Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sleep Training, Chapter Two: In Which Manta Ray Is Successfully Sleep Trained

Zack loves this bath toy and fell asleep with it the other day, which was just so cute and also so totally Jeff that we were all kindsa heart warmed and cuddely cutified.  And it's a great picture to illustrate the last 24 hours.

We have been sleeping very, very well--better than most parents, I think--with Zack.  To back up a little, in the early days, we did a 24 hour baby watch, enabled by Jeff's night owl schedule, and we co-slept in the sense that Zack was always in a bassinet in the room with one of us.  Then, when I went back to work, things got more complicated, and our schedules synced up.  I hardly remember those days, because I was so sleep deprived.  Somewhere in the midst of all of it, Jeff and I had a talk and tried to pick between getting Zack into his crib or just letting him sleep with me.  Since I'd been interested in bed-sharing for a while, we went with the second option, and sleep returned to us all.  Zack has been on a regular schedule since then.  He sleeps great at night.  He takes all the age appropriate naps (although they are a bit short) that he should, and he is never overtired or cranky.  He has a bed time ritual and he goes to bed at 7:30 on the dot most nights.  Everything works great.

There are just two minor hitches:  he needs someone next to him to sleep, and he needs to nurse to sleep.

The sheer relentlessness of having to be with him every second was driving me nuts.  I could not do anything in the evenings.  I started to read books during nap times, because I had to lie there beside Zack.  I often told myself I needed the extra rest anyway, but I just couldn't do it anymore.  I did a lot of reading and decided that letting Zack cry and learn to get himself to sleep was probably the best thing to do.  I tried last month with encouraging results--except for the night I found Zack happily awake in his crib.  He cried himself to awake, basically, and then just sat there and played for a while.

Then, I got sick, and then, we traveled, so we postponed sleep training.

Jeff read the assigned book I picked and we set a date to start.  Zack got sick again so we postponed again.  And now I have a nasty cold, but I just couldn't put this off any longer.  So last night we did our usual bed time ritual and put Zack down awake in his crib.

And wow, did the boy catch on fast.  We wrote down everything, all our check ins, and he was asleep in 30 minutes with really not too much fuss.  Jeff and I congratulated ourselves, and I felt the weight of the last several months lifting.  What great parents we were.

It lasted a few hours, until Zack woke up again.  I fed him and got him drowsy, but when I went to put him back in the crib, the world exploded.  The look he gave me was the most expressive I have seen yet on his little face:  "What?!  Betrayer!!!"  This as I lowered him onto the mattress.  Later, upon review, I realized I should have followed my book's advice to the letter.  If Zack wakes up, we don't pick him up at all.  I really blew it there.

An hour and a half of howling later, he was asleep, Jeff was exhausted, and I was completely wired.  Zack woke several times later throughout the night and each time it was difficult for him to get back to sleep.  At one point, I snuck into his room to sleep myself, because it was warmer in there.  When he saw me during one of his wakeups, it was a bad scene.  Once again, I learned not to underestimate the authors of my sleep book.  I should not have made an appearance in that room.  I tried to turn it into a "checkin"--"Hey, you're doing great!  I know you can get to sleep!"  But it just prolonged the whole situation.

Finally, he got to sleep.  At 5:00 a.m., I finally got the "dream feed" thing right.  I went in, woke Zack, fed him, and got him back down with absolutely no problem.  That's the key:  you have to beat the baby to the punch.  If he wakes up and you respond to his cries, it's over.  You've mixed your messages, given in, let him win, lost the battle.  But if you get him, feed him, and then put him down, he hardly registers the event.  Then you can slowly wean those feedings away until he sleeps through the night.

Why did I think I could get away without those steps?  Well, you see, it's because our baby is a genius!  I figured all that pedestrian b.s. was for lesser babies.  I was too proud!  I have been humbled.

I think I got a couple hours of sleep last night.  Jeff and I were so exhausted today that I felt like I did on many mornings during our college years, after partying all night with him and all our friends.

Only this time, it was all hangover and no party.

One great thing happened, though.  On my walk with Zack yesterday, I lost Manta Ray.   I had a pretty good idea of where it happened, so we all walked to the park this morning, and we found Manta Ray in the sand!  He had spent the night there.  I guess he managed to self soothe without us, and now Manta Ray is successfully sleep trained.  I'm so glad we found him, and his big adventure away from us makes him an even better toy.  A toy who needs serious washing to make sure he doesn't transmit pin worms.

After recovering Manta, we went to Starbucks, where I did not order coffee.  I got a hot chocolate.  I figured if Zack's having a hard time learning his new thing, it's only fair that I stick to my guns.  Not to mention caffeine in me means caffeine in him, which can't help.  Zack sat and observed everyone while Jeff and I ate, and I said something about how he didn't use to like sitting in cafes.  He demanded that the stroller be on the move.  But now he's changed.  Since he's outgrown his pacifier, his swaddle, and several other behaviors and habits in his short life, I wonder sometimes if he could outgrow needing to sleep next to an adult, too. But how long will that take? And how much time will I spend lying next to him while he gets that together? It seems like we're just reenforcing a habit, in this case, and so we have to make the change, over Zack's protests.

My book says naps can be treated differently.  Thanks, book.  But after how hard last night was, I didn't want to lose any ground.  I put Zack in the crib awake for his first nap today.  He probably slept a whole 20 minutes, if that.  In addition to really missing his giant human pacifier / teddy bear, he is a phenomenally light sleeper and woke to the sound of the bathroom door closing in the hall.  (The daycare people moved his crib to the back of the nap room to try and deal with his incredible sensitivity to noise.  It didn't help.  Of course, if Zack's sleeping next to me, Jeff and I can have an entire conversation over his head, which seems to argue for the whole Attachment Parenting claim that infants really should sleep next to their parents.  When he's warm and safe next to Mom or Dad, nothing bothers him.  And hey, I don't dispute it really, but it's just that at this point, this parent needs a break.)

He's down for his second nap now, and we all needed a respite.  I don't want Zack to get overtired and not be able to go down at all tonight.  So I nursed him to sleep, and Jeff is sleeping with him.  (Jeff was actually falling asleep while watching Zack earlier--I heard the baby talking and Jeff snoring.  So I think they both really need a rest.)

And this is my rest:  not sleeping with Zack.  I'm going to take a shower and take as much time as I want in there.  And then maybe I'll sleep.  By myself.  In my bed.

I still am not sure that this is the best route.  With sleep, there are so many different agendas and philosophies.  I need to post on Rational Moms about this, too.  But the AP folks will go on and on about how letting a baby cry like this elevates cortisol, the--oh no!--stress hormone.  And that leads to permanent changes in the brain.  And that is child abuse.  Seriously.  Child abuse, that's what they say.  The kid is sleeping warm and safe in a beautiful room full of toys in a house with two parents who are beside themselves with love for him.

I had to do some reading and sorting things out to clear my head over that crazy claim.  And then I had to say goodbye to sleeping with snuggly Zack.  I'll really cherish the memories, but it's time for us to move on.


Anonymous said...

I'm soooo glad you posted this today. Vivi has been sleeping on her own for MONTHS, but in the last couple of weeks, she's really been throwing a fit when I put her down awake. And the screaming and the wailing...oy vey. Wait til Zach can moan, "Moooommmaaaa!" instead of just crying. You have renewed my dedication to get through this patch! --Ashley

Jules said...

You should know that the rule to parenting is the it is great to get the books and advice but follow your gut. What works best for you and your baby is best for your family. Not everyone's baby meets a textbook milestone, and to tell you the truth if they did they they are pod people! You are doing what works for your family, following a guide is great! I feel that the books, shows, friends and doctors advice are an outline. You make your own bullet points!
You are doing a wonderful job! Keep up with your instincts... he's a very happy baby so you know what you are doing is working.

DCD said...

Hey there,
Just getting to all of this and haven't read your next post yet. I do know it's so, so tough - but it is also true that happy (and rested) parents mean happy baby.

Thinking of you guys!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!