Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Path of Least Resistance (Or, Sleep Training For Wusses)

Teething sucks. Or, infancy sucks. Possibly I just suck. All I know is, Eli's sleep habits are beginning to get me down. He's never been what I'd call a good sleeper, but the past week or so, it has been a freaking three ring circus trying to get him in the perfect state of sleep readiness: Addy in bed, house is quiet, he is full, but not TOO full, burped, changed, relaxed, thumb in his mouth, eyes drooping, water cup at the ready in his crib. I rock him and sing to him and gently lower him into his bed and... Bam. As soon as his butt hits the mattress his eyes are wide in outrage, his mouth a perfect O of screaming, his back arched and limbs flailing. From slumber to meltdown in point five seconds. Over and over we repeat this cycle, from an hour to three hours depending on how tired he is. And then he is up one to three times in the night. It is getting Officially Old.

I should mention that we have never been cry-it-out fans. It seems a little cruel- he is a BABY and we are his PARENTS. Comforting him is our job. It's what we signed on for. Usually we operate by a little parenting theory called Whatever Seems To Be Working This Week. We don't attempt to set arbitrary schedules and then mold our kids' sleep patterns around them: if anything, we go the other way, and have tried to set our timetable based on their tendencies. For Addy, this has worked just fine. Eli, however, is a different breed. He would stay up until one in the morning, I think, if permitted, get up three times at night, and then wake up around nine and not nap until five PM or so. It's just not a timetable that works for the rest of the family. So, we are in new territory, and while we have sort of dabbled in enforced bedtimes and limited crying it out (ten minutes at a time, for example) we have never actually let him scream himself to sleep. We always end up either actually rocking him to sleep, or rocking him to an exhausted enough state that you can lay him down and tiptoe away.

But tonight... I just did it. Because I knew he was full, I knew he wasn't thirsty, I knew he'd recently pooped, I knew he was sleepy, I knew it was ten forty-five PM. I also knew he hates going to sleep and that his gums are likely sore, but I knew there wasn't shit I could do about it other than giving him his ba-ba with cold water and the gum massaging nipple, which I did, and rocking him to sleep, which I tried to do several times to no avail. (I could have tried pain meds or Orajel, but I have had no luck with either of those in the past. The Orajel freaks him right out, and analgesics seem to keep my kids up rather than make them sleepy.) So, I had had it. I was ready to be DONE for the day. I was tired, too, and hadn't had any grown up time with just Jim and me yet.

So I kissed him, sat him in his crib, turned on the lullaby CD, and left. He jumped and screamed in his crib for a solid half hour, you guys. It was, to say the least, not relaxing. A seriously crying baby can make a half hour seem like about two hours, and it can make you feel like the worst, most heartless person in the world to deliberately ignore a crying child. Your own crying child. But... I tried to help him fall asleep gently for a LONG time. I swear. I have never let him cry that long. I always assume after about fifteen minutes that he just plain isn't settling down and I go in and cuddle him some more. A few times I've tried laying down with him, but that doesn't seem to work unless it's the middle of the night and he's already BEEN asleep. So I just rock him and walk him and sing to him and pat him and sigh and try to convince him of how sleepy he really is.

Sometimes he is so hysterical he won't calm down until we remove him from his room altogether, back out to the living room to play on the floor for awhile or cuddle with us and watch TV. Often he just doesn't seem sleepy- he'll have seemed sleepy an hour earlier when we first began the process, but I guess all that screaming wakes him up. So he has to tire himself back out with toys before we can start the ni-night routine again. It tries the patience sorely, this up and down, back and forth business, when all you want is to be done for the night, and to kick back with a nice rerun and an Adult Beverage.

So tonight was the night I finally snapped. I did it, and now everyone in the house is quiet and sleeping. But... My baby cried himself to sleep. That hardly feels like a success.

19 comments:

Midlife Momentum said...

As I told you . . . you did the same thing at the same age. We weren't mean parents either, but we just finally had to let you cry, fuss, scream and "jump up and down in your crib" yourself to sleep for about 2 or 3 weeks and it finally got better. At least he is absolutely adorable and lovable during the rest of the day.

K in the Mirror said...

I personally think there's a difference between refusing to get up and check on them and just letting them cry because you don't want to get up, and then KNOWING they are fine and you've done everything you can do. We had a really hard time getting G to sleep for awhile too and her record is a lot longer than 30 minutes.

He knows you love him and he's not going to hold it against you. It's just learning a new boundary takes time. Hang in there.

Jill said...

Honestly, until I started reading blogs, and thus a lot of 'parenting' blogs, I had never even realized there were such things as "cry it out" or "attachment parenting" or whatever other techniques there are. My mom did in-home daycare when I was little, and I babysat when I was younger, and everyone I ever watched put a baby to bed basically did what you just explained: feed, change, rock, put to bed, let fall asleep on his own. Clearly, you would have been happier if he fell asleep all peaceful-like, but you know him and he was safe in his crib. Hopefully tonight he'll be less testy.

Erica said...

It seems like Eli knows that if he cries long enough, you'll come and get him and it'll be love time. He knows he may even get to leave his room and play. Who wouldn't rather do that than sleep? Me, but that's another story.

You've got some crappy nights ahead of you, but soon he'll realize that when you put him to bed he might as well go to sleep because that's all there is.

We had a rule for Maddie that once she was in her crib, she didn't come back out. (Barring an incident, of course.) She would cry and want out and we'd comfort her, but never pick her up. After a few days of this, she realized that we meant it and she's been a fantastic sleeper ever since.

At the time, it was sheer hell and I felt like the worst mother in the world, but now, I'm so glad I did it.

Fiona Picklebottom said...

Don't feel bad, we all have to do it at some point, or we might as well just pack a suitcase for the loony bin. No shoelaces, by the way.

Tessie said...

Oh, dude. I've said it before and I'll KEEP ON saying it: Sleep issues are the WORST. Absolutely the one thing that is way, way worse than I thought it would be, bar none.

I think you're doing great, and so are your kids.

jen said...

I am not a fan of crying it out either but you know what, you hit a limit. And I think once you get to that limit, the baby is old enough and it's okay. I did this with all 3 of my kids but I did it during the day for naps because somehow screaming to sleep in one's bed isn't so sad in the middle of the day. But you know what, it really only takes 2-3 days at most before they get the point. My heart broke with all 3 but the resulting ease of putting them to sleep makes up for it, especially when they are well rested and happier in general. But I only say that because they didn't scream for hours, plural, because I'm too soft. He'll probably only protest for 10-20 minutes next time.

d e v a n said...

Don't feel bad. 30 minutes DOES seem long when it's full of crying and screaming, but it's really NOT that long. ((hugs)) Sleep issues SUCK big time. Whatever works is our motto around here too.

RachelAnn said...

my poor little chubbers. give him a kiss for me.

Swistle said...

It's okay.

Valley Momma said...

This ought to brighten your day...

http://valleymomma.blogspot.com/2008/07/june-winners.html

Congrats!

Jenna said...

Oh girl. WE too were there at around the same age. As I see it, yes he is still a baby but he is not an INFANT where his every cry MUST be attended to. Sometimes crying is comforting, a release (okay it sounds like he was doing some screaming too). And I truly believe it does not hurt them AT THIS AGE to cry a bit to learn how to put themselves to sleep.

We did what Erica did. We told her (who knows what she understood but still it's good to communicate it I think) that once she was in the crib, that was it. No picking up, lots of comfort at the necessary intervals. IT SUCKED for two nights (the second was the worst BY FAR) and then it was blissfully easy. NO LIE.

Chin up, my dear. You are clearly a loving mother trying to do right by EVERYONE in your family. That includes you and your needs too.

Mimi said...

You're doing a great job, of course you are. I do think that if you keep being consistent, he will figure out how to put himself to sleep and everyone will be that much happier. Not getting enough sleep is the absolute worst.

Kelsey said...

You will all get through this and both kids will sleep (eventually).

With Harper we did a modified cry-it-out thing. I swear, for the first year of her life, the child could not sleep (not at naps or bedtime) without having a good scream first. At first it lasted a longer time, but eventually tapered down to about thirty seconds. It was like she just HAD to tell us what she thought of sleeping and then she would conk out. She honestly could not fall asleep without throwing a little fit first.

I think you will do what you need to do to get through things. We are having our own type of sleep issues with Michael right now and they better be resolved soon or Mama's going to go off the deep end.

Hang in there!

LoriD said...

Aw. We've all had to do it at some point. He'll be fine and so will you. :-)

Jess said...

We forget that babies are manipulative. He is crying because it gets a reaction from you, which is usually that you will go in and pick him up. Once he realizes that you mean business and you aren't playing that game anymore, he won't cry.

Babies are like dogs (that sounds so horrible) - they don't hold grudges. By the morning he has completely forgotten about the crying the night before. A happy mommy makes a happy baby and you seriously need a break!!!

Mommy Daisy said...

We went through the same thing with Zachariah. He was a good sleeper once he was down at night, but getting him to fall asleep at night was another story. When he was 9 months old, we were reaching our breaking point with trying to get him to sleep. Sounds very familiar.

We ended up doing the "cry it out" thing too. I hate the way it sounds...like torture, but it really wasn't so bad and didn't take long. We would lay him down, make sure he had everything to be comfy, say goodnight and leave the room. Then the crying would start, we'd go in after 5 minutes patt his back, lay him down, but never pick him up, tell him it's OK and time for sleep, then leave the room. The next time we'd do the same after 10 minutes, the the next after 15 minutes. YOu just extend the amount of time each time you go in, but you're still comforting them and letting them know it's OK to sleep alone. I liked that better than just letting him cry straight to sleep. It only took us 2 days to get the hang of this. Of course there were relapses, but we just did it all over again then. The first 2 nights were pure torture for me. I went to the farthest side of the house to get away from the crying, because my heart was BREAKING. But I knew that we had to do it for our sanity. Bedtime battles were just getting to be too much for the whole family.

I think you're a great mom. You're finding out that what worked for Addy isn't working for Eli, and that's OK. You'll find that A LOT as he gets older I'm sure. You can get through this, and don't feel bad about it. I felt horrible too, but in the end it was the best choice (and I know I'd do it again if/when necessary).

Congrats on winning the car seat cover. Sweet!

nonsoccermom said...

Thank you for posting this...I am at the breaking point myself and as much as I hate to do it, I think we are going to have to just let my daughter cry. She just doesn't seem to understand that nighttime is for sleeping, and she is getting big enough now to totally resist whenever she suspects I am trying to make her go to sleep. So rocking isn't even working so much anymore. Ugh. I guess what I'm saying is, I FEEL YOUR PAIN.

Annie said...

Oh boy. Sleep issues are the WORST. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.