Without sleep, life is hell. Over the weekend we heard from at least two families that were wrestling with sleep training, feeling the tremendous pain of a crying baby, and not getting any sleep themselves. If you are in the midst of this or have ever been in it, this Hotline is for you: a place to ask questions, tell your story and help one another out.
Because when YOU'RE not sleeping because your INFANT is not sleeping through the night, it doesn't matter how cute your crib bumper or how slick your baby bouncer is, your daily life can become a mess. We know. We just went through it. Here's our story...
For about four months we didn't sleep a solid night through and often made do with only four full hours. The morning was always fine as we looked into Ursula's beautiful face and thought only good thoughts, but as the day wore on and the tiredness seeped in, cracks emerged in both of our psyches resulting in tears, wild emotional swings and a dreaded sense of "this is how it is" which led to a lack of proactive problem solving.
And it's different for men and women. The differing emotional responses drove us very far apart at times, as we simply had to deal with the other's bad "trip".
And when we went to the doctor to seek help, his advice was like cold water. Without empathy or any understanding of what a fragile state we were both in, he simply said we should put her to bed, close the door and let her CRY IT OUT. It would only take three days, he said. He also said that if we didn't do this it could go on for over a year and we would come crawling back to him full of resentment towards our situation and then do it. We left mad and determined never to see him again (we'd see the other doctors at the practice).
Cry it out.
Cry it out.
Cry it out.
Three words that have as much emotional intelligence as "Nuke it." Everytime we heard these words, deep resistance set in. We didn't want to do something so harsh to our child.
So we went to work. We bought books. We read. We asked questions, or rather Sara Kate went on Urban Baby and asked the questions.
Here are the books we went through:
The main thing we learned was that they were all aiming for the same thing either faster or slower: setting up really regular sleep times and not being afraid of letting your child cry somewhat as it got used to soothing itself to sleep without our aid.
The interesting part is the "self soothing" part. Whereas we had always stepped in whenever our baby cried or woke up, and soothed her ourselves, infants can learn to soothe themselves if left to their own devices. But you need to leave them alone to do this. They need to learn.
After all the reading and study, we settled on Ferber as the most sensible of the lot. Advocating a middle path, which mixed regular check-ins with crying it out, Ferber combined a clear, firm structure with a loving understanding of both the parents and the children's emotional needs.
With book in hand we set a date to go to "sleep camp" as we called it, which meant heading out to our family house in Springs for a five day stint. This was necessary in our minds, because our apartment in the city didn't afford us enough space to give her a separate room and we worried that the crying might have our neighbors throwing bottles at us.
To make a long story short, we followed the Ferber instructions and miraculously found that Ursula fell asleep and STAYED asleep for an entire night on night 2. Not having had a complete night of sleep in a long time ourselves, this came as somewhat of a shock, and we both woke up a number of times and thought that Ursula had strangled herself, because it was just TOO quiet.
Now, for the past month, life has totally changed. With loving checking in, but firm resolve not to pick up, feed or otherwise soothe Ursula, she has settled into an amazing regular sleep rhythm, and we have our lives back. Everyone in our house is happier, and the old optimism and fun spirit of being a couple with a child has returned.
We can now put her down at 8pm, have the rest of the evening to ourselves (we've even had a dinner party for 4 during this time), and expect a full nights sleep. Sure, she does on occasion wake up and cry at night, but never for more than a few minutes before it peters out and she falls back asleep. And more importantly, Ursula is happier and more rested than she ever was in the months preceding sleep camp.
We now date our lives as BSC (before sleep camp) and ASC (after sleep camp).
What's your story?