Ben in his new glow in the dark dinosaur jams!
As I have (perhaps, foolishly) claimed several times on this blog, Ben has been a pretty rad sleeper for a pretty long time. With our early success of Ben sleeping through the nights, (in his own room - which was something we really wanted for him/us) and only waking to eat once at night (and sometimes not at all), we had a little system that worked very well for us!
Over the past few weeks, maybe a month, things have changed a little. We started experiencing meltdowns at nap time. Ben started to wake up shortly after going to bed at night, and then would wake several times throughout the night. At first, I attributed it to his new ability to sit up and stand in his crib. Then I assumed that this combined with his 2 top teeth working their way through his gums could have been the reason for our new sleeping problems. And it's very possible that I was right about this....
....but - I was just NOT functioning well with having to get up 2, sometimes 3, times throughout the night to console Ben - whether that was with feeding him, rocking him, or sometimes (if he was really mad), bringing him out of his room so that he didn't think I was trying to put him down to sleep anymore. Once I suspected that he didn't need middle of the night snacks, I was ready to stop.
At Ben's 6 month doctor's appointment, our doctor confirmed my suspicions - that Ben no longer needed to eat in the middle of the night - that he was perfectly capable of going 11-12 hours at night without nursing. At the time, I still considered Ben "sleeping through the night", even if he was nursing once for 5 minutes, and since he would go RIGHT back to sleep, it never bothered me. Unfortunately, it has recently become totally clear to us that we have a bad habit forming that needs to be broken. I won't say that I think he is manipulating us necessarily, but the way he ramps up his sobs as soon as he sees us in his room seem to be part of his master plan to get himself out of bed.
We decided that Memorial Day Weekend would be the perfect time to implement The Ferber Method:
Devised by the American pediatrician Richard Ferber in 1985 within his book 'Solve your childs sleep problem,' the Ferber method basically means you leave your child to soothe them self to sleep when they are emotionally and physically ready. Ferber believes this can be done between the first 4-6 months of life, and although has been proven to be incredibly successful, is still a controversial method to adopt.
The Ferber method recommends that following a loving and warm bedtime routine, usually involving bath time, you put your baby to bed awake, then leaving them, even if they cry, for periods of time that increase as the time spent using the method goes on. Ferber argues that it is the putting to bed of a baby awake that teaches them to go to sleep on their own. In order to adopt the Ferber approach, when your baby starts to cry, leave them for roughly five minutes before returning to soothe, but do not pick up or feed them.
I knew that with a little practice, Ben would remember what it was like to put himself back to sleep, and we would be able to go back to some restful nights!
Friday night was hard, I won't lie. We started with our already established bedtime routine:
Instead of nursing Ben to sleep, which would typically happen each night, I nursed him and then woke him up a little before putting him down in his crib. He immediately sat up and started to cry. I rubbed his back for a minute, said "good night", and left the room. While I have been okay with letting him cry for 5 or so minutes before, it was much harder to let him cry for the 40 minutes that it took before he fell asleep. Greg and I alternated going in every 5 minutes, and then every 10 minutes, rubbing his back and laying him back down (but never picking him up). I was tense and frustrated, but Ben eventually gave in and went to sleep.
He woke up again around 4:30 am, and we followed the same pattern for the 25 minutes it took for him to lay down and fall asleep.
Then, when he woke up at 7 am, I went in and cheerfully greeted him and picked him up!
Due to him not sleeping much during the day on Saturday, he went down VERY easily Saturday night. I nursed him, woke him up enough to go down in his crib awake, and he immediately rolled over and fell asleep. And this time, when Ben woke up at 4:30 am, instead of crying, he cooed and played with his binky for awhile, and fell back asleep until 7 am. YES! I'm not sure if this was just due to him being tired, but I will take it.
The nights continued to go well. There continued to be a few tears at bedtime, but he started to fall asleep within 10 minutes instead of the 40 minutes it took the first night. Sunday night he woke up a few times, but I never even needed to go into his room. He put himself back to sleep quickly and without crying. Both Monday night and Tuesday night, he slept all the way through the night without a peep!
While I'm sure that every night will not be a total success, it seems that he is starting to understand what nighttime means again.