Friday, August 19, 2011

Infant Sleep Training

As you may recall, I have been on the brink of insanity for months now.  Being a sleep deprived mother has truly taken a toll on me.

Over the past few months, one thing has remained a constant.  Everyone I know has been recommending the same book for me to use as my survival guide...

Seriously!   Preschool moms, gymnastic moms, my own mother, my cousin, a friend from high school, a sorority sister... all spread out across the world, coming together, united in their allegiance to Dr. Marc Weissbluth.

I borrowed a copy from a friend, and started reading it while we were on vacation.  I opened it up to a random page, and was instantly struck by the words that I read...
"WARNING!  Sleep problems in children may cause maternal depression."
Having battled with clinical depression in my life before, I knew that I was very quickly heading in this direction again.  I also knew that it was purely situational, based completely on my lack of sleep.  But I began to worry that if I didn't regain control of the situation, I would end up back on the meds again.

We had been home from vacation a little over 2 weeks when the opportunity presented itself to give sleep training a try.

It was August 1, and we were ready for bed.  Reagan was already asleep in her own bedroom, and Ryan and I were getting ready to settle into bed WITH Myers, as this sleep habit has continued since it started while we are on vacation.  We had only been in bed for a couple of minutes when I heard Reagan's bedroom door open, and then I saw/heard her come running down the hallway to our bedroom in tears from a nightmare.

Can you say FAMILY BED?!

Yes, we have a King sized bed that can accommodate all 4 members of our family.  But can all 4 members of our family get a good night sleep this way?

Ummmmmm, NO!

I encouraged Ryan to go sleep in the guest bedroom so that at least one of us would get a good night's rest.  He is, after all, the one that gets up at 4:20 every morning to go to work.  I may be a zombie all day, every day, from my lack of sleep, but at least I get to be a zombie in the comfort of my own home.  And I can choose to just stay in my pyjamas all day and forget to brush my hair or teeth without anyone else ever knowing that it happened!  Ryan has a crew of guys that he is responsible for, so he needs to be as awake and alert as possible!

Ryan moved to the guest bedroom;  Reagan, Myers and I tried to fall asleep. But Myers was being his normal non-sleeping, cranky baby self.  Reagan then started to complain that she couldn't sleep because her brother was keeping her awake.  I told her to go back to her own room so that she could sleep in peace.  She refused because she was scared that she was going to have another nightmare.

This is the point that I decided I needed to take action.  I was already at my wits ends, and I now had TWO children in my bed that seemed incapable of sleeping on their own...

Option One... Wake up Ryan and convince him to quickly put me out of my misery.  Only problem, we don't have a gun.
Option Two... Figure out a way to sneak quietly out of the house on my own, and then go check into a hotel under an alias.  VERY tempting, but not completely realistic.  Who would be home to listen to the children cry once Ryan was at work?
Option Three... Put Myers in his crib, put Reagan in her bed, and put in some ear plugs!  DONE!

I told Reagan that I was going to go to the nursery to feed her brother and that I was going to put him to bed in his crib.  I then told her that she could rest in my bed and try to fall asleep until I came back, but that I would take her to her own bed and help her fall asleep in her own room once I had Myers settled down.

I took a pair of ear plugs to Ryan in the guest bedroom and filled him in on what was getting ready to go down.  I gave him strict instructions that NO MATTER WHAT, he was not to enter the nursery at any point during the night!

Yep, I was going cold-turkey for extinction.  Extinction is Dr. Weissbluth's method of allowing the child to cry indefinitely at bedtime and for up to an hour at nap time.

I let Myers nurse until he was done, and then I put him in his crib.

And then I walked out of the room.

During the time that I was nursing Myers, Reagan had fallen completely asleep in my and Ryan's bed.  Since she only ends up in our bed about once a month, I decided to just let her stay there.  Plus, by not moving her back to her own room, I was able to shut our bedroom door completely, thus further muffling the sounds of the screaming that was coming from the nursery.  (Ryan and I normally sleep with our bedroom door open so that we can hear Reagan if she gets up since she has been known to sleep walk a time or two!)

I watched the baby monitor intently as the screaming continued for 8 minutes. He wasn't moving around or making a big commotion in his crib... he was just laying there, screaming his head off.

And then, just like that, after only 8 minutes, he stopped crying and went to sleep.


Why in the world hadn't I tried this sooner?  I still didn't get much more than a wink of sleep throughout the night as I kept waiting to hear him cry, and I would still wake up every 30 minutes or so to look over at the screen on the baby monitor.  But each and every time that I would look, all I saw was a peacefully sleeping baby.

The next night of sleep training wasn't much different than the first.  I nursed Myers, put him in his crib, and walked out the room.  After 20 minutes of crying, he gave up the fight and then proceeded to sleep for ELEVEN HOURS!

It has now been 18 nights since our first night of uninterrupted sleep.  No, all of the last 18 nights have not gone as smoothly as the first two.  By the fifth night, Myers had figured out that his cuddle partner had left him and that the "all night boob buffet" had closed it's kitchen door.  We went through several nights of having to listen to him scream for over an hour, but we stuck to the plan.  I'm willing now to say that we have successfully completed sleep training, and we are ALL much happier because of it.  I still get up once a night, usually around the same time that Ryan is getting up to go to work, to nurse Myers.  But he then goes right back to sleep and sleeps until 6:30.  He is actually even napping on regular basis, and that had also never happened before!

Our current schedule looks something like this:
6:30 am - Wake up
9:00 am - Morning Nap
10:30 am - Awake from nap
12:30 pm - Afternoon nap
2:30 pm - Awake from nap
6:00 pm - Bedtime
That schedule is working very well so far!  I'm sure we will have the occasional hiccup... like I said, Reagan is five and she still ends up in our bed about once a month.  But I have to tell you, it is a very very good feeling to know that the months and months of hellish nights are officially over!

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Sleep deprivation is the worst! So happy to hear you found a plan that is working for you:)
Wishing you lots of restful nights!