Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Maybe this Ferber guy knows what he's talking about

So we're only a coupole chapters into Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, but we're convinced we have turned Cayden into the poor sleeper he is.

Why? Because we do exactly what the doc recommends against, but the only things that would get him to sleep in the early months: nursing, rocking, patting and bouncing him to sleep in our arms, then sneaking him into his crib once he's out. The good doc says that when the baby wakes up between natural sleep cycles and finds he's in a different place and none of the conditions that put him to sleep are present any more, he gets upset and cries for us to recreate those conditions. Each. Time. He. Wakes. But he also becomes afraid of these night wakenings where things are no longer as they should be in his mind, so he starts resisting bedtime.

Yeah, that's our baby. A baby with bad sleep associations. Apparently he needs to learn how to fall asleep on his own. It will make sleep more comforting, peaceful and restful for him, and it will mean less getting out of bed at night for us.

We're not quite ready to dive into the "progressive waiting approach" (aka "cry it out"), but we did try a couple of new things last night, encouraged by the fact that Cayden has occasionallly fallen asleep on his own for naps. (Ferber says that means he already has a jump start on learning to fall asleep on his own at bedtime.

1. We fed him a while before bedtime (7:30), so he doesn't keep associating eating with sleeping.
2. We did bathtime earlier, too, since it's more exciting than relaxing for our kid.
3. We kept him up a bit later than usual (8:30), so we knew he was good and tired. Although he didn't fuss about it.
4. Then, when he started rubbing his eyes and yawning, we took him to his room and had some quiet playtime in his crib, sans swaddle. That's so he gets used to it as a comforting place.
5. Gave him his blankie and decided to see what happened.

And wouldn't you know it, after about 10 minutes the kid started putting himself to sleep! Dad patted his butt a little bit, but we left the room while he was still drowsy (another Ferber rec.) just before 9, and he didn't cry at all for half an hour. The he bruitsed a little bit, so dad went back in and patted his butt at 9:30 for a few more minutes.

Now Ferber recommends AGAINST going back in and comforting when a baby is only fussing a bit, and the butt-patting is another no-no. But we're approaching this thing in baby steps. Heck, we didn't even know we were going to start Ferberizing last night until we realized he wasn't screaming when we put him in his crib for quiet play time.

And he was out. Until 12:50 a.m. Now he hadn't eaten for more than five hours at that point, so I think it was a pretty good stretch, considering he wasn't swaddled.

So I fed him (15 minutes) and put him in his sleep sack (it was too late for the sleep sack when we realized he was putting himself to sleep earlier in the night, and we didn't want to disturb his progression to dreamland). So down he went in the crib for the second time, drowsy but still awake. And he fell back asleep -- no swaddle, no bouncing, no rocking (but OK, a few more butt pats) -- in minutes. I was back in bed at 1:13, less than 25 minutes after I got up.

AND THEN HE DIDN'T WAKE UP UNTIL 5:50 A.M.!!!

At which point I brought him in bed with me to nurse, so that I could sleep in with him a few minutes rather than get up on time and feed him just before I left for the day. Hey, excessive feeding and feeding on demand are addressed by Ferber in chapters I haven't read, yet.

We realize this was only one night, but his apparent ability to put himself to sleep and his responsiveness to a little sleep training have given Brian and I great hope. Hope that the thrice-nightly wakings to settle the baby will come to an end sooner, rather than later; and hope that maybe we won't have to resort to cry it out if these little adaptations work.

Regardless, my baby put himself to sleep in the crib for the first time last night, and it was the first time in a week or so that I wasn't out of bed three times at night.

Cayden is three months and four weeks old.

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