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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cry it Out Baby

There is a divisive issue among parents.  There is the cry it out camp and there is never let them cry it out camp, and everything in between. I was the strictest cry-it-out Ferber method mom for my oldest daughter, but what works for one child might not work for the others even in the same family.
Starry Night by AJ

Here is a summary of what worked for baby Maggie and how much easier it is for her to fall asleep on her own, and what a wonderful sleeper she is nearly 100% of the time, versus her younger brothers AJ and LJ who are a little bit more troublesome now, possibly because I didn't or couldn't apply the same principles.

E-A-S-Y Baby
Means: Eat, Awake, Sleep, time for You! I will start off with saying that all three babies started off with the perfect three hour cycle of wake up, eat, play, sleep pattern.  I made sure to swaddle them tight and put them down to sleep without any kind of rocking or patting or staring. In fact I would just put them down and duck out of sight or even leave the room and shut the door, and they would just magically fall asleep.

I was adamantly against co-sleeping (because I read the books and the brochures provided by the nurses) and just believed it was more proper and safe for the baby to sleep in the crib, as the Bible story goes that King Solomon had to settle for two mothers and two babies.

Maggie - Dream Baby
At age 4 months, we moved her crib out of our room into her own room. There was a time when I had to do the Ferber method (putting the baby down, she cries, leave for 2 minutes, return and extend the time away gradually over  a period of two or three days etc). It was a little heart breaking to go through with it, up to the 12 minute mark, but it really worked for her.

In the middle of the night if she did wake up, I had a rule where I would let her cry at night for 10 minutes before actually checking in.  I did not even do night feedings or bottles at night.  There was one time I let her cry for 45 minutes and I think she fell asleep after I already fell asleep so I can't even be sure how long she was crying. On hindsight, this is rather dangerous because I should've checked on her to make sure she was not in any potential danger, or just had a simple request like wanting the door open or a sip of water. The next morning, I saw that her sippy of water was on the floor and I felt sad about that.

Now all three kids are sleeping in the same room they all share together, Maggie on her own twin bed. She is usually the first to fall asleep shortly after lights out or even before the story is read!

AJ the little brother
He was really good at falling asleep on his own as a small baby. I don't even remember doing Ferber method on him. The only problem was that he had a lot of grunting noises and loud farts in the night, as well as fake wake up cries. I was always worried that he would wake up Maggie in the next room so I would rush to his side to comfort him (first mistake).  It really messed up my own sleep patterns though. At one point, I figured out that if I kept a lullaby CD running he would sleep right through the night! However the CD player was not reliable so switched to the radio and the only channel I could tune to was Hot 89.9 So he spent a few baby months listening to Britney Spears (Circus) and Lady Gaga, and hip hop.  Anywayz that is not my kind of music so I ended up sleeping in a different room (that meant the couch, the basement, even the floor of Maggie's room).

However at 13 months, I decided to move AJ and Maggie into the same room, which meant a twin bed for her and toddler bed for him.  Unfortunately that also meant mobility and so the both started walking around at bedtime after lights out and it was hard to get them to stay in the room. We had to Ferberize all over again, with the baby gate at the door. It was sooooo sad, because they would bring all their blankies and pillows and fall asleep right by the door beside the gate.  At least they had each other.

And Lincoln makes 3!
Baby Lincoln was also an excellent fall-asleeper and there was no Ferber or Cry it Out either. He just magically fell asleep for all his naps and nights like a magic baby. Then one day in the summer just before he was turning one, I took a one week trip to Las Vegas without the kids. I'm not sure how daddy got him to fall asleep but when I came back he only wanted to sleep in Maggie and AJ's room and he was no longer the magic angel baby that fell asleep without crying in his own room! And when I returned to work full time after mat leave, his nanny would even put him down to sleep with a sippy cup of milk! Eventually we were able to correct this early on considering it was two naps a day even after he was over 2 years old.

Though in the early morning hours like 4 or 5 am he would still wake up. Daddy seemed to think the quickest way to get him to fall asleep was to throw him a bottle (and tooth decay!) While he was away, I managed to dilute the bottle enough until he was OK with water.

We only used his crib at that point to store folded/ unfolded laundry or the unauthorized use as a trampoline. There is no third bed in the kids room so Lincoln just sleeps on the floor, on a mat with piles of blankies and pillows surrounding him. We have a night routine that begins with a bath at 7pm, followed by math homework time and playtime that ends about 8:30pm Unfortunately that means storytime and lights out is 9pm.Maggie is the only one who fall asleep quickly, and I am the nice mommy that sticks around until AJ and Lincoln both fall asleep. I sit just outside the door with the hall light on so I can "read my notebook" (work related reading, textbook, bible, novel, fashion magazine, whatever) Usually if only AJ is the only one awake I tell him I have alot of work to do in the kitchen or I have to pack lunches etc and he is good to fall asleep on his own. But it makes a very long night.

CAVEAT:  Because I perceive that they need me stay there to fall asleep, it also means that they need to find me at night to fall asleep again. Sometimes I hear Lincoln cry so I peek into his room and the minute he sees my sillouette even with the giant rollers in my hair, BAM! his face hits the floor again and goes right back to sleep. Other times, he grab his blankie and a pillow and climb into my bed without even waking me up, or other times I usually try to hold his hand and bring him back to his room (where I end up accidently falling asleep on the floor too). All of this is very bad habits, but what we do.

Good Habits from the Start
The most important skill for good sleeping habits for kids is to definitely to develop the ability to go back to sleep on his or her own. As adults, it's probably normal to wake up from a dream in the night, or with the need to have a cup of water etc, but it's relative easy to go back to sleep. I have to imagine if I was a kid how easy or hard that might be.

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