We’re in the midst of a sleep crisis and I would truly appreciate your input. (Perhaps crisis is too strong a word, but as a household we’re certainly not sleeping as well as we would like. Sleep deprivation tends to cause me to exaggerate.)
Will has never been easy to settle to sleep, but once asleep he has historically been a pretty good sleeper. He started sleeping through the night at 11 weeks of age. At a little older than 4 months of age he stopped cat napping during the day and started having decent day time sleeps. For more than two months life was blissful. Our family consisted of a well-rested mother, a well-rested father, and a happy, perky little monkey. Perhaps two or three times a month Will would have a night-time waking. I would give him a breast feed and he would be back in bed within 10 to 15 minutes. I never stopped using a feed to resettle him at night because he woke so rarely that it just didn’t seem important.
At 6.5 months this all changed. It may be a coincidence but the day that Will received his 6 month vaccinations he stopped sleeping at night. My usually voracious eater also refused all solid food for 3 days so I assumed that he was unwell as a result of the vaccinations and the change would be short-lived. He started eating again but shortly afterwards he caught his second cold which understandably affected his sleep tremendously – we had to resort to holding him while he slept or sleeping him upright in his pram. I thought that once he recovered his sleep would return to normal, but it hasn’t. I don’t know whether his routine was disrupted for long enough that he developed new sleep habits or whether it is simply a developmental stage but at almost 8 months Will is still waking frequently at night and is much more difficult to both settle and re-settle.
We are all exhausted.
The time has come for sleep training.
We have a very strong bed-time routine in place and Will knows what to expect at bed time. So do we, which is crying, and plenty of it, as soon as we leave his room. Currently we allow him to cry for a while (perhaps 5 minutes although we break a cardinal rule of parenting and are not consistent) and then go back in to help soothe him to sleep – either through patting and shushing (which is slow and doesn’t reliably result in Will falling asleep), or by giving him a dummy (which is faster but also doesn’t reliably result in sleep). Three months ago Will would always be asleep within 5 minutes; now it’s more like 15 or 20 minutes and we may need to repeat the process more than once over the course of the evening. Sigh.
At night – I breast feed him if he hasn’t eaten within about 3 hours. I know, I know, I was simply begging for trouble by establishing this habit but at the time I thought this sleep disruption would be a very temporary phase and, hell, I wanted to be back in bed as quickly as possible. Predictably Will is now breast feeding more at night than he does during the day.
I am sure of few things as a parent, but these are the things that I have eliminated as causing Will’s wakings.
1) Cold. (He’s not. Trust me.)
2) Light. (It’s not. Trust me.)
3) Noise. (He sleeps with white noise. I don’t know if it makes one iota of difference but he has it every time he sleeps. On the odd occasion that I have forgotten it, he sleeps just the same)
4) Not enough wine in his breast milk. (Whiskey doesn’t work either)*
5) Too much caffeine in his breast milk. (If anything the two or so serves of caffeine I have allowed myself per week since this whole sleepless business started have improved his sleep. Go figure.)
We have tried all the easy solutions and quick-fixes, including closing our eyes and hoping the problem will magically disappear. Since Will invariably cries at bed time there is no point trying a no-cry sleep solution… such a solution simply doesn’t exist for my noisy little night-owl.
At the moment I am considering the Verbal Reassurance Technique, but to be honest the idea of any sleep training scares me. I just don’t know if I have the will power. I also don’t quite know how to approach it – should I ease into it by continuing with our settling routine but refusing him feeds at night, or just go whole-hog and cut out feeds, the dummy, and resettling all at once. Gulp.
What I would like to know from you is what method, if any, you use to settle your baby, and your experience, if any, of sleep training. Please, please share your wisdom – or your folly! Both may be equally useful to me.
*I’m joking, of course. Will only drinks beer.