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.