Since Thursday, when Henry and I visited the doctor again to make absolutely sure we could rule out ear infections or any number of other issues, we’ve been working on a new sleep routine and trying to get H to feel comfortable falling asleep in his crib. For nights before that, we were repeating the same process for hours on end: feed him, rock him, watch him fall asleep, move him gently/gingerly/quietly/ohsocarefully over to his crib, hold your breath while laying him down as s.l.o.w.l.y. as possible, and then wait for it. It. The horrible, terrible, no good, very bad scream. Turns out Henry just couldn’t (and still can’t, really) bear to be without momma or daddy while sleeping. Yikes. It’s a slippery slope, my friends.
So our doctor (who I’m feeling so confident about already after a few short months) suggested an exception to his otherwise steadfast four-months-old-before-they-cry-it-out rule, and recommended Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, by sleep expert and pediatrician, Dr. Richard Ferber. The concept (and all of its myths, controversies, truths and suggestions) are summarized well by Babycenter.com if you’re interested. You can read the article here.
The basic gist is that we carry out Henry’s bedtime routine each night in the same way and then lay him down to sleep when he is tired, but not yet snoozing. Then we let him find sleep on his own, and that way, he gets used to going to bed in the surroundings of his crib and nursery. Until now, Henry has been so accustomed to sleeping on Jason or me because that’s where he’d fall asleep at night before we put him down. At any point when he’d wake up in his crib (usually right away), he couldn’t locate either one of us and the panic would ensue. Not such a great scenario for us going forward if we hope to have lives and a little time as adults and some semblance of normal for the next few years, right? Sooooo, once we put him down, we wait until he fusses. And we give him five minutes before going in to soothe him for the first time. When we do that, we don’t pick him up out of the crib, despite the horrible and desperate faces he might make in the process. We rub his tummy, tell him we love him, cuddle his face a little and say goodnight–and we’re back out of the room in two minutes or less. Each time he fusses, we extend the amount of time between visits to the nursery…eight minutes, ten minutes, twelve minutes and so on. Since we started this last week, we’ve only had to get to the twelve minute mark once or twice.
This progressive waiting technique seems to be working, and although it’s terribly hard not to feel like the worst parent in the world while Henry cries, I have total hope in the process because of the progress we’re already making. We haven’t applied this strategy to daytime naps yet, but we’re likely to once the nights are sorted out. By nature of Henry’s age and our desire as parents to make sure he feels safe, secure and loved as much as possible, we’re not ready to enforce this new habit at all hours of the day. Dr. Ferber’s method suggests that there’s room for some flexibility here, so we’re sussing it out as we go and seeing what works for our family. So far (minus the anxiety that builds up as Henry wails), so good. I’m having to take a lot more deep breaths at night and trying to be rational about it all, but hey–he’s still my little peanut and it’s hard, hard stuff.
So there you have it. Progressive waiting. Not exactly the “cry it out” method, but some version of it. As I observe Henry stretching his nights out little by little, I’m feeling encouraged that we’ll get there…even if this feels like the hardest thing right now. We love our little bug, and this seems like it could be the best thing for all of us in the long run. I’ll be sure to update how we feel about it in a week or two, and to share how the little guy is doing with his new routine.
heading to bed soon myself because, well, I can!