Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mom Friends: I Need Advice!

Ok friends with kids older than me - I need to pick your brains a little bit about everyone's favorite topic: sleep!

I realize I'm sort of opening the wormhole with this one (since everyone has their own opinion on "the best" way to get your kid to sleep).  But honestly - I just need some opinions and/or advice from people who are a few months (or years) ahead of us on parenting (ie, people who know what a 4 month old looks like vs. a 6 month old vs. a 12 month old, etc.).
Here begins the longest blog post in the World...

Some back story:
We co-slept since the day we brought him home from the hospital.  He was in a bassinet pressed against our bed.  I don't want to dwell too much on how he slept as an early baby (since, from everything I've read, sleep habits are constantly changing as they get older), instead I want you all to understand our method so you can hopefully offer some insight.  (But for the record, he was a good sleeper and was not colicky.)

So The Method has been: rock him until he's completely asleep before putting him in the bassinet.  Any time he fusses/cries in the night (and it's not hunger), I immediately offer him comfort (shhhhhing, putting my hand on his tummy, giving him a paci) until he calms down.  This happens a minimum of twice a night, and sometimes as many as five times a night.  (Note: the fussing has never got so bad that I need to do something other than these things [ie, I almost never have to get out of bed to pick him up or rock him or anything.])  He eats once in the night - after 3am - but varying depending on the day.  And around 6 or 7am, he wakes up and, fussing or not, I bring him into our bed where he falls asleep until we get up.  These nights are roughly 8pm to 8am.

We have a solid bedtime routine that doesn't change.  And he naps three times during the day (he's one of those kids where "sleep encourages sleep" and I find if his naps are messed up or short, he definitely sleeps worse at night).
So we decided when he turned 4 months old we would: a) move him into his nursery, and b) teach him to self-soothe by "crying it out."  The doctor suggested we do both of these at the same time.

Our New Method (as of Friday) has been: keep the same bedtime routine (bath, bottle, book, and rocking), except rocking only until he's drowsy and then putting him in his crib.  We then follow the "10 minute rule" - that is, we let him "cry it out" for 10 minutes before we go in and offer comfort.  If he calms down for a second, we re-start the 10 minute timer.  The 10 minute rule then also applies in the middle of the night when he wakes up fussing (not hungry).

Here's how it has gone with putting him down awake:

Friday Night: cried and cried and cried (and cried!) when we put him down.  This was expected.
Saturday Night: fell asleep right after feeding, so basically got put in his bed asleep.  Whoops.
Sunday Night: did fine - was awake when we put him in, but then fell asleep not too long afterwards.
Monday Night: same deal as Sunday (awesome!).
Tuesday Night: played in bed for awhile, started fussing, started crying, turned into hysterics, turned into hysterics that made him spit up a ton of food, didn't fall asleep until 9:30 after I rocked him and then stood over the crib holding his hand.  Cry-it-out fail.
Aside from the initial putting him to sleep, though, what really frustrates me about his sleeping is the middle-of-the-night waking!  He's been waking up a lot!  And now that he's in his own room, I feel like I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place: I know if I go in right when he wakes up and soothe him, he'll go back to sleep without much fuss.  Doing this, though, isn't helping at all with the self soothing.  On the other hand, if I don't go in right away (ie, follow the 10 minute rule), I am (I guess?) helping him learn to self soothe.  Buuuuut then he will not go right back to sleep after I come in.  In fact, a lot of times, 10 minutes has been enough time for the fussing to severely escalate into uncontrollable crying.  A couple nights ago he was so fired up at 1am I had to feed him!  It was the only thing that would calm him down (both Jonathan and I took turns trying to calm him).

And you guys - these nighttime wakings are KILLING ME!  When he was in our room, the whole night would feel sort of hazy the next day - like, I knew I had been up a couple times soothing him, but since all I had to do was reach over the bed, I never really woke up.  Whereas now that I have to get out of bed to do anything (thus waking myself up), I'm exhausted because I think, quite literally, I'm only sleeping 4-5 broken up hours a night (which is not enough for me - I need sleep; actually, I need solid blocks of sleep - this hour here, hour there thing isn't working).
So questions:
1) I get that self-soothing is important.  And I get that "crying it out" is just that.  But where do you draw the line with the crying?  I'm thinking crying so much you vomit isn't really helping anything...  (And if you let your kid cry until he fell asleep - what on Earth did you do to occupy yourself to keep from going in and comforting him??)

2) We maybe should have let him "cry it out" sooner than 4 months - but since we didn't - do you think we should let him learn to self soothe asap to avoid wasting any more time?  Or do you think a, say 6-month old is better equipped to self soothe than a 4-month old (and we should therefore wait)?  How old were your kids when you decided they could self-soothe?  Did any of you try to let them self soothe, realize it wasn't working, and wait a month or so?  Or does it always eventually work, it just needs time?

3) Do most kids wake up multiple times in the night?  Or when others say their kid "sleeps through the night" do they literally mean getting in bed at 8 and not peeping again until 8 the next morning?

4) How long did it take for your kids to adjust to new routines?  I've read books that say it should only take 3 days for a new routine to stick - and other books say a week - and others say 2 weeks.  What did it look like in your experience?

5) What are your thoughts about the middle-of-the-night Catch 22 (that is, if I immediately respond to his fussing, he'll go right back to sleep vs. the 10 minute rule where the crying escalates so much he's then wide awake, but on one hand I'm helping him learn to self soothe vs. continuing to reinforce that he needs me to fall asleep)?

6) Did any of your have a really successful way to either teach your kid to self soothe OR teach your kid to sleep the night that you think I should try?

7) Sort of unrelated, but Bates only wants to sleep on his tummy.  We put him "back to sleep" and he immediately rolls over.  The doctor says it's ok.  But the other night our fancy-schmancy monitor that has a motion detector (ie tells you if they aren't moving [breathing] after 20 seconds and sounds an alarm) went off like 5 times.  And every time I went in there he was on his tummy, face-down in the mattress.  I'm now out of my mind scared of SIDS - that he's going to be face down in the mattress and breath too much CO2, etc.  Anyone else have a tummy sleeper?  Was he often face-down to the mattress?  Did it freak you out??

Any insight is appreciated!  I talked to his doctor about the whole thing before we did the big switch-a-roo to the nursery and she noted that since he doesn't know how to self soothe, he needs to learn.  But she also said, "I think, given how well he's been sleeping, it won't be a big deal or a hard transition."  Hmm.  Maybe I just need to give it more time?  It's only been 5 nights.  Will all this be better in a week or so?


jessicakamrath said...

Hey Jackie! The sleep thing is so stressful! I tried letting Harper "cry it out" at four months and I lasted ONE night. I hated it and she did too, so I tried again at 5 months and she was ready then. She didn't even cry when I put her down awake. Eventually, she got to the point where she didn't even want me to rock her, she just wanted to get straight in her crib. She woke up once a night until she was 9 months old. I fed her every night. Sometimes at 1:00 and other times not until 4:00. She stopped at 9 months and starting sleeping 12-13 hours a night (she still does). Instead of trying to do things by the book, I tried to be as laid back as possible about it. I let Harper lead the way. It took the stress off us both of us. Good luck!

LB said...

Awww. Well clearly I have no advice but have lots of sympathy and hope that big boy can grow into his new sleep schedule ASAP!

AmyBethJames said...

Sleep issues are so difficult! For the obvious reasons, but also because there are so many experts with so many drastically different opinions. But here's the thing: you know Bates, and you know yourself. Forget about what everyone else's baby does or what all the books and pediatricians say your baby "should" do. Start with what works for you guys, what you feel comfortable doing, and take it from there.

I remember reading the "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" book - which, admittedly, does have some great information in it - and being so overwhelmed (almost panicky) about the fact that Hudson wasn't doing exactly what the book said. The author was so heavy handed and scary: "If you don't teach your baby to sleep now, he'll never learn, and he'll become a bratty child, a terrible student, and eventually a felon." Okay, it didn't say exactly that, but that's how it felt!

Luckily, a friend stepped in to encourage me to put the book down and just relax! I decided after that to pick and choose the information/methods that seemed best to me from everything people had suggested and the books/online resources I had read.

As far as what we actually did and when, here was our method:

We didn't do any kind of sleep training methods until about 6 months. We had such a rough start with his incredible fussiness that I just didn't feel that I wanted to push it. But by 6 months I could tell that some of the times he was waking up, he was just mad and wanted to go back to sleep but couldn't. He was still swaddled, so our first step was to wean him off the swaddle. We did this slowly - one arm out at a time, naps first, then one arm out at bedtime, then both arms out at naptime, then both arms out at bedtime, then swaddle free. We did this over a process of weeks. As soon as he was swaddle free, things got a little better. I think this was because (a) he could get comfy on his tummy and (b) he could usually find and replace his paci in the middle of the night.

At the same time, we also slowly transitioned him to his crib in his room upstairs. (Months 0-6 he slept in his swing and then the pack and play in our room.) Hudson is an incredibly light sleeper and I think our movements and noises at night contributed to his frequent waking. It was very sad for me to have him leave our room! I slept upstairs in the guest bedroom for a while so that I would be nearer when he did wake up at night.

After the swaddle and crib transitions were underway, I decided that I was finally ready to try some gentle, controlled sleep training, to encourage Hudson to learn to go back to sleep when he woke up from a reason other than hunger. He was still waking up every three hours at that point, so I decided to pick the first wake-up point (about 11pm) and try to encourage him to learn to sleep through it. I did sort of what you described - let him cry for a set number of minutes, went in and calmed him down, then did it again. It was SO hard! I just stood at our kitchen sink eating brownie batter and crying. :( I can't remember the exact specifics, but I never let him get completely hysterical, and a couple nights I had to give in and just feed him, like you said. But after just a couple days, he started sleeping a little longer stretch, then a little longer, and so on. Hurray! He still woke up about twice a night until he was about nine-ish months old. One day I was thinking to myself, "I guess we better try the sleep training again to drop another feeding," and then lo and behold the next day, on his own, without me changing a single thing, he slept straight through the night until 5am. I was (pleasantly) flabbergasted! After that he mostly only woke up once to nurse, around 4-5am, at which point I would bring him into our bed and we would snuggle and sleep a couple more hours and then get up. Just recently he has stopped that pretty much and sleeps all night.

AmyBethJames said...

Yeah that's right, this response is so long I was forced to leave a second comment! Continuing...

So all that to say, in our experience, we did use a little crying-it-out to get over that initial hurdle, but after that, Hudson really did it on his own. It took lots of time, but I am grateful looking back that we didn't push him aggressively before he (or I) was ready. Some days I even miss those quiet snuggly times in the night!

Anyway, that was... a long answer. I don't know if it was helpful, but I hope it was at least encouraging! I say if what you were doing (ie, co-sleeping, comforting instantly) before was working for you guys, then keep at it until YOU are ready to make a change. And if it isn't working, then you'll know and be ready to make changes and try new things.

And last thing (seriously): One book I found to be really great and a nice counterpoint to the hard-core sleep training books was the "No-Cry Sleep Solution" by Elizabeth Pantley. I used some of her tricks alongside the occassional cry-it-out and I think they really helped.