Welp, we started sleep training Paul last night. He has slept through the night on three random occasions, but is settling in to a troubling routine of waking every 2-3 hours at night and needing to suck on something (a pacifier, a boob) to go back to sleep. Our own sleep debt has been growing, and we have been getting the feeling that bad patterns are getting baked in. He has been falling asleep without trouble at 8-9, but waking up at 10:30 and needing a pacifier repeatedly placed in his mouth for between 30 minutes and 3 hours. Then he’s up to eat between 1-2 and again between 4-5. It’s brutal, and hard to get more than 5 hours of sleep ourselves, strung out in broken chunks through the night.
Bryan ordered “the Ferber book,” and I read most of it yesterday. He carefully does not say when is an acceptable age to begin sleep training, but he does say there is no physiological reason that normal, healthy 3-4 month-old babies can’t sleep through the night. And 3-4 months is how old Paul is. So. Worth a try.
The method is this: unless he’s due for a meal, when the baby wakes and cries, you go comfort him, but wait for progressively longer intervals to do so. You do not give him anything to suck on or let him fall asleep while being held, patted, or rocked. The goal is for him to fall asleep by himself, in precisely the environment that he’ll find the next time he wakes. The first night, the intervals between comforting him are 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and then every 10 minutes until he falls asleep.
So yesterday I toted Paul’s sleep station down to the Friday Room (TV room/guest room/Bryan’s office). I set up his pack and play under the windows and his diaper changing supplies on the coffee table. Part of the process is firming up a going-to-bed routine, so at 8:30 I said to Paul, “This is your going-to-bed routine,” and I got him changed and swaddled, and read him a book, and sang him The Song, and put him in his bassinet, and left. And he cooed and rolled around a bit but, as usual, fell asleep without help within about 10 minutes.
Precisely three hours later (11:37), my eyes sprang open, and I was surprised that he hadn’t woken me with his usual 10:30 fuss session. Perhaps he fussed and I didn’t hear him. Perhaps we’re the ones who are inadvertently waking him up at that time with our normal sleep movements and noises. Anyway, all was quiet. I went to the top of the stairs to make sure I couldn’t hear him, and turned off the bathroom fan to make absolutely sure nothing could drown him out.
Bryan came home from his California trip; we debriefed; it came to be 1:15; and finally (!) Paul woke up, right on schedule for his one authorized night feeding. I fed him and put him back to bed downstairs.
Three hours later, he woke up crying. Here we go! I started my timer for 3 minutes, and then went in to do my best comforting without giving him anything to suck on. He quieted down; I wished him luck and left. The timer started again, this time for 5 minutes. After about two, Sous decided she needed to check things out and nosed her way into his room. I followed when my clock told me to, picked Paul up and sang to him for a minute, and left again. I tried to get Sous to come with me, and she gave me a look that said, “NUMBER FOUR IS IN DISTRESS.” I saw her on a hillside, guarding an injured lamb until the shepherd comes, so I just closed the door and left her in with him for the next round. This time, 10 minutes.
At this point, his crying had reached a pitch we call Crazytown. It jumps an octave and has a shrillness that makes his usual wails sound like a gentle tap on the shoulder, a posh British man saying, “aherm, terribly sorry to trouble you, do excuse me…” I sandwiched my head between couch pillows and watched the clock, noting when he paused or trailed off. After 10 minutes, I went in again, changed his wet diaper, and held and sang to him. He calmed right down but picked up the screaming again as soon as I put him down. Another 10 minutes passed. In his room again, I talked to him and stroked him, noted that he’d thrashed so hard his sleep sack was backwards again, but didn’t pick him up. Sous followed me out this time, presumably wondering what the hell the shepherd was up to.
That was the last time I went in. After 8 more minutes, he was beginning to pause and deescalate to whimpers. He was mostly quiet when my timer hit 11:30, surfacing for some hoots and whines, and one more 20-second burst of crying at about 20 minutes. At 5:45, 65 minutes after he’d woken up, he was asleep.
We are exhausted but triumphant, and he seems to have forgiven us. We’ll see how tonight goes. Onwards!