So we did things a bit ass-backwards (at least as far as the authors of The Sleepeasy Solution are concerned). We were supposed to wean her, and THEN work on the night sleep training, and then work on the naps. Instead, we did the night sleep, then started working on naps, and we’re just getting around to night weaning. It’s been a long three weeks.
Quick summary: over New Year’s we did the full-on controlled crying method of sleep training, and within three nights, she was falling asleep on her own. We still fed her through the night, answering when she called, and then, of course, the little bugger started getting a tooth. (How rude!) The Sleepeasy Solution says to suspend sleep training during tooth-cutting, but after two semi-sleepless nights and some analysis of her cries, we realized she wasn’t in any pain; she just wanted to say hello and maybe grab a snack. So we moved onto the night weaning and hopped back on the Sleep Train.
Basic idea behind night weaning is this: after thoroughly documenting your child’s wakeup schedule, you’ll see a bit of a pattern emerging; usually it’s one or two big feeds, and several more small pacifying feeds during the night. Keep notes. Seriously, KEEP NOTES.
- Step One: do away with the pacifying feeds. She wants only an ounce, she gets nothin’. That was probably the only point in the book that was not clear to me, as the authors said “Don’t worry about those,” and I thought that meant “Keep doing it.” Turns out it means “She gets nothing.”
- Step Two: Schedule several “dream feeds” throughout the night, about an hour before she usually wakes up to eat her big feedings. If she eats 5 oz. at 3, schedule the dream feed for 2. Agent of Chaos’ current schedule is 5-6 oz at bedtime (7:30ish), 5-6 oz at 10:30 PM, 2 oz. at 3:30 AM, wakes up at 6:30 AM and lies in bed until I come get her at 7 AM.
NOTE: If she wakes up before her scheduled feeding, don’t feed her. Giving a we’ll-feed-you-when-you-cry message is NOT the lesson she needs to learn. Do your scheduled check-ins until she falls back asleep. Even though we did this out of order–the authors recommend weaning first–doing the training first actually worked well, because she knows how to soothe herself back to sleep. Let her fall back asleep, then wake her up at her scheduled time (or ten minutes after she falls asleep).
- Step Three: Stick to the schedule religiously, reducing the amount of food (especially for the middle-of-the-night feeding) by an ounce–or a few minutes, if you’re breastfeeding–each night. Theoretically, after a few nights, she’ll be down to zero and won’t be eating anything in the middle of the night.
And presto! Your baby sleeps for twelve hours.
We’re still weaning. We haven’t started reducing her intake at the 10:30 feeding. And tonight, she’s down to 1 oz. But I can tell you that the progress is steady: turns out that she won’t wake up starving in the morning just because we only fed her 2 oz at 3:30 AM. Because we did the controlled crying training, she only wakes up once or twice in the night, and she fusses herself back to sleep within fifteen minutes (or stays awake and talks to herself for an hour, depending on her mood).
A note before I go on: do not, do NOT, take my word on all of this. But here are my tips for success, both for night weaning and sleep training.
- If you feel like you want to sleep train, buy the book.
- Read it thoroughly.
- Have your partner read it thoroughly.
- Before embarking on a plan, discuss the whole system in minute detail so both of you understand it.
- Every evening–say, around 6 pm, before bedtime, discuss and write down exactly what your plan for the night is. Write down, in large letters, in a visible, lighted place, answers to these questions:
- When are her night feedings?
- If she’s bottle-fed, who will feed her at each feeding?
- How much does she get at each feeding/how long does she eat?
- Who will commence check-ins if she wakes up at a non-scheduled time?
- What do we do if she seems to be in pain?
- Don’t have last-minute discussions at bedtime, or in the middle of the night, asking what the next step is (or doubting the plan). Just consult your written plan. Unless the baby is visibly bleeding or shrieking in pain, just stick to the plan and save your suggestions for the next night. Exhausted arguments are no way to solve problems. Not that, of course, we had any arguments at 11 PM or 2 AM or 3:30 AM. Just imagining that it could happen, and that it could ruin your night, and that it could result in some very unproductive pouting.
- Use overnight diapers. We use gDiapers during the day, and they’re great, but we just switched to Huggies Overnights, and lemme tell you—they’re worth it. We were changing diapers during night feedings, and all it did was wake her up and satisfy us that she wasn’t crying because she was wet. With the overnight diapers, I’m confident that if she’s wet, she doesn’t feel it, and it won’t leak. Some books also suggest slathering on the zinc oxide at bedtime to prevent diaper rash.
- Wubbanub, the cutest damn animal ever. She loves that monkey more than either of us, I can tell you that. (Her name is Mickey, short for McFarland.) A word of advice from the RocketSister: when the baby bonds with something, buy five more of the same thing so when Mickey #1 falls apart, Mickey #2 can take her place. Get the lovey. Everyone–EVERYONE!–who has asked about sleep training has asked if we have a lovey. I mentioned the Comfort Silkie in the last post, and since then, we’ve added a
- Help your partner. Prepare the bottle for the next feeding—or better yet, prepare the bottle in the exact amount to be fed. Say goodnight. Wait until they’ve had a cup of coffee to ask how the night went (not, say, at 7 AM when he’s still fuzzy with sleep. Not that I’ve done that.).
- Treasure your victories. Even when she wakes up at 2 AM and fusses for 45 minutes, keeping the household awake with intermittent crying and check-ins, think about the fact that at 7 PM, you put her down and she went to sleep within two minutes. That’s no small thing.
Most important, be consistent. Babies are like dogs. They like consistency, training, they like sleeping and eating and knowing when and how that’ll happen. They also like you. Love you, in fact. And they can smell fear.