Thursday, January 28, 2010

Let Sleeping Babies Lie

Mack finally started sleeping through the night consistently right after his first birthday. As with Amelia, after I did the Ferber method on Mack and he was sleeping through the night by the third night, I kept asking myself why, why did I wait so long to do this? I guess because whenever I got up the gumption to do it, Mack was sick, or the girls were sick, or I thought Dan needed to do it with me, or I figured I had to get up to put wood on the fire anyway so I might as well feed Mack. I knew he didn't physically need to eat, but as you may remember I've been somewhat sentimental about Mack growing up so I wanted to snuggle him. But eventually the need for sleep usurped the warm fuzzies and all it took was two nights of listening to some crying and it was done.

I did a little reading in Dr. Ferber's book Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems to brush up on how to do things. The main idea is that we all have natural waking episodes during our sleep each night, but most people are able to fall back asleep with little disruption and often without even becoming conscious. But babies and children who can't sleep through the night haven't learned how to do that on their own. Babies younger than 4-6 months physically need to eat during the night, so getting up to help them is just part of the package. But after 6 months they can sleep all night without needing to eat. The trick is teaching them how to fall asleep without your assistance. When you put them to bed, you have to create an environment that they can duplicate when they wake up in the middle of the night, ideally in their own crib, in their own room, with just their regular comfort items like a binky or woobie or stuffed animal. If your baby can't put their own binky in their mouth, then you should put them to sleep without a binky or they'll never be able to recreate their "falling asleep" conditions when they awake during the night. Once the child becomes accustomed to the conditions that exist while falling asleep, they should be able to put themselves back to sleep when they stir in the night. Surprisingly, the adjustment period is usually a week or less.

The key to being successful with the Ferber method is in realizing that it's not just a "cry it out" method. You have to reassure the child periodically so they don't freak out and think they've been abandoned. Here's how things played out with Mack:

On the first night, I did 3-5-8 minute intervals. Mack's been pretty good about going to sleep initially, it's just the night waking that I needed to train him on. So when he woke up the first time, around midnight, I went in and patted him and put in his binky in, then left. He immediately stood up and yelled from the edge of the crib for 3 minutes. Then I went back in, layed him down, said a few words, covered him back up and left. He cried for 5 minutes and I went back in. I repeated the same routine and this time his crying tapered off around 5 minutes and by 8 minutes there was just an occasional whimper. Dr. Ferber says the child doesn't necessarily have to be silent by the end of a time interval, if they've calmed and are starting to fall asleep, you don't want to interrupt that. So I just waited a couple more minutes and Mack was asleep. I'd only had to go in twice! Mack awoke one more time that night, I think around 4:00am, and I repeated the same steps at 3 minutes and 5 minutes and he again fell asleep during the third time interval.

The second night I increased the intervals to 5-8-10 and he fell asleep during the third interval both times I got up with him. If your child is still crying at the end of the third interval, you just repeat the longest time interval (in this instance, 10 minutes) until they fall asleep. On the third
night I awoke with a start around 4:00am and realized Mack had never waken up during the night. Holy cow! I went and put wood on the fire and went back to sleep until Mack woke up at 6:30am. I think there was one more night during that first week that Mack woke up crying, but I just waited a couple of minutes and he fell back asleep on his own.

Is there anything sweeter than a sleeping child?

Yes, a sleeping child who remains that way until morning! Mack now sleeps from around 8:00-8:30pm until sometime between 6:45am and 8:00am.

Mack has finally become attached to his woobie. He hadn't really shown a lot of interest in it before, but a little before his birthday he started grabbing Amelia's woobie and kind of nibbling on it. So I started trying to give him his woobie more often. Once I started Ferberizing him, his woobie became more a part of his routine and now he is fully woobie-fied. I'll lay his woobie on my shoulder and he loves to cuddle it. When I lay him in his crib I put his woobie up by his cheek and he grabs it and snuggles his head over to it. When he's nursing he loves to pick up his woobie and move it back and forth and wave it around. If he wants to snuggle I'll tell him to grab his woobie and he actually knows what that means! Dan's not too pleased with me getting Mack hooked, but I figure it'll be good to have him attached to something as a comfort measure when it comes time to wean him off the binky. Woobies are awesome!

P.S. Dragonfly, I promise I didn't do this post to rub it in. You sure got a crappy deal on the night waking. Pun intended.


Brian and Rebecca Nate said...

Sleeping babies are the cutest, sweetest, thing there is. Is there anything in that book about weaning them off the plug? I definitely need some help in that area!

The Donnells said...

I have to say that we got sooo lucky. Sedona pretty much took care of the sleeping thing all by herself. We stuck to the same routine at night, and tada! You can now ask her if she is tired and if she is she will grab her blankie and walk right into her room and wait for you to put her in her crib. There are some nights that she is tough to put to bed but they are few and far between. You are right, it is all about making their bed area safe and familiar. Our pediatrician told us to never let her fall asleep for the night being held and it was great advice.

The Queen Vee said...

Good for you Sue and good for Mack, now you both can get a really good nights sleep.

Nighty night you two.