Drama Mama

The scattered thoughts of a new mom.

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The Road to Self-Guided Sleep

Wed, Sep 07 2011 (09:18 AM)

I finally have a fairly solid parenting success I can talk about. For 3 weeks now, we’ve had Layla on a proper, self-soothing sleep schedule. But we had a long way to go to get there.

The entire time I was nursing her (through about 8 months old) we co-slept with her. I quickly learned how to comfortably feed her while lying down, and that saved us some precious sleeping time. Around the time I weaned her, we transitioned her out of our bed and our room. I would sit and soothe her to sleep with a bottle and finally lay her down in her bed. But her pediatrician recommended we take her off the bottle by 15 months at the latest. This was difficult because my niece Maddie (4 months younger than Layla) lives with us. When Layla saw Maddie’s bottle, she’d try to steal it. But we eventually weaned her from the bottle to sippy cups. And this was fine during the day, but for going to bed, it was trickier. Part of the point of ditching the bottle was to ditch nighttime milk as well since it can cause tooth decay when it sits in the baby’s mouth overnight. So we used a cup of water instead. But the older Layla got, the harder it was for me to soothe her to sleep. She found things to distract her. And she was getting bigger. And I was getting bigger; at least, my belly was. I couldn’t sit with her for the full time it took for her to fall asleep in the position she required without having some back pain or losing feeling in my butt.

I tried a few techniques intermittently. One day, after considerable frustration, I tried leaving her in the crib at naptime for about 15 minutes because she kept fighting sleep with me. Hearing her cry really broke my heart, and I picked her up again. She fell asleep quite quickly after having worn herself out. But I didn’t want to make a routine of it. I started researching sleep techniques, but it felt like it was already too late. Most of the guides were for babies between 6 and 12 months. I found that a lot of people questioned the Ferber Method in which you check on the child at regular intervals as they “cry it out.” It seemed that most parents (at least those on parenting websites) think of it as cruel and potentially harmful. So I checked alternatives which basically boiled down to having a bedtime routine or gradually departing from the child at bedtime in a supposed “no-cry” technique. I had trouble coming up with a routine the first time I tried. It didn’t seem very successful. And perhaps I just didn’t stick with it long enough for Layla to understand. The gradual departure was a complete failure. If I put her in a bed with me, she would just get out of the bed. If I put her in the crib and reclined next to it, she cried. So, for about two months, I just went back to soothing her to sleep while I sat at the computer.

Last month, the pain and frustration got to be too much. And I started worrying about how we’d handle bed time once our second daughter arrived. So, I decided to start fresh. I chose a routine, armed myself with determination, and decided on a combination of the Ferber and “no-cry” methods. We listened to quiet music while I read her a few books. Then I rocked her through another song or two before laying her in the crib, still awake. If she was upset, I’d lie down near her for a few minutes. If that didn’t help, I left the room and checked on her at the Ferber prescribed intervals. At nighttime, everything began with a bath and saying “good night” to Daddy. While we still have tears at times, we’ve basically been cry-free since the third or fourth day.

Perhaps she was finally ready to soothe herself. Perhaps I finally had the drive to stick with it, and she knew I meant business this time. In any case, we’re finally there. I finally have an hour or two to myself in the evenings. And John and I have both noticed that she’s happier and more pleasant to be around. And to those parents who would criticize me for using the Ferber Method, I say, “Screw you. I’m doing what works for me and for my child.” :)

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