That’s it! Our spirits have been broken. It has now been 191 nights since we left the hospital with our baby girl. 191 nights without more than 4 hours of sleep. And that was only when she was a newborn. We had to change our pace in order to regain sanity and save our marriage.
I know I have blogged about this topic many times already but since we’re still in the midst of probably one of the most difficult stages of parenthood to date, I’m gonna keep sharing.
For the past three months or 91 days Emma had been waking up every 2-3 hours at night. We even had weeks of hourly wakings. Do you know that feeling of crankiness towards the end of the day when you’re really beat and just want to crawl under your covers? How would you feel when you finally fell asleep after tossing and turning restlessly at night only to suddenly awaken again shortly thereafter? Oh, and don’t think you could load up on coffee, Monster drinks or Red Bull to help you function during the day. Na, you’re still breastfeeding so none of that, lady.
We recently went to SoCal for an inexpensive vacation. While staying with Paul’s mom, Paul offered to take care of Emma at night so that I could get some good night sleep. What an awesome husband, hey. He and Emma along with her travel crib, one bottle of breast milk and a bottle of water moved into one bedroom as I went to bed in a separate bedroom. Dear Lord, that was amazing! I had forgotten how wonderful it is to sleep through the night without any disturbance. I was reborn. I was a new person. I was actually friendly and nice again. Seriously.
Paul and I celebrated our victory over Emma’s
nightly terrorism sleep issues. We were convinced that we had magically cracked taught her to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Ha! Not too fast. Back home she fell back into her old sleep pattern. Really? Why? What worked in L.A.? Was it the climate? The different day activities? We sorta kept her bedtime and routine the same so that couldn’t be it. Maybe it was that driving around for about an hour every time we had to get somewhere which always gave her an opportunity to rest/sleep.
Either way, we had to set an end to this. Paul was back at work and couldn’t afford to spend many more nights comforting Emma and even with a few nights of deep sleep I wasn’t able to make up for the past six months.
It seemed like there was only one more option and I hated to even think about it. Yes, that’s right. We had to let her cry it out. Even writing this feels like a fist clenched around my heart. (In Germany we say: Lieber ein Ende mit Schrecken als ein Schrecken ohne Ende.)
So we put Pantley’s book No-Cry Sleep Solutions back on the shelf and investigated the Ferber Method. The Ferber Method is a sleep training strategy designed by Richard Ferber, M.D., the director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital in Boston where he has been treating children with sleep problems since 1978.
The Ferber Method is not simply a “cry it out” approach to getting your baby to sleep. Instead, like some “no cry” methods, Dr. Ferber’s methods is supposed to help you teach your baby go to sleep and sleep all night without crying or with a minimum of crying.
But make sure to read up on Dr. Richard Ferber’s method before you judge. The folks at Babycenter.com have a great article about it. As much as I opposed any sort of crying it out sleep training (see Part 1 and Part 2), I never judged the parents who decided to try it.
However, I still feel very uncomfortable about this in my heart but my head told me that our whole family would benefit longterm from the ‘cold turkey’ method. And if you add up all of the crying your child now does when she wakes up in the middle of the night, especially if she keeps doing it for many more weeks or months, it will likely far exceed what she might do using the Ferber Method.
Well, here we are. Paul and I reading, talking, arguing and eventually deciding a game plan to teach Emma how to fall asleep by herself and let go of her sleeping aids: Nursing, bottle, rocking, shushing, lullabies, pacifier (not that she ever really used one) and mostly Mama and Papa picking her up.
Here’s our plan of attack:
- Stick to our well-established bedtime routine and bedtime. Cuddle and hug her even more than usual before bedtime so she knows that we love her so much.
- Then put her down awake, so that she is left to fall asleep on her own. (She has fallen asleep on her own several times before at night and during the day.)
- Eventually, Emma will inevitably start crying. Allow her to cry for about 5 minutes, then re-enter the room to console her while only staying in the room for a short time – even if she is still crying – and not picking her up.
- This second time we leave the room, we would wait 10 minutes before returning and doing the same thing.
- The third time we wait 12 minutes, and set this as a maximum wait time for the rest of the night.
- While listening in our bedroom to Emma sobbing next door in her nursery, we would pray together and encourage one another that we’re doing the right thing.
- The following nights we will stretch out the intervals until we’ve reached the limit we allow our child to cry (12 minutes).
Stay tuned for more updates on our sleep training, how we tackle the daytime naps or hear me whine on Twitter in the middle of the night.