Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sleep Training - my experience

When Mr. J was an infant, he cried a lot. Nursing often settled him down and he would fall asleep; except in the afternoons. From 3-5pm he was often inconsolable. What did I do? I lay in bed crying with him next to me crying. He would fall asleep from exhaustion and I would lay there crying.  Hubby would come home from work and couldn't understand what was going on.  He had no idea how exhausting it was for me to try and comfort our son, just to end up "failing"; add that to postpartum hormones and I was a tad emotional.

I was never diagnosed with postpartum depr for 28ession, but after having Mr. K and not experiencing a lot of the feelings I had with Mr. J -  I do think I had it mildly the first time around.

Mr. J was a pretty good sleeper as a newborn.  He would give me 5 hour stretches for the first part of the night, then 4, then 3 and then up to start the day. He would nap anywhere (in the car, nursing, someone holding him and I could transfer him without issue)  When he was 5.5 months old, he decided he did not like sleep anymore.

I was exhausted; absolutely, utterly exhausted. I had people telling me that I should sleep train and I was absolutely against it. No way could I let him cry it out.  When he was 11.5 months old, I could barely function.  He was falling asleep at 7:30, waking up to nurse every 2 hours until 2:30am and then not going back to sleep. He would be awake until 5 am, and then "nap" until 8am when he would be ready to start his day.  I just could not do it anymore.  I bought Dr. Richard Ferbers book on my doctors recommendation, and decided to do it.

I knew I would need help with my will power to not get him, and I didn't think hubby would be able to stop me - I thought he would just say, yes - go get him.  So, I went to my mothers.  The first night was by far the worst - he cried for 28 minutes (with me checking in at intervals). The next wake up was 20 minutes (with interval checks) and the third wake was 10 minutes (with only 1 check in) The next time, he cried for a minute and stopped.

The next night was 10 minutes at bed, with 1 check in and no wake ups. The third night was only a minute or 2 with no wake ups.  I was shocked; I was able to sleep, he was refreshed and all was happy. Until he was 15 months old and cut his molars - then his sleep turned horrible again and sleep training didn't work this time (I waited until they had been through the gums a week before attempting) but he could out last my resistance, so I gave up. If he was going to be screaming for over an hour - that wasn't right to me.

When Mr. K was born, he was a pretty good sleeper. He was giving me 7 and 8 hour stretches by 3 weeks old.  He was napping well, and such a happy little guy. Then he hit 8 weeks, had his needles and he stopped sleeping.  He was inconsolable at times.  By the time he was 4months old - it would take 2 hours of nursing, rocking, shhing and patting to even attempt putting him down in his crib for fear of him waking up.  During this time period, the slightest sound would have his eyes fly open.  Mr. J was told to stay with daddy, he couldn't play in his room, he couldn't play with this toy or that toy for fear of waking Mr. K.  I quickly realized that something had to be done - it was NOT fair to Mr. J to basically be told to sit on the couch quiet every night for 2 hours.  I decided to sleep train again. This time, I used the Sleep Easy book (which is similar to Ferber) and it absolutely broke my heart.  To listen to my infant cry, it was horrible.  Hubby sat holding me on the couch while I cried listening to him. The first night actually wasn't too bad.  He went to sleep only needing 1 check in; it was the wake ups that were the issue (2 wake ups - now, I wasn't night weaning him - I did dream feeds with him to make sure he wasn't hungry).  After 3 nights there was no more than a slight whimper as he got comfy at bed, and he wasn't waking (I continued dream feeds) that is, until we went away for a week and we were not in his home surroundings. When we got home, I attempted to sleep train again, but I just did not have the heart for it. He was pretty good at falling asleep himself now, and that had been my ultimate goal. If he woke in the night, it was just for short nursing sessions.

With Mr. J, I don't really regret it. He was much older, and it really wasn't that hard (and when I say the first night was 28 minutes, that was NOT straight crying - there were breaks in there - and I would even say it was more of a very loud complain/whine than outright crying). With Mr. K - I regret it. I didn't do the sleep training because I needed him to sleep through the night - I did it so that Mr. J wouldn't suffer during the time it was taking me to put K to sleep.  I really wish I had found some other way to help him learn to fall asleep on his own though.

I personally believe, that every family does what is right for them in terms of raising children.  If sleep training is something that you REALLY think is needed, then I am not going to try and change your mind.  But really, I don't think that Mr. K "learned" to fall asleep on his own because I left him to cry. I think he was probably falling asleep out of pure and utter exhaustion, and realized mommy was not coming when he needed her. He will be 3 soon, and this is something that STILL weighs on my mind. In the end - while the ultimate goal may have been realized with both my boys, they both had periods that needed "re-training" and it failed.  Mr. J is 6, and is now a TERRIFIC sleeper.  We had many issues, and even up until this past winter he was not great. But setting a STRICT bedtime routine and sticking with it, including a strict routine in regards to dealing with wake ups has been amazing.  He RARELY wakes in the night now, and when he does it is generally because he needs the washroom.

All this to say, babies cry for a reason.  Put yourself in their situation - waking alone in a dark room, not knowing where mommy is. Maybe being hungry, cold or hot and scared.  Mommy (or daddy) is the comfort they are seeking.  We aren't going to do them HARM by responding to their needs.

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