Thursday, December 16, 2010


Sigh. To say the last couple of weeks have been a little tough is like saying the Olson twins are a little thin. Or Edgar Allen Poe is a little dark. get the idea. Three weeks ago our sweet little Camille had a major change in terms of sleeping and the result is a very tired and stressed-out quartet of Burels. I think what makes this so difficult is we're almost 6 months into this game, and this is a whole new strategy from Baby Burel. And we did NOT see it coming. Well played, my love, well played.

It started with Camille's naps suddenly dropping down to 30 minutes. For those of you not obsessed with infant sleep, at this age a baby should sleep roughly 10 hours at night and anywhere from 3-5 hours during the day, depending on which expert you are reading at the time. The 3-5 hours of daytime sleep is usually in the form of 3-4 naps. So quite obviously, Camille's 30 minute nap regime was not sufficient daytime sleep. Even if she took 5 naps (which she does) it still isn't hitting the minimum daytime sleep hours. And 5 naps a day is really annoying.

I tried everything to extend her naps. The Baby Whisperer offered the "pick up/put down" strategy, which is (duh) picking up the baby when she cried and immediately putting her down when she stops. Rinse and repeat until baby is asleep. I tried that for awhile and only once succeeded in extending her nap by 15 minutes. And it took 30 minutes to do so. The Baby Whisperer recommends "wake to sleep" as a technique to extend naps. Gently stirring the baby before she wakes up at 30 minutes supposedly resets her meter and allows her to sleep through to the next sleep cycle. That one never worked, instead it just took a couple minutes off her 30 minute nap. The Baby Whisperer suggests "sitting", thoughtfully named for the technique of sitting with the baby without moving or engaging until she is asleep. I still do that but it doesn't extend naps, it is just part of our naptime routine. I tried a bunch of things from the No Cry Nap Solution, but all I can remember is giving Camille a "lovey", creating a consistent routine and buying blackout shades.

After about a week of this, Camille's nighttime sleep also changed. She'd been going down around 7pm after a set routine. Bill and I would put her in our bed to start out the night and then move her. We did this because she was screaming for several hours a little over a month ago and laying on the bed with her put her to sleep quickly. After the change in naps, laying on the bed became problematic because she would wake during transfer. No amount of consoling and soothing would put her back to sleep and after a few nights of that, I was going mad. A baby screaming in your ear for 2 hours is no fun. Again, I think what made it so bad was it was a change from her previous behavior. Who was this child?

Feeling like we had no other choices, we looked into the Ferber method. For those of you not versed in infant sleep strategies, Ferber used to be known as the "cry it out" method and was pretty controversial at the time. It also has had a hard time overcoming that reputation. We decided to go ahead and do it since she was screaming anyway. Ferber suggests progressive waiting, which means putting baby down, soothing a short time after that and gradually extending the wait time.

After buying the book and reading about the method we were convinced this is the right thing to do, just unsure if it is the right time to do it. Ferber suggests not using progressive waiting until the baby is 4-6 months old. Camille is 5 and a half months, but because of her preemie-ness she is four months and 3 days as of today. Another problem is she could still need a feeding during the night. A lot of experts say that the baby doesn't need a feeding in the middle of the night past 6 months.

We trudged ahead because again, we felt we had no choices. What we were doing was not working, was making everyone crazy and sleep deprived. So we started. We decided we would no longer put her in our bed. We also stopped the swaddle. We agreed that if she woke during the night, I would feed her once. The first two nights were pretty hard. She went down easy but woke quickly after 30-45 minutes. She cried for 50 minutes. She woke again later that night, after midnight and I fed her. She then cried 50 minutes. For two nights it was a variation of that pattern. Teddy would whine in his crate. I was curled up in a ball sobbing. Bill was listening to his whole family cry.

It got better after the second night. Still wake ups, but less crying to go back to sleep. She also had two amazing morning naps, 90 minutes for one and 2 and a half hours for another! I thought we'd maybe turned a corner. Then last night.

Down easy, cries that lasted less than a minute. Then she woke up at 12:20. Pretty early for her night feeding and she'd eaten 9 ounces before bed, so I decided we should let her cry rather than me nursing her back to sleep. She cried for over an hour. Bill was confused why I'd changed the plan. When he said that, I got up and fed her and she fell asleep quickly. And woke again at 3:45. And cried until 5 when I got her up. We ate, dressed and played. She was incredibly tired but I got her to stay up until 6:30. Her usual morning nap is at 8. I'm not sure what this is going to do to her routine today. Should be interesting. I feel bad for me, as I've had almost no sleep but I feel worse for Bill who is greeting 8th graders this morning on just as little sleep as me.

We're not sure how to adjust the plan, but I've learned some things the last couple of weeks.

1. You can't make a baby stay awake or go to sleep. You can try, but if they stay awake or go to sleep, don't think you had anything to do with it.

2. People who don't have young children assume that kids are always hungry. They never guess that the baby is tired. Before I had a baby, I probably assumed hunger too. With my baby, she is usually tired. In fact, if Camille is crying it is one of 3 things, in this order:
1) she's tired
2) something else is wrong and by the time you figure it out, it won't be bothering her anymore
3) she's hungry
People often ask me when she is crying if she is hungry. It is usually less than an hour after I've fed her. I wonder why no one ever asks if she is tired.

3. Regardless of what people think, I really appreciate those people who offer support, not criticism. When you are in the thick of it, "Why don't you..." kind of makes the hairs on my neck stand up, especially if it is accompanied by a "Well we never/always...". My parents have been incredible since Camille was born. Though I'm sure they have opinions about how Bill and I are doing things, they have never said one thing about any of our decisions. Instead, they just ask questions, offer encouragement, and tell us we're doing a great job. They probably have a ton to say about it in the car ride on the way home, but they've never once criticized in any way.

4. Sleep training is hard on the whole family. Without sleep, I get very emotional and have a hard time dealing with stressful situations, like a baby screaming in my ear for two hours. Without sleep, Bill has a hard time dealing with 150 8th graders. When forced to listen to a crying baby for hours on end, Teddy gets stressed out. He had a gastro incident this week that prompted a vet visit. $150, two shots, and two prescriptions later, it was determined that it was likely caused by stress. So sleep training gives Teddy diarrhea.

We'll figure out what is best for this family. One thing that is so clear about parenthood is that what is right for one family may be wrong for another and vice versa. That is why there are so many experts and stupid books. This mama likes things a little more clear cut which is why this has been the most challenging thing I've done in my life.

In the meantime, somethings haven't changed. Camille is still the prettiest baby I have ever seen. Her smile is starting to turn into a laugh, which is glorious. Her eyes light up when you walk into a room and her fingers curl around my shirt while she's nursing. She is a delight and when she happens to be having a great stretch of sleep, I find myself missing her. I mean, look at this child: