April 29, 2012

How To: Sleep Train (Ferber Method)

It's amazing how different it is pre-baby and post-baby when it comes to parenting. Before I had Noelle I never imagined I would be one to sleep train my baby or ever let her cry it out. I was so against the notion of letting her cry and was confident that I would raise my child attachment-parenting style. I figured she would sleep best this way and bond with me best this way. I never ever wanted my baby to cry. I basically was going to feed her when she wanted and let her sleep when she wanted, and hold her all the time. Things change A LOT after you have a baby! I would have never in a million years guess that I would have a colic baby with acid reflux, especially after taking care of so many angel babies who sleep and eat when they are suppose to. She was/is a HARD baby. It's difficult to hold a baby that cries all the time. It's hard to keep your composure. It's hard not to start resenting everything. After Noelle was born, we would do anything to get her to stop crying and sleep. Hence where the intense bouncing on the yoga ball came in. This was the only way peanut would fall asleep! So here we are, sleep training her to get her over her current sleep habits (the bouncing, the rocking, the unnecessary feedings) and start learning how to fall asleep on her own.

I thought sleep training and crying it out was so evil pre-baby, and now I see it really can work for some babies and families. Every situation is different, and you can never know what you will do until you actually have that screaming baby in your tired arms. I used to read Dr. Sears a lot BEFORE I had Noelle and was convinced by those baby books that letting your baby cry it out would damage them emotionally, cause them stress and ultimately make them afraid, alone, anxiety ridden and resent you. But guess what? It's not evil. Does Noelle hate me now? No. In fact she wakes up so refreshed from all this new sleep she's getting that she greets me with the largest smile and reaches up for me. She is crying, not because I abandoned her, but because she doesn't know what to do. She's confused by us trying to break these sleep habits and her only way to communicate her frustration is by crying. It's okay. We make sure she's not hurt, not wet, not hungry, and burp her before we set her in there. We check on her. We reassure her that we are here, and haven't disappeared. Do I think leaving her in her crib to cry herself to sleep has caused her emotional damage? No. I do feel bad. But Dr. Ferber said it best, "What happens when you take your children to the doctor for an immunization shot? They cry. So does that mean you don't let them get shots? Of course not. What I believe is no different."

Joey and I finally took it to the next level and started to actively sleep train her with a self-modified version of the Ferber Method. It was hard, painful and at moments we did feel cruel, but in the end, it was so worth it and we learned so much from the experience. I finally understood that her sleep habits were causing her to sleep worse, and less which in turn made us sleep worse and less. Her sleep habits included all these soothing techniques that WE did for her, so she would only associate sleep with us being there. We finally broke this and are now having her adjust to new sleep associations (a special blankie that she only gets in the crib and her pacifier) and new sleep habits (going to bed awake, being alone when she falls asleep, finding ways to soothe herself).  I'm happy to tell you that we are another sleep training success story! Her new sleep habits are producing better and more sleep for everyone and resulting in her drinking more regularly!


Below is my journal that I used to document our sleep training process and progress, mostly for my records and then for other parents who would like to see how it worked for us. Go ahead and read if you want, or happily skip it, since it's not the most fun or interesting read. ;) But it's here, and I'm so happy that we did it, even though we were hesitant and worried. Noelle is better now for it, and so are we. :)

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Day 1: Horrid and traumatic. Noelle screamed for 45 minutes at nap time before passing out for 2 hours but woke up happy and refreshed. Night time was worse. Cried for an hour before falling asleep for an hour and a half. Woke up screaming wondering why the heck no one was bouncing her on the yoga ball, and continued screaming for roughly an hour before falling back asleep. (I'd go in periodically to check on her and reassure her that I was still there, but swear that my presence made her angrier.) Woke up after an hour. This procedure went on the whole night. It was exhausting.

Day 2: After she got up at 5:00 am and cried until 6:00 am without any trace of luring herself back to sleep, we began the day. At 8:00 I put her down for a nap. She only cried for a minute before passing out. She slept for 2 hours. Poor thing was exhausted. She then slept again at 12:00 pm for another 2 hours! As soon as I saw signs of her being tired I put her into the crib right away, and she cried for not even a minute before falling asleep. I wasn't planning on putting her down for a late nap, thinking it would be too close to bedtime, but at 4:00 pm she was a beast! She started fussing, rubbing her eyes, and crying so in the crib she went. And she didn't cry at all, and slept for an hour! This is the most she has EVER napped, not to mention, the FIRST time she napped without being bounced first! Because we let her nap late, we didn't start her bedtime routine until 7:30 pm. Big mistake. It didn't matter what time she napped, we should have started her routine at 6:30 pm, because she was overtired at this point and screamed during her bath and throughout her whole bedtime routine. She fell asleep instantly with just a whimper, but woke up an hour later screaming. We let her cry for about 30 minutes before she fell asleep until 3 am. AMAZING. We fed her a small bottle and then she cried for another 30 minutes before sleeping until (drum roll please) 8:30 am!

Day 3: We regressed a little bit today but that was to be expected. In the morning Joey felt bad because she had a little cold so he wanted to bounce her to sleep for her morning nap. He's such a sucker! He claimed that he missed bouncing her and that he wanted to just bounce her until she was drowsy, then set her in the crib awake. I was fine with that, as long as he put her in the crib awake. After 20 minutes went by, I knew something was up. I go upstairs to find this:

Seriously! He is wrapped around her finger! For her afternoon nap, there wasn't one. She screamed and screamed with no sign of letting up so we finally let her stay up. However, it all worked out because she went down at 8:00 after crying for 30 minutes, woke up at 9:00 for a few minutes, then slept until 3 am! After a brief feeding, she slept until 7:45 am!

Day 4: Baby girl was an angel today. She slept briefly when we went to Target in the morning, then went down for a nap at 12:00 pm. I put her in fully awake, and she played with her feet and her new "crib only" stuffed animal before she realized she was alone then cried. She cried for 30 minutes but then slept for 3 hours!! Bedtime was similar, we did her routine and she went into the crib easily. She played for a few minutes before it dawned on her that it was bedtime, she protested by crying, but this time she only cried for 20 minutes! She then slept till 2:30 am, had a small bottle, then cried for only 5 minutes before soothing herself by sucking on her blanket (we know because we purchased a video monitor). She was asleep in 20 minutes and slept until 6:30 am.

What the baby monitor looks like. We LOVE it.

Day 5: After being up rather early today, I put Noelle down at 8:00 am, thinking it would take her 20-30 minutes of crying before she would fall asleep. However she surprised me and cried for 5 minutes then soothed herself to sleep and slept for 2 hours! She has become so much more routine it's amazing. By 12:00 pm she fell asleep completely by herself with no tears...I was in awe. Bedtime went the best it's ever gone; 5 minutes of playing in her crib, 5 minutes of soft crying and she was asleep!

Following days: Each day after has been more or less the same. We are currently on Day 10 and the only reason why I'm still counting is because it's still a work in progress. She sleeps SO much better, it's AMAZING, however she still doesn't sleep through the night. I'm not worried though because some babies take 2 full weeks (or longer) to finally adjust to the new routine. The results so far have been amazing though; lots of new sleep, two naps a day, better appetite, better bottle feedings, finally can soothe herself, doesn't freak out when put into crib and left alone.

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I completely, whole heartedly believe in sleep training and credit it with our new found sanity. I'm not saying it will work for every baby, and I know that many babies don't even need this, but mine did, and it worked! :)

I swear by:

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate this post and am gonna read through it more thoroughly :) I've been reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and it is a lot to process! I don't think I'll be able to remember everything by the time Myla actually arrives, ha. I have no idea what the future holds but I definitely think I'm more of a mom who will let Myla cry it out, put her in the bassinet/crib and hopefully it can help her soothe herself... after working at a daycare with infants, it was the only thing I could resort to for nap time. Wishing you & Noelle the best! prayers that her sleep training continues to get better and better!


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