At the risk of sounding contradictory after my recent baby book-loathing post, I just finished reading “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” by Marc Weissbluth.
9:30 pm – After successfully putting Z to bed at 6:30 pm, he’s up to eat – right on schedule.
I have pretty mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, he talks a lot about fussy babies which definitely speaks to my current world view. On the other, he takes a pretty extreme stance on sleep training and basically tries (quite successfully) to convince you that if your kid doesn’t sleep well he will end up hyperactive, depressed, and learning disabled, and that the bad habits he has now will last well into his college years if you don’t take decisive action.
12 am – He’s crying again. It’s only been 2.5 hours. Should I leave him for another 30 minutes? Could he really be hungry again so soon? I haven’t tried to sleep yet. What’s the point when he’ll be up in another half hour anyway? I’m going to ignore him.
Basically, beginning at four months, he recommends closing the bedroom door after you put your kid to bed, and not opening it again until morning. If he gets hungry at night, you should feed him, but only at set times and never more than twice in a night. If he cries in between those set times, you ignore him. Even if he cries a LOT. (Nap time is the same idea, but he puts a one hour limit on the crying.)
He says you can do whatever you want to soothe your baby to sleep, but once you put him down, you don’t pick him up again until the allotted sleep time is over. In this way, he says, you teach your baby to self-soothe and be able to put himself back to sleep after natural night and nap wakings.
12:30 pm – he actually managed to put himself back to sleep after about 10 minutes! Hurray! One point for me.
On paper, this all seemed pretty reasonable – until we tried to put it into practice this week. The first time we tried to put Zeke down for a nap this way, he cried for a full hour. We could have gone into the room to soothe him with our voices, but we decided from past experience that this only makes things worse. So we were just going cold-turkey with the crying it out – what Weissbluth calls the “extinction” method. (Could it get any worse?)
It was absolutely awful, and the only thing that kept us from going in to get him was the belief (bred from this book) that we would be sending him mixed messages.
1 am – I’ve been asleep for 15 minutes. He’s crying again. He could really be hungry this time – it’s been 3.5 hours. I’ll feed him.
Let me interrupt myself to say that I also read Elizabeth Pantley’s “The No Cry Sleep Solution.” But since Zekey was already crying so much even with our soothing and intervention, it didn’t seem like a viable option for actually getting him to improve his sleep.
2:30 am – Crying again. What time is it? God I’m tired. Did I feed him last time? Can’t remember. I’ll feed him again. Oops. Wasn’t really hungry this time. Mixed messages. So tired.
Let me also say that people have very strong feelings about this whole “cry it out” thing. And I’ve had a few people tell me in no uncertain terms that they think it’s a horrible thing to do to a baby – which of course makes me feel terrible. But they can’t possibly be as tired as we are right now, and they clearly don’t have a kid like our little Z. Or maybe they’re just better people/parents than we are. All I can offer them at this point is – “whatever.”
3:45 am – Crying. Really wailing. Now I know he’s not hungry. Shouldn’t be hungry until 5 am. But we haven’t changed his diaper all night. Did he poop? Dave – go change him. Really wet. No poop. Should have changed him at 2 am when I fed him. More mixed signals. Back in the co-sleeper. Now he’s pitching a total fit. Try to comfort him. Fail. Leave the room.
For bedtime we decided that Zekey shouldn’t need to eat more than four hours after he last ate. So if we put him to bed at 7 pm (last feeding at 6:30 pm-ish) then we would ignore his cries until 10:30 pm. The first time we tried this, he woke up after three hours and didn’t stop crying for a half hour when we finally couldn’t take it anymore. And sure enough, he was starving. In the interest of sticking to our plan for at least one night, we ignored him again when he woke three hours later and he cried for 40 minutes before we gave in. Again, he was hungry. And we felt awful. I’m not sure how many more times he was up that night, but we didn’t allow any more crying.
4:15 am – Crying stopped. He actually put himself back to sleep. Good. I’m wide awake.
Next night, we decided we would feed him every three hours, and now he’s been waking up every three hours for the past two nights. Weissbluth would probably say we have taught him to wake up every three hours, but until Zekey gains a bit more weight, we not going to try to limit his night feedings any more. Just enough to get us (and him) a bit more rest. That’s the idea anyway.
6 am – Somehow I made it back to bed. Dave gets up. I pull Z into bed with me. Next thing I remember it’s 8 am and we’re up for the day.
Basically – I’m more confused than ever. How do I know when he’s waking out of habit or waking because he’s actually hungry? And how do I know when he’s big enough to really make it through the night without eating? And I’m too tired to really stick to any particular plan, especially during daytime naps when I’m here by myself with no one to remind me why I’m listening to my boy cry. And why can’t I listen to my own advice and just trust myself to do the right thing one way or the other?