My Ferber, My Friend!

Big news around the homestead: the baby is sleeping.

That's right, folks. With mixed emotions, we moved him out of our room three nights ago and into the guest room downstairs (we live in a 1.5 storey house with two rooms up and one room down). I say "mixed emotions" because as much as we want him to have his own room, it just didn't seem practical to have him downstairs where it would take a lot longer to get to him when he woke in the night. His brother, The Toddler, sleeps in the other upstairs room and with us moving house in a month, we didn't think it fair to evict him to the downstairs room and then uproot him again in a few weeks. And so we've been putting the baby to sleep in the Pack & Play every night at 7:30 and the Toddler to bed upstairs at around the same time. The former now gets himself to sleep with only a minimum of crying (no more than 10-12 minutes) at that time of the night. During the day, he finds it easier to get himself to sleep.

Regardless of your personal beliefs on getting kids to sleep, there's no arguing that a kid who can get himself (or herself) to sleep makes life easier for the parents. With The Toddler, he got the hang of things at about five months when he basically told us he was no longer keen on being wrapped up and rocked (or bounced, or danced) to sleep. He would arch his back and fight us every step of the way, until finally we realised he was communicating something -- that something being, "HEY! Leave me alone, dammit!" And so by five or six months*, he no longer needed us to get him to sleep, and he also slept through the night so wouldn't need his mother to come in and breastfeed him.

* Having two kids is bad for the memory, but I think that's about right.

As I've mentioned before, this all changed when the baby came along six months ago. We erroneously figured that after a couple of month, he'd settle into a bit of a pattern of being more awake during the day and more asleep during the night. Man, were we wrong. People with more than one kid will tell you that just because you got a "sleeper" the first time, doesn't mean you're going to get one the second time. They'll also tell you (not that you'll listen after being handed that news) that what worked for one kid won't necessarily work for the other. One might think the lesson here is to stop asking for advice from other parents.

Part of our reluctance in letting the little guy cry it out and figure out how to get himself to sleep is that we didn't want to disturb The Toddler, even though he probably wouldn't be too put out by the crying. And so we decided to have him start his sleep in the guest bedroom downstairs, and we'd eventually move him up to our room (where the crib is) and go through our nightly crying/feeding/rocking adventures up there. Concluding that he was a very light sleeper and we were just too damn noisy for him, we tried a little white noise therapy: a fan seemed to do the trick just fine, much better than a borrowed "sleep machine" - basically a small radio that makes a variety of noises, including a stream, waves, rain, wind, sounds of the ocean (including bell buoy), heartbeat, womb (creepy!).

In our defense, we really had no idea how to sleep with a kid in our room. In the case of the first born, we wanted to get him used to his crib as soon as possible, and given that his room is all of three feet from ours, it wasn't a big deal to leap out of bed and take care of his overnight needs. We briefly attempted to have both kids sleep in the same room, but that lasted all of one night and then we went back to the cradle at the foot of our bed. When he outgrew the cradle, it was the Pack & Play, and then the crib moved into our room and the Pack & Play moved downstairs into the spare room.

And now he spends his nights entirely in the guest room (but I don't make him coffee in the morning or leave fresh towels on his dresser). He gets himself to sleep, sometimes with a little help, and he gets fed once through the night (usually after 1AM) and it seems to do just fine. We sleep with the listening half of the baby monitor beside our bed so we can (sadistically?) listen to him cry himself back to sleep should he wake up before 1AM. After My Lovely Wife gets up for the overnight feed (she claims he isn't very hungry) she puts him back down, not wrapped, and he gets himself back to sleep. My role, happily, is diminished to one of sleepy, mumbly support and turning the monitor off and on at her request. And now the fan is on in our room only because of the 150% humidity and the temperature in the house at night.

So what changed? Maybe he's getting to an age where he could benefit from a little more control over his sleeping. Lately we've feared that we're instilling in him a dependence on us to get him back to sleep, but we just couldn't take the steps to let him cry --mostly because he was 5 feet from our bed and the racket was both annoying and heart-wrenching. But moving him downstairs seemed just as cruel. Witnessing the toll being taken on My Lovely yet weary Wife was also hard to handle, and so it seemed worth a try: we'd give him his own room, let him cry a little, and see what would happen. Now he gets up once through the night, and he sleeps until 7:30 in the morning (when before, anytime after 0500 was game-on). Maybe the Ferber Method is working for us -- after all, a variant of it worked for The Toddler.

I think we've come to the conclusion that the little guy just needs some bloody peace and quiet to sleep.

This also means that I'm getting better sleep, and once My Lovely Wife re-learns that she'll wake up when the baby cries, she'll get better sleep too. So far, so good.

I won't dwell on the dangers of labeling anything "a pattern", but this one seems like a workable situation for the next month. After that, he'll officially have his own room and he can stop being a guest. And we can feel better about actually having guests over.

Want to know who this Ferber guy is? Start here:

Posted bythemikestand at 9:36 AM  

5 stepped up to the mike:

TinaPoPo said... 2:34 PM, June 27, 2006  


Baby post. I rest my case.

Also, I work in pediatrics, and as I'm sure you know, the Ferber method has been revised in recent years. Pretty much now what we tell parents is: you do what works. For you.

Dustin said... 10:12 AM, June 28, 2006  

Oh man, is it wrong that I view babies as the most fearsome creatures on this earth?

Chair said... 3:20 PM, July 04, 2006  

We went with the Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child book and it worked like a charm, though the first few nights were pure hell. We now have a 20 month old that will ask to go to bed when she's tired -which never ceases to freak me out just a little. But it's good.

A big part of the whole Do We Have Another Or Not debate is knowing that our second could be very different from our first and considering our first is almost frighteninly good, I'm worried.

gingajoy said... 5:28 PM, July 05, 2006  

bravo!!! we were totally there with you with number 1 (and in the end, turned the monitor off--maybe *that's* sadistic) and the payoff was great. we also used the weissbluth book. rockin' awesome.

man, i hope #2 is a sleeper.....

the mad momma said... 6:34 AM, July 10, 2006  

wow.. i hate you.. two kids, and both good sleepers? we are dying to have a second one but my 14 month old has just begun to sleep from 1 am to 6 am uninterrupted... we treasure those few hours and the thought of a new sleepless brat is terrifying!!!! congratulations you two on a job well done!
dont even send me to Ferber and Weissbluth and Spock... been there.. done that... given up!

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