We did some sleep training

Because I’m even more terrible at doing anything with the photos I take than I am at actually taking photos, I still haven’t taken the pictures off my camera from Nora’s birthday party. So there’s a post coming about her birthday and being one (ONE! Holy shit. She’s one already.). My camera cord is very far away from this comfy spot on the couch where I’m nestled under a blanket and no one is touching me or asking me to read a book for the frillionth time. So that will happen at some later point.

But let’s back up to the thing I just said about no one touching me or asking for another book reading. Nora’s asleep. Ten minutes ago I walked her into her room, turned on the fan for some white noise, tucked her in and left. She was awake. She cried for less than five minutes and now she is asleep.

We decided to bite the bullet and sleep train last week. We used Dr. Ferber’s progressive-waiting method and we found this post by Noob Mommy to be particularly encouraging and helpful. It also includes the schedule of how long to let your baby cry before going in to comfort him or her, broken down day-by-day, in case you’re interested in learning more about this method.

I was VERY VERY against any type of Cry It Out sleep training for a long time. Our pediatrician wanted us to do a version at four months and I still think that is wayyyy too young to ignore an infant’s cries. At that point they are still crying from need and I think ignoring that need is not a good idea. But! That’s just me and my opinion, based on me and my own comfort level with babies and crying. So you should definitely do whatever makes you comfortable with your own child.

At one year, Nora was spending most of every night in our bed, nursing. So much night nursing. I spent so much time lying on my sides that I had a constant hip and low back pain that is just beginning to subside. She would wake more than five times most nights and demand to nurse. I would give in out of sheer exhausted self-preservation. Nora is a light sleeper, so whenever Zack or I would move in our sleep it would disturb her. When it got to the point where none of us were getting good sleep in the same bed and Nora wouldn’t accept comfort from me at night that didn’t involve nursing, we knew it was time to make a change. The Ferber method made sense because we knew that Nora was old enough that her cries were going to be mostly from anger and frustration from being left alone. We were also confident that she was safe alone in her crib and that she felt secure there. Despite my nerves, I trusted that I would be able to tell the difference between cries of frustration and cries of real distress that would require immediate attention.

Zack took last Friday off work so we could begin Thursday night. We divided the night into two shifts: he would take 8:30-2:30, I would take 2:30-8:30. That way we would each get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep while the other was available for Nora. We anticipated some very long, intense nights fighting to teach our daughter how to sleep on her own.

On Thursday I put Nora in her pajamas, read her her very favorite book in the entire universe, nursed her for about ten minutes, and put her in her crib awake and left. She SCREAMED. Like a banshee. She was so, SO PISSED that I left her in that crib and I’m not going to lie, it was awful. I went in at three minutes and picked her up, rocked her a bit, told her I loved her and reminded her that she was strong and brave, then left the room again. The screaming was worse. I cried and sent a couple text messages to my best friend. After a couple minutes the crying changed from all-out fury to a lower-level cry that was more about registering her displeasure and being stubborn than anything else. Zack went in two more times and 34 minutes from the time I laid her down she was asleep.

Nora slept that night from 9:00 until 7:15 the next morning when I woke her up.

The next couple of nights she took 14 minutes, then four minutes, then five minutes to fall asleep. We’ve had to go in once in the night to offer comfort, though she has woken up several times. But each time she’s gone back to sleep before five minutes pass without interference from either of us.

I’m not going to lie, there are still hard parts. She clings to me when I go to put her in her bed and that is kind of terrible. This is my first taste of doing something that she hates in the moment because I know it’s the best thing for her in the long run. I know there will be much harder things I will have to do in her best interest in the future, but that doesn’t make the moment her little arms tighten around me any less heart-wrenching. She looks at me with panicked eyes and I still have to put her down and walk away. It is so hard, even knowing that she’s doing amazing and we are all sleeping better and this is the best thing I can do for her where sleep is concerned. I know she was ready for this.

And that is the part I focus on: it’s hard, but she’s ready. It is the best thing. Zack and I get our bed, and the opportunity for intimacy on our terms, back. I get real chunks of actual sleep every night. Sleep where I’m not worried about rolling over onto Nora or Nora rolling out of the bed and I’m not waking up even when Nora is asleep because my body hurts from sleeping in uncomfortable positions because they baby wants to nurse. Nora is learning that she’s okay in her bed by herself.

When I walk into her room in the mornings she is her normal, happy self. I nurse her and we cuddle and she is the same kid she was five days ago when she was waking up between us in our bed. She doesn’t hate being in her room and she doesn’t wake up panicked and crying to flee her crib (these were some of my fears going in). In fact, she just woke up from her nap and is chatting with the stuffed animals in her crib.

Sleep training has led us to having a stricter bed time and Dr. Ferber encourages parents to have a wake up time each day (we chose 7:30 since that’s when Zack gets up, so he will have a chance to see her in the mornings before work). So far I’ve had to wake her up every morning. It’s been nice to wake up and make coffee and switch the laundry around before I go in to get Nora. We waited to see what would happen with her naps, and she’s been ready every day at 11:30 and naps for 1.5-2 hours. She still seems fine with one nap a day, which is fine with us. By 8:00 she is ready to wind down for her 8:30 bed time.

For anyone on the fence about sleep training I would encourage you to try it when you know (and you will know) when your baby is ready. Nora was probably ready a month or two before we took the plunge but it took that much longer for me to get there. Once you’ve made the decision, see it through for a couple nights at least. You are not ruining your relationship with your child. You are doing a good job and IT IS OKAY if you are doing this because you just need some damn sleep already. Twitter friends offered me some lovely support, as did my mom and my best friend. Tell some people you trust and who will be supportive what you’re doing so you can send text messages or tweets and get the support you need when your kid is screaming and you feel like shit. It is so reassuring to hear from people who’ve been there that the grass is definitely greener on the other side and you aren’t ruining your child for life by letting them cry.

We are only five days in, but this sleep training thing is one of the better parenting decisions we’ve made.

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One thought on “We did some sleep training

  1. Sabrina says:

    So I am almost a month late in reading this, but WAY TO GO NORA! WAY TO GO AUSTIN! And I suppose, way to go Zack. You are an amazing mom and that little girl is so lucky to have you. She will realize it some day and tell you so, but until then I will have to suffice. Keep it up, momma!

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