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Her Story, Your Story, A Study in Sleep Training Part I

sleep training challenges

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This could have been you. Or me. I got this email a few days ago. This isn’t a success story (yet) but it really spoke to me. It so beautifully captures the highs (I AM EARTH MOTHER, HEAR ME ROAR!) and lows (I snapped and it all went horribly wrong and I’m soooo lost) of the first months of parenting. It’s also a great case study of how we diagnose our own sleep issues. And how small mistakes can turn into big problems. This is where she started and what happened. This is a story of cry it out.[/box]
I am so so sleep deprived and at the end of my tether, I feel like crying. It’s 4pm and I have been reading all the pages on your blog since 11am since morning, over and over trying to make a plan for tonight but my sleep deprived brain is making it so hard to concentrate, process information and formulate a plan. I am so scared about tonight and feel like I can’t do this without someone holding my hand and just telling me what to do.

Last night we attempted CIO and it was a disaster and I am so so dreading tonight I could cry.

How We Got Here

Abby is 7 months old today. She is utterly gorgeous and a much hoped for baby. I thought I would be a natural earth mother (Ha!) but I’m starting to hate it and feel like a zombie. I started off swallowing the whole attachment parenting thing wholesale – no pain relief birth, exclusive and on demand breastfeeding, co-sleeping, using sling rather than stroller etc. and I did all these things happily, they felt like second nature to me. I’m ashamed to say I judged other ‘lesser’ mothers who weren’t as ‘loving’ as me and thought CIO was beyond barbaric. I totally felt like she would naturally grow more independent like all the Dr. Sears crap says. I guess she will but not until she is 5 and I won’t last that long.

The most ‘damaging’ thing I’ve done is feeding to sleep every night and rocking for every nap. And the second (or equally worst thing?!) is having no routine whatsoever. She ate when she ate, she slept when she slept. I honestly wouldn’t change it for the newborn months but now I can see that I have made a rod for my own back and she will not grow out of this without me making changes.

The Problem(s)

So you know where this is headed – she doesn’t have consistent nap routines/times and I rock her to sleep whenever I notice she is eyerubbing/yawning etc. This means she has regularly gone 5-6 hours without a nap since birth. I truly thought babies just went to sleep when they were tired so she didn’t need a nap routine. I recently read the ’90 minute baby sleep solution’ and I noticed that every 90 minutes she does have a lull that I can rock her to sleep more easily than other times.

She has no bedtime routine, just fed to sleep when I went up to bed (about 9ish) it took about an hour sometimes but I loved that closeness and it was easy. She co-slept with me and my husband slept in spare room. I MISS HIM!

And now she takes hours to get to bed at night. I try from 9pm onwards and she never ‘gives in’ until 11pm-12am. And then she wakes every 45/60/90 minutes in the night and until now I just unquestionably roll over and feed her endlessly.

Things I Tried to Fix This

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  • Last week I started getting her to sleep every 90 minutes/180 minutes by rocking in stroller (I just went and bought one. I gave up this weekend when it didn’t magically translate into her sleeping through the night (what did I expect?!)
  • Installing a bedtime routine – but I got bored, didn’t stick with it, changed it up, used timed music etc… it was useless.
  • I started to realize that apart from just tackling the a) overtiredness, b) routine I had to really work hard to remove the feed to sleep thing. I knew I had to use CIO and spent ages researching but ultimately putting it off because I was sure she’d just scream and scream and it would never work.

Yesterday afternoon I just lost it and decided to use CIO for an afternoon nap. I intended to check every 10 minutes but after 9 minutes she was fast asleep! I WAS ELATED!

Last night we did bedtime routine (bath, massage, all with music playing, cuddle and sway then down in cot) at 7, she was in cot by 7.30. She cried obviously but was asleep with 7 minutes!! Unbridled joy!!! My husband and I opened a beer and had our first adult 1:1 time since last June when Abby was born. We were so excited, CIO is SOOOO easy! She CAN fall asleep WITHOUT THE BOOB!!!!

BUT.. half hour later she woke up crying, we left her to murmur and she was asleep again within a few minutes.. but then half an hour after that she started again…

We started checking every 10 minutes but it didn’t seem to help so we stopped. After all, when she fell asleep before we hadn’t checked. Now, I am thoroughly ashamed to say that we just left her thinking it would stop. It didn’t. I left my baby crying alone from 9pm – 12.00am! What an evil bitch I am! I was so beside myself. I gave in.. took her into bed with me, fed her but then put her down in the bed next to me and she fell asleep by herself, ten minutes after the feed.. so maybe there was some progress? Until yesterday she had NEVER fallen asleep by herself since she was born, now she has done it 3 times in one day?!! She woke at 4am and 6am (which is good for her) and i fed her again because i was so beyond tired i just wanted to feed her and fall back asleep.

Gah. I said I would keep this short and sweet and it is anything but. Basically, thank you so much for your blog, it is amazing and has helped me to come to these conclusions:
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  • She completely associates boob with sleep.
  • I need to let her cry it out. But not until i have 1) naps and bedtime routine 2) made sure she has adequate naps.

My question I guess is how does this all sound to you?

Another question — should I have gone to her at 9pm? Only today after reading your blog do I realize CIO is for the first getting to sleep at bedtime period.. after that it’s night weaning you’re doing and CIO is no good for that process with a hungry baby who is used to boob on tap.

I am so sorry for waffling, I am at the end of my tether and my brain is not working properly. I am not usually so rambly and incoherent. It may make you laugh to learn that in my day job (which I am starting back at in 4 months, something that fills me with utter dread) I am training to be a psychologist and I had wanted to specialize in child psychology. Now I’m not so sure! All I’m sure of is that I’m so completely tired I just can’t go on like this!

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Feels achingly familiar doesn’t it? Did anything in her story resonate with you? Any guesses why things went awry when she tried to sleep train? Curious to know how things turned out for this family?