Friday afternoon, Ken got out of his test earlier than he thought he would, so he picked up Julia from daycare and had some Daddy & Julia time in the afternoon. This is something I’ve been pushing him to do for a while so I’m glad it finally happened. I figured it would be nice for them to have some bonding time, it would help him to feel more confident knowing he can get her to sleep, feed her, etc. all by himself without me there to “rescue” him. And luckily when he got home with her, she took about half a bottle and fell asleep! When I got home, this is how she looked. Adorable, no?
Of course when I got home she woke up, but then we decided to give her the rest of her bottle before heading out on a lovely afternoon walk. When she started to drink it, she actually put her hands up and held onto the bottle all by herself!
Our little baby girl is growing up so fast!
When we were on our walk, I told Ken about the chat I had earlier that afternoon with the Pediatrician… basically I called the pediatrician to explain the difficulties we had been having with sleep and to get her advice about what we could or should do. Her advice was pretty simple: it’s pretty much up to us what we choose to do. Despite what Dr. Google might say, there is no evidence of any psychological harm from any of the sleep training methods out there, and each of the methods pretty much differs in how much intervention the parents do in the middle of the night. There are “gentle” methods of sleep training that generally take longer (6-10 weeks sometimes) or there are methods like “Ferber” or “Cry-It-Out” that involve 3-5 nights of sleep training, but then you generally start to see results within a week or so. She stressed a few things that were of utmost importance no matter which method we chose:
1) Have a consistent bedtime routine that we follow at approximately the same exact time every single night. That routine can include stories, singing, rocking, a bottle, nursing, a bath, lotions, a massage, whatever… but whatever we do, it should be the same every night.
2) Pay attention to Julia’s cues… start the bedtime routine as soon as she shows any signs of getting tired–when she gets fussy, starts yawning or starts rubbing her eyes it might be too late. Ken and I have been referring to it as the “sweet spot” we have to find when she’s tired, but not yet over-tired.
3) Be consistent. Whatever method you choose, it’s important to be consistent. You can’t go in immediately when she starts crying one time and then wait 45 minutes the next time because she’ll be confused and not know what to expect.
We also talked a bit with some friends we have who are parents to get their advice and to find out what worked for them and their kids. They all said basically the same thing, which was that around 6 months, after talking to their pediatrician to make sure their babies were old enough to go through some sleep training, they essentially would put the baby in the crib when it was time to go to sleep, they would shut the door and walk away. The only difference between the different “methods” has to do with whether you go in to soothe the baby when she’s crying, how often you go up to soothe if the crying lasts a while, and what you do when you go up to soothe (i.e. do you pick her up and rock her? do you just go in and say “you’re okay, Mommy’s here,” or do you pat her belly, give her the pacifier and her lovey, kiss her on the cheek, etc.?) A lot of those decisions need to be made based on your individual child and how they react to the method… Ken and I knew from experience that if we went in frequently to check on her and soothe her, Julia would just get more and more worked up so we settled on a 30-minute interval that we thought would work for us. We also agreed that picking her up was off-limits since that would just stress her out more, too. So here’s what we did:
Friday night: We started our bedtime routine like this: nurse, went downstairs to try some sweet potatoes (she refused them), went upstairs to change her diaper and put on pajamas, Ken read her a story, then I turned on her lullabies CD and nursed her until she was drowsy, then I put her in the crib. We said, “Mommy and Daddy love you, Julia! It’s time to go to sleep now.” Then, we left the room and she immediately started crying. As planned, I went up after 30 minutes to check on her. As soon as I walked in the room, I could smell that she had pooped, so I changed her diaper and started over…
I nursed her for about 15 minutes until she was drowsy again, then I put her in the crib, said “I love you, Julia! It’s time to go to sleep now” and I made sure she had her lovey and her pacifier, then I left the room. I started the timer on my phone for 30 minutes. Ken and I each had a glass of wine while we cooked and ate dinner and Julia cried (reading this it makes it sound like it was easy. It was NOT! It was horrible. It felt like someone had pulled my heart out, stomped on it and put it back in. Listening to her cry and not going up to soothe her and comfort her went against every natural instinct I have. My whole body was aching listening to her crying and knowing that I could be doing something but wasn’t. It made me question our decision over and over and over again.) Then when we finished eating, we put our dishes away and sat down to watch a show. Suddenly I didn’t hear her crying so I had Ken check the video monitor and sure enough, she had fallen asleep! It only took her 25 minutes! (We had heard horror stories from our landlord/neighbor about their older daughter crying for 5 hours… they told us that they slept on the couch in their living room with earplugs and pillows over their heads so that they didn’t have to hear her!)
That first night she slept for 3 hours, woke up for about 20 minutes then put herself back to sleep, slept an hour and a half, woke up for about 30 minutes then put herself back to sleep, then slept 4 more hours. At 6:45 AM when she woke up I went in to get her and nurse her, but my guess is that if I had her let be, she would have gone back to sleep, since when I did pick her up, she was rubbing her eyes and still looked kind of tired.
Saturday during the day, Julia was very fussy all day, and her voice sounded hoarse from crying. The whole day I felt horrible about what we had done and what we were doing. I questioned it over and over again and talked to several mothers I know about the whole ordeal. They all told me the same thing: it’s horrible for a few days or maybe a week or so but then they get the hang of it and they learn to put themselves back to sleep, and then everyone will be getting better sleep and you’ll all be happier. You’re not doing anything bad… you’re giving her a gift–she’ll now be able to put herself back to sleep and you’re just helping her to learn how to do that. If you don’t do this, she’ll always be dependent upon you to get back to sleep in the middle of the night. If the parents get more sleep at night, you’ll be better parents for her during the day, you’ll be less stressed out, life will be a lot easier…
Saturday night: Saturday night was harder than Friday night… much harder… partially cause I was home alone to do the routine by myself and Ken wasn’t there to distract me from Julia’s crying. I did the bedtime routine, nursed Julia until she was drowsy and put her in the crib. As planned, I went up after 30 minutes to soothe her and calm her down. I made sure she had her lovey and her pacifier, I kissed her forehead, told her I love her and left the room again. I went back to watch the monitor and I started crying, so I called my mom in tears. I asked Ken to please come home (he did) and Julia ended up falling asleep about two minutes before he walked in the door! She cried for a total of 1 hour and 5 minutes.
She slept 4 hours, woke up for about 20 minutes and put herself back to sleep, slept another hour and 20 minutes, then woke up and was crying for about 20 minutes then fussing for about 45 minutes, so I went in, changed her diaper and nursed her for 15-20 minutes and then put her back down in the crib. She cried for about 5 minutes and then went right back to sleep and slept 4 more hours.
Sunday during the day she was really fussy again… she wanted to be held most of the day and she nursed every hour and a half pretty much all day long. It was also really hard to get her to take a nap during the day.
Sunday night: Sunday night was easy (though I’m hesitant to say that for fear that it won’t stay that way). We did the routine, put her down and she cried for 5 minutes, then fell asleep. We were in the middle of making dinner, and Ken had to use the immersion blender, which was very loud, so she woke up from that and it took her about 10 minutes to get back to sleep but ultimately she did… and then aside from a 20 minute wake-up in the middle of the night (from which she put herself back to sleep on her own), she slept for 11 hours and 20 minutes. We had to wake her up this morning after I had showered and gotten dressed, so I could nurse her and take her to daycare!
Now the thing to remember is that she’s a baby and babies are not very consistent generally so this could get worse and better and worse and better for a while… and I’ve also been warned that whenever there’s a change to the schedule (for example, when Ken’s parents come to visit in a couple weeks, and when we go to Baltimore a week later, and when we move in June), that things can get thrown off a bit but if we stick with the plan and remain consistent, she should get the hang of it.
And now… since this post is remarkably low on photos, I thought I would add a couple from this weekend… first, Julia refusing to eat sweet potatoes on Saturday around lunch time (it turns out she likes them a little thinner and more runny than we had made them):