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sleep training – battle of the wills

Note: After my brother’s wedding, I knew I would have a week of relative calm at my parents house. So I figured it was as good a time as any to try some sleep training. I wouldn’t call it a complete disaster, but let’s just say we’re no better off than when we started.

I’m trying to figure out a way to summarize this week here on the east coast, and all I can think of is that Z and I have had this battle of the wills, and Z has won. I don’t like to think of my relationship with Z as a competition, but that’s what it’s felt like at times – me willing myself not to go to him while he “learns how to self-soothe,” (aka cries) and he wailing so much, and at such unexpected times, that I can’t help but cave and go to him.

My parents have been helping – encouraging me to let him work it out, and distracting me with good food and movies and glasses of wine. It also helps to have him upstairs with the door closed while I’m downstairs with the TV on. But the kid can wail. And I think I could hear him through a dozen sound-proof walls, three states over.

The most frustrating thing is that I feel so good when I just bring him into bed with me and let him (and myself) rest peacefully. He’s so warm and snuggly and sweet. But for whatever bizarre reason, I feel like that’s a bad thing to do – or at least that I’m committing myself to always having him in the bed. What I want is for him to be able to sleep on his own, but to be able to break the rules from time to time. The problem is that he’s no closer to sleeping through the night than he was when this week of sleep training started, which makes me feel like I’ve failed, and tortured him with crying in the process.

Granted, there have been a few things to get in the way of true sleep training:

1) being in a new place at least three different nights.
2) lots of highly over-stimulating days with not nearly enough nap time.
3) me being alone in the room with him – no Dave to help me get through it.

So now we have to decide what to do next. I’m not sure I can take another week of all this crying, and despite the return to “normal” life tomorrow, I’m not totally convinced this method of sleep training will work for us right now. I’m tempted to suck it up for another month when Zekey will be a little older and a little bigger and truly able to make it the whole night without eating. (I find it impossible to tell the difference between hungry cries and attention-seeking cries. And I imagine it will be much easier to be consistent with sleep training when we know that he should simply not get hungry at night.)

On the other hand, there have been a handful of nights when he’s slept a good 5 hours to start the night (like he used to) which – if it stayed that way – would allow us to actually leave him with a babysitter and go out once in a while (something we haven’t done since our anniversary in early August). And there have been a handful of nights when he’s slept 3-4 hour chunks after the first 5 – which means just a bit more sleep for me which would be… well… nice. And this tells me he’s capable of keeping that more reasonable schedule on a regular basis if we’re strong enough to enforce it.

But the more exhausted and sleep deprived I get, the harder it is to do anything with any regularity. And while I sometimes feel like I’m back in the early days of survival mode, I know that this can’t last forever and that somehow or another, Z will sleep through the night. I just have to figure out what’s better/worse for now – listening to my sweet boy cry, or continuing to bend to his impressive will for at least a while longer. I’m thinking the latter.

One Comment

  1. Sarah Goss
    Sarah Goss October 14, 2008

    Hi Mia, I am so happy there’s an update– I kept looking to see how your trip was going.

    You know, just for anecdotal comparison value, we didn’t do sleep training till a lot later, when we felt more ready– and it worked, despite all the books saying we were supposed to have done it earlier. I doubt I could have stuck with it at Zekey’s age (not that there’s anything wrong with doing so, if you can–just that if you don’t feel ready to, I think that’s fine too). I would have to check my blog to be sure, but I think Daisy was as old as a year when we tried it. It worked despite all the “bad habits” we had supposedly been instilling for a year! And we were more ready, and I think so was she. So don’t feel bad if you decide to wait.

    I would also add that I think it would be hard to successfully sleep train while on a trip. I definitely understand your reasons for picking this period of time, but I wonder if you might have more success at home, when you try again?

    In any case, I am cheering for you, no matter what you end up doing. I had a terrible mom day today– check out my blog when you get a chance 🙂

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