Tuesday, April 14, 2009

calling all sleep experts

Dear parents or other care-takers of small babies: HELP!! Our daughter is a sleep-hater to the extreme. She fights it like a crazy person, no matter what we do. I am beside myself, and would love some stories from the field. Books are, I dunno, bleaah when it comes to interaction.

Here's the gist of what I've gathered at the theoretical level: the two opposing schools of thought are attachment parenting, which sometimes involves co-sleeping and rocking or nursing your babies to sleep until they're older (how old I do not know), and then the develop-independence-in-your-baby approach, which involves letting the baby cry himself to sleep. Within the independence camp is Tracy Hogg, author of "The Baby Whisperer," who advocates an in-between approach. You never leave the baby by himself to cry for long periods of time, but instead you pick him up out of the crib to comfort him, and when he is calm, lie him back down. When he cries again, you pick him up and hold him just long enough for comfort, then lie him down. Evidently you may have to do this 100 times when you first try, but it decreases significantly each time as he realizes he's not going to win. Has anybody tried this?

We have gotten Z to fall asleep in her wind-up swing for much of her life...until the last few weeks. That, or I would nurse her to sleep. But she is on to those and every other trick in our arsenal. She'll nurse alright, but when I try to wiggle away, she wakes up and is a fouler mood than when I first laid her down. She is driving us a little nuts.


Christi said...

I don't think anybody can really be an expert at it. I think I am mostly embracing the concept of you have to do what is right for each specific kid and only you can truly figure it out. But sometimes things like this eventually pass before we have a chance to figure them out. I could tell you about our whole experience (after five years and 3 babies we are now all consistently sleeping through the night), but it's probably more conversational than blog comment sectiony. This is such a brutal part of parenting...c'mon sleep is so cool!!

Rachel Clear said...

Since I'm not a parent, everyone will probably dismiss my advice, but I say: whiskey.

handfull of johnsons said...

We did the whole cruel "let them cry" thing. Every 5 minutes we'd go pat them on the back and say they're okay, but were told not to pick them up. It was HELL for about 4 nights to a week, and the we had some nights where they fell off the wagon, but for the most part, it worked. And if one can take it better than the other, you can put earphones on Jason so he doesn't have to hear her cry. But definitely, there's no right thing! Being a parent just totally sucks! (Ha!) And seriously, if you dress her any cuter than Easter and keep living in Alaska...I just am going to really get angry...er. (I tried to think of a really bad threat but just can't.) She is THE CUTEST!!!

melissa said...

Yes, I have known 3 parents for whom the pick up-put down Baby Whisperer method worked. I have also known several parents for whom it did NOT work. It is not fail proof, but I know it can work. It takes HOURS, so be prepared.
What handfulofjohnsons describes sounds really similar to the Ferber method; they cry it out, but you periodically go in to reassure them that they are not alone. Ferber worked 100% for Matthew, who wouldn't sleep if we were in the room but cried if we left. I didn't know there were other ways with Ayden, so he cried it out. Actually, Zor sounds a lot like he was: wouldn't sleep well, cried like a maniac, and woke at the slightest provocation including the motion of me getting out of the bed and then freaked out unless I stuck myself back to him like glue. We started at about 6 months with naps and added nightime only after he got it--took 2 days. 45 minutes of crying the first nap, 30 minutes the next nap, and 10 or so minutes the third nap. After that, less than 2 minutes. Then we worked on nighttime: I determined he could go 4 hours between breastfeeds and let him cry it out every time he woke up except predetermined feeding times. He caught on in about 3 nights and magically woke only for feeds after that. Ferber worked for my aunt for her 2 girls, and also for a friend of mine, but didn't work for my OTHER friend, whose little guy started to get very nervous about separation a few weeks after starting Ferber, and stopped being nervous after she went back to rocking him to sleep.
My friend Asheya swears by The No Cry Sleep Solution (a book; I know you said no books, but what can I say? People actually make their living helping parents solve their kids' sleep problems)

I would say these are the basics that I have learned with regards to babies and sleep (take them or leave them; rest assured I will never judge your assessment of my learnings' relevance to your baby's temperament or your family's way of being together!!!):
-there is no one method that suits every baby
-cry it out methods are generally not developmentally appropriate before about six months of age (and it would depend on the baby as to whether this was too early or not)
-no baby ever died from crying
-no baby ever died from being cuddled to sleep
-attachment parenting is a style that focuses on attachment overall: cry it out sleep training or no, you can still be an attachment parent
-all habits can be broken
-nothing is irreversible: if a method doesn't work, stop using it or modify it to fit your needs
-a ritual is essential to help babies and toddlers know what to expect and when to fall asleep. This can be elaborate or simple, but should be the same whether naps or nighttime (with the exception of maybe a bath at night: you can't give them a bath every naptime too! lol), and whether you are at home or travelling.
-The bedtime ritual is essential, but so is a daily routine where they sleep at relatively the same times and are active at relatively the same times each nap and night time. Same with eating. Routines are your front line of defence when it comes to sleep.
-fresh air is very good for tiring babies out
-an overtired baby is more difficult to put to sleep than a sleepy baby
-some babies nap 'on' their moms exclusively (a carrier is essential for these moms! ergo, anyone?)
-some babies nap in the car exclusively
-some babies nap in the stroller exclusively

There you go, my experiential wisdom in a nutshell.

p.s. the reason I didn't include how we trained riley is that i haven't yet. he's so easy that I haven't had to do anything. If he gets problematic I'd probably try the pick up-put down method, or check out the No Cry Sleep Solution. I'm not sure the pick up put down would have worked for Ayden. He had Sta. Mi. Na. It was kind of like ripping off a bandaid. More painful but faster. If I went in to reassure him he only got madder! lol!

Oh, and sometimes eliciting daddy to do the reassuring works better because the baby knows daddy has no boobs.


Anonymous said...

Ok! here's a comment from Grandma Stoffer. What are you eating, drinking? It really matters what goes into her. Any coffee,chocolate,spicy food. With Jason I use to have very low lights and sounds at least 2 or 3 hours before his bedtime to calm him. Hope this works!!

lori lls said...

Oh, friends! Thank you, thank you for your comments. It puts me at ease to hear people say things like "sometimes things like this eventually pass before we have a chance to figure them out" and "there is no one method that suits every baby" and "for the most part, it worked" and "whiskey" and "for Jason, I used to have low lights and sounds..." Yay!

Barb, I do believe that in the sleep department, your granddaughter is her father's, your son's, daughter. Ha ha. You get what I'm saying. Both of them HATE going to bed. Afraid of missing the action, I guess.

Christi, I would love to hear more about your boys. Would you want to email me?

Rachel, you nut.

Darbi, we don't live in Alaska anymore, so you don't have to be mad. :) We're in Montana with my folks.

Melissa, I will check out that book! I didn't mean I don't want book suggestions. Crud, no! I just wanted some live people interaction on this one a.s.a.p., before I sold Zoralee to a band of passing gypsies.

Z does sleep through the night, I'd say 3 nights out of 4. So, it's not so much a matter of staying asleep. It's GETTING there. Yes, Zor sounds like Melissa's Ayden. Over the past few days, we did try cry-it-out, and she never ever fell asleep on her own. Not once. I couldn't bear to let it go for more than 70 minutes. Seventy. Talk about stamina.

When I read phrases like, "Start as you wish to continue" and "If you rock her to sleep now, you'll be doing it for years," I don't know if I buy that. She will change as she grows, no?

Again, my deepest thanks to all of you. :) xooox

melissa said...

SEVENTY! Yeesh. Good luck with that one.


I also wanted to add that I DON'T believe in scheduled feedings for breastfed babies. I meant more that after you introduce solids at between 6 and 8 months of age, it is good to start having predictable eating times, but never would I suggest restricting, regulating, or scheduling breastfeeding.
That wasn't clear in my comment.

And don't you listen to Tracy Hogg. Start as you mean to go on is a farce! Do what works. Hm. Seventy minutes of screaming. Yikes.
I'll pray.

Asheya said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog. I think I'll reply to your request for your advice with a post to my blog. I've seen you around on Melissa's blog, so it's nice to get in touch!

Asheya said...

Oh, and just a quick note: I found the no cry sleep solution had some good ideas, but the actual method was waaaaay too time consuming for me, since I didn't feel I was at the point of total desperation. I'll say more on my blog later, though!

Asheya said...

Just wanted to let you know I wrote an essay worth on my blog on this subject. Keep us posted on how things go.