December 10, 2007

Sleep in heavenly peace . . .

In the last 6 months, I've learned that there are a lot of hot topics when it comes to raising children . . . breastfeeding, where your child sleeps, when to start solid foods, etc. How you teach your child to sleep through the night is also one of those.

In his early months, Jack had no trouble sleeping. We'd put him down awake and he'd drift off to sleep with no problems. I thought Kyle and I got off easy. We were wrong. A month ago or so this ended. We had to rock him to sleep to get him to bed for naps or for the night. I really didn't mind much. I would guess that in a few years I'll miss being able to do this.

A few weeks ago, it got a lot more difficult. He fought sleep at all costs. We'd start to rock him and he'd arch his back and do everything he could to avoid falling asleep. He wasn't fussy or unhappy. He was tired, but it was a little like he was afraid he'd miss something if he went to sleep. It got really old.

DISCLAIMER: If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I've read every baby book there is out there . . . every baby sleep book, breastfeeding book, baby care book, etc. What I've learned is that what "works" for some parents does not work for others and it's up to parents to decide what that is for their child. I really don't think there is any one "sleep system" that is better or worse than another. All I know is what works for us and feels comfortable to us. I knew right from the start that Babywise and Dr. Ferber were not for us. I know people who love those systems and I know people who have had tremendous success with them and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. I don't think they're bad, I just knew that it wasn't our style.

However, I was so frustrated with the sleep battle. So, contrary to everything we felt comfortable with, we decided we'd try to let him cry it out. We didn't get very far.

The first night, he let him cry 10 minutes and then went back in to calm him by standing there and talking to him and then leaving. There was no comforting him. I left about a minute later and he was crying harder. About 20 minutes in, he was gagging because he had been crying so hard and was gasping for air. I went in and picked him up. It took more than an hour to calm him down.

The next night we made it about 10 minutes before he started choking and gagging.

The following days, Jack was clinging and fussy. He was not at all like himself and I couldn't help but think that it was because of the two traumatic nights we had before. During the days following those nights, he'd start to get a look of panic every time we walked into his bedroom and would wrap his arms tightly around our necks when we'd even step foot near his crib. It took us about two weeks to earn back his trust. He still has a little bit of trouble going down at night, but he's happier and more independent during the day. I know some would say that we didn't try it long enough, but I no longer have interest in trying it anymore. And it takes us a lot less time to get him down to bed now then it did to put him down, let him cry and then spend a couple of hours calming him down.

Like I said, I know that "crying it out" works for a lot of people and I'm so glad for parents who have success with it. I think the moral of my story is to not ignore your parental instincts about what is right for your child. I wish I hadn't.


Xander said...

Oh Sara - this was THE SINGLE HARDEST issue I have faced to date with Alex. I totally empathize with your whole story; mine was the same (except that I let him cry for an HOUR the first night before I ditched "cry it out" - i'm surprised he hasn't run away from home yet). Hang in there...

Not Afraid to Use It said...

Oh hon! What a hard thing to go through. We have had such terrible sleep issues with our kids, too. LittleMan is now 15 months, and we were happy to co-sleep with him--until he decided that co-sleeping was not for him. He would wake up every night and pinch our faces, pull my hair and bounce around like a crazy man. It was awful, and if we tried to get him near his crib he would scream his head off. We have finally gotten things worked out here. Just keep faith that you know your baby, and if you listen to what is right in your heart it will all work out fine in the end. Hugs.