Sleep Training Robin

Ferberizing, attended cry it out, progressive waiting, no matter what you call it there are those who claim any form of cry it out is tantamount to child abuse.  After a week of sleep training Robin thru the Ferber method, all I have to say is, “What was I afraid of??”

For the first five months of her life, Robin slept in bed with us.  It was easier on all of us when we co-slept. At around four months, she ran into sleep regression. How she could regress in sleep when she never progressed in sleep is beyond my understanding. Anyway, she would half wake-up and fuss every hour or hour and a half and want to comfort nurse. The only way to keep her happy would be to pop a boob in her mouth, which meant I was waking every hour or so the whole night for four weeks. It was not sustainable, especially since I was also working full time during the day, so it wasn’t like I could nap when she napped.

We first tried some techniques from the No Cry Sleep Solution book, but for us, they were all More Cry Sleep No-Solutions. Everything seemed to wind her up and make her cry more. She would get mad at us for not giving her what she wanted: to comfort nurse.  I was apprehensive about progressive waiting aka the Ferber method, since it seemed like a huge jump for Robin to from sleeping with us in our bed and nursing every hour or so to sleeping by herself for long stretches of the night. It didn’t seem possible without days of crying and screaming from her, but by then, I was desperate for anything that would give me more than two hours of sleep at a time.

Being an engineer, the Ferber method appealed to me. There were clear instructions to follow and logically, it made sense.  We modified it so that during the comforting part, we would pick her up. So I guess our sleep training was a combination of the Ferber Method and Pick Up / Put Down.

The first night, we used the 3, 5, 7, 10 minute intervals.  Robin cried for about 25 minutes (with us checking in between intervals for 1 minute), then fell asleep.  She woke up to nurse once during that night, I put her down in the crib and she went right back to sleep for 2 hours. After that, she woke up, nursed again, and wouldn’t calm back down when we put her back in the crib, so we brought her back into bed with us at 4am.  Although she didn’t sleep as long as I had hoped, I was amazed that she slept as well as she did.  If that first night hadn’t gone so well, I probably wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic about continuing the sleep training that way. As it was, I was paranoid that it was beginner’s luck!

The second night, she fussed a few minutes, babbled, and then fell promptly asleep. Woke up before 12, ate, then slept for more than 7 hours straight! In the morning, I had to wake her up because I was worried she’d gone too long without eating.

The subsequent nights went roughly the same, with us increasing the waiting intervals each night up to the 15, 17, 20 minute intervals.  While Ferber recommends going longer, that was about as long as I was willing to let her really cry.  Overall, we didn’t let her cry for more than an hour (with check-ins). It seemed like if she didn’t wind down after that amount of time, she wasn’t going to wind down at all.

The improvement wasn’t at all linear. For example, she did great the 5th night and cried only 5 minutes before falling asleep, but on the 7th night, she cried hard for 15 minutes, Will went in to comfort her, and then she cried for another 15 minutes.  I read somewhere that sleep training is like a dance: a few steps forward, a few steps back.  That’s an accurate way to describe it. On the 8th night, I put her into the crib and she didn’t cry at all and went promptly to sleep! The same had been happening after her middle of the night feedings.

That’s not to say the Ferber method is for everyone.  Every baby is different.  If Robin hadn’t responded so well the first night, we probably would have tried something different. But with the extra sleep she was getting, she seemed much happier in the morning when she woke up on her own. Because we were flexible about the entire plan, willing to comfort her early if she was crying really hard, it turned out okay and we don’t feel guilty at all about it, like I worried about going into this.

Total Baby iOS App

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During Robin’s first month, we were using the Total Baby app several times a day to keep track of how many wet/dirty diapers she had, how often she ate, her weight, etc. I blame being an engineer and having to record everything, but it was useful to have the numbers ready when we went for doctor visits.

I like that the app lets you keep track of wet and dirty diapers, feedings (breast, pumped, formula), which side you last fed on and for how long, naps, weight gain, shots, pretty much everything. I didn’t go that crazy and mainly used it for diapers and feedings for the first month. It was certainly easier than having to write it down with pencil and paper each time, since most of the things I wanted to keep track of only required me to hit a button once or twice in the app.

For those who like looking at lots of graphs, the app also generates a ton of them for you. I didn’t find them that useful other than seeing the pattern of when during the day she tended to eat more often.

Another reason I got the app was that it could sync between devices, but that was sort of a misnomer. The synching is pretty clunky since you’ll need both apps to be in a syncing mode instead of just having it done automatically. It’s a minor inconvenience, but when you’re juggling that and a newborn, it becomes a major annoyance.

For $5, Total Baby is probably the most expensive thing I’ve purchased from the App Store, but it is well worth it. I don’t use it much now, other than keeping track of how long Robin naps, but it was valuable for the first month when we were still worried about her losing too much weight.

Just a warning though, if you’re data-minded, keeping such minute track of everything might end up driving you crazy.

On Breastfeeding Part 2

I’m still no pro at breastfeeding, but a few things definitely made a difference. The first thing is a husband that was really supportive.  Supplementing with formula was not easy because Robin would get so frustrated about it and cry.  But Will kept doing it, which was a great help to me because it gave me a break from having to hold and feed the baby. Even now, when I want to take a long, relaxing bath, which is pretty much every night, he’s on milk duty, which means feeding her a bottle of pumped milk if she’s hungry.  Sure, it makes it difficult to build up a supply of frozen pumped milk, but I think it’s a nice time for them to bond and it gives me some time to myself.

The second thing is fenugreek. Even though the supplements say to take 1 pill 3 times a day, that’s too little fenugreek.  Everything I read online said to take enough pills that you smell like maple syrup. For me, that was something like 12-14 pills a day, spaced out.  I would take 4 pills in the morning, then 3 pills every couple of hours after that. I think that, more than any other supplement helped with supply.

The third thing is learning how to nurse on my side.  As Will says, this was a game-changer.  I no longer had to get up, cradle the baby, nurse her for more than half an hour and then try to get her to sleep every 2-3 hours at night.  I would sleep with the baby in the bed and if she woke up hungry, I would just lie on my side, her on her side facing me and she would nurse, while I could still rest and kind of drift off.  Most of the time, we’d both fall asleep.  While it’s not the most relaxing sleep and it does get uncomfortable and cramped, it’s still a lot better than having to get up several times each night and feeding her that way.  I think because the baby doesn’t end up fully awake, it’s easier for her to fall asleep. Unfortunately, it’s also sometimes hard for her to be awake enough to eat efficiently. There’s also the guilt factor of doing something that we’re told repeatedly not to do by doctors: sleep with the baby in the bed with us.

The fourth thing is something I’m still struggling with, which is: just enjoy the nursing.  It helps to have Netflix and good stuff to watch while I nurse. It also helps to have some books on the Kindle to read. I’m getting better with just sitting and nursing, but sometimes I still feel antsy. I think about the pile of dishes in the kitchen. I think of the errands I need to do. I think of the diapers that need to be stuffed, and so on.  Sitting on the couch and nursing to me just feels like so much unproductive time.  Before having a baby, I thought that sitting on the couch watching Netflix and reading would be awesome. But it does get boring.

Women weren’t kidding when they said breastfeeding has a learning curve. It amazes me that our species has survived for this long when it’s so difficult to just nurture our young. I guess back in the day, when everyone was breastfed, there was better support and information floating around.