babies, breastfeeding, naps, night weaning, nursing, sleep, sleep training
I baby sat my friend Pug Mama‘s toddler for the day a couple of weeks ago, and my account of his nap time has become PH’s new favourite story.
It goes like this:
Nap time had arrived, so I went up to the tot (who is around 20 months old) and said, “Are you ready for night-nights?”
[NotMaryP is out there reading this and mentally bashing me over the head with a rolled up newspaper for asking a baby such a question]
The baby, who had been roaring around with his toys and books for hours, cavalierly responded with “No!”
Realizing my mistake, I remedied it as best I could with a cheerful “Well, you’re going night-night anyway!”
“OH,” he said, his voice resonating a deep disgust.
So I picked him up and carried him to his crib.
“And then what happened?” PH will ask, even though he knows full well what happened. But he likes to hear it. Again and again.
The kid rolled onto his belly and went to sleep.
“He just… went to sleep?” PH will repeat, his eyes wide with wonder. “Just like that?”
“He was almost asleep before I had even finished zipping him into his sleep-bag,” I tell him. PH then stares off into space dreamily, picturing this mysterious and magical moment, and savouring it.
Last Sunday, I left Babby home with his Daddy and Pug Mama and I went for a leisurely dinner and a movie. I told her for the umpteenth time how impressed I was with her baby’s ability to switch to sleep mode so instantly and congratulated her on good fortune.
“Oh, don’t worry, he was JUST as bad as Babby when he was that age,” she said with conviction. “Maybe even worse. He was colicky. He screamed. Up constantly, all night long, nursing to sleep every time… He always ended up on the boob in my bed halfway through the night.”
“So what changed?” Had she done cry-it-out? It didn’t seem like her style, somehow.
“No, but when he was 11 months old, I knew I had to go back to work, and I knew I couldn’t keep waking up constantly all night long. So I took a couple of weeks and taught him to fall asleep on his own.”
She then described a process which was similar to the one in The No-Cry Sleep Solution – the one that I have started “phase one” of umpteen times, but have never progressed from.
The only difference was that, in the interest of time and sleep, she basically skipped right to step three (soothing the baby without the breast and putting him down to fall asleep in the crib.)
Her process was as follows:
“You soothe and rock and sing to him for a little while, then you lay him down in the crib and give him a minute there. He won’t sleep. He’ll cry. Pick him back up, soothe him, and put him back down and give him a minute. You’ll have to do this again, and again, and again. The first night i had to do it over 20 times before he fell asleep. I had to do it 20 times again the next time he woke up, and again the NEXT time he woke up. You DON’T GIVE IN.”
That made sense. Haven’t I told and told puppy raisers that rewarding bad behaviour ONCE guarantees that it’ll pop up again ten more times, even if they punish it all those other ten times?
“Anyway, after a few times I only had to do it 15 times before he slept, and then 10 times, and then five times. A week later he was only waking up once or twice in the night, and after two weeks, he was sleeping through most nights. And now he sleeps from 7 to 7. It was the best thing I ever did. Once he learned that he could fall asleep on his own, he was so much happier.”
The key thing, she kept reminding me, was determination. She was motivated by her return to work to stick to her guns.
Determination has always been our problem with Babby’s bad sleep habits [BAD dog trainer, BAD!]. Between you and me and the rest of the internet, part of me has always cherished those night-time nursings. I like snuggling with my baby in the wee sma’s of the morning. As an insomniac, I appreciate the flood of sleepy-hormones that comes with it.
As for PH, he just liked having an easy way to soothe his baby, because PH has never been able to handle the crying well. He even hates that Mythbusters episode where they take candy from babies, because he can’t stand to see the babies cry. That’s the main reason why our attempt to wean Babby off of night nursing lasted all of fifteen minutes.
However, my night time/early morning snuggles with Babby aren’t the sweet cuddly times that they used to be. Since he learned to crawl, I spend much of my time between 3 am and 6:30 am being kicked, climbed over, pinched, and sat-on. There’s a rail on the bed so Babby can’t fall off, but he uses it to pull himself to standing, and then he tries to walk on me while holding onto the rail for support.
He tweaks my nipples. I have actual BRUISES on my boobas from his playful morning exuberance.
It’s not so cute.
All in all, Babby’s sleep is worse than ever. He has gone to sleep without booba increasingly often – largely out of necessity– but it’s always a big screamfest and we never forward to a repetition.
When I got home late from that dinner and a movie out, Babby had woken up three times, and PH had been unable to get him back to sleep a third time. Babby had therefore been awake and fussing for over an hour and a half.
Obviously, it would have been a douche-nozzle thing to do if I had whisked in there and popped Babby on the breast. Might as well tell him “If you scream for an hour and a half, Mommy will finally reappear and give you what you want” and thus doom PH to hours of screaming every time I go out at night.
So we rocked and sang, rocked and sang until THREE IN THE MORNING when he finally passed out. Then Babby finally fell asleep for a good three and a half hours before waking up for the day.
We haven’t really been able to catch up on our sleep since. His squirminess is worse than ever. PH was jolted awake the other night by the sheer volume of my frustration as I took an upright Babby and flipped him prone for the bazillionth time and tried to nurse him to sleep.
Finally, at 5 am, PH took Babby from me (since Babby clearly had no interest in nursing and ergo, in sleeping) and carried him into the nursery. He returned exhausted but triumphant an hour later.
Babby had fallen asleep IN HIS CRIB while PH sang who knows how many rounds of Old MacDonald.
That same day, I got a job offer.
The job is working as a tech in a clinic down the road. The vet is into holistic and homeopathic stuff, so I’m a little leery, but he seemed nice and competant and I hope that I will like it there.
My anxiety is in full over-drive. The vet who hired me has been very vague about how many hours I am to work, and hasn’t given me any other job info. Then again, I’ve been just as vague back. He wants to know when I can start and I don’t know. I called the Daycare lady and apparently she’s frigging overseas until mid August, so I can’t even talk to her about getting Babby into her daycare until then. I have no idea how quickly she can take him, and no way of finding out for two more weeks.
This is a problem.
One thing is for sure – I can’t start work for at least two more weeks.
That gives me two weeks to get Babby falling asleep in his crib.
And maybe some day I’ll tell him that it’s time for nap-naps, and he’ll just say “Oh,” and GO THE F*** TO SLEEP.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OW0A6L9kx4c&feature=related]
Yup, it’s time to put your nose to the grindstone and take some rough nights for the sake of your future welfare.
For us the sleep training was also tough, but we got it done around 4 months and didn’t have to institute any drastic measures because he’d basically taught himself by then what with all the rocking and singing and such.
It was easy for us to do it earlier because we didn’t have breastfeeding going anymore and so getting up at night to feed him was a hassle and a half. We had an incentive the other way.
But I will say that even though he’s always been a good night sleeper since that point, naps have been another thing entirely. We finally got past the nap problems at around 19 months or so. And now Graham really is just like your friend’s kid. He doesn’t refuse bedtime, he goes up the stairs, he gets in his bed, and that’s that. I’m hugely grateful, since who KNOWS how things will be with #2, so at least we’ll have one kid with good sleep training.
Seriously, it’s worth it.
If you have troubles with the next one, you can always try a snow suit for naptime :-p
Going back to work was what prompted us to get serious with Isaac’s sleep training, too. When I first went back he was still nursing to sleep; he was waking three or four times a night at least, and I was just a zombie. We did something similar to your friend. Feel free to try it.
Once baby is fed, bathed, pajamed and storied (or whatever you like doing as a bedtime routine), place baby in his crib. Sit right next to the crib in a comfortable chair (because you are going to be there for a while!) Encourage baby to lie down. Hold his hand, rub his back, stroke his hair – whatever touch he likes. Don’t pick him up and don’t sing to him once you’ve put him in the crib; it’s just prolonging the inevitable. After all, he’s had everything he needs, and you *are* offering comfort and reassurance. Eventually, he *will* fall asleep (and this first night it took me I think an hour and a half). Do this every night for just a few days and you’ll start noticing that he lies down easier and falls asleep faster. Once you’ve had a night where he lies down and goes to sleep peacefully, without fussing, move your chair a little further away, so he can still see you but you can’t touch him.
Repeat for as many nights as it takes, moving the chair further away as he settles faster and learns to put himself to sleep. Finally, when you are both ready, put him in his crib, say night-night, and walk out of the room. Don’t go back in if he fusses a bit; this isn’t cry-it-out I’m advocating here, just giving him a chance to settle himself to sleep.
Same for night wakings. If you think babby is actually hungry then feed him, but keep the talking / singing to a minimum because (hey dog trainer!) you don’t want to give him extra rewards for waking you up at night. Then repeat the going to bed routine.
Isaac was nine months when we started this. Within ten days, he was lying down in his crib and going right to sleep by 8pm every night. Night wakings immediately dropped to just a couple, then one, and within about a month he was sleeping through the night – because he’d learned by then that he could put himself back to sleep when he woke up a little bit. It was like a miracle. He’s been a very good sleeper ever since.
It might work – and it’s something both you and PH can do (maybe alternate nights?) because there is little to no booby required.
Good luck. I know it’s hard to commit to sleep training, especially when you’re tired, and anxious, and everything – but it’s the best gift you can give yourself, your marriage, and especially your lovely baby – the gift of a good night’s sleep.
Thanks. I’m cobbling together my own sleep strategy based on this, my friend’s experiences, and Elizabeth Pantley. We’ll see how it goes!
Grace Goldragon said:
I have no advice for you. I was gearing up to sleep train the Girl when she just did it on her own when she was a year old. We had a good sleep routine, but I nursed her to drowsy, if not asleep, every time. And suddenly, she just stopped waking in the night for it. I may have held down her arms and legs in the crib to make her fall asleep there (she never handled transfers well) on more than one occassion (muttering “you WILL fall asleep in the crib. You HAVE to.”) I’m not sure what we’re going to do with the Boy, as he has a different set of sleep quirks than she did, and there’s no guarantee that he will just night ween himself as she did when the time comes. Let us know how it goes, though, for weal or woe.
Yeah, I press down on Babby’s chest when transferring him – seems to prevent startled arm-flailing…
Wombat Central said:
Is that not the best book ever?
Ugh. I remember those days, but they really are so much happier (and will be for life!) when the learn to fall asleep on their own. One thing (other than the Sleep issues book by Ferber) that really helped my son was a little Fisher Price aquarium he had in his bed. He’d hit the button with his hand or foot and it would play this really soothing music (I wanted it in my room). If he hadn’t fallen asleep yet, he’d hit it again. This was, of course, after he’d learned to go to sleep on his own, but once he figured out how to do this, he really liked to go to sleep that way.
Hope you get him sleeping himself in a week so you have another whole week of catch-up sleep!
His musical seahorse is supposed to function in a similar way, but I’ll keep an eye out for the aquarium!
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