Sleep training

Posted by Alina on Saturday Oct 25, 2008 Under sleep, useful tips

I never thought that I would want to “sleep train” my child. By 5 months our son was going to bed at 8pm, waking up around 11:00pm for a feeding and then sleeping until 5:00am. Although he only fell asleep eating, I thought this was reasonable. He was sleeping in a crib in our room and at 5:00am I would take him into our bed for the early morning feeding. Everything changed when we took a one week vacation to Canada. At the hotel, our son slept in our bed, and was able to have the breast on demand throughout the night, whether for food or comfort. Once we returned home, he did not want to be in his crib, woke up every hour at night, and screamed at the top of his lungs whenever I tried to put him back down. Eventually, after a few hours, I would get too exhausted and take him into our bed, so we could all get some rest. This lasted for a week with no improvement. I felt tired, irritable, and decided that something had to change.

I did some research on the internet about various methods of sleep training. I spoke to my son’s pediatrician, who suggested we go “cold turkey”. He said “feed him, put him down in his crib, and don’t go to him until 7:00am. You will have three tough nights, and then he will sleep through the night.” I felt that this was too aggressive and because he sleeps in our room, this would be difficult to carry out.

So, in my search, I saw an interesting review for Dr. Ferber’s book, so I decided to see what it’s all about. The book is called “Solve your child’s sleep problems” by Richard Ferber, M.D. I recommend reading the book before actually performing any intervention. In the book, he gives the reader an understanding of what happens during different phases of sleep and how the patterns develop. He talks about normal patterns of deep and light sleep and says that we all have brief periods when we wake up and then return to sleep throughout the night, without remembering it in the morning. The book then identifies various common types of “sleep issues” for kids of different ages. Ours for example was associations with falling asleep. Our son associated the breast or bottle as something he needed to fall asleep, even if he was not hungry. After helping the reader establish a “diagnosis”, Dr. Ferber then offers ways of treating the problem. The book is not preachy, and he does not advocate for the “cold turkey” method.

In our case, the thing to do was to put our son down tired but awake, let him cry for 3 minutes, then go in and check on him/ talk to him (without picking him up), then 5 minutes, then 10. The first night he cried for a total of 20 minutes and then slept for 10 hours. He did not cry at night. If the baby does wake up at night, Dr. Ferber recommends following the same procedure as above (3, 5, 10). With each night, the intervals are supposed to get longer. Dr. Ferber states that it typically takes three nights, but may take up to two weeks. For the first week, our son would cry for 15-30 minutes at the start of the night and then would sleep for 9.5-10.5 hours. With each day the crying was less intense. In the second week, he would cry for 2-8 minutes. Now it has been about a month. At night, we bathe our son, feed him, and then I usually burp him, sing a song and put him down. He rolls over onto his tummy, without crying, and sleeps from 7:30-8:00pm until 6:00-7:00am.

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