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Baby Sleep Boot Camp, Part II

My first Baby Sleep Boot Camp post was really all about our preparation for doing Baby Sleep Boot Camp.

But I have to say that by Friday night, I was exhausted and unsure of what we were doing. I felt like the baby was crying a lot, even though we were holding him and physically giving him comfort. I was uncomfortable in this new paradigm. The Pookie is such a different baby than the Pumpkin was, and I was just so confused about what was best for him.

So Friday night, when he woke up the first time, I just went to bed with him in the guest room and coslept with him all night. Which was miserable. He nursed all night long again, I didn't get any good sleep, and it felt like we were moving in the wrong direction. This just wasn't right for him or me anymore. I was back on board with doing Baby Sleep Boot Camp.

In order for both Londo and me to concentrate on the Pookie and his sleep, as well as our sleep, we set up a sleepover for the Pumpkin at my parents house Saturday night and Sunday night. This was especially important because the Pumpkin has been going through (yet another) sleep regression. I know it's the regression right before the next developmental leap around her 3rd birthday, but it's been a tough one in many ways. During the regressions, her sleep always goes totally out the window. So she's waking up crying and having fits and needing us, and that wakes the baby up. Or we've been trying to keep the baby quiet so he doesn't wake the Pumpkin up! Either way, we needed her sleeping elsewhere so we could focus on him.

Saturday night, after Londo dropped the Pumpkin off at my parents and I had put the Pookie to bed by walking him (he fell asleep within 5 minutes of walking with really no crying for the second night in a row!), my SIL came over to spend the night and help us out. She is planning to do this once a week for a while. We are eternally grateful!

When my SIL got to our house, we sat down with her and talked to her about what we had done in preparation for the night, from how we've been putting him to bed to how long we want to wait between feedings to the bottles of expressed milk we had set up (in a cooler in the bathroom across from the nursery, along with the bottle warmer) to when to come get me.

Because with the Pumpkin out of the house and someone taking night duty with the Pookie? We were going into the basement to sleep on the couches down there, far enough so that we wouldn't hear any crying. This was my SIL's intent: to give us a full night of sleep! We wanted, make that NEEDED to take her up on it. My plan was to set an alarm and wake up twice to pump, and otherwise sleep!

At this point, my SIL suggested that after giving him a bottle, she put him down awake and check in on him every 5 minutes or so if he was crying. Instinctively, I did not feel ready for this. But as the three of us talked it out, I realized that he was screaming when we were just holding him. Let me remind you that unless I was nursing him or sleeping with him, he has almost never soothed himself and gone to sleep. We've been trying to rock, bounce, walk, etc. with him, and the walking had just started working, but only when I first put him to bed. So if he's screaming in our arms for an hour, why not try and be there for him verbally and with physical closeness but not holding him?

We agreed to let my SIL try this method of controlled crying/fussing. We tried something similar with the Pumpkin, and it REALLY didn't work. But the Pookie doesn't not ramp up with crying the way she did. So maybe it would work for him. And if it didn't, it was only one night. One night of someone else willing to care for him and listen to him cry and be there for him and give us a night to sleep.

It worked. It wasn't perfect, no crying, sleeping through the night. But it worked!

The first time she put him down, he cried/fussed on and off for about 30-40 minutes. We had said if he was crying/fussing for an hour, then feed him again/pick him up/get us--whichever felt right to her. But it didn't make it to that point, and he was not getting really worked up. The second time she put him down awake, he didn't even fuss but fell asleep. The third time was the same as the first, except way more on the fussing side than the crying side. The fourth time he woke up, it was almost 6:00 and Londo and I were dying to know how the night went, so we all just got up then (although my SIL took a nap before leaving later that morning).

As for my night, I slept 4 HOURS IN A ROW before waking to pump the first time. And actually, I woke up just before my alarm when I heard walking above me, which would mean that my SIL was in the kitchen. So after I pumped, I went up to see what was up. My SIL had left the cooler and a note in the kitchen saying that she was out of bottles, so if I had more milk, please put it in bottles in the cooler and bring back up to the bathroom. Which I did. Then I slept for another 3.5 HOURS IN A ROW!!! I woke up at 5:30 to pump again, and like I said previously, Londo and I went upstairs around 6:00 to see how it went. Londo slept like a log all night long!

Not only was the night of sleep fantastic, but we had two major Doh discoveries:

1. The Pookie really is hungry during the night! He's not just nursing for comfort or to fall back asleep. He drank ALL the bottles I made for him. That was 10 ounces by 1:00 alone! So no wondering my feeding him one side and then trying to put him back to bed or going back to sleep with him next to me was not working. He was waking up still hungry in an hour or less. So now I know to feed him both sides when he wakes up. And that we needed to be giving him something more to help fill him up, since I can make only so much milk.

2. This method of sleep training really will work well for him. In fact, it will likely work better than holding him, since that seemed to be working him up more than leaving him in the crib.

So Sunday night, we continued this method, in addition to my being sure to feed him on both sides when he woke up and it was time to eat. It worked even better the second night than it had the first night! There was only one time I had to go in because he cried/fussed more than 5 minutes, and then he went to sleep just after that! And one time, he feel right asleep with no fussing at all! And he has been sleeping for 2 hours or longer since I've been feeding him both sides when he wakes. We are amazed!

Also, on Sunday night we started him on rice cereal at dinner time (which is usually an hour or less before bedtime). While I prefer the baby-led weaning/feeding method that worked great for the Pumpkin, it was becoming apparent that it wasn't working as well for the Pookie. We had noticed how frustrated he would get when he had to work to put the food in his mouth. He seemed hungry and upset that he couldn't get faster satisfaction. Add that to the fact that I haven't been pumping enough milk to keep up with his daytime demands, none to provide any nighttime bottles and my freezer stash was almost completely gone--well, it was time to either supplement with formula (which I didn't want to have to do) or try feeding him some cereal. This has been working really well, and he now eats the rice cereal or cream of wheat with some finger foods 2-3 times a day and seems very pleased about this.

So Baby Sleep Boot Camp went really well. We have found a way to work with the Pookie in getting to sleep and sleeping better that works for him. Although it is just outside of my comfort zone, I totally realize that this is best for him, me, Londo and our family. And having a "boot camp" where we focused just on him for two nights in a row was so perfect for our situation!

We've continued this method all this week, and it's been going well. There has been really only one bout of his crying/fussing for about 20 minutes, but most of the time he fusses for maybe a minute and then either falls asleep or babbles to himself for a few minutes before falling asleep. He's even been breaking out of his swaddle and still sleeping! And he's been waking up less often, usually about 3 times a night with the first time being before I go to sleep. Which means I'm only getting up 2 TIMES A NIGHT!

I'm getting more and better quality sleep than I have in over 7 months. I'm not worrying about the Pumpkin waking up the baby or worrying about both of them in our bed together. The Pookie seems to be sleeping better. It's been great.

I fully expect there to be sleep regressions and set backs. That's the norm with kids. But figuring out what works for him and seeing how well it works is going to be an important tool in our parenting toolbox. And now that the Pumpkin is almost 3 and starting to understand more, we (mostly Londo, who is really in charge of her at night) are beginning to work with her on her sleep. She might need a boot camp (although using a method that will work for her) soon, too, but it will be easier to work with her when we've got the other kid sleeping/going to sleep so much better!


Jana said…
Wow, it's amazing how manipulating the variables and removing extraneous factors (to this particular situation, anyway) helped you to determine the Pookie's exact needs. Yay for sleep!
Cloud said…
Yeah! I'm glad this worked well for you.

I think a lot of the eating during the night thing has to do with whether or not the child has "learned" how to shut down his/her digestive system at night yet. I put "learned" in quotes, because I don't think this is really something you can teach. I think babies just develop that ability when they are ready. I look at the difference between my two kids in this department, and I have to believe it is something that is just programmed in them. Petunia started dropping night feedings before I had even thought about "working" on her sleep.

I keep saying we need to work with our Pumpkin on going to sleep without my hair. As you say, she's getting old enough to understand more now. But I think I'd rather get potty training sorted first.
Geeks in Rome said…
That is pretty impressive detective work and teamwork. Your SIL deserves a medal for doing this for you. But it's true an outsider can really handle this situation with a lot of claity and neutrality.

That is great you found a solution.

The need to feed or relieve thirst is a real one, so it'll be really nice when you find a way to fulfill those needs without having to nurse all night or wake up to deal with it. Boys tend to be more ravenous, too. It will get so much better when he supplements with more solids later.

Congratulations! and do more of this soon!
Flint said…
At 7 months, I was so frazzled that (a) we switched to formula at night only, knowing our kid preferred BM and (b) only my husband went in, so kiddo couldn't "smell" me. Night weaning, and solid sleep happened within 3 days. YMMV.
Anonymous said…
hey cutie. nice blog! (its SIL, btw) i'm sure you already covered the research bases, but i found a mention of a technique that was new to me: if its night terrors, in part, try waking your eldest 15 minutes after she falls asleep. (from webMD keyword night terrors) also: is snoring (possibly sleep apnea) an issue? that's one to follow up with the doctors for sure.

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