When Lil Z was brand new, I’d read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth. His methods seemed mean, and I made the mistake of trying to “cry it out” when Lil Z was two weeks old. It was horrible and didn’t work because Lil Z was in the throes of undiagnosed protein intolerance and reflux pain. It was terrible, but we’ll save that for another post. Let’s just say, make doubly sure your baby is not sick or in pain when you “cry it out.” And a two-week old baby will only cry for a few minutes when they fall asleep. If they cry more than 15 or 20 minutes, I submit to you, there is something wrong. But I was too young and dumb in motherhood at the time to know that. Also, if your baby has lost the ability to fall asleep on his own, I suggest you gut it out, and wait ’til he is at least four months old to cry it out. At four months he can self-sooth.
Anyway, desperate times call for desperate measures, and me not sleeping for months on end had taken its toll. I was ready to try crying it out again. I was sick of being a “sleep prop.” I talked to my pediatrician, and with her OK, we decided to try “crying it out” again. We were dreading it, but knew it was necessary. We talked to our friends, Stephen and Erin (remember, the people with the magical babies?) to get their advice because they had cried it out with their first child when he was seven months old.
So we worked our way through what is now our normal “nap-time and nighttime routine.” We put Lil Z into his jammies and played with him in his room for a while. We read him stories and prayed for him. We turned off all the lights (no night lights til they are much older) and sang a couple of songs. Then we put him in his crib – tired, but awake.
It was so hard saying goodnight that first night. I can still see Lil Z’s cute little face smiling at us. He had no idea we were not coming back into his room until he was asleep. We shut the door, and we waited. One…two… three… and the began crying. It took all our will power not to go back in there. Mike and I had to continually talk each other out of “rescuing him.” And he cried. I turned the volume down on the baby monitor. I felt sick. I turned off the baby monitor so I wouldn’t see the blazing red lights flashing. And he cried some more. We turned up the TV volume to drown it out. And he cried some more. And some more. We turned down the volume of the TV to see if he was still crying. Yep, he was. He cried and cried… and cried.
Finally, blissful sleep came. Lil Z had cried for almost two hours. But according to our pediatrician, that was normal for a baby as old as ours. We crept into his room. He was fast asleep, and his legs were sticking out of the crib bars. He wasn’t stuck, that is just how he finally fell asleep. Adorable.
I feared Lil Z would wake 45 minutes later, which was the norm for him. But, for the first time in his life, he slept almost five hours. That isn’t that long for a six or seven-month-old baby, but for Lil Z, that was a major milestone. He woke up around midnight. I fed him and put him back in his crib to put himself back to sleep. He cried for only a minute or two before falling back asleep. It was pure, amazing, awesomeness.
The next morning, Lil Z awoke happy as a clam. He seemed refreshed and showed no sign of being through a trauma, which is what I felt I had gone through the night before.
The next night was a little better: he cried maybe an hour. By night three it was 45 minutes. After day four or five, he cried around 20 or 30 minutes. When it was all said and done, it took about two weeks to have a baby that I could put in his crib at bedtime and walk out the door with little or no crying.
Lil Z became an amazing sleeper. OK, that is not being fair. He became an amazing fall-asleeper. Lil Z continued to wake up at least once a night until he was more than a year old, and he was never a great napper, but I will save that for another time. Bedtime became fairly easy for us because he knew the routine. We didn’t have to fight with him at bedtime like I hear other parents have to. He continued to wake up in the night a lot longer than “normal” babies, but looking back, I think it is because he was dehydrated from all the diarrhea that had (and often still does).
Does anyone have any sleep struggles or sleep stories they’d like to share? Feel free to leave a comment!