my friend richard, sleep training and taking away the pacifier

(those of y'all not interested in baby stuff will probably want to skip this post entirely, hahahaha!)

I've made a new friend named Richard.  Richard Ferber.  Dr. Richard Ferber that is.

Now, I know I'm taking a risk by talking about Dr. Ferber.  It seems like nothing polarizes moms quite like a mom's decision to let their baby cry-it-out.  Well, here goes nothing!

See, the way I'd heard people talk about "the ferber method" made it sound like they just left their kid in their room to just cry for hours and hours, without ever checking on them, until they fell asleep exhausted.  It sounded a little extreme to me.  We've been having so much trouble getting Elliot to sleep-through-the-night and a lot of my girl friends were telling me to "just let her cry."  I figured that I'd read Dr. Ferber's book and check him, and his methods, out for myself (because I'm probably the most skeptical person you'll ever meet---I don't take anything at face value!)  

Here's the thing---Richard ain't so extreme after all!

We initially "sleep trained" Elliot when she was around 3 months old.  It was a modified version of the Ferber method and was suggested to us by our pediatrician.  We'd have a normal night-time routine (bath, eat, pajamas) and watch for signs that Elliot was ready for bed (rubbing her eyes, fussy, etc).  The goal was to put her in her crib semi-sleepy (eyes at "half mast") and train her to fall asleep on her own.  We were to let her cry for 5 minutes, go in and settle her for 1-2 minutes, let her cry for 5 more minutes and repeat the routine for up to 30 minutes.  If Elliot was still crying at 30 minutes, we were to do whatever it took to get her eyes back to "half mast", we could pick her up, rock her, sing and even feed her if we needed to.  The training went really well, and in about 10 days we had a routine where Elliot would fall asleep on her own.  I considered it a successful routine because we weren't rocking her to sleep, nursing her to sleep, driving her around in the car or anything that was a parent-dependent sleep prop.

The problem?  Giving her a pacifier to fall asleep.

After reading Dr. Ferber's book, I realized that it was most likely letting Elliot use a pacifier may have been our biggest problem in getting her to sleep through the night.  Yes, the pacifier was our greatest friend in getting her to calm down and get to sleep.  But the problem was nearly the same every night: Elliot would wake up around 1am or 2am, need her pacifier, go right back to sleep, wake up around 4am or so and need her pacifier again.  Sometimes we'd get a night where she might sleep until 6am-ish, but it was anything but consistent.

Our pediatrician-advised method worked really well on Elliot then, so when we started having problems with her sleeping again, I thought we'd take a similar approach.  I read Dr. Ferber's book and evaluated his suggestions for myself .  The book was pretty helpful (and not at all as militant as I'd heard) and his approach seemed pretty similar to our pediatrician's, so I figured we'd give it a try.  Josh skimmed over the chapters on sleep training, self-soothing and pacifier use and we agreed to give the process one week.  We were both encouraged by the fact that Dr Ferber claimed that weaning from the pacifier was one of the easiest sleep-prop habits to break!

We ditched the pacifier and went cold-turkey on Sunday night.  Here's how our results on how long it took elliot to fall asleep and what time she woke up in the morning:
Sunday Night: 1 hour 40 minutes---slept until 5:50am
Monday Night: 16 minutes----slept until 6:10am
Tuesday Night: 38 minutes---awake at 1am, took 30 minutes to settle----slept until 6:50am
Wednesday Night: 13 minutes---slept until 6:20am
Thursday Night: 34 minutes---slept until 6:30am
Friday Night: 12 minutes---slept until we woke her at 6am (leaving for the race)
Saturday Night: 5 minutes---slept until 6:30am
Sunday Night: asleep immediately, with no crying!!

I couldn't believe that elliot was able to sleep so well during the night!  And, she woke so happy in the morning.  Most days she woke up "talking" in her room.  So much cuter than a crying baby at 2am ;)

Dr Ferber encouraged us to focus on Elliot's night time sleep and that her naps would fall into place after her night time sleep was set.  Our goal is a 60-90 minute morning and afternoon nap with a 30-45 minute cat-nap before dinner.  Here were our nap results:
Monday: no morning nap, 35 min afternoon nap, 45 min pre-dinner nap
Tuesday: 45 min morning nap, 35 min afternoon nap, 45 min pre-dinner nap
Wednesday: no morning nap, 31 minute + 55 minute afternoon nap, 40 min pre-dinner nap
Thursday: 38 minute morning nap, 1 hour 15 minute afternoon nap, 40 minute pre-dinner nap
Friday: 45 minute morning nap, 40 minute afternoon nap, 35 minute pre-dinner nap
Saturday: 20 minute morning nap (during race) + 30 minute morning nap, 40 minute afternoon nap, 45 minute pre-dinner nap
Sunday: 40 minute morning nap, 35 minute afternoon nap, no pre-dinner nap

As you can see, our naps are not great yet.  Elliot has definitely needing more attention during the day, but I'm totally ok with that.  I'm fortunate enough to have a job where I can have Elliot sitting close to me or even in my lap.  The extra cuddles she's needed this week are fine me be!  Elliot is doing so well at night that I'm sure the nap-time stuff will work its self out.  And who knows, Elliot may just be a 45 minute napping baby!

My tips, suggestions, rants, ravings, or whatever:
1) use a stopwatch or timer. its amazing how hearing your baby cry can sound like 40 minutes when its really only been 7 minutes!
2) keep a written record. it'll help you see if your baby is progressing in one area over another.
3) pick a time you can work with.  we'd already let elliot cry for 5 minutes at a time, so we started on the "day 2" suggested allotments, instead of the smaller increments of time suggested in the "day 1" routine.  dr ferber also suggests that you could start with smaller increments of time if you need to.
4) give it a couple of days.  josh was ready to throw the towel in after the first night, but we both saw the improvements and were ready for a few more days.
5) its all like shoots and ladders.   my sister lauren said that parenting is a lot like shoots and ladders, and she's right!  just as soon as you think you're doing right, something else is going to fall to pieces---but its ok! we're in this thing for the long haul, so we have to remember that Elliot is going to sleep well----and as soon as she starts sleeping well regularly, she's going to have a rough night (or several rough nights!)

elliot asleep at work
without a pacifier!


Anonymous said...

So nice to hear the good results. You are an awesome Mom and many new Mom will benefit from your sharing. You are an amazing Mom and career woman! You are making great progress! XO Mimi

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, Blair! If it weren't for Dr. Ferber 26 years ago, Chelsea might still not be sleeping through the night! Ha! Seriously, he saved our lives! So glad he was able to help Elliott too!!

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