In which we 'ferberize' the baby

Anselm has sort of an odd sleep history. From newborn to about three months he slept very well (or at least as well as newborns do): I could easily nurse or bounce him down to sleep, and then he would sleep wherever he was put — generally in the bassinet.

The bassinet was great, until it wasn’t. At three months, we hit teething and a cold and a growth spurt all at once, and he became very hard to get to sleep — so we brought him into our bed. He lay beside me and I could nurse him when he needed it without having to wake up much myself. And it was reassuring to the baby to have us right there (and vice-versa). We all got more sleep.

Co-sleeping was great, until it wasn’t. Anselm got bigger; he started kicking and rolling. He started crawling on top of us when he woke up in the morning. And our queen bed got progressively smaller and smaller as he forced us out to the edges. So about a month ago we transitioned him to a crib mattress beside our bed. It was easy for me to get in and out of his bed to nurse him. It was a bigger space for him to sleep.

Sleeping beside our bed was great, until it wasn’t. I hadn’t realised when we were co-sleeping how often he was waking up in the night to nurse — much, much more than he needed to. My back was starting to hurt every morning from lying on his mattress to feed him. And nursing him to sleep was getting progressively more difficult — he was canny to the fact that I would eventually sneak away, and started trying to keep himself awake to prevent it. Some nights I would accidentally fall asleep in his bed instead of my own for a couple of hours.

Something had to give. I wasn’t sleeping, he wasn’t sleeping — things just were not working out.

Enter Dr. Richard Ferber, and Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. “Ferberizing” is probably the most controversial sleep-training method out there — and by “controversial” I mean “vilified” — but honestly, if you actually read the book and not random internet posts for/against it, what he says makes a lot of sense. We were able to quickly identify the source of Anselm’s sleep problems: he had a sleep association with nursing to sleep, he was (naturally) upset to fall asleep beside me and wake up with me gone, and he was eating way too much at night. So I read all the relevant chapters, we decided on a plan, and sleep-training started last night — after a mass text to all my pray-ers!

We decided to go whole-hog and address everything at once, instead of by piecemeal — reasoning that if it was too hard on the baby we could always scale back. But our goal for last night was that Anselm would sleep (a) in his crib, (b) in the nursery, (c) without nursing to sleep, and (d) without nursing in the night. It was a tall order: all of those things were new. But we were pretty sure that with our support, he could do it.

It went… shockingly, amazingly well. We pushed his bedtime back until he was truly sleepy, and then moved to our new bedtime routine. I gave him a bath, Stan read him some stories, I nursed him in the rocking chair, and then I put him in his crib. He cried, of course — we followed the plan to check him first after one minute of crying, then after three, then five, then seven, and then at ten minute intervals if he wasn’t asleep yet. We would reassure and comfort him but would not pick him up out of the crib. After about thirteen minutes of crying, he fell fast asleep and stayed that way for about six hours. He cried then for less than five minutes before falling asleep again. He roused about two hours later and fussed for less than a minute before going back to sleep until morning.

And now we’re thinking: why didn’t we do this a month ago?

I know that this was only the first night and that we may still run into all sorts of snags — like we have no idea how naps are going to go today (which we are also going to have him do in the crib, alone in his room, etc. etc.) But it’s so encouraging how well he did last night. Better sleep is well in sight for all of us.

And to those who worry about the crying: well, babies cry. It’s not fun for them (or to put them through it) but… babies cry. I’m not worried that we’re going to give him some sort of lasting psychological harm: after all, being better rested ourselves means that he’s going to get more consistent daytime attention and affection. And frankly, I was so tired that some days I was afraid to drive. I’ll take some sadness and anger from the baby in exchange for not accidentally running off the road. You know how it is.

2 thoughts on “In which we 'ferberize' the baby

  1. Yay Ferber! He does make a lot of sense. Reminds me of when we finally shut the door at night so the cats couldn't get in…


Comments are closed.