In the last three years, I’ve become more and more crunchy as I’ve progressed in this journey of motherhood. Starting with my unmedicated birth(s), and bed sharing and co-sleeping, and exclusive breastfeeding and nursing on demand, and baby wearing, and baby led weaning and now I’m about to undertake cloth diapering since Zoe is potty trained.
But this week I started sleep training Noah. And that is the antithesis of crunchy. Before you stone me, hear me out.
When Noah was 14 days old, a switch was flipped. He abruptly changed from the most docile, sweet, tender baby to … I don’t know how to describe it. He began to cry incessantly and he was miserable all day long. He was comforted by NOTHING. Not me, not breastfeeding (that seemed to infuriate him even more), not being held, or bounced, or being worn in the sling, or riding in the car. NOTHING. He wouldn’t take a paci, he wouldn’t take a bottle with my breast milk. He cried in the swing, he cried in the bath, he cried in my arms, he cried in my mother’s arms, in my husband’s arms. HE CRIED ALL DAY LONG.
I exhausted every medical and homeopathic resource I could find. I don’t even want to talk about it because I’m still raw from everything that I tried to do for Noah and how nothing worked. It’s only been since the end of Christmas that Noah has appeared to turn a real corner.
I will mention, and this is important, that we did find that Noah was tongue and lip tied. We had the ties removed through a very brief laser procedure by a dentist when he was five weeks old. This brought immediate help for Noah in regards to his ability to stay latched. But even after the procedure, his latch still had some big problems; Noah continued to suck in air while he fed. I did every trick in the book to fix his latch, but it was the placement of his tongue that was the problem. Eventually, between four and five months, Noah finally started to thrust his tongue forward enough while nursing that it formed a proper seal around my breast and he no longer sounded like he was getting the last slurps of a drink with a short straw. If you are interested in reading more on tongue and lip tie, here is a great resource for information on the identification and treatment of ties: http://www.kiddsteeth.com/articles.html
Through all of this, to say that Noah never really slept well, is an understatement. He woke anywhere from 8-12 times at night. I managed by bed sharing and allowing Noah to use me as a paci all night long.
(Side note, I remember teaching childbirth classes with Noah in the sling and having him latched on to me through the entire class – a three-hour class. It was the only way I could keep him content. I know what it’s like to be a human pacifier.)
Noah’s nine months old now and still not sleeping more than two hours at night. But it’s more than that.
It’s me putting him to sleep in the crib at 8pm (he started climbing out of the co-sleeper at seven months) and having to go in every 30 to 45 minutes to soothe him back to sleep. By ten at night he would usually settle down enough and sleep till midnight, (at that point he would join us in our bed) and then after that he would wake every hour or less. I would nurse him and put him back in the crib next to our bed and pat him back to sleep.
Of course, he got his first set of teeth at 4 months and then six more teeth, came in before his 9th month. In fact those six teeth came in six weeks time, all the while he was diagnosed with a double ear infection. I was consoled by reminding myself that Noah’s teething, he’s miserable, he needs me, he needs to nurse right now. I will give him everything he needs to help him get through this rough patch.
And I did.
But now he’s not teething anymore, and he doesn’t have an ear infection anymore, and he’s eating solids now, and he’s sleeping well during the day.
And then Peter left for a school trip for 16 days. And one night, while he was gone, I lost my mind and I got so angry at Noah (it was the third time he had woken up in the hour and probably the 10th or 11th wake up of the evening) that I yelled at him. I mean flat-out growled at my baby, “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD NOAH GO TO SLEEP!” and threw a pillow across the room. My son looked terrified of me and cried even louder.
At that moment, I saw myself, as if looking down from above and watching the scene play out like a movie, and it made me take pause. What a horrible mother I was being to my son right then and that was not okay. In fact, I got scared of my escalating emotions towards my son, and being alone, I stepped out of my bedroom, with a blanket and pillow in hand, and left my son crying in his crib. I was so wound up tight with emotional angst and burn-out that I had to leave Noah in order to get a grip.
I went to our living room and stretched out on the couch and put the pillow over my ear so I couldn’t hear him cry and I tried to slow my breathing down. I wondered who I could call at 3:45 to confide in and if I did call anyone what would they think of me losing it. I wondered If I should call Peter and tell him to come home from Europe early because I couldn’t handle the stress of parenting without him.
Noah finally stopped crying and fell asleep after a little while. I was grateful. But, trust me, I didn’t fall asleep. I scoured my emotions and piled on the guilt and eventually after a lot of mental punishment, went to sleep.
Noah woke at 6 that morning. He gave me smiles and we nursed and cuddled and I told him how sorry I was and told him we had to make some changes so that I could be the best mommy for him.
I knew I had to do something.
I was turning into an unhappy mommy from lack of sleep. I had no patience for my sweet, talkative, almost three-year-old and no patience for my adorable, chunky baby boy, and practically nothing was left for Peter. I had nothing to offer my family during the day, because I was giving it all away at night. And that is not how I want to mother my children.
Something needed to change.
That’s when I decided that I would let Noah cry-it-out.
You see, I’ve been trying gentle sleep training methods for about two months, using a bed time routine, staying with him till he falls asleep, not letting him cry when in the crib. Everything I did with Zoe (and that worked well with her) was not working with Noah.
(I should add, that Zoe didn’t sleep through the night till she was around a year old and often woke up 2-3 times at night, and I took no issue with that. I always nursed her and or gave her cuddles and put her back to sleep. I’m telling you this to clarify that waking 2-3 times a night isn’t a problem for me. What is a problem for me and my entire family is a baby waking 10-15 times a night and needing to be nursed and patted to sleep every time he woke.)
When I put Noah down for his first nap that morning we nursed, we cuddled, he was sleepy, his eyes were closed … I placed him in the crib, told him I loved him, and instead of my usual – which was patting his bottom until he was fast asleep, I laid him in the crib and walked away. Noah began to cry in protest.
But this time, when I walked away, I felt okay, I felt calm and peaceful inside. I felt in touch with my deep love of my son and my resolve to do this out of great care for him and out of respect for my personal boundaries as a mother. I knew I was doing what was best for my entire family by walking away. Noah cried on and off for 8 minutes or so and then slept for three hours. The longest nap he’s taken since his days of napping in the swing.
After two days of training, on the third night, Noah slept through the night. (I had every intention of going to him and comforting him if he woke, but he didn’t) On our forth day of sleep training, when I put Noah in the crib he briefly cried for 15 seconds then he fell asleep. On our fifth night, Noah woke up once, fussed a little, and before I could even get to him (I was tending to my daughter who had just thrown up), Noah went back to sleep and didn’t wake up again till 7am. The amazing thing is, he woke up happy, content even.
And you know what? Since getting such good sleep Noah has hardly fussed at all during the days, and seems to enjoy life more, and so do I. I can tell you as a result of having a happier baby that I’m cuddling with him more and engaging with him more – and in the long run that’s pretty darn important.
So, for everyone who wrote me privately on facebook wondering what my magical sleep training technique was, there you have it, good old fashioned cry-it-out. Which, under normal circumstance, I don’t usually recommend.
However, in this case, it has proven to be the best move for us - allowing me to be a better mother to my son and daughter.
DISCLAIMERI do not encourage CIO method for infants, especially under the age of six months. I prefer baby to be on solid table food before attempting any sleep training. I do not advocate CIO for extended lengths. I do not advocate CIO while baby is teething, sick, in transition, in a new environment, or D – ALL OF THE ABOVE. I DO NOT ADVOCATE CRYING IT OUT UNDER NORMAL baby waking CIRCUMSTANCES.
- Here is a source describing why CIO method is damaging to our children: Dr. Sears
- Here is a source that says CIO studies are often misinterpreted (defining extended crying) and the lesser of evils: Isabela Granic
- Under normal circumstances, I prefer gentle sleep training methods and really like the books The 90 Minute Sleep Solution and No Cry Sleep Solution
- I would like to give credit to this blogger, Baby Rabies, for even giving me the guts to write about this: Though Shalt Not Write About Letting Babies Cry