I am officially a sleep trainer quitter. Patrick and I have failed. For those of you who know me, I don't quit very often. Normally I am soooo stubborn that I do things just for the sake of completion even if its not the best idea. So hopefully that puts it into perspective.
Here is why I am no longer doing the sleep training and cry it out.
From the day Patrick was born he had a hard time falling and staying asleep. Its always been his biggest struggle. When he hit the 6 month mark I realized that I really need to start actively sleep training him in order to try to help him become a better sleeper. I re-read the books and talked to friends and was ready to go. I officially started July 12 and the plan was the do the gradual extinction cry it out method, on top of setting up a strict nap and bedtime routine and following a strict schedule.
My own attempts did not work. He would cry hysterically every single nap and bedtime, he was still taking very short naps, and he was waking very cranky. I kept hearing that it was "one bad week" or "a few bad nights" but then he would eventually be able to settle himself to sleep and things would get better. After about 3 weeks of no improvement- actually I think it got worse- I decided to hire someone to help. All of our lives were revolving around Patrick's schedule and I was starting to feel really bad for him.
So I started working with a sleep consultant on August 10. She set up a routine for me, and went into more details about the dos and don'ts (longer routine, how exactly to soothe him, dream feeds, etc etc). Most of what she said I already knew and already tried, but I gave it a shot and did exactly what she told me to do. It was super hard because by the end that meant letting him cry for a full hour in the middle of the night, which would ultimately end with Ryan also wide awake and all 3 of us sitting up listening to him cry.
Anyway... 3 weeks later... no improvement. Nothing. It was now almost a full 2 months and it was awful. The only time I could get him to nap were the few times we were in the car, or where I would let him sleep in my arms because we needed to be out doing something (aka Seaside Sundays- I still needed some beach time this summer). I seriously tried to be home for every nap, I had my mom and mother in law doing the exact same routine... I did it all. And things just got ugly.
By the beginning of September, he was crying for almost an hour to fall asleep for naps, then only sleeping about 15-20 minutes before waking up again, and he would not go back to sleep. Then we would repeat the process 2-3 more times throughout the day. The times he was awake he was cranky... puffy eyed... and would fuss big time if we walked out of the room. He just wanted to be held and he had to see someone at all times. He was starting to be extra clingy. My easy going child was becoming very stressed and cranky. Not to mention tired!
Bedtime was a little easier to get him settled because he was just so exhausted, but he woke up frequently because he was so restless... almost appeared anxious all night. Then normally by 4:30 am he was up for the day and I could not get him back to sleep. The sleep trainer told me not to even go into his room or out of the crib until after 6 am, so most days we sat and listened to him crying from 4:30-6am every day.
And the crying wasn't just baby fussing... it was hysterical, body thrashing, can't breathe, throwing up in the crib crying. Eventually when he would fall asleep he would try to catch his breath for extended periods of time after. It was sooooo sad (and scary) to watch. For those of you reading this that know Patrick from when we are out and about, you probably don't believe it... because this is not the kind of kid he is. He is happy, peaceful, smiling all the time. But that's exactly my point, this person at bedtime was not my kid... he became some different monster.
Bottom line- it never got better. It wasn't a few bad days or weeks, and I didn't see any hope of positive change. All I saw was a miserable, tired, scared baby.
One day I woke up and something clicked... I couldn't do it any more. I couldn't listen to my baby cry like that for another minute. Mike made an excellent point- the most important thing in the world is that our boys are happy and healthy... and when Patrick was crying like that he was neither happy or healthy. He was stressed, blood pressure raised, struggled breathing, scared, exhausted tired, and it was all for no good reason. He still wasn't sleeping.
At that moment I knew I was done with cry it out and I was not going to turn back. Don't get me wrong, that strategy might work for you. Maybe you have a baby that just needs to break a bad habit and a few bad nights is all it takes. But 2 f*cking months was wayyyyy to long and I am kind of mad at myself for letting it even go that long. Every baby is different and has different needs, and my baby needs me to help him settle into a restful sleep.
That brings me up to date... after quitting cry it out, things are actually getting better!
I am still sticking to the routine, have a set nap times, encourage a good nap atmosphere, but I do not let him cry to sleep. I will bring him into his room, change him, sleep sheep on, close the curtains, read him the same quiet bedtime story... but then instead of laying him down and walking out of the room, I will rock him for a minute or two until he is drowsy and then try to lay him down in his crib. Some days I can just rub his back and he falls asleep, other days he cries as soon as he lays down and I have to soothe him a little, and some days he really gets upset so I pick him up and rock him to sleep. Every nap and bedtime is a little bit different. But the end result, he is always peacefully asleep in his crib within 10 minutes.
The naps are very slowly starting to get longer... they are going from 30 minutes, to 40, to sometimes even 1 hour. Its not consistent and the 30 minute nap monster still comes up, but many naps are closer to the 45-50 minute mark. That's a huge improvement.
For bedtime he is now normally alseep by 7:00pm (bedtime routine starts at 6:30) and then sleeps through until sometime around 5-5:30. I always try to just give him his binky to fall back asleep but that normally doesn't work. If it doesn't, then I"ll bring him in my room, nurse him, and then we can both dose off a little until Ryan wakes up. My goal is to keep him in his crib til 6, but I"m not forcing it anymore. I would rather feed him at 5 and let him lay in bed with me and I dose off for another hour than to have him hysterical in his room and waking all of us up for the day at 5:00.
Another improvement is that if he does wake up over night, he can normally settle himself back to sleep. If he needs soothing its very little. He no longer wakes up in total hysterics the way he was when we were doing cry it out.
Anyway, you have to do whats best for your family, and for me cuddling my baby a little longer and helping him get to sleep is a much happier and healthier way of living for all of us.
I hope by the 9 month update that I have much better news.... fingers crossed that one of these days he will be able to drift asleep happy, nap for 1.5 hours, wake up smiling, and sleep til 7am... is that too much to ask ;)