I am as guilty as anyone of using what I read in Facebook posts and blog posts and snippets of magazine articles to form an opinion on or try something new, but once again I was reminded why reading the book – the original book, by the author – is such a useful exercise.
My seven-month old son is a good sleeper with a nice, early bedtime, but hasn’t consistently slept through the night in a while. Since my husband and I alternate nights, and because his bedtime is so early (6:30 pm!), we accepted his need to eat around 4 or 5 each morning.
However, Mr. Sucker Daddy let Javi push that 4 or 5 am bottle earlier and earlier, until suddenly he was eating twice in one night! Argh! After a week of this, I was over it. Eating 10 or 11 hours after he’d fallen asleep was one thing, but crying for a bottle after three or four hours was ridiculous (and always happened to be right as we’d fallen asleep).
Plus, as often happens, one slip in our boundaries incurred many, many more. Suddenly my kid was crying and fussing (only sometimes, and not for long, but still…) when being put in his crib. He’s learned to move around pretty well, so instead of sleeping during his morning nap, he’d mess with the (tightly secured and safe) cord on his video monitor. And if we didn’t get him down for bed early enough, he’d turn into a baby monster, roaring and whining and driving us bonkers.
So, I volunteered to take on the overnight shift for a week (easier than making sure my hubs and I are completely consistent during a transition from one routine to another) and bought Dr. Ferber’s book, somewhat reluctantly and with a bit of embarrassment.
I’m so glad I did.
First, he is far more nuanced and comprehensive and balanced than I’d believed. The whole “cry it out” thing is like four pages of a long and detailed book. I had to look for it! He’s also very, very specific about when to use it and how to do so sensitively… and when it won’t work or needs to be phase II of your plan. He covers children older than infants plus really young babies and really helps relate what he’s saying to parent’s experiences as grown-ups.
I found it far more useful and practical than “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child,” a book I chose over Ferber because I thought it would be more balanced! (The takeaways I got from that book was more sleep is good, grumpy kids need more sleep, children’s need to sleep is super important. But other than letting my kid cry indefinitely, I didn’t pick up too much that was useful on how to do that, other than move his bedtime earlier, which did work like a charm, to be fair.)
I’m still doing the overnights this week, but somehow (miraculously) he’s evidently read my mind and isn’t waking up to eat at night. I’ve focused on not reinforcing the use of his pacifier and making sure he’s awake when I lay him in his crib, and that plus daylight savings has made a big difference.
Then there was a third factor. Somehow I understood the link between sleeping and cry-it-out to be like this:
baby doesn’t sleep through the night –> parents exhausted –> baby is “taught” to soothe himself by crying a bit until he settles, generally with periodic check-ins from his parent to reassure both of them
But after reading this book, I get it! The issue isn’t that they need to learn to get over it to soothe themselves, but rather that going to sleep in one place and waking up in another is confusing and disconcerting. If he falls asleep in my arms and I move him while sleeping, when he wakes up, he’s a bit bewildered.
So we unwittingly did it right when we’d put him in his swing swaddled and awake. When he’d wake up in the night, he was in the same situation he started in, so all was well. Things got confusing when we moved him to his crib. Some nights I’d put him down drowsy but awake (or frustrated and awake) and he’d fall asleep in his crib. Those nights, I’m pretty sure, he did okay overnight. Other nights, he’d be so comfy that I’d just move him carefully into his crib. Sure enough, he’d wake up in a different place in a different position without his pacifier in his mouth and freak out.
So the third positive change I unwittingly started before reading the book has been to reinstitute the bedtime routine step between bottle (where he falls asleep) and putting him down in his crib: moving him to my shoulder to burp him. Turns out the value of that step wasn’t just in getting that bench out, but also in that it woke him up so when I laid him down, he knew where he was.
Of course, now that I’ve written this, I’m betting it all goes to hell since I’ve poked the gods of baby sleep.