our journey with sleep training and the few small changes that made a big difference in this house.
It was OK to get up several times in the night when Camden was a newborn. There was still that euphoric, "We have a baby!" feeling in the house, I was on maternity leave, and sleep deprivation hadn't set in. Some illness got thrown in there a few months later, and I was OK with that too. The poor kiddo didn't know how to breathe out of his mouth - I get it.
|2 month old Baby Cam|
But, fast forward to a six month old babe who was still not sleeping through the night - and I can tell you that sense of euphoria was long gone. Long gone, folks. I loved that he "loved me so much that he wanted to see me in the night..." but seriously, I stopped thinking that was adorable when he was about three months old.
No night was the same. I would hope and pray (literally) for a decent night's sleep. Heck, even a solid stretch of sleep before my first wake-up call would have been a bonus. Ryan eventually said I needed to stop hoping for a decent night's sleep and just prepare myself for an awful nights sleep. That way - I'd be pleased with whatever mediocre rest I got.
As right as he may have been and as silly as it was - that wasn't how I wanted to approach the situation. I've said it before - I'm an optimist and I just didn't want to think that way. Part of me just kept thinking, "Camden will figure it out on his own..." But it soon became clear that just wasn't going to happen. Either that or I wasn't willing to wait for him to get his sleeping act together.
While I knew we were doing certain things the "right" way, like having him sleep in his crib, using a sound machine, using a pacifier, and having a bed time routine - there were a few things that we weren't doing the "right" way, like feeding and/or rocking him to sleep (and therefore, putting him to bed asleep), and jumping up every time he whined or cried in the night.
It was obvious that even if he could put himself to sleep at bedtime, or after waking in the night - he didn't know that he could do it. Because we were doing the work for him and putting him down asleep, he didn't know how to put himself back down when waking in the night. And plus the little booger knew that we (OK, I) would come running in to answer his cries. Silly mommy. Smart baby.
I broke out the resources. Some I would recommend are The Sleep Easy Solution by Waldburger and Spivack, The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep by Harvey Karp, M.D., Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Baby by Marc Weissbluth, M.D (which I'm currently browsing through), and a blog called Troublesome Tots.
All were pointing to our key problem - putting Camden down asleep instead of awake. I knew this was the problem but was too chicken shit to do anything to change it. I kept thinking, "But it's so easy this way..." Wrong, wrong, wrong. I also found that in order to get over this little hurdle, we may be going down the "cry it out" road. It wasn't necessary, but it would be a quicker solution than a non-cry it out approach.
I read and read (and read and read and read) about the different approaches to sleep training - both cry it out and non-cry it out. I knew in my heart that we needed him to cry it out, but my heart also wasn't ready to commit to it. But, who does want to leave their baby to cry? No one.
This mama needed to buck up if I wanted some sleep. And I did, so desperately. Even if that meant a few tears shed by Camden (and me).
The week/weekend of 4th of July, I decided that it was go-time. The long weekend was the perfect opportunity to give this a try because if we had some long nights - I would be able to catch up on sleep during nap times. That was my theory anyway. Also, based on my sob fest at the doctor's office - I didn't think my mental health could take much more of the current sleep patterns. I made sure that Ryan was on-board with the plan of attack. I sure as hell wasn't going to do this alone.
We were following the Sleep Easy Solution guidelines that suggests check-ins after 3 minutes, then 5 minutes later, then 10 minutes later, and 10 minutes later for each subsequent check-in. The book also suggests keeping the check-ins brief (less than 30 seconds) and that you shouldn't physically touch the (screaming) baby. You continue the check-ins until baby falls asleep. Sounds fun, right?
The first night, we put Camden down awake and he cried (OK, screamed) for 45 minutes. I ended up having to leave the house because there was no chore or television show that was going to distract me from that sound. I left and paced our neighborhood, called my baby sister and my parents, and text Tiff and my sister-in-law for support. I left Ryan with the check-in and "no touching" instructions.
After walking awhile, I peeked my head into the front door to see my husband with a very guilty look on his face. And the house was quiet. Ryan quickly confessed, "I cheated. I went in for the check-in. And I hugged him. He needed a hug. I had to hug him. I hugged him and he laid down and fell asleep."
Well, doesn't that just melt your heart? Camden exhausted himself so much that he just needed a hug from his daddy (although I'm guessing contact with any human being would have done just fine). My poor baby.
For the most part, each night got a little better. If he woke up in the night, we'd go back to our same check-in strategy, and as hard as it was - not result to picking him up, rocking, and/or feeding him. That was my most challenging time, I think. It's in the middle of the night, you are a zombie, and you know that if you just picked your baby up and comforted and/or fed them - they'd fall back asleep.
Naps were a little hit or miss at first. He was always a good napper, but again - we were in the habit of putting him down asleep. We used our new-found method at nap time and once he got the idea, he's done pretty darn good. Sometimes it just took a little longer for him to fall asleep.
I swear, this child is stubborn just like his dad.
These days, we start Camden's bed time routine about 15 minutes before we want to be laying him down in his crib. If he falls asleep drinking his nighttime bottle, we jiggle or tickle him awake - even if he only opens his eyes long enough to be laid down. It took some time, but he's sleeping through the night (I'm knocking on wood right now) - totally able to put himself back to sleep if he wakes up in the night.
This child is a wiggle worm when he's awake and it is no different when he's asleep. No joke, every time I click the monitor to check on him (yes, I still check frequently to make sure he's breathing - I can't help it), he's laying in a different position. His tummy, his back, cuddled up to the crib rail, snuggling his lovey, on his side... You get the idea. Prior to sleep training, all this movement would have woken him up and caused the whining to begin. Not anymore.
If you've made it through this post - you deserve a medal of some kind. Because who really gives a hoot about our experience with sleep training? Probably not many. But you might read something that could be helpful to you in the future, or know someone who is struggling with exhaustion and sleep deprivation like we were. Maybe you (or someone you know) is contemplating a cry it out sleep training method. I'm here to tell you that if you commit to it (seriously, half the battle), you will see results.
It's hard, and it will tug on your mama (and daddy) heart strings like no other. But your baby will sleep better... And so will you.