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Baby Sleep Boot Camp, Part I

So this weekend, we had Baby Sleep Boot Camp. And let me tell you, it went pretty well! But let me start at the beginning.

We don't just sit around and complain about our crappy sleep in my house. I mean, we do, but we ALSO try to do things to improve it. With the Pumpkin, we tried just about everything except full-fledged cry it out (CIO). We did try some fuss it out (FIO), but sleep training along those lines simply was not right for the Pumpkin. We long ago came to the realization that she was not born with any self-soothing skills. She would be calmed only by a person holding her/lying with her/rocking/etc. The times we let her cry of fuss for a while were disasterous. Crying only increased her tension. But whatever, we have figured out what generally works for her, and it's been generally fine.

Then the Pookie was born into our lives, and our nights took on another layer. Not only does this boy simply LOVE to nurse, but as an infant it seemed to be the only was to get him to sleep. We did see that he had potential to be a better sleeper, including some ability to self-soothe and sometimes take a pacifier. He has a different personaly and different issues than the Pumpkin. And we figured out what generally worked for us.

Until recently. Recently, what was working is no longer working. For the Pumpkin, for the Pookie, for Londo and for me.

It appears to me that when the Pookie goes through a growth spurt, he starts nursing a lot more at night. For a while, he was waking up every hour to nurse. When he recently went through the 6 month growth spurt, he started basically nursing all. night. long. I thought it might be the teething or the comfort or whatever else, and I tried just cosleeping with him thinking the nearness was what he needed. And some nights it was okay. But more and more, he was nursing all night. I generally don't have a problem cosleeping, but I am apparently not good with all-night nursing. I am not able to get any real sleep when he does that.

After almost 7 months of very little in the way of decent sleep, including only a handful of times sleeping longer than 2 hours in a row, something was about to give. It was most likely my sanity, which is hanging on by a thread. It was time to close the all-night mommy milk bar and in. But I was having trouble doing that while cosleeping. Also, I was having a lot of trouble getting him off the nipple. Every time he fell asleep and I popped my nipple out of his mouth, he'd wake up and fuss around trying to find it. This was making it harder and harder to put him down in his crib, where I'd been starting him off for the night in his nursery because I need just a little time for myself and for the dishes and such.

Right when I was about to completely lose my mind, my brother's wife made the most awesome offer. In a pay-it-forward gesture, she basically insisted on coming over one night a week to take nighttime duty. Her twins are 3.5 years old and have been sleeping through the night for a long time now. When they were babies and she wasn't getting much sleep, one of her friends came over one night a week and did the same for her.

Londo and I quickly told her we'd take her up on the offer, but first we had to do some work to get the Pookie ready for someone else to put to bed/get back to bed.

So a week ago Sunday, I started changing the pattern of putting him to sleep and trying to set some time limits between his feedings. I started by feed him with the lights on at bedtime. After he was done eating, I would change him and wrap him up in his swaddle (yes, he's still swaddled, something we are going to work on soon). Then I would walk with him, bounce him or rock him to sleep. I decided that I would reserve the rocking chair for nursing in order to establish cues for when he's getting fed and when he is not. So when I'd rock him to sleep, it was on my lap sitting on the bed in the nursery. I also tried to give him the pacifier, which he would take about half the time.

The first night, he was full and content and fell asleep pretty easily. The next four nights, it was like he figured out what was going on and wasn't happy about it. He fussed and cried and squirmed and fussed some more. One night wasn't so bad, but then the dog made a big noise and started him awake, and it took almost an hour to get him back to sleep. BUT Friday and Saturday night, he feel asleep pretty easily while I was walking him. I'm talking within 5 minutes, with a pacifier, fast asleep. I put him down, and he stayed asleep.

I've been amazed! It's like the whole sleep training thing really does work for some kids!

The other aspect of our prepping this week was that I wanted to wait 2 hours between feedings. So if he woke up and it had been less than 2 hours since I feed him, Londo or I would go in and walk him, rock him or bounce him. If he kept crying for an hour, I would go ahead and feed him (because it would have been about 2 hours at that point anyway, and he would have worked up an appetite by then even if he hadn't been hungry originally). At this point, I would let him fall asleep nursing and put him down asleep.

After 11:00 or so, I was tired and would just nurse him cosleeping. I tried to put him back in his crib a few times, but he would wake up and fuss and I didn't have the energy to walk him back to sleep.

But we had moved forward into new territory. He was falling asleep better and starting to figure out how to fall asleep without being nursed. And Saturday night, we were going to start Baby Sleep Boot Camp!

Story continued in Baby Sleep Boot Camp, Part II


Katie said…
The Infanta was swaddled to sleep until she was about 11 months old. She could break out of it very easily by that time, but the cue helped her to go to sleep. In a way, I wish it still worked (not that I've tried since May), this 18-month disruption is driving me bonkers!

But, don't apologize for something that works, especially since you were changing everything else!
Just reading this exhausts me. I don't miss sleep training. Of course my kids are still crappy sleepers, but I guess they've trained me.
caramama said…
@Katie - I've remembered that you swaddled the Infanta till she was 11 months, and I often think about that when I'm worried about still swaddling my guy. Unfortunately, he's starting to roll over, so we are going to have to stop swaddling him or my husband won't get any sleep because he'll be up worrying all night. But not just yet, cause it's still working! And so true about the sleep cues. I'm coming up with something to replace it as a cue.

@Kate - Thanks for stopping by! I can't wait until we are out of this age with our kids. It exhausts me just writing about it! And I'm sure my almost 3 year old will be a crappy sleeper for a long time, but I have hope for the baby! Time will tell...
We swaddled Lexie until she started rolling over. Then we still used the swaddle for a while, but with her arms outside of it. Might be worth trying for you guys too -- it was a good transitional step for her.
Cloud said…
Ah sleep. I say often that I look forward to the day when the only person's sleep I worry about is my own.

I hope Pookie does (did?) well in boot camp!
Geeks in Rome said…
love this idea of boot camp :)
I was sooo lazy. I just nursed my kids all night until they were about 1 year because I couldn't deal with the crying and I worked full time from 6 weeks after birth so it was less painful to be slightly awaken by a chomping mouth than arguments over "no booby."

Then when I knew nutrition was not an issue by 1 yo I would use a bottle when they'd wake up fussing.

For both kids going on a biz trip when they were about 1 yo worked wonders for getting them off my night nipple. It was great because they were weaned off of me with NO problems! and when I came back I could set limits when they did wake and say "no booby until the sun starts shining through the window." But they could have all the milk or water they wanted with the bottle.

I find once they get to understanding what you say it all went smoothly. But I tell you, a 3-6 day business trip is the fast and easy solution!
Anonymous said…
What a great resource!

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