Thursday, February 4, 2010

A journey through sleep training

Well now.... You would think that after having my son and going through the whole process of raising a baby to a little man (he's turning 4 tomorrow!!!!!), I'd have some idea what I was doing with this whole mommy business and would at least TRY to avoid some of the "mistakes" I made with child #1.  Oh no. With each child comes a whole different set of circumstances and issues to bite you in the butt, specifically designed so that you never really feel like you know what you're doing.  Anyway....

When my darling little daughter was a teeny babe, she would nurse until her teeny tummy was full and would fall asleep so full and content, and she would usually sleep right through the whole night, even waking at a nice beautiful hour like 8:00am.   Great.  I have been blessed with children who sleep.  Um, yeah, right. As she grew, she began to stop falling asleep at the breast. Instead, she would nurse and then lay on my bed and toss and turn until she got comfortable, and then she would fall sound asleep. Then I would move her to her crib and life was good. Uh huh. A little more growing and suddenly, going to sleep was no easy process. She would nurse, stay up for an hour playing, and then get cranky, lay down on my bed and toss and turn, eventually falling asleep. Well, when this process started taking a few hours and as I lay there next to her in the dark wishing she would just go to sleep already, I got a little miffed. Oh, and I forgot to mention, not only was she not going to sleep easily, but then she was waking in the middle of the night one to several times, and each time would only go back to sleep if nursed back to la-la land.  So many nights were spent with her in my bed for many of the wee hours (=me and hubs not getting good rest).  Joy.  So I got busy reading internet sites and books from the library about sleep training and here's what went down.

First of all, the ol' "cry it out" (CIO) method was just not a feasible option because my little ones share a room. If she's up all night screaming, so is the little man, and my life would fall to pieces as everyone became more tired and more grumpy. Nix that idea.  I did try the CIO by putting her to sleep in the playpen, where she takes her daytime naps. She wasn't having that. I have on my hands a girl who gets more agitated the more her crying is ignored. This method did not get her to sleep. At. All.  On to the next idea. I decided we would pull out some tricks from raising the little man... music. I dug out an old CD I made for him, with classical music and some pretty soothing stuff with waves crashing in the background. Sure makes ME sleepy.  So I put her in the crib in the dark with the music and rubbed her back, shusshed till I got lightheaded, and prayed for her to fall asleep so that my back muscles would stop screaming "uncle!".  This process would often take about an hour, sometimes more.  Okay, this game was starting to suck.

Then I had an epiphany. I was taking evening walks around the neighborhood as part of my getting back into shape routine. Unfortunately, the motion of the stroller and the evening hour was causing her to take a snooze while I walked. I had to give up my only "me" activity to keep her awake during the post-dinner hour. This didn't exactly make me happy, but a mom does what she's gotta do. I stopped walking and tried the above method again, with the modification that I started giving her the last nursing in the dark with the sleepy music.  Bingo!  It took a few nights of cranky baby, but suddenly, bedtime shushing routine was cut to about 20 minutes.  After about a week of this, the routine got even easier, I didn't have to do the shushing and back rubbing.  I just laid her in the crib after the milk and she tossed and turned on her own to get comfy and after 10-15 minutes, voila! Granted, she still needed me in the room and I was laying on the floor just waiting, but hey, I thought that was fine and dandy.   Just a few more days, and the routine got even easier (I didn't know it could!) - after milk now, she's pretty much unconscious. I lay her in bed, kiss my son, and walk out, a FREE WOMAN!!!!!

Now, during this whole sleep training fun, she was still waking in the night asking for milk, but she has not woken in the last few days. The only downside to all this is that she is getting up at 6:30am and I am most definitely not a morning person. However, I have no complaints. In about one month's time, I went from cranky baby filled evenings to getting completely kid-free time after 9pm!!!  I don't know what you'd call this method, or if it would work for anyone else, but it worked for us and I am a much happier woman.  I get to walk again, just after the kids have gone to bed, so it's actually much better exercise and more me-ish because I can actually carry on a real conversation with my walk buddies.  Yay!!!!
The end.   :)


  1. Oh I don't know about you, but I just can't do the CIO method anyway. It kills me to hear them cry.

    Where in Massachussets were you from

  2. Obviously not surprisingly, but my daughter is the same way. Her crying only makes her more agitated and pissy. I may have to try this once it gets warm enough that she can sleep on her own.....

  3. @Shannon - trying to figure out how to respond to comments. On Wordpress it auto emails me when the blogger responds. I have no idea how to do that here. Anyway, I'm from western MA, a little town called Palmer, outside of Springfield.

  4. I worry about how to do sleep training when you have 2 that share a room. We did CIO with my son and he is sleeping great now. Thanks for the tips for next time! I think you just have to keep trying everthing until you get it right.