At least, that’s what I tell myself. It helps me get through. See, I haven’t slept good in, oh, three years.
Since my three-year-old was born. He is a very strange beast indeed.
My kids all slept through the night quite normally. With my 17 year old, well, you know, I was a new mom. I was going to do everything “right” and “by the book”. Literally. There was an author popular at the time, Dr. Richard Ferber, who wrote on the “Ferber Method” of sleep training an infant. I knew of this not because I was an avid researcher, but because I loved the TV show, Mad About You. Coincidentally, Helen Hunt’s character was pregnant at about the same time I was. Her character was going to use “Ferberization” to teach her little baby to sleep through the night. She sat outside her door all night bawling just as hard as the baby did in the show.
“The Ferber Method” goes something like this: You do whatever routine you want to set up for your baby before bedtime, but you put your baby to sleep awake. The whole point is that Baby is supposed to learn to calm himself down and put himself to sleep. Then you set the timer. Baby is going to cry. You let him. After five minutes, you go in and calm him down, reassure him. Rub his back. Talk, sing, whatever works. But YOU DO NOT PICK HIM UP. After he’s calm you set the timer for six minutes, and let him cry again. You do not go in until the timer beeps. And you keep doing this, over and over again, inching the timer up each time, until he falls asleep.
I did this with my oldest. And it sucked. It went against every instinct in my little momma bones. If my baby was crying, I needed to comfort him. Plain and simple. Still, I stuck it out, and sat right outside his door, and cried right along with him, just like Helen Hunt’s character in Mad About You. I don’t remember how old he was when I started this, probably around six months. I’m not sure. He was whatever age the book said he should be, that I am sure about. 😉 He was also my best sleeper.
With my fourteen year old I decided to rock him to sleep. Ferber was out, mommy was in. Same with my eleven year old. I never had any troubles with them sleeping through the night either. They slept through the night by the time they were a year old. The only trouble I did have was my now-fourteen-year-old often asked me to come lay with him. Sometimes I would, and sometimes I told him I would after I did the dishes. Then, I would take a very, very long time to do the dishes. By the time I got back in there, most of the time, he would be asleep.
ON A SIDE NOTE: If you tell your child something, you need to follow through. I would never lie to him. I wouldn’t tell him “after the dishes” and then never go lay with him after the dishes. Why? Because trust is crucial to discipline. If you consistently tell him “after the dishes” but don’t go lay with him after the dishes are done, he is going to catch on. And eventually, when you tell him “after the dishes” he is going to know you don’t mean it, and will cry and fuss and throw a temper tantrum. That will be counter-productive; it will teach exactly the opposite of what you are trying to teach. Always follow through with whatever threat or promise you give your child. (So choose your threats and promises wisely!)
But my three year old was a different beast entirely.
From day one he was a HORRID sleeper. My husband always said the baby was the one who had post-partum depression; it was like he wanted to climb right back in the womb! He would not let me put him down, day or night. I spent every night on the rocking chair with him in my arms. That is how we slept when he was an infant. If I laid him down, he screamed.
As he got older, it got a little better. He learned how to sleep in a crib. He had to at daycare, so it was a little easier for me at home too. We still spent a lot of nights out on the chair. I still was out with Ferber and in with Mommy, so I rocked him to sleep. I didn’t mind. I was exhausted, but I didn’t mind. He was my last baby. His older brothers grew up WAY TOO FAST. I knew this stage would be over and gone before a blink of my eye.
And then we were pacing the floors at night. And rocking for three, four hours. I worked a full time job. I had to get up in the morning. I was operating on three, four, five hours of sleep every night. He was older now, around eight or nine months. He was, of course, teething. Life was miserable. There was one day, when I had only two hours of sleep, that I did call in to work and go in a couple of hours late. Just so I could sleep a little longer. I’m not even really sure how I functioned at work.
Those closest to me told me over and over that I had to let him cry himself to sleep. So I tried it. For maybe four or five days. He literally sounded like someone was skinning him alive. I am not exaggerating that description one bit. Not at all. That is, no joke, what he sounded like. I could not handle it. We went back to rocking and pacing.
When he grew in to his big boy bed, nothing changed. He still needed us. He still cried like we were peeling his skin off if we weren’t there. So we laid on the floor by his bed, holding his hand, until he fell asleep. I was hugely pregnant with the twins at this point. It didn’t take long before I could no longer do it. I eventually had to refuse. It was at that time that I was no longer working. I was home for nap time with him.
Because I couldn’t lay on the floor by his bed, he did learn to fall asleep on his own. He did it, every single day, during nap time. But at night, he still cried for Daddy, and Daddy gave in. (Don’t judge – he was exhausted too!) At this point, he also started climbing in our bed in the middle of the night. We’d bring him back to his, and lay on the floor by his bed until he fell asleep again. I’d often wake up and have to go in and wake up a snoozing Daddy so he could come back to our bed. Sometimes we were so exhausted that we just let him sleep with us.
He is a wild and crazy sleeper. He screams and hollers and has nightmares while he sleeps. He kicks and punches. When he was a baby, he didn’t even close his eyes all the way while sleeping. That used to freak my boys out. I was used to it – my mom does some pretty freaky things with her eyes too, so it didn’t bother me. 😉 But the boys joked that he was possessed. And I have to admit, for a time, I watched him for night terrors, which, along with horrible sleep patterns, is a sign of Bipolar Disorder (which runs in my family).
But he is normal. Just a crazy, awful sleeper. And there is no doubt we should have used the Ferber method with him from day one. I know that now, looking back. But hindsight is 20-20. After we moved, his sleep patterns got worse. So we bought a king sized bed and he crawls in with us in the middle of the night. Most often, aside from the nights of kicking and screaming, I don’t even know he is there until morning. It’s not the “right” way to do things, but it is survival.
And survival is good, because we also have twins who do not sleep through the night! After the normal feedings required for infants, they still weren’t sleeping through the night. Baby A was the worst. He was up for three, four hours at a time, screaming, crying, wanting to play. If Baby B got up too, it was miserable. I was again at my wits end. This time, my husband joined the insanity. And two tired, crabby parents and two screaming, crying babies is not a good combination.
When they were 11 months old I had had enough. I was not going through this again, like I was with my three year old. I posted an SOS for help on Facebook. And a friend of mine hooked me up with a momma of twin boys, just a couple of years older than mine. Everyone was telling me to separate them and let them cry themselves to sleep. I did not want to separate them. I wanted them in the same bedroom. This other momma of twins was so amazing.
She supported me and coached me through Facebook Messenger. And she told me not to separate them. She assured me that they would learn to sleep through each other’s noises. And she told me to let them cry themselves back to sleep. So here we are, back at square one, 17 years later! Welcome back, Dr. Ferber!
But it worked. They go to bed beautifully now. They sleep through each other’s screamings. (Because they do still have some nights when they have to cry themselves to sleep). And they are starting to sleep the whole night. If they wake up, they can often calm themselves down and go back to bed. If they can’t, we can get them back to sleep easily, after a bottle. (Soon we do have to take the bottle away though – yikes!)
Now that I’m catching a little more shut-eye than I am used to though, I am finding myself feeling more tired than I usually do! My poor body….it’s so messed up! 🙂