Our beloved Pamela, childbirth educator extraordinaire, is a strong proponent of sleep training at four months. Moreover, she firmly believes the Ferber method (in a nutshell, let the baby cry, but check in at regular intervals for specific durations of soothing) is dee-vine.
I did not do sleep training with Corey. When he was roughly four months old my then-husband and I decided to let him cry it out. It's what we'd always heard, "You gotta just let 'em cry it out." We sat there, nervous, queasy and eventually upset with one another before we dashed in to rescue our poor boy. After that we went back to about 50% co-sleeping and 50% putting him in his crib asleep. By the time Corey was in a toddler bed, he and I shared a room at my mom's. Bedtime then involved reading him a story in my bed, turning out the light and smooshing myself up against the wall so we could share the twin bed. Occasionally he slept in the tiny bed at the end of the same wall. When we moved into our own place and I got him a big boy bed, we reverted to the 50/50 method. It was eventually cut down to 10/90. After Tom and I married and joined households Corey was finally booted from my bed for good. Gah!
When Pamela stressed sleep training and its benefits, my ears perked up. About two months before STD (uh, that's Sleep Training Day) we bought Baby411 specifically for it's info on training methods. I felt sick as I thought about that awful night back in 1993, even though I understood that there were steps Tom and I could take to ease our Mad-a-baby into sleeping bliss. The night she turned four months I chickened out. I wasn't ready, so I said she wasn't ready. We agreed to try again the following Friday night. That afternoon I began searching the Interwebs frantically looking for reassurance, guidance, an online Pamela. With 15 minutes to spare, what I found was Dr. Sears' method. It involved having Daddy stay and maintain soothing contact with Mad until she was asleep. This was a good match for how we parented her.
It took Tom 45 minutes to get her to sleep, with maybe half of that involving crying. An hour later it took 35 minutes to get her back to sleep. At 4:30 the next morning, it took me maybe 10 quiet minutes to put her down after nursing. Even better, the following day Mad got her first 45 minute nap in her crib at home. (She'd napped well with Grandma, just not with Mama.) One not too bad night of sleep training cured everything that ailed us. By the end of the second night, we were done.
Okay, yes. We knew we were lucky. We contemplated how Mad's beginning as a box baby in the NICU may have played a role in her preference for sleeping alone. But we were also self-congratulatory, full of ourselves. If we hadn't been smart enough to find the method that fit so well with our parenting style and been so consistent with it (lo, those two nights), well, who knew what kind of problems we'd be having! As late as a few months ago, Tom and I regularly stood outside Mad's door and quietly high-fived while giggling about how awesome this sleep training thing is.
We started sleep training with Fynn about two weeks ago. We were going to wait until Christmas weekend, but Fynn is so different than Mad that I wondered if it would take longer. And I wanted a little extra time to enjoy the fruits of our labor before returning to work.
You know where this is going, right?
There are several obstacles this time. Namely, Fynn has an older sister whose own bedtime has gotten moved around as we've tried to adapt to life with two small children. At first I tried sitting in during Mad's storytime, but with Dad directing things, it kept getting later and later. (One of us, as you'll see, is goal-oriented, the other process-oriented. When we can work side by side, this is good.) Add to that, Tom's the one who's really good about sticking to the steps in a routine, where I'm better about sticking to the timeline. So a routine in my hands tends to fall apart as I focus on getting things done.
Still, it had gone from taking 90 minutes down to only 20 minutes to get Fynn down by last weekend. Then we had Christmas, which was too stimulating for our four month old. Teenaged cousins who wanted to shake rattles and use squeaky voices loud enough to be heard over the din of about 20 people, a few dogs and the TV. Two days later, a very clingy Fynn and I left for San Diego. When I set her down for her first diaper change at Auntie's house, she was fried. By the end of the evening, just walking into that bedroom would bring her to tears. We spent the entire night nursing and snuggling. Same thing with our first and second nights home.
Getting back into the wobbly swing of things has been difficult. Last night started out well, but took about 90 minutes again. Tonight it took Tom almost an hour. Ten minutes later he headed back upstairs to start again. Took another half an hour. Now he's asleep on the couch, but if he breathes too loudly I stop to see if that's really Fynn crying.
And naps? So far we've used the sleep training technique three times during the day. The rest of the time I toss Fynn into the wrap and walk around to make sure she gets some rest. I just can't take that much time with Mad here, too. There have been no fruits to enjoy. No giggling. High fives are a thing of the past. Heck, eye contact is becoming harder to come by once bedtime rolls around. The last week or so before I returned back to work after Mad I was able to start developing a routine. Today I did several loads of laundry and sorted old clothes with a baby strapped to my back. It wasn't a big deal as long as I didn't drop anything.
The upside? Once she's down, Fynn sleeps really well. I've been awake and heard her roust and put herself back to sleep. She only wakes for one nighttime feeding 3-4 times a week.
What were your experiences with sleep training? Did it ever end up the way you'd envisioned? Is there any hope that we'll get to enjoy tension-free evenings once again?