Our master bedroom is now an infant sleep-free zone. I didn't want it to be that way. I would have been happy to sleep in the same room as my baby for a few more months. But sometimes, we learn, what's best for one is not best for all.
You may remember from this post that my household had four blissful nights of Getting Better that slowly deteriorated before collapsing again into utter madness -- up every two hours (if we were lucky), tiptoeing around our room so as not to wake the delicately sleeping baby, putting him down only to have him jolt awake as soon as he touched the bassinet.
And somewhere in those moments of desperation, watching my baby's face screw up as he started to cry, I started looking -- really looking -- at him. I could see in him the same emotion I felt: frustration. I struggle with post-partum insomnia -- no, not just the inability to sleep due to a demanding baby, but the inability to go to sleep even when I am not needed. Many nights, I would just be starting to drift off as Eric woke for his first night feeding (in other words, around 11:00 or midnight after going to bed at 9:00 or 10:00). It made me want to cry. Sometimes, it made me cry. And as I looked into my baby's eyes, I finally realized he was experiencing the same thing.
My baby, tired as he was, was unable to go to sleep, and it was extremely frustrating to him. What's more, every time we picked him up or rubbed his tummy in the bassinet, he was expecting that we would be able to help him. After all, that is our job as his parents. When we were unable to help him, he could not understand that. So, finally recognizing that we needed to help him conquer this frustration, and with my husband's week-long business trip looming on the horizon, we knew it was time to take drastic measures.
Thursday, March 24 (happy birthday, Grandma Diane!), I checked out Dr. Ferber's book from the library. I charged my husband with caring for the baby that afternoon/evening so I could devour the main points as quickly as possible and we could start that night. If you're completely unfamiliar with Ferber, my sister does a good rundown of his program here. He is NOT the "cry it out" guy; he is the "controlled cry" guy. In other words, we weren't going to toss Eric in his crib, shut the door, and leave him there until morning. For one thing, he was only 13 weeks old and not ready to sleep through the night. He would need to nurse at least once, likely twice, during the night. For another thing... well, we just couldn't handle that.
So we decided to take shifts that night. I was to take the first shift, until 2 a.m., which meant that, each time Eric woke and cried, I would set the timer and go in at the dictated increments to talk softly, touch his cheek, and reassure him that I still existed. I would nurse him at shift change, but not until then. (I'd started to notice that most of his nighttime feedings were hardly even feedings; they were just a time for him to suck himself back to sleep.)
We said a prayer, and Stuart headed to bed, armed with earplugs. I finished the bedtime routine with nursing, rocking, and singing -- but not to sleep. I put my baby into his crib, still awake but sleepy, and kissed him goodnight. I shut the door behind me and took a deep breath... and then I turned on the baby monitor and started doing chores. (Wow! You can get a LOT done if you don't have to sleep!!)
Eric was fine for 3 minutes and then started to cry. Being awake in his crib was very new to him! So I went in after 3 minutes, then after 5 minutes... then, 5 minutes after that, he was asleep for an hour.
This song and dance repeated only four times that night. The longest period of being awake and crying started at 12:15 and ended an hour later. I was getting pretty miserable that time -- but for the most part, I kept reminding myself that I was helping him to learn an important skill: the skill of falling asleep on his own... the skill of returning to sleep after waking. What would MY life be like if I were able to go to sleep/back to sleep every time I needed to? This would give Eric the power to end his frustration!
Eric got less than 7 hours of sleep that first night -- which, no doubt, contributed to the utter success of the second night. He barely cried at all from 8:00 straight through to the 3:00 a.m. nursing, and he had just one "reasurring check," near the end of the night.
The third night, he did not need to be "reassured" even once. We never even started a timer.
After that, there were some ups and downs. Naps were still ridiculously inconsistent. Are. They are still ridiculously inconsistent. This is our fault, though -- we started letting him have his pacifier for naps, and I was often out and about around his naptime, which led to him falling asleep in the car. And then he was sick for several days, which meant we did NOT let him cry and even let him sleep in our arms, just so he could get some healing rest. But, starting today (really, today -- 4/21/11) we're getting serious about nap training. We believe that, if we are consistent this time, it will go better.
But the nights -- the nights were glorious! Eric's bedtime routine started to mean something -- to him and to us. At 7:00 each night, we start with bathtime, which he has always loved. Then, if he's not too fussy from the torturous act of putting on the diaper, we read a book. I rub in his anti-eczema cream while we nurse, and then we put on PJs. I rock him in his room and sing a song or two. By 8:00 (working on getting that earlier; he's starting to show signs of needing the earlier bedtime now), he is in bed, still awake but with drooping eyelids -- and then, husband and I have dinner and a couple hours to be ... well, a married couple. We relax, watch TV, do some chores, and generally wind down -- sans needy baby.
In the night, Eric often lasts 5-6 hours before waking... but we don't make him go more than 4 hours if he wakes and is insistent. After all, he still has a tiny little tummy and needs to eat often! He gets up in the morning around 7:00 a.m., and now, because his mommy is getting enough rest, we are ALL happy in the mornings and can play together. No more forcing a smile out of the exhaustion just for my baby's sake. The smiles are real.
So, starting April 3, husband was in Colorado for a full week. With the exception of the first night (which came after an extremely busy day AND was the first night without daddy), Eric's nights were a dream.** We had an amazing week together, baby and me. I had my mom come over once, on the first day, to let me have a nap -- but otherwise, I didn't need help. When husband got home, the house was in great shape, I was fairly well-rested (I still don't sleep well when he's gone), and I'd even managed to eat three meals most days!
And when we got back from the airport, I showed off the nice, big, empty space in the master bedroom where the bassinet used to be.
*About 2 weeks ago... it's been very busy around here since I started this long post!
**Ouch. Sorry about that. Completely unintentional, I promise.