Thursday, July 16, 2009


For those that don't know, Dr. Richard Ferber authored a book called Solving Your Child's Sleep Problems that advocates allowing your baby learn to soothe itself to sleep, commonly known as the Cry-It-Out method. Just last week, I told a coworker that I was not ready for this, but then...

As I mentioned in previous posts, Lydia's sleeping pattern started changing pretty drastically last week. Our happy, champion sleeper of a baby started resisting falling asleep and then waking up two, three, even four times to nurse. By Tuesday, she woke up 4 times, and when we would pick her up, she would smile and coo, and when I would try to nurse her back to sleep, she would smile and play, clearly not interested in nursing at all. We initially tried to solve this by giving her the pacifier, which would soothe her back to sleep. When that stopped working, I felt like all of the things we had done to get her to sleep so well were backfiring: the swaddle, nursing her to sleep, the pacifier.

After one week of this, I decided, in my exhausted, sleep-deprived stupor (at 2:30 AM, mind you), that the problem must be her swaddle. It was already loose because our pediatrician had suggested transitioning her out of it, and she kept getting her arms out in weird ways and pulling the fabric up by her face. I took her arms out, rewrapped the swaddle around her body, and laid down on the futon in the nursery, hoping she would mellow out. No such luck. To make a long story short, we had a very long night that ended with a very unhappy Lydia completely out of her swaddle and in a pair of PJs that were WAY too small for her and an incoherent, exhausted mother and father. At one point Robin and I let her cry in her crib while we tried to figure out what to do. (Side note: If anybody knows how to have these middle-of-the-night conversations in a calm, collected manner, please let me know. Ours are always frantic and frustrated. Not exactly the most effective communication.) In the midst of this, we decided to wait 5 minutes and see if she would calm down and... she did! She started crying again about 15 minutes later and we waited again, and the little stinker calmed herself down again. Hence, the decision that it was time to try letting her "cry it out."

Yesterday when nap time came, I took her upstairs, rocked her, and put her in her crib, relaxed but awake. I patted her for about 1 1/2 min. and left the room. She cried for about 15 minutes total, with me going in the room once to calm her down. She then slept, unswaddled in her crib for 90 minutes, which is a first. Her afternoon nap did not go quite as smoothly, but the longest she cried was 15 minutes, again with me going in once to pat her and shush her and calm her down.

Robin and I braced ourselves for a long night and figured out how to split the time so we would both get at least some sleep. At her usual bedtime, I nursed her, rocked her for a few minutes, and then put her in the crib. I patted her for a minute and a half, and left a smiling baby in the crib. Here's the miracle: she went to sleep with no tears, and woke up ten hours later. No swaddle. No pacifier. I woke up happy and well-rested and found a happy and well-rested little girl waiting for me.

Today's naps have been a little better, and we'll see how tonight goes. Everything I've read has said to expect the process to take 3-7 days, so I doubt we're done. I will also say that there is nothing easy about sitting and listen to your baby cry. Yesterday during her nap, I sat with the baby monitor, obsessing over the little lights flashing that indicated she was crying. I called Robin at one point nearly in tears, convinced that I was destroying my relationship with Lydia and she would never trust me again. Now in my less sleep-deprived state, I have realized that I am a much more loving, patient parent when I am well-rested, which will probably do more for our relationship long-term than rocking her to sleep now. It also has been incredibly helpful to see Lydia today, cuddly, rested, and happy.

I would never, ever say that this method is right for every parent or every baby, not because it's too hard, but because for some it probably just doesn't work. But for us, I think it's going to be a good thing. My fingers are crossed!

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