When June was a baby, it was easy for us to say we'd never sleep train her or let her 'cry it out.' She slept through the night by two months old and was soon sleeping from about 6:30 PM to 6:30 AM every night. We were so spoiled by her.
With Bennett, we had the same intentions. He wasn't sleeping well, but we hated the thought of letting our baby cry for hours and hours on end. Would he feel abandoned? Would it impact our relationship with him? Would he just end up exhausting himself and just pass out from fatigue?
But the other day, after a few weeks of a sleeping routine that had regressed even further than before, with wakings starting at 10 PM, we (I) sort of snapped one night. "We're trying the Ferber method," I said.
There are a few sleep training methods that include letting your baby cry, Ferber's method being one of them. My dear friends Amy and Erik mentioned using it and promised that it probably wasn't as bad as its reputation and that I should at least read more about it. So that night at midnight I ordered Ferber's book to my Kindle and started reading it the next day during my breast pumping breaks.
Reading the book really opened my eyes to my own misconceptions about his method. The goal isn't just to exhaust him so he gives up...the goal is to teach him to be able to fall asleep by himself. The beginning of the book teaches about the natural sleep cycles of babies and how they often wake throughout the night. He uses a great analogy asking how you would feel if you went to bed snuggled and comfortable in your bed, but woke suddenly on the living room floor. You'd probably be confused, a little alarmed and want to get back in your bed to fall back asleep. That's how babies feel when they fall asleep nursing or in your arms and wake up alone in their cribs. They cry because they can't recreate the terms under which they fell asleep by themselves. If you can teach the baby to fall asleep alone in his crib, he won't be alarmed or surprised to wake in the same spot, and will easily fall back asleep without crying.
Another surprise to me was that it is a gradual exposure to crying. We don't just leave him in his crib for hours. The first night we went in after 3 minutes, then 5 minutes, then 7, and so on. We didn't pick him up, just gave him the pacifier, gave him a kiss and "shh'ed" him. The next night the intervals were a bit longer.
We have had ups and downs. I'm sure we are in for more challenges and hard times and nights where once again I feel like my nerves are exposed to the elements. But ... last night Bennett slept from 6:30 PM to nearly 4:00 AM without making a peep.
Tonight's plan is, if he wakes and cries, start the interval of waiting to go in to him at 15 minutes. That seems so long! But it's part of the plan (which Ferber says you can adjust if you want) and it's been working for us. Plus, for the past day or so, he hasn't even made it to the first interval time before he settled himself and fell asleep.
If I would have told myself three years ago that I would be letting my kid 'cry it out' (though Ferber never uses that term) I probably wouldn't have believed you. But here I am with a completely different baby who developed different sleep associations and this might have been the thing he needed. I'm so glad that we've all been getting better sleep. I'm so glad that we've given Bennett the gift of being able to have healthy sleep associations and be able to fall asleep on his own. (Who wants to depend on someone else to be able to fall asleep?) And I've learned the humbling lesson that not all babies are the same, and the same things don't work for every baby. And I'm glad for that too.
And, for the record, it hasn't impacted how smiley Bennett is during the day either. :)