When it comes to babies and sleep, there is much debate about what's best for baby. Like everything parenting related, there are extremes in both directions. Some parents co-sleep, and some have them in there own room from day one. Some parents allow baby to cry, while others jump to them as soon as they make a peep. I have read many articles, and spoken to many people on this subject and everybody has something different to say. I've been told that letting baby cry for too long causes brain damage, or attachment issues. While going to them every time they make a sound can apparently cause the child to have dependency issues as they get older. I know there are many more theories out there, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind right now.
We swore from day one that we would never let Carter cry it out, and we've stuck to that for 6 months. We've gone to him every time he cries to comfort him as we felt it was best for him. We expected as new parents that we wouldn't be getting a whole lot of sleep in the beginning, but didn't expect it to last this long. Don't get me wrong, we really don't expect Carter to sleep 12 hours a night but it would be super if he would wake up a little less than 10 times a night. What we are doing is obviously not working. NOBODY is getting ANY sleep!
We do not believe in putting him down, walking away and letting him scream for hours, but we can't continue to go to him every time he makes a sound. I spoke to a friend a few weeks ago about how sleep deprived we were and she gave me a book. Part of me hoped that this was likely a phase and he would get over it in a couple of weeks.... back to only waking a 4-5 times in a night so I hadn't looked at the book. I decided last night since I wasn't getting any sleep anyway that I would have a look at it....
The book is called "The Sleep Sense Program: Proven Strategies for Teaching Your Child to Sleep Through the Night" by Dana Obleman. The basic idea of the program sound like a milder form of crying it out. You are given the option to stay in the room or use the leave and check method. We have chosen the stay in the room method as we feel this is a little less cruel. The book states that you should have a nightly bedtime routine for your baby, and keep it the same every night. This can include a bath (if baby enjoys baths... not a good idea if they don't like it and will get worked up.... that would be slightly counterproductive!), reading them a story, cuddling, listening to music, bottle/breast feeding, etc. This is not exactly mind-blowing, original information, as most of this stuff is sort of common sense but it give us a sense of focus and direction in our sleep deprived fog.
We had planned on starting a little routine tonight starting with a bath, but little man was extremely agitated by 7pm so we decided to skip the routine for tonight and just put him to bed. Carter's usual bedtime has been around 9pm, where as the book suggests a 6 month old should be in bed by around 7-8pm. I know at least for myself my first thought was not to put him to bed earlier, but to keep him up later hoping he will sleep later in the morning. The book suggests that babies will likely wake up at around the same times each night regardless of what time they go to bed, and often they are tired way before they show the very obvious signs of fussiness and eye rubbing.
So... we put him down for bed at 7. He cried for 10 minutes before falling asleep. During that time the book makes it clear that it's ok to comfort baby in these first few nights, but try to resist picking them up. I rubbed his little belly and stroked his face gently, which calmed him down significantly. The key however is not to provide these comfort measures to the point where baby falls asleep to them. He needs to learn to fall asleep on his own. We also took his "sleep props" away, which includes his pacifier and his little seahorse. The book suggests that your child gets used to these props, and cannot effectively fall asleep without them. They wake up in the middle of the night looking for these props and cry out for mommy and daddy to provide them... This makes perfect sense to me. In our case, Carter relies on us to turn his sea horse on each time he wakes up. It works like a switch, he falls asleep within 5 seconds most times! So far he has woken at 7:45pm and cried for 40 minutes. During that time I stood at his crib side, held his hand and talked to him. It was gut wrenching!!! I felt like an absolute MONSTER!! I just kept telling myself that we are doing this for all of us; he needs to sleep too!
So there it is... I've put myself out there, and know that I may be told that this is not the right thing to do. Every parent has their own beliefs and philosophies on parenting, and no two babies are exactly alike. I think we must be willing to adapt and do whats best for the whole family. If we don't feel this method is helping at all after a few nights we will try something different. I'm always open to suggestions from other parents that have been there. I have a friend who has been having sleeping issues with her child suggest a different book that worked for her family. It's called the Baby Whisperer, and I think I may have a look at it also. Like I said, I like to stay open minded so its good to see what other methods are out there.
It's now been 3 since he fell asleep last..... this has got to be a record these days!! I'll keep you updated as to how this whole sleep training thing goes.
And here's a couple of recent photos of our adorable little man. Despite the sleep deprivation I love him more than words could ever describe!!
Eating the table at Applebees
Ok mom.... the food is supposed to go in my MOUTH!