Cry me a River Dr. Ferber & Dr. Sears: A Gradual Approach to Sleep Training

Two weeks before Annabelle’s due date, I realized that I had a bazillion books on how to be pregnant and what happens during delivery, but I had NO books on what to do with her once all that giving birth stuff was finished.  As a new parent, one of the hardest things to do is filter through all the different theories that are out there on parenting.  Many of you know that once you get the baby home, it doesn’t matter and you just try to survive the first few months.  During that time and for the first year of baby’s life, many parents contemplate the process of getting baby to sleep through the night. 


Please know that I’m certainly no expert in this arena, only that I’ve read some books on this. 

Here are some websites from both sides:
Cry It Out Methodology
From Baby Center
Attachment Methodology

While I was researching the different types, there was a lot of information about how each one of the theories is horrible and why using Attachment or Cry It Out is better.  This does not help when you are trying to figure out what the best thing to do for your baby is.  Feeling confused and frustrated, a woman who I admire and whose kids are fantastic said to me, “You have to do what you think is right for yourself and for baby.” 

So I did.  I think most parents just hybridize all these theories into one package that works for each kid.  I only have one, so I don’t know if the solution I came up with will work for kid number 2 or not, but we’ll see when that time comes.  In my interview with Sue Ann Birdwell, I’ve come to learn about the biology of baby sleep. What I’ve begun to understand, at least the style that works the best in our household is a blend of Dr. Sears and Dr. Ferber methodologies, apply as needed. 
I blended the Attachment parenting and the Cry It Out method to provide what I believed was a balanced approach that would benefit both baby and momma.

Note:  Again, I am not an expert nor do I portend to offer expert advice.  This is simply my approach on how I got baby to sleep at night.  For the first four months, we used Attachment Parenting & Happiest Baby on The Block and gave her as many kisses as we could.  When I started this process, I wanted to differentiate between what my baby needed and what I was doing to perpetuate habit.  For example, I wanted to get into a habit of a schedule, but I wanted to avoid the habit of night feedings when it was safe to do so.  It’s a tough call, but as time passes, you’ll be able to differentiate the needs vs the habits.    

1.  When to use Cry It Out?
The advice I recieved was that you could start Cry It Out when your baby begins to understand the game of Peek A Boo.   The idea is that baby is beginning to understand the concept that just because you are not there, doesn’t mean you are gone forever.  For more an expert opinion with nuerobiological information on timing, please see my interview with Sue Ann Birdwell
 
2.   Schedule
We all live on a schedule.  We get up, we have breakfast, do stuff, eat lunch, do more stuff, then eat dinner and go to bed.  I believe babies do well on a schedule because they know what to expect.  In the early months, we got her to sleep by rocking, cajoling, singing to her, but not using cry it out. 
 
0-1m:  We ate whenever baby wanted to & slept when she wanted to
1-2m:  2h schedule of Eat (1h), Play (15m) , Nap (1h) Rinse & Repeat
3-6m:  3h schedule of  Eat (1h), Play (30m), Nap (2h)  Rinse & Repeat
6-?m:  4h schedule of Eat (30m), Play (1h30m), Nap (2h) Rinse & Repeat

I am not militant about the schedule, but I tried my best to keep it as:  Eat, Play, Sleep withing a 2-4 hour range based on baby’s age.  Our life is a schedule, but it’s also about spontanaiety and flexibility too.

Our Schedule @ 6m in a 4 hour rotation:
8:30   am Up and having Breakfast
9:00   am Play
10:30 am Nap for 2 hours
12:30 pm Up and having Lunch
1:00   pm  Play
3:00   pm  Nap for 2 hours
5:00   pm  Up and having Dinner
No evening nap
8:30   pm  Bedtime

3.  Start Bedtime Rituals
About an hour before bedtime, we dimmed the lights, turned down sounds, asked my partner to speak in muted tones, put the phone on vibrate.  I also tried to read her a short book before going to bed.  These rituals I never changed.    

4.  Gradually Shift to Cry It Out
The premise I used for this training was to have at least 4 to 6 weeks of gradual training before I ever implemented Cry It Out.  This allowed me to at least approach the Cry It Out method in a thought out process that allowed both baby and mom to get a full nights rest without a high stress situation.

When we first started:  We gave baby a warm bath, I would ‘dream’ feed her and if she fell asleep, then I’d put her to bed asleep put her to bed. If not, then head up to the room, rock her and then put her down when she falls asleep.

About a week later:  We gave baby a warm bath, I did NOT feed her, but still rocked her to sleep in my arms (singing/rocking/whatever worked.  Annabelle liked the sound of me fake snoring and would fall asleep).  The first time we shifted this behavior, the baby slept an hour longer at night, then woke up and I fed her and put her back to bed (I didn’t talk, didn’t coo, but gave kisses and physical reassurance.)  A few days later, she slept two hours longer and I fed her.  The advice I was given by my pediatrician as to when to stop feeding at night was when baby’s weight was at a steady gain and not dropping.  Please contact your pediatrician regarding appropriate times to stop feeding baby at night.

Two weeks later:    We gave baby a warm bath, I did NOT feed her.  I changed my rocking pattern so that I just held her, but did not rock.  This way she knew I was still there, could cry safely knowing that she hadn’t been abandoned.  My baby definitely cried during this stage, but she was safe, dry, and not hungry (we just fed her an hour earlier).  This was hard for me mentally and physically, but I did not feel like I was abandoning my baby in the crib to cry it out alone, and she was able to self soothe in my arms.  If she cried when I put her down, I would pick her back up and start over.   

Three weeks later:  Drop the bath time, keep everything else the same.

Four weeks later:  No bath (unless it’s that time of the week), no feeding, still rocking, but when I put her down, if she started to cry I did not pick her back up.  I left the room and waited five minutes.  If she was still crying, I went into the room and vocally soothed her & patted her belly then left for ten minutes.  If she was still crying, I went in and picked her up and made a parental decision to either rock her or feed her.  *Try not to feed unless abs necessary because you want to separate Need from Habit.

Five weeks later:    No bath (unless it’s that time of the week), no feeding, still rocking, but when I put her down, if she started to cry I did not pick her back up. I left the room and waited five minutes. If she was still crying, I went into the room and vocally soothed her & patted her belly then left for ten minutes. If she was still crying, I waited fifteen minutes and then went in to pick her up. If she was still crying, I went in and picked her up and made a parental decision to either rock her or feed her.

Six weeks later:   No bath (unless it’s that time of the week), no feeding, no more rocking. I left the room and waited five minutes. If she was still crying, I went into the room and vocally soothed her & patted her belly then left for ten minutes. If she was still crying, I went in and picked her up and made a parental decision to either rock her or feed her.

Seven weeks later:  No bath (unless it’s that time of the week), no feeding, no more rocking. I laid her down in the crib, said goodnight and gave her a soft rub.  Then I left the room and waited five minutes. If she was still crying, I went into the room and vocally soothed her & patted her belly then left for ten minutes. If she was still crying, I waited fifteen minutes and then went in picked her up and made a parental decision to either rock her or feed her.

MY RESULTS:   Around three to five weeks into our sleep training, we began to see baby sleeping through the night.   The remaining few weeks were used primarily to teach baby to go to sleep quickly and quietly.  We saw impressive results around six weeks and today when I put her in the crib she pretty much rolls over and goes to sleep.  The most I ever let her cry it out was 20 minutes, that was my boundary.  Some people use food (rice cereal) at night which makes the baby feel fuller at night.  We opted to not do that because we didn’t want rice to be her first cereal.

5.  Growth Changes, Teething, and Being Sick
These can all throw wrenches in the sleep training.  When she was teething, I went back to night feedings because she was so distraught and it was the easiest thing to us to do to soothe her.  Once the teething phase subsided, I phased out the feedings again.  You’ll find that during growth spurts, you have to rock them again, or do whatever is necessary.  These changes are not permanent and when you feel it is appropriate, you can put them back to sleep using your normal routine.     

I hope that helps you find a way to help baby sleep during the night!

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