Whoa, two posts in one day? Must be some kind of record! For me, at least. 🙂 forgive me, this one’s probably going to be a long one! Like…really long. No seriously, stop reading if you don’t want to sit here for an hour.
So we are on Day 4 of sleep training. Cue the menacing music heard in every horror movie in the history of ever. Let me start by saying that I have been against making babies Cry It Out for, well, ever. Once Mac was born, I was even more fiercely opposed to it.
For those of you who have no children, listening to your own flesh and blood scream bloody murder is heartbreaking. Knowing exactly how to fix the problem and not taking that course of action brings about a level of guilt and heartache that I didn’t even know existed. The problem, which the Heiser household is currently dealing with, is that once your baby is used to being soothed and comforted and nursed to sleep 100% of the time, they will expect this at every nap, every night at bedtime, and every time they wake up in the middle of the night, no matter how briefly.
As new parents, we didn’t know any better. When Mac fell asleep, he was too precious to put down. And heaven forbid that little angel whimper or cry, even a little, because Mom and Dad were on top of it. We would rock, sing, pat him on the back…anything to keep him from fully waking up or being unhappy in any way. So we ended up holding him about 99% of the time he was sleeping…and he never once had to “self soothe” when he woke in the middle of the night.
The problem? Mac will be 9 months old in 5 days, and I haven’t had a full night’s rest since before he was born. My back and neck ache from sleeping in weird positions (because having a baby in your bed every night limits your space), and I have to sit for 2-5 hours a day depending on how long he naps. He wakes up every 1-2 hours at night to nurse. My boobs are a comfort object, people! And on the nights when Mac wakes up but doesn’t want to nurse, I get to walk around the house patting his back until he falls into a deep enough sleep that he won’t wake up as soon as I sit or lay down. When he was 7lbs and a week old, it was adorable. Now that he’s 9 months old and 18lbs? It’s still adorable, but much more inconvenient.
We got white noise machines… ones to strap to the side of the crib, plush ones that could go in bed with him, even one to hang on the wall! We tried a bouncy seat with a vibrate and music function, we had the matching swing with music, mobile, and 3 swing positions. Guess which one Mac liked the best? None of them! So we continued carrying, nursing, patting, etc.
I spent my nights sleeping on my side with a baby resting on my arm. He would wake up and cry, I’d slide him into the side lying nursing position, and he’d nurse for 3-4 minutes until he fell asleep. About an hour later, he’d wake up and cry, and we would roll to the other side and repeat. By the time morning came, I’d have been awake more than half of the night and Mac would be nice and full from nursing essentially all night long.
I spent my days waiting for naptime. Hoping that I’d be smooth and gentle enough to lay down without waking Mac up so that I could get a little bit of sleep myself. More than a few times, I found myself in tears just from sheer exhaustion. Ryan told me that I have him beat in sleep deprivation, and the Marine Corps makes a sport of sleep deprivation!!
When I thought I’d hit my breaking point, I bought The No-Cry Sleep Solution book. I was still firmly against Mac crying himself to sleep. I did the sleep journals, I introduced a lovey and a binky, we used verbal cues…I laid his fuzzy blanket under him in our bed with the hope of moving it into his crib so that he would go down easier if he recognized the material and scent. I tried taking advice from other moms and I used every tip from the book that I thought would work for us. Another 3 months later, and nothing worked had worked.
I had finally hit my ACTUAL breaking point. Almost 9 months of 4-5 hours of sleep a night and less than 1 nap a week. Many nights, I woke up with my arms and legs numb, asleep in the rocking chair. Twice, Mac rolled backwards off of our bed. Thankfully he wasn’t hurt, just startled. I decided to do the one thing I had been dead set against since day one…we were going to Cry It Out.
We bought a video baby monitor, and made sure Mac was firmly set in a bedtime routine. I started getting him nice and full during the day, hoping that he wouldn’t wake up as frequently to nurse at night…and then we started.
Night 1 was Halloween. We gave Mac his bath, rubbed lavender baby lotion all over him, got him in cozy jammies, brushed his hair, read him a story, and then I nursed him on both sides. I laid him in his crib and then walked out of the room. Mac screamed for almost 2 hours before he finally fell asleep. He slept for about 3 hours. When he woke up, I decided to go ahead and change his diaper and nurse him again, just in case he was hungry. When I laid him back down; he cried for 2 full hours and then fell asleep again. This was torture! This time, he only slept for about 30 minutes before he was screaming again. I couldn’t take it anymore; I brought him into bed with us so that the poor kid could get some sleep.
Night 2 was much better. He fell asleep after about half an hour of crying. He slept for over 3 hours, got a diaper change and nursed, and didn’t cry at all when I laid him back down! He slept this time until about 5am and then I brought him into our bed again, just to try to coax him into sleeping for a little longer. I thought “I can’t believe we didn’t do this months ago!”
Then came Night 3. He fell asleep after 5 minutes of crying (SCORE!), but then woke up an hour later. He cried for about 30 minutes and fell asleep again…and then woke up less than an hour later and cried for another hour. At 3am, I fell asleep on the couch waiting for him to stop crying (again). 4am, I got back into bed because Mac was asleep…and 430 rolled around to the sound of a screaming baby. He cried until 530, and passed out in my arms as soon as I picked him up. This was our worst night since before we brought him home from the hospital!
We’re currently about an hour and a half into Night 4; Mac is fast asleep in his crib, and has been since about 5 minutes after I laid him down. I’m hoping for a better night than yesterday, but we’ll have to wait and see!