After a year of wake-ups throughout the night, I thought my son finally got the sleeping thing down. For over six months I’ve enjoyed a fairly consistent night of good sleep. Any sleep deprivation has become my own fault. The only time I had to deal with his restlessness was when we slept away from home. But in his crib? He turned into a great sleeper.
I’m not sure what has changed – I suppose it’s some sort of sleep regression. It started with his figuring out how to get out of his crib. One night we were coming home from a wake. As usual, LM had fallen asleep on the car ride home (we made sure to change him into his pajamas before leaving). Normally, Foggy Daddy is able to transfer LM from the car to his crib without a problem – but on this night, he decided to wake up. We were exhausted and hungry, so as he cried we sat down to eat our Indian take-out, waiting to see if he’d settle down on his own. All of a sudden, I heard little footsteps upstairs. “Did he get out of his crib?” I exclaimed, running to the stairs. The gate at the top had been left open, and there LM stood. He startled when he saw me. “No! Don’t move!” I screamed as I raced up, embracing him in my arms as we both cried.
After that, we made sure to keep the gate closed whenever he was upstairs, and also installed a gate across his bedroom door (His door squeaks so we leave it open. Yes, maybe we should just take some WD-40 to the hinges. Talk to FD.) But I still wasn’t sure what to do about his climbing out. Crib tents are dangerous, I was warned. I believed he was too young for a toddler bed. Someone suggested sleep sacks, and miraculously they prevented him from being able to lift his leg high enough to get out. I did have some fear that he would end up toppling out head-first, but so far so good. Problem solved, I thought.
He continued to sleep OK until a couple of weeks ago. All of a sudden, his normal wake-up time of 7:30 became 6 am. This was really tough for me. I’m not a morning person. At all. And I couldn’t figure out what was going on – it’s not like his naps got longer, so he was just getting less sleep. I started to worry what this might mean for his development.
Then, the past three nights he has woken up, inconsolable, in the middle of the night. We had been slacking on using the sleep sacks because he didn’t seem to need them – yes, he could get out, but that was only in the morning. He seemed an expert at it, and there is a throw rug on top of wall-to-wall carpeting in front of his crib, so I thought he’d be sufficiently padded should he land on his bum. But when he started waking up in the middle of the night, getting out of his crib necessitated one of us going to him, since obviously he can’t cry it out on the floor. This resulted in very broken nights’ sleep for all of us, and a return to extreme fogginess for me.
Last night I put the sleep sack back on. He woke up again around 1 am, but this time couldn’t get out. I watched on the monitor as he struggled, prepared to sprint to his room should he take a header. He cried for 20 minutes, but just as I was about to go and get him, he suddenly turned around and went back to sleep. He slept the rest of the night – although he still got up at 6 am.
So, there are a few different things going on here: Climbing out of his crib, waking up in the night and getting up early. I have no idea if they are all connected or what to do about it. I had thought I had paid my sleep deprivation dues during his first year, but it appears the sleep gods don’t work that way.
Should I put him in a toddler bed? Should I put him to bed earlier (supposedly this actually leads to sleeping later)? Should I just continue the sleep sacks and ride it out, hoping he’ll go back to normal? Why have his sleep patterns changed in the first place?
If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them! Foggy Mommy is foggy once again!
When this article about how to get your eight-week-old to sleep through the night appeared on The New York Times‘ parenting blog, the controversy around it didn’t surprise me. “Cry it out” is one of the most hotly debated topics among parents, and the idea of sleep training at eight weeks may seem barbaric even to those who Ferberized later on. But after the article showed up several times in my Facebook newsfeed, what did surprise me was that the condemnation of the practice by my online friends went so far as to label it child abuse.
I am certainly not advocating or condoning sleep training at eight weeks. Yes, I did sleep train my son, but the idea was so repulsive to me that I waited until he was almost a year old. Prior to that, I responded to his every call, nursing him multiple times throughout the night. Eventually, though, I just couldn’t take it anymore. Sleep training was a last resort.
But in my discussions with other moms about early sleep training, I found myself on the defensive. Not because I agreed with it, but because I was hesitant to call it neglect or abuse. “To leave a helpless infant locked in a room for 12 hours sitting in their own urine and feces? I’d call that neglect,” one mom wrote in our online debate. But my son, who currently sleeps through the night, does just this – I certainly am not going to wake him up to change his diaper, and we have a gate at his door so he can’t escape.
To the poster’s point, though, my son is not in distress. Is the defining factor of neglect whether or not the child is crying? Even then, where is the line drawn? Again, let me be clear, I think it is horrible to let a newborn wail for five hours, as one of the parents in the article did. But is one hour OK? Half an hour? Ten minutes?
As I said in another recent post, I am not in favor of the authorities becoming involved in parenting decisions. How are the police to know if a child is crying because he is locked in a room alone, or because he has colic and no amount of soothing by their parents can calm him? How much time can pass until “concerned” neighbors feel it is their duty to report the parents of a crying child?
And if it is criminal to sleep train an eight-week-old, when does it become OK – at three months? Four? Six? Are lawmakers going to be the ones to tell parents when it’s allowed, not their doctors? Even if the American Academy of Pediatrics issues a recommendation, every child and parent deserves individual care from their pediatrician, and those decisions shouldn’t be questioned by those in lawmaking who have no background in child development.
I do find that this entire argument begs the question of what parent would feel the need to sleep train an eight-week-old. Well, in the United States short-term disability payments run out six weeks postpartum for a vaginal birth and eight weeks postpartum for a C-section. Many moms cannot afford the extra leave that the federal government provides because it is unpaid. And in order to function at work, and to drive there and home safely (driving while tired is just as dangerous as driving drunk), parents need sleep. This does not make them horrible people – it makes them human.
Maybe if our government stepped up and realized that we need paid maternity/paternity leave, maybe if we had more support for new mothers, especially when trying to breastfeed (because most breastfed newborns need to nurse throughout the night), we wouldn’t feel the rush to get them to sleep through the night. Sleep training an eight-week-old goes against what is natural. But for desperate parents, it may be the only choice they can see. Let’s not criminalize them for it.
What do you think about sleep training? At what age is it OK? Should it ever be considered abuse?
Last night a familiar cry woke me from a dead sleep at 1:45 am. LM was up. I watched the video monitor to see if he could settle himself. He almost went back to sleep a few times, but didn’t. Eventually he was standing, pulling himself up on the crib rail and doing some kind of baby pull-ups that left his feet off the mattress and me worried he would somehow be able to launch himself out.
I looked over at my husband. He stirred but didn’t wake up. “I don’t know what to do,” I said. “Should I go get him?” No response.
It was up to me. Because my husband goes to work, it’s my responsibility to attend to LM during the night. That and the fact that I’m the one with the boobs, which is often the only thing that will get LM back to sleep.
I went to LM’s room and realized he did have a reason to cry: a poopy diaper. I changed it and nursed him, but he still did not want to go back down in his crib. I said goodnight anyway and left the room. After five minutes of crying, he was back to sleep.
I never thought I would be the kind of mom to endorse CIO (“cry it out”). I read the debates online – and there are plenty of them, because sleep is one of those inevitable mommy wars topics. “It’s cruel and selfish to let your baby cry,” the anti-CIO crowd said. “I could never stand to listen to the sound of my baby in distress. I just deal with being tired the next day.”
That all sounded great, until I was faced with a baby who just wouldn’t sleep. As a young infant he woke frequently to nurse, which I knew was normal. I thought he’d eventually start sleeping longer stretches naturally. But…he didn’t. And I didn’t know what I was going to do once I was back at work, because there was no way I could function on so little sleep. I was also very worried about staying awake for my 45-minute drive to work.
Then I got laid-off, so work was suddenly a non-issue. I continued to answer LM’s cries several times throughout the night. I would go to his room, sit in the glider and nurse him back to sleep. The iPad and I became very good friends. Frasier, Friends, Seinfeld and all manner of nineties sitcoms and I got reacquainted – they were the only shows I could watch (with ear buds in) that were both mindless enough yet entertaining enough to keep me occupied and awake.
But by ten months I couldn’t take it anymore. I was a zombie (actually a mombie), and even though I wasn’t working I still found it difficult to function at home alone with LM. A couple of times I fell asleep on the floor while he played next to me. I was useless at doing any housework. I wanted to start blogging but I had no energy. I was a shell of my former self.
Then to make matters even worse, LM started resisting being put back in his crib after I nursed him back to sleep. No matter how slowly or gently I tried to do it, he could sense the feeling of being put down and was not having it. (Yes, I know you’re supposed to do the whole drowsy-but-awake thing, but did whoever came up with that actually know any babies? It certainly did not work with mine.)
I was at my breaking point. I either needed to embrace bed-sharing or do some kind of sleep training. I had slept with LM in the bed before – it was sleep but not good sleep, as he would constantly want to nurse. My husband didn’t want him in bed with us on a permanent basis, and I was worried that later we would have a hard time transitioning him out of our bed and into his own. So we decided against it.
Searching for advice, I read The Baby Whisperer. The author condescendingly describes how we get into “accidental parenting,” which is the easiest tactic at the moment but not a good long-term solution. She claims that if we let babies CIO we break the bonds of trust with them. Her “no-cry” method consists of picking the baby up every time he cries, and then putting him down as soon as he is calm. She says to do this for however long it takes until the baby is asleep.
Yeah, well, “no-cry” my ass! The first and only night I tried this, LM wailed every time I tried to put him down. After an hour, I couldn’t take it anymore and left the room. He continued to cry, but then was asleep after a few minutes.
So I kind of fell into CIO. I didn’t follow Ferber or any other kind of method. I still rocked and nursed him to sleep, and would still go in when he woke up crying. But if he wouldn’t let me put him back down, he got a kiss and a goodnight and that was it.
It worked. The longest he cried was 20 minutes, and after a few days it was only a few minutes. Soon, he started sleeping longer stretches, and eventually slept all night. I don’t know if that’s because we let him cry, or if it was finally just time for him to reach that milestone on his own.
Yes, it was tough, but I didn’t know what else to do. I could not hold him all night. I needed sleep to be a good mom.
Have I scarred LM for life? Have I broken the bonds of trust with him? Is his sleeping through the night not so much “self-soothing” as it is an acceptance that I’ve abandoned him? I don’t know. All I know is that he’s sleeping, I’m sleeping and we’re both happier for it.
He does still occasionally wake up, like last night, and then I have the conundrum of what to do. So I let him cry for a little, and if he’s still upset I go in, make sure there’s not something wrong (too hot or cold, is sick, has a dirty diaper, etc) and try to get him back to sleep. If there isn’t and he still won’t go back to sleep, he’s on his own.
That probably sounds callous and cruel. But the effects of long-term sleep deprivation are no joke – I was seriously about to start hallucinating. Now, I am finally starting to feel like human being again. But I still sometimes miss our middle of the night cuddles.
Do you think I’m a horrible mom for letting my son cry? How have you solved sleep issues with your baby?