Solving Sleep Troubles: Part 3 — The No Cry Sleep Solution

After our one disastrous night of cry-it-out I woke up the next day and immediately finished reading The No Cry Sleep Solution, which I had half-heartedly begun days ago, months after my mom had sent it to me. I was determined to not repeat cry-it-out, but I also knew the status quo was not going to fly much longer. I was hoping The No Cry Sleep Solution had some answers.

And it did.

I LOVE this book. It doesn’t purport to be a guaranteed solution which, by the way, was the only thing that would ever work, as most other methods did. It talked about why infants sleep the way they do, and some things you can do to help them sleep better. It laid out many ideas, which the author, a mother, had come up with and tested and refined with a group of test-mommies. There were ideas for co-sleeping, ideas for moving a baby to a crib, and more. The author suggested picking out the things that sounded like they would work for you, and implementing them. She provided nap logs and sleep logs, and suggested you do them every 10 days to track improvement.

I picked out some things which made sense to me. The hardest thing for me was that my baby love would only fall asleep while nursing (with exceptions if the timing was right in the car, while being worn, or in the swing, but none of these were methods for getting her to bed as I then couldn’t transfer her). I LOVED nursing her to sleep, but it meant that when she would then have a brief awakening between REM cycles she couldn’t fall right back asleep since she was on her own. It also meant that being transferred out of my arms, like for a nap, would completely wake her, since she couldn’t put herself back to sleep from slight disturbances.

My sleep plan looked like this:

  1. I will quietly play with baby in her crib at least once per day.
  2. I will start our bedtime routine between 6:30 and 7:30 every night.
  3. I will follow this bedtime routine: a) Strip baby. b) Last potty. c) Put on PJs/blanket in crib. d) Read 3 books. e) Lights off, white noise on. f) Nurse.
  4. I will use the phrase, “‘Night ‘night, I love you,” as a sleep cue.
  5. I will use Pantley’s Gentle Removal Plan to end nighttime nursing-to-sleep.
  6. I will work on the stage I am on:
  • Nurse until almost asleep, let fall asleep in arms, transfer while asleep.
  • Nurse/soothe until almost asleep, transition to crib while almost asleep, use key words, continue to have arms around/on baby until asleep.
  • Nurse/soothe until settled and sleepy but not falling asleep, transition to crib, use key words, keep hands on baby until asleep.
  • Leave baby in crib, use key words, keep hands on baby until asleep.
  • Stand by crib, say key words, pat/touch sparingly until asleep.
  • Stay in doorway, say key words until asleep.
  • Stay outside room, say key words until asleep.

I started that night.

We nursed until almost asleep, and I took her off my boob.

She woke up, groggy and searching.

I tried a few other things, but she kept searching, so I put her back on.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

After around 8 tries she fell asleep without being on the boob.

I WAS A GODDESS!

I tracked sleep that night. It ended up being a PHENOMENAL night, probably partially because she was still exhausted from the night before. Here’s a summary:

Nights using plan: 0
Asleep time: 8:35
Awake time: 8:55
Total number of awakenings: 4
Longest sleep span: 3:40
Total hours of sleep: 11:05

As I said, this was a phenomenal night. I didn’t want to measure against that and feel like I was making no progress, so a few days later I tracked again. On what ended up being a pretty horrible night. But pretty horrible nights were not uncommon. That night looked like this:

Nights using plan: 3
Asleep time: 8:05
Awake time: 8:00
Total number of awakenings: 7
Longest sleep span: 2:15
Total hours of sleep: 9:50

Just go ahead and think for a minute what a night is like broken up to 8 pieces with the longest of them being 2 hours and 15 minutes. Four of them were under 40 minutes. Yeah. Fun times. Not cool.

I kept using the plan. And I noticed changes. Baby girl could fall asleep more easily off the breast. She was napping more, because I was doing everything I could to help her nap. Then she was sleeping better. Then she was napping better. And so on, because sleep begets sleep.

Ten days in I charted again. And it was a pretty average night for the time.

Nights using plan: 10
Asleep time: 7:45
Awake time: 8:00
Total number of awakenings: 3
Longest sleep span: 3:25
Total hours of sleep: 10:40

As you can see, not much of an improvement on paper from the first day. But her total number of awakenings did go down. So while her longest sleep span wasn’t longer, her average sleep span was. And all of the changes above were occurring.

We kept going. Baby girl started to realize I was taking her off the breast and get more upset when I did. But she also started to let me transfer her to her crib less carefully and wake up a little and allow me to settle her without picking her back up. She napped better and better, able to fall asleep out of my arms more often. She would more often wake, fuss, and put herself back down in a few short minutes (only every few nights, but considering previously it had been every few weeks it was an improvement!). And then the panicked clinging to the breast began to taper off. Shortly into the next 10 days she only woke once in the night for four nights in a row. And then we began to back slide. By the time last night rolled around, 20 nights into our sleep plan, we were at a horrible place in our sleep. I was demoralized to be tracking her sleep on what was going to be a horrible night. The first one was fantastic. Ten days in was average. And now 20 days in was going to be horrible. It was going to look like I made no progress. I needed to see progress. But it was time, and I’m anal-retentive,so i did it. Here’s my night:

Nights using plan: 20
Asleep time: 7:35
Awake time: 8:35
Total number of awakenings: 5
Longest sleep span: 3:50
Total hours of sleep: 11:35

And there you have it. This was an absolutely awful night for us at this point. I was sure the paper would show no progress.

And yet, and yet…go back and compare it to that first FANTASTIC night. Sure, we woke up one more time. But our longest sleep span was longer. Our total hours of sleep was longer. And this was a bad night instead of a good night!

PROGRESS!

And if you want to see some major progress, go back and compare it to what was a bad night 3 nights in. Compared to that a bad night 20 nights in was nothing!

Today I took baby girl out with me to a meet up with other moms. She has refused to fall sleep while out since she was a few weeks old. The whole overtired thing. But today? I noticed she was tired. I closed the cover on her stroller and carseat so she was coccooned in darkness. And instead of fussing? She fell asleep. I cannot even describe how groundbreaking this is.

Things are getting better.

Sure, it’s happening slowly. But I can handle slow progress as long as there is progress. And quite frankly, if I was willing to try harder I am certain the progress could be faster. There are more things I could do. Work harder at the gentle removal plan to get her off the boob faster. Be on a stricter schedule and make more sure she is getting naps when she needs them. Have a longer bedtime routine so she is more prepared for night time. But, quite frankly, it’s not worth it to me. I’m OK with this pace. We’re slowly but surely improving. And I don’t feel like it’s requiring me to do anything even mildly unpleasant.

Our worst night now is better than our best night 3 weeks ago.

That’s good enough for me.

Sorry for the delay in part 3. Raising a child takes a surprising amount of time, especially when you are also going to school full time and running your first ever 5ks while your mom is in town for a weekend. When your computer dies a sudden, tragic death and you are sharing with your husband that doesn’t help either. Thanks for the patience!

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