Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sleep Baby, Sleep

At about 2 months I determined TJ was probably going to have sleep difficulties. Boy was I right. I have spent more hours than I want to count attempting to rock him to sleep as he kicked, cried, laughed, scratched, wiggled and fought. There is nothing more frustrating than spending an hour to get him to sleep only to put him in the crib and have him wake right up. Committed to sharing my bed with my husband and not my baby, I continued to put him in his crib at the beginning of the night but would end up on the futon in his nursery or the couch in our living room. It seemed as if nothing was working.

The problems came in waves. A new issue would present itself and then we would begin troubleshooting it until we reached a solution. What followed was nighttime bliss until a new problem presented itself. Most of the time it was a teething, new milestone or allergy that caused our sleep hiccup. By the time we got through a week of teething pain or allergy driven congestion, TJ's sleep routine was destroyed as was his willingness to sleep alone.

Being the well read (some say overly read) mother I am, I understood the sleep limitations my precious baby had. After all he was not yet 6 months, the age most babies are able to sleep through the night. He also had not had a consistent sleep routine because he was so rapidly changing so was his schedule. He had never really been taught or allowed to learn how to put himself to sleep or more importantly back to sleep in the middle of the night. Most of all he was used to the consistent attention attachment parenting provides and wanted that throughout the night.

So we had to make some changes. After reading and trying the Sears book (an attachment parent's Utopian sleep manual), the No-Cry Sleep Solution, the happiest baby on the block (he was too old for those methods)and other popular methods, I gave up. Well I didn't give up on sleep, I gave up on my ideal situation and tried the Ferberizing. I'm guilty, I Ferberized my baby. You know what? It worked.

My once tired, fussy baby, became a bubbly, unbelievably energetic little person. He began "talking" more and his development hit the fast track. I must note, he was never behind developmentally but there were milestones he seemed to be on the cusp of hitting that he seemed to master over night. This is not just about milestones, this is about health. I had no idea just how much sleep a young child needs but our pediatrician said somewhere between 16-18 hours at this age. Without enough sleep a rapidly developing baby can begin to suffer.

With that said I attempted to find the Ferber book (which I could not) and called on my mommy mentors to help me through this. My high school bestie, Wendy saved the day giving me explicit instructions about what to do and what not to do. She also convinced me not to feel guilty and to use this time to relax as much as possible. The first night was excruciatingly, horrible. I listened to my baby cry for 2 hours but he went to sleep. He slept 13 hours straight that night and woke up with a smile on his face. The next night was just as traumatic for me he cried an hour and 15 minutes but it was different. It started out frantic but turned into a hum of sorts. The third night was 45 minutes of off and on hums and moans that were barely audible because of his attempt to suck the Binky at the same time. It continued until it took less than 10 minutes for him to go to bed.

For the first time in months I could eat dinner, have conversations and go to bed without anticipating an interruption. If he woke up he would work it out on his own and fairly quickly. Most importantly, I was able to really enjoy the only time I had alone with Steven. It made such a difference in my day to have time to reconnect with Steve on a daily basis. It was amazing while it lasted.

10 days into the Ferber sleep training, TJ had his first fever, his first emergency room visit and first ear infection. Doctor's orders were sleep him upright, preferably on my chest, monitor his fever throughout the night for four days and administer fever reducers around the clock. We retreated to the rocking chair and couch for four days and then to my bed for the other days. After 10 days of snuggling, which I must admit I did really enjoy, my baby boy was all better, I had recovered from the trauma of the ER visit and I finally stopped worrying. We were both ready to get back to business as usual.

The first night was nerve wrecking. When TJ cried as soon as we sat down in the rocker to read bedtime books, I knew we would quickly get back on track. He remembered the bedtime routine. Even though it was distressing to have him crying at the thought of going to bed it was good to know he knew what was about to happen. I put him down and he cried an hour and a half but went to sleep. The next day was an hour, the next 45 minutes, the next 30. It gets better every day. It's good to know when the book says an interruption in the schedule requires retraining,that does not mean completely starting over.

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