Wednesday, December 7, 2011

So Proud ... But Seriously, Go To Sleep

At eight months old, John amazes his daddy and me on a daily basis with the new things he's learned. One week he'll be tentatively pulling up in his crib, and the next week he'll be confidently cruising everything he can pull up on. What were just random babbles are now purposeful attempts at words. He knows "Ma, Mama, or Mom-Mom" will get me, that "Dada" gets Daddy, "Bob" gets him his bottle, and "Das!" will get someone to turn on the radio for a dance party. He also knows that "Hi!" will get any old lady in a restaurant to smile at him.

But all this new stuff apparently comes at a price - sleep. It just seems like yesterday that we were basking in the glow of a good night's rest because our baby was sleeping through the night. From the hours of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., John could be counted on to saw logs with no disruption.

But I sit here writing this at 3:30 a.m. We've just gotten John to sleep for the fourth time tonight, and I'm wide, wide awake again.

This sleep disruption started slowly, insidiously. The last round of teething had him understandably uncomfortable. He'd wake up needing comfort, and to be honest, he's such a good snuggler that I didn't mind logging in another 20 minutes here or there in the rocking chair.

But then it started happening every night. And then he caught his first cold, and sleeping nearly upright in my arms seemed to keep him from coughing so hard - and now you get the picture.

And then you factor in the idea that this wonderful stretch of growth between 6 months and 9 months or so means a busy little brain that wants to practice those new skills all the time, and well, Mommy's sleep is suddenly disrupted by a precocious 8 month old standing in his crib, bouncing up and down and swaying, yelling, "Das! Das!" at 1 a.m.

So we've decided - after a particularly surly morning on my part where I was working on 3 hours sleep - that we had to get serious about helping John re-learn to soothe himself back to sleep at night. It's taking a lot of work, but our new rules (which are really the old ones that Mommy and Daddy foolishly cast aside) are this:

He gets his rocking at bedtime, as part of his routine. Over time, we'll probably phase this out in favor of another story, but right now, we'll pick one battle at a time.

When he wakes up, we go in only if he's crying. I know Crying It Out (or CIO) works for some, but in John's case, the one time we tried it he puked all over because he got so upset.  He also becomes a little Lord of the Flies after a few minutes of wailing, and it takes much, much longer to calm him down.  A couple minutes of fussing is one thing, but crying? We've yet to see the ROI on CIO.

If we do go in, he gets a hug, calmed down, and then gently laid back down in his crib and tucked back in. We stand next to the crib for a few minutes, rubbing his back, but then we leave once the eyelids start fluttering.

If we need repeats of this, we do it. But we shorten the duration of time we stay with him. We steadfastly refuse to cave and sit with him in that rocking chair. So far, eventually he does fall asleep. And I know eventually this will pay off in a baby that can (once again) sleep through the night.

How did you handle the developmental sleep disruptions that are so common? Any tips?

Bethany Erickson is the wife of Texas Health Resources web editor Tom Erickson and Mom to 8-month-old John.

1 comment:

  1. My only advice is to not let yourself go insane! But once they get over this that means your baby is not a baby anymore, and funny enough you will miss it!