Cry It Out to Nap

[Update: Three years after I wrote this post, we found ourselves once again facing sleeping issues, this time with our second baby. I wrote about it here, I think this “second opportunity” allowed us to explore alternatives to CIO sleep training and gave us a more complete insights into human baby’s sleeping issue. If you are struggling with baby’s sleeping issue and are thinking about sleep training your baby, I strongly recommend you to check out both this post and the one I wrote three years after.]

I think, among the many tasks which I can multitask, mothering a baby and homekeeping at the same time is the exception.

Let me elaborate.

Mothering is what I do, when Baby is awake. While homekeeping, is only possible, when Baby is asleep. I mean asleep and on her own. Not in my arms, not latched on still, not on my back. On her own, in her crib, off me.

Now if you read my previous post on Baby’s sleep, you probably would guess rightly that my homekeeping had not been good, at least not until a month ago.

Before we started nap-training on Baby, I used to backpack her in the Ergobaby carrier while doing housechores. She would drift off to sleep while I moved around, mopping and all. That was convenient!

backpack

But it could not last very long. As loving a mother as I tried to be, my back and waist betrayed me eventually.

My childhood hero. I used to imitate Son Go Ku, running around with a ransel loaded with heavy books on my back, pretending I was on the same training. Looks like I am too old for this now. (A page from Dragon Ball Z manga by Akira Toriyama)

My childhood hero. I used to imitate Son Go Ku, running around with a ransel loaded with heavy books on my back, pretending I was on the same training. Looks like I am too old for this now. (A page from Dragon Ball Z manga by Akira Toriyama)

The saving grace was, we were already working on bedtime sleep-training at that moment, and things were going very well with her night time sleep. So we decided to move on with the nap training.

Here’s what we did:

1. Start with night time sleep training, one at a time
The goal is for Baby to master the skill to sleep on her own, without Mommy’s (or Daddy’s) help. And it is a good move to start with her bedtime because lots of things are happening to our advantages during the night time, i.e. Baby is more tired at night after a day’s event and is more unlikely to resist sleeping, the night time environment (being generally darker and more quiet) works well together with Baby’s natural body clock and encourages rest.

I don’t think doing CIO for both bedtime and naptime at the same time is a good idea. If Baby’s naps are messed up (chances are they will be), then the sleep training at night will be a difficult one. Overtired babies sleep poorly, overtired babies cry more. Having four sessions of Baby screaming during the day AND night is just too much for my nerve.

2. Take note of Baby’s maximum waking time and sleepy cue
Do not wait until baby is cranky to put her down. Know her maximum waking time and allow enough time to prepare her for nap. If baby starts yawning and/or rubbing her eyes, most likely she is already overtired.

3. Naptime routine
Babies thrive in predictable situation and environment. If they know what to expect, they feel safe. It also gives a sense of security because they know the parents are in charge. Keeping a consistent routine and timing for naptime will help baby get the idea of what to expect (it’s time to nap, Baby) and help her body regulate her resting time. The naptime routine can be a mini version of bedtime routine. Ours goes like this: darken the room, on the white noise, diaper change, nurse, song, prayer, nap.

(A dark room goes a long way in helping babies to sleep. It blocks out unnecessary stimulation and I read somewhere our body’s chemical responsible for sleep inducing gets inhibited in brightly lit environment.)

4. Mom decides when the nap starts and when it ends
Depending on baby’s age, their nap duration varies. For our case, a decent nap will last for an hour to one and half hour. Only go in to them when their supposed naptime is over. Twenty minutes and she wakes up screaming? Hang in there! Often, babies will fuss and cry for ten to fifteen minutes and go back sleeping for another 30 to 45 minutes.

When we trained her for nap (I started with her second nap), Baby screamed EVERY single day for one hour, on and off, mostly on. One hour is the supposed naptime, so it literally meant she started crying the moment I left the room till I came back to pick her up. This lasted for five good days! I almost gave up but on the sixth day, she cried for the first 15 minutes and slept through the next 45 minutes.

There, we did it!

We continued and things were getting better in the next few days. Once Mommy and Baby gained more confidence, we hit it with the first nap just as well.

Now she naps on her own, and Mommy returns to her housekeeping list.
Yes there are extinction bursts every now and then, do stay calm and keep moving! 🙂

Anyone going through similar experience? Would love to hear your stories!

Goodnight, Baby. Don’t Cry. – part 2

babysleep3

[Update: Three years after I wrote this post, we found ourselves once again facing sleeping issues, this time with our second baby. I wrote about it here, I think this “second opportunity” allowed us to explore alternatives to CIO sleep training and gave us a more complete insights into human baby’s sleeping issue. If you are struggling with baby’s sleeping issue and are thinking about sleep training your baby, I strongly recommend you to check out both this post and the one I wrote three years after.]

You have probably heard about CIO aka Cry-It-Out.

No it doesn’t belong to the likes of LOL Lough-Out-Loud. It’s a popular and full of pros and cons sleep training method for babies/toddlers.

When I first read about this method, I wondered which sane parents would be so heartless to let their vulnerable babies with needs cry for hours until they fell asleep, tired of crying (I thought passing out would be more likely). Well, seven months into parenthood, to keep being the sane parents that we had been, we finally let the baby cry.

I believe no parents likes the idea of letting their babies cry to sleep. It was the last resort. It was after they had tried everything, read every book, yet nothing had worked.

For our case, we didn’t start right away thinking about sleep training the CIO way. We had been praying about the sleep issue and one fateful day, during the dinner Hubby shared with me how one of his coworkers sleep-trained his four children using CIO and how it worked for all four. (Congratulations! How envious I was!) That night, same thing, Baby started to fuss (her way of saying ‘Okay Mommy, put me to sleep now’) so I nursed her, hoping that she would drift off to sleep but she wouldn’t. She turned and tossed, roamed around our bed and was back again to nurse. She was clearly tired and wanting to sleep but didn’t know how. This lasted for a while before we decided if she would ever learn to sleep, it was the time.

We got all the info we needed to know from troublesometots.com and were confident that we could do it. After making sure that Baby was well-fed, well-clothed, had no diaper issue and was in absolutely safe environment, we put her down in her playpen (yes playpen and not the crib yet because obviously she would be really upset when she learned about her parents leaving her to sleep on her own and we didn’t want her to injure herself in case she was tossing around in rage in the wooden crib. She could toss all she wanted in the playpen though). Switched the light off – only a dim sleep light was on. Told her it’s time to sleep and we would be just next door and we loved her. Walked out the bedroom. Closed that door. And the crying began.

The wailing seemed to last forever. Many times, trust me, many many times we almost gave in. But we knew had we gone back into the room and picked her up, the sleeping problem would be there forever. So we stuck to our gun, prayed hard and kept reading every article about CIO we could find on the net with the screaming in the background. I had to repeatedly keep reminding myself that we were doing this because it was the best for Baby. If I was prepared to say ‘NO’ and let her cry when she’s 3 and demands for things which I clearly know are not good for her, why should I not do the same right then?

She cried for a good one hour before falling asleep that night. Great! We were prepared for worse (remember the coworker? His first kid cried for 5 hours the first night. I had no idea how they could survive the battle!). We peeped through the door, the bedding was totally undone, a clear sign that a riot had just taken place. There she was lying on the mess, sleeping. After what seemed like ages long, the parents could finally resume some quality time together and had an uninterrupted whole night sleep because Baby slept for 10 hours straight that night!

The next day we were more prepared for the training. Having done more research, we figured out things we needed to fix and improve, as listed below:

1. Routine, routine and routine
We paid close attention to Baby’s schedule and also started to incorporate bedtime routine. If I haven’t mentioned earlier, the biggest mistake we did second to encouraging nursing and sleep association was to never instill a consistent sleep routine for Baby. She slept (or asked to be nursed to sleep, to be exact) as and when she liked. This bred another problem which led to the issue of..

2. Parents keeping baby awake for too long
We had no clue there is such a thing called baby’s maximum wake time and we ended up with an always overtired baby as a result. But babies sleep when they are tired, isn’t over-tiredness leads to sleeping better then? Tut. Tut. Not true. Overtired babies sleep poorly and the thus the vicious cycle.

3. Putting baby down but awake
She’ll scream the moment the bedsheet touches her. I know. But rocking her for hours till her arms dropped motionless before putting her down would only bring you to.. rocking her, again.

There are two very important facts all parents need to know about baby’s sleep. First, when they reach the sixth month of their life, they develop a superpower called ‘I remember’. The more scientific term for this is object permanence. You will know your sweet little bundle has mastered this skill when she starts looking for a fallen object or cries when Mommy is gone. Previously an object that was out of sight was literally nonexistence to them. But once object permanence came into the picture, they are capable of missing you. Sweet isn’t it? The problem is, they too will remember that someone was rocking them before they fell asleep, now that they are suddenly awake in the middle of night, how come they are all alone on their bed? Where is Mommy?! Thus the upset scream.

Second, babies’ sleep is very different from that of adults. As adults, we normally fall into deep sleep quite soon after we close our eyes, wake up probably once in the mid of night, roll over and continue sleeping till the alarm goes off. The waking up in the mid of night is usually when we enter our light sleep phase. Young babies have more light sleep phases throughout the night, but in most cases they are able to go back to sleep without getting fully awake. The case with babies who have learned about object permanence, however, is more complicated. During their light sleep phases, instead of going back to sleep like how they used to, they get themselves fully awake. Checking if Mommy is still around, huh?

Now if the situation before they fall asleep and the one they wake up in are always different, they’ll turn anxious. Which will then result in a baby who resists sleeping and wakes up way too many times throughout the night, checking.

4. Naps must happen
Because without proper naps, baby ain’t getting enough sleep and overtired baby cries more. Whatever it takes, make the naps happen. I used to backpack her for her naps three times a day during the training to make sure she napped. (Sleep-training for nap, writing soon for the next post.)

5. Use white noise
It works. White noise blocks other sudden noises which may cause Baby waking up startled. Baby cried for 30 minutes to one hour during the first three nights. On the fourth, we played the white noise, and she cried for 15 minutes only. We are still playing the noise for both bedtime and naptime until now. Do take note that it has to be played throughout the night, remember, they remember 🙂
Don’t worry about buying white noise generator, just google and download one from the net.

It was tough, and we were often left in doubt for whether or not it would work. I couldn’t really sleep during the first week of the sleep training even after Baby was asleep. Looks like I was too used to having Baby sleeping beside me, says who babies are the only ones going through the separation anxiety? 😉

But the rewards are worth it all. At the moment, Baby is already sleeping on her own and she sleeps 11-12 hours straight throughout the night. Yes, she would sometimes fuss a bit when we put her down and leave the room, but most days she would just roll over the moment we close the door. No crying.

Now I can lightheartedly say “Goodnight, Baby”.

Goodnight, Baby. Don’t Cry. – part 1

babysleep1

[Update: Three years after I wrote this post, we found ourselves once again facing sleeping issues, this time with our second baby. I wrote about it here, I think this “second opportunity” allowed us to explore alternatives to CIO sleep training and gave us a more complete insights into human baby’s sleeping issue. If you are struggling with baby’s sleeping issue and are thinking about sleep training your baby, I strongly recommend you to check out both this post and the one I wrote three years after.]

SLEEP is not a glorious word.

At least not until I have a baby.

It seems like SLEEP and BABY make the best case of “either or” for parents, and neither do they seem to get along very well. So to reconcile the baby and the sleep, I think, is one of our parenting goals. As impossible as it seems, the good news is it IS possible.

I personally agree that parenthood is associated with lots of sacrifices. Sacrifices with purpose, that is. And sacrificing sleep every once in (or many times for) a period is of course part of having a baby in the house. We knew what we signed up for when the test kit turned out positive, didn’t we?

Not sleeping enough everyday (make that very little sleep everyday), however, is not. And it shouldn’t be. Because it does no good to anyone in the house. Sleep deprived parents don’t make great parents and sleep deprived baby turns fussy and cranky (we all know so well their brain needs the sleep to fuel its growth).

Here’s how we tried to parent better by getting enough decent sleep for everyone. (Since this is going to be a long post and I won’t be able to finish writing in one sitting, I’ll write about this topic in parts).

We figured out pretty early that nursing-to-sleep was a super wonderful sleep inducing method. It had never failed us…until Baby is 7 months old. So for the first seven months of her life, Baby had been ‘taught’ to sleep that way. She co-slept with us by the way, a very light sleeper she is, we never seemed to be able to move her from our bed to crib without waking her up.
babysleep2
When she was 7 months old, however, she decided that nursing was not going to work no more. So instead of dozing off immediately, still latched on, both of us would be lying down on the bed playing the drama of a desperate mommy nursing a wakeful baby who was obviously showing no sign of retreat. On more lucky nights, she would doze off, only to be awaken by the slightest sound and demanded to nurse again, and dozed off again, and got awaken, and nursed, and on and on.

The whole drama would play for 2 hours. A silent 2-hour night, every single night. Tell me about maintaining-communication-with-spouse-at-the-end-of-day (what communication?).

As if that weren’t enough, Baby would wake up in the middle of the night for another nursing session, not that she was hungry but she just needed to nurse to go back to sleep. My sleepy mind said it was probably 3 waking-ups, I tend to believe it was more.

After enduring one month of messy house due to the non-cleaning, tensed and overtired parents, and miserable baby, Hubby and I decided to sleep train Baby. It was not one easy decision but it was one of the best we had ever made.We’ll talk about it more in the next post.

Meanwhile, any sleep deprived parents and babies struggle with similar issues? Care to share your stories?