For the first nine weeks of my son’s life, I fell into a category of parenting which I now know to be called "attachment parenting." When he cried, I picked him up. If he didn’t want to sleep in his Pack-N-Play next to our bed, I placed him in bed with me. He wouldn’t nap by himself during the day, so he slept on my shoulder or next to me in my bed. What if he didn’t want to take a nap? No worries – he didn’t have to take one! I would just carry him around the house all day to avoid any crying. When we did run into crying, nursing him seemed to do the trick. When it didn’t, I would just hold him, and then try nursing again. I was told that if I didn’t nurture him in this way, that if I allowed him to cry and didn’t "meet his needs," he would grow up with a sense of insecurity. I was feeling, to put it mildly, exhausted, and my back was, let’s say, aching. Dinner was hardly ever ready when Evan arrived home, and the house was a mess. But I loved Gabriel and thought this was the best way to nurture him.
After the two month checkup, we decided to try transitioning him to his crib in the nursery. The first night, he slept for a few hours in it, and after the 1AM feeding ended up in bed with us. The second night was the same story. The third night, he woke up at 10PM, and then at midnight before coming to bed with us. On the fourth night, he woke up at 9:30PM and was so fussy, and I so tired, that I brought him to bed with me that early. On the following morning, I could not stand it. I had not slept in two nights. When he is next to me, my sleep, when it actually comes, is so shallow as I am so aware of his presence. He was fussy throughout the day, and many of our playtimes were strained. And, of course, it was difficult to nap because when he would sleep, it was on me. So I decided something had to change, and fortunately, Evan was supportive of this.
On Sept. 19th, at 4AM, I called my mother (fortunately three hours ahead of me, as she lives in South Carolina), nearly hysterical after the two consecutive sleepless nights. She informed me that her friend’s daughter-in-law placed her baby on a schedule using a technique outlined in On Becoming Babywise, but she herself had not read the book and didn’t know whether to recommend it. Later that day, I spoke with two friends, both of whom are pediatrics residents, and both assured me that he was going to have to be placed in his crib that night and cry for a bit, with Evan or I going in to reassure him at intervals (the Ferber method). Consistency was key. Being nearly ten weeks old, they felt Gabriel was old enough to learn to comfort himself (Ferber says four months).
I also began reading On Becoming Babywise. I realized I was doing several things the authors recommend against, and decided to try their logic to see if it was successful, knowing I could go back after a few days if it was not working. The technique is this: in each cycle, there is a feeding, followed by awake time, followed by a nap. That’s it. Nursing to sleep is one thing I was doing that they advised against, as the thought is that the baby associates feeding with sleeping or comfort. Also, others are unable to comfort the baby if the mother isn’t available. Also, I had been letting Gabriel snack all day every day, another mistake. I was not making him take naps – another mistake. Babies need sleep, and he was not getting it, thus resulting in discomfort in the evenings when he was exhausted. And the biggest mistake I was making was bringing him to bed with me when he didn’t want to sleep in his crib.
On the first night, I fed him, spent some awake time with him, and we placed him in the crib. He cried for 40 minutes, with us comforting him at five minute intervals. Then, suddenly, he was asleep. He slept until 2:30AM, when he fed, and then slept until 5:30AM. I was amazed. The next day, we both felt better, and I placed him on the feed-awake-asleep cycle. That night, he went into his crib, and fell asleep after 11 minutes of crying (again with comforting). He slept until 3:15AM. We continued the feed-awake-asleep cycle the following day, and that night, he cried for TWO MINUTES and then fell asleep, again sleeping until about 3:15AM. Then came the weekend – he was willing to go down for naps in his crib (for the most part), playtimes were so much happier, and he seemed to be starting to schedule himself with our guidance. I also realized I was not having to hold him every minute, but that he still loved being cuddled! Then, last night – it happened. He used to wake up at 4AM, ready to start his day, but last night, after falling asleep at 9:45PM (crying for about two minutes), he slept until 4:30AM – nearly seven hours, and past the time when he was waking up before. After a feeding, he was asleep again by 5. I got six straight hours of restful sleep, and another hour after I put him back to bed.
I cannot believe this is the same baby who would not sleep well a week ago. I honestly thought he was going to be six months old, and I was going to be going crazy back at work from the sleep deprivation at home. I never dreamed he would be sleeping for seven hours at night at ten weeks of age, nor that it would take only several days of scheduling to make it happen. I was also skeptical that allowing him to take multiple naps during the day would result in his being up even more at night, but it seems that his being more well-rested during the day allows him to relax enough to sleep for a prolonged period at night.
So a huge milestone has been reached! I think every parent just hates to hear his or her baby cry and interprets it as a sign of distress. By preventing his crying by always holding him or bringing him to our bed, I think I was making things worse. It is still tough to hear him cry, but fortunately, he cries so much less overall now than he did before, because he’s well-rested and content!
I love my precious son and look forward to so many wonderful times ahead – times we can both enjoy because we’re both refreshed each morning and feeling happy.