Jesse started sleeping through the night when he was just 2 months old. "This is wonderful," I thought. "How lucky did I get?" I thought. "I'm so glad my baby can sleep through the night," I thought.
And then he turned 4 months old, and cue the "4 month sleep regression."
I went back to work when Jesse was around 4 months, and I chalked his lack of sleeping through the night to the fact that our routine was majorly disrupted when I went back to work. I honestly didn't mind getting up with him in the night and nursing him and rocking him back to sleep, because I missed spending time with him through the day.
Fast forward to 9 months old. And STILL waking up like a newborn, every 2-3 hours.
I was to the point where I was no longer nursing him, and the frequent, habitual nighttime wakings were starting to take a toll on me.
One day, I was talking to my mom on the phone and she mentioned a blog she had read called, "How to Get a Baby to Sleep Through the Night." She said that it sounded to her that Jesse was waking up out of habit, and that we all needed better sleep. "Jesse can take naps throughout the day to make up for the sleep he doesn't get," she said, "and you can't."
It's true. I was exhausted. Some mornings after being up 4-5 times during the night, the coffee needed to be a little extra strong.
Now, when Mom mentioned the blog she had read, I was instantly filled with dread. I had heard about these sleep training methods before. The whole "cry-it-out" thing is NOT something that I ever wanted to subject my baby to. I didn't want to let him cry, alone in the dark... developing a sense of insecurity because Mommy wasn't coming to his rescue. But I decided to read the blog anyway to see what it had to say.
The sleep experts cited in the article suggested a few strategies that didn't seem so harsh, though. For instance, some sleep training methods say you have to watch the clock and can only go in to comfort your baby after x number of minutes. Some methods say, absolutely positively DO NOT speak to your baby or make eye contact with them. While the sleep experts were adamant that you should not pick up your baby from the crib, they said it was perfectly fine to touch the baby, talk to him, and make eye contact with him. And instead of watching the clock, you listen to the baby's cry. When his cry is at its peak, that's when you go in. If the cries are starting to lessen in intensity and get further apart, that's a sign that he's starting to self-soothe.
The ultimate goal of a sleep training program is to help the baby develop ways to soothe himself when he wakes up, so that he isn't relying on Momma's touch to put him back to sleep.
I decided that I wanted to go ahead with this method. Just try it for a few days and see if it made a difference. I recorded my experience on my phone so that I could keep track of how each night went.
Here's our story.
Night 1: Put baby to bed at 9pm. He woke at 9:30, fussed for a few seconds, and then fell back to sleep. Woke up at 10:15. I went in multiple times to attempt to help soothe him. He stood there holding onto his crib, wailing. There were times when his cries would calm, but then they would intensify again, so I would go in again. I sat outside of his bedroom door on the floor, crying with him. It's so hard to hear your baby cry! At 10:40, I took a pacifier in to him. He took the binky and seemed to get settled. I hugged him while he was standing at the rails and he was all but falling asleep, standing up. I left him laying on his back with his binky in, stuffed puppy blankey under his arm, and a light blanket over his lower half. He woke up at 11:45. I made him a bottle (he was used to getting a bottle around midnight during one of his wakings), and when I laid him down after the bottle, he cried HARD. He stood up again, walked back and forth across his crib holding onto the rails and sobbed. I ended up breaking the rules. I went in and picked him up and held him for 5 minutes to get him to calm down. When I laid him back down, I had to come back into the room 2 more times before I got him to stay down on his belly. I had to "shhhhhhhhh" really loudly and firmly pat his back for him to fall asleep. And when he finally fell asleep, he slept till 6am.
Night 2: Jesse had only napped once all day, so by 6:15 he was exhausted. Gave him a bottle around 7. I laid him down in his crib after the bottle, still awake, around 7:15 and he cried until 7:50. His cries became a soft whimper at that point, and by 8:05 he was asleep. He slept all night! He woke up 3:25 and cried softly for a minute and then went back to sleep.
Night 3: Very little napping again during the day. Had his bedtime bottle around 8:45, and then laid him in his crib awake at 8:52. He cried for 3 minutes, and then was asleep by 9:00. He woke up at 10:30 and cried for less than a minute and then went back to sleep. Woke at 3:00, stood and cried. I went in to soothe him when his cries became intense. He was back to sleep by 3:15.
Night 4: He cried for less than a minute when I laid him down for bed. Woke up around midnight, cried for a minute, and went back to sleep. Woke up at 2:15, stood and cried. He went back to sleep at 2:30 after I went in once to soothe him. Awake again at 4:25.
Night 5: Cried for less than 20 seconds when we laid him down at bedtime. Woke up around midnight, I went in and helped to soothe him one time, and then he was asleep by 12:20. Woke up at 2:30, and he was able to soothe himself back to sleep. Slept till 5.
Night 6: Cried for about 10 minutes when we laid him down, had to soothe him once. Woke up for a bottle at 5, and then slept till 7!
Night 7: Slept all night till 5am, took a bottle and went back to sleep till 7 :-)
And Jesse continues to fuss a little bit when we lay him down at night (although some nights he just rolls onto his belly, sticking his bottom up in the air, and falls right to sleep), and then SLEEPS THROUGH THE NIGHT!!! He wakes up around 5 for a bottle. On a school day, we get up at 5 to get ready for the day. On the weekend, he will take his 5am bottle, and then go back to sleep till 7.
Although it was a rough week of sleep training, Jesse has learned how to soothe himself, and we have broken the habitual waking pattern that had caused us so many sleepless nights.
SLEEP IS GRAND!!! :-)