Sleep Baby Sleep

I’m pushing the hot parenting button.

A recent slumber situation has made me want to offer my pennies on sleep training. But before going forward, understand it’s my little opinion based on my little child. As a journalist, I’ve done the research, checked the facts. Here’s my story.

When Jack was a baby baby (always a baby in my eyes) he was labeled, “a poor sleeper.” I heard the “slept through the night at six weeks” stories and “just let him cry himself to sleep” advice. Okay. Sure.

By seven months, we were boiling with frustration over the 45-minute rockings, bed-sharing and pacifier-replacing routines. The rope had ended.

True to my abilities, I researched sleep training beyond necessary. Cry it out. No tears. Ferber. Weissbluth. Sears. The advice on baby sleeping is endless.

Like most sane parents, I hated to hear my baby cry, so Ferber was out. After a few weeks of “no tear” attempts, Ferber was in.  Wanting to do it right without inflicting any emotional damage, I purchased Dr. Richard Ferber’s book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. Read it, highlighted it, lived it.

We did every step exactly as Ferber suggested. One week, three days. Jack was sleeping through the night. It wasn’t easy, surely not beautiful. Justin and I even spent multiple nights in separate beds (not part of “the plan”). I prayed to God more than I’d ever. Amazing how two hours of sleep can suffice efficiently for an eight-hour workday.

Needless to say, Jack’s been a trooper despite his issues with sleep. He puts himself down. Rarely fusses at bed or nap times. Wakes up occasionally, usually sick or thirsty. And falls back into slumber easily.

Now 22 months, three weeks. Another story.

Before our Fourth of July trip, Jack developed a fear of the shadows stretching from his nightlight. For three nights he woke up, pointing, worriedly asking about the “dows.” We’d gone to the cabin where shadows don’t exist and when we returned his fear escalated, without our notice.

As first-time parenting maze navigators, Justin and I couldn’t figure it out. Maybe he’d become accustom to our nightlong presence during all of our recent travels. We didn’t even attribute his needy-ness to the shadows. After a few days of bedtime struggling, we began to “cry it out” again.

Five days later, Jack clinged to me. Justin couldn’t leave the room. And his nighttime tantrums weren’t even seconds better. Jack’s voice was missing and we were done. We pitched the method and I returned to the Ferber book for a refreshing answer.

Ah-ha. Separation anxiety.  Can be triggered by a scary movie, bad dream or something else nighttime related. Those darn shadows. Unfortunately for Jack, our learning curve led us without GPS, and we only made the situation spiral out of control. Literally to the point where he couldn’t remember the initial cause, only that we’ve abandoned him in his fear. Great parenting Leah and Justin. Awesome job. Luckily for us, there’s a solution. Should only take a few weeks – at most – and it doesn’t involve crying. To the opposite. It involves lots of snuggles, reassurance and hugs. Now that’s my kind of method.

So the secret uncovered wasn’t really a secret at all. Just an insecurity in my instinct. Parents know their child best. Not a book, not our parents, not the Internet. Like we’ve all heard too many times:

“Parents know what’s best.”

So I’ve learned the lesson to listen to my senses. Each child is different, and each situation is different. Take the advice, research the methods and make a customized solution for your family. Now that’s the only answer I’ve found to work.


Kathy said...

while i LOVE that book (among other sleep books), sometimes you just need to toss them aside and go with your gut. my dd did the same thing close to that age. from the time she was a wee baby, i was able to lay her in her crib, turn off the light and leave the room; she would coo, sing or babble herself to sleep. then when she was 23 months old, she suddenly NEEDED me to stay with her while she fell asleep which was weird because for nearly 2 years, i was able to just put her down and leave. anyway, i consulted my sleep books, tried one technique but i couldn't take her sobbing "mama! don't leave me!!" (when they talk it's way worse) so i sat back and looked at our situation. i realized that in the grand scheme of things, waiting 15/20mins for dd to fall asleep isn't a big deal so we switched things up and i lay down some new ground rules - while i'm with her as she's falling asleep, no talking, no playing, no trying to engage me; she is to go right to sleep after which i will leave and everyone will sleep in their own beds all night. i explained these rules to her and she was fine with it.

gah! sorry for the long post!! but i just wanted to say that i completely agree with "parents know best".

Leah B said...

Thank you for sharing!!! I love hearing that we're not the only family that had experienced sleep issues. From what I've heard there's millions of us. We're just the nice ones that share :) And Jack, now almost three, still doesn't sleep well. His baby sister sleeps longer/better than him! I've just accepted the fact that he's always going to be waking up/crawling in our bed/or crying out until he's a teen. Ha!

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