Monday, November 26, 2012

Coco's Transition from Co-Sleeping to her Crib

Last week, we hit our limit with our sleeping situation. I was sitting across from J on the couch after finally getting Coco to sleep (it was sometimes a nearly two hour process!) and feeling completely drained. I explained to him that I was on a tired marathon. I had hit the proverbial "wall" months before and it felt like there was no finish line. I just had to keep going, bleary-eyed and irritable and exhausted. I really had nothing left. As a marathoner, he understood. And he was appropriately horrified! If that wasn't bad enough, J had taken to sleeping in the guest room in order to be rested for work. It was time for a change. And after months of hemming and hawing, we were finally ready. 

Let's start from the very beginning and I'll tell you all about how we went from two hours of struggling, crying and stress at bedtime to a peaceful routine, a quick snuggle and a sleeping, happy baby with no crying or fussing in only 20 minutes. It's been positively magical!


In October, I read The Sleepeasy Solution from cover to cover. I had read so many sleep books and found this one to be the most middle-of-the-road, sensible, and easy-to-put-into-action.

Like all sleep guides, The Sleepeasy Solution stresses the importance of routine and timing. A predictable, consistent bedtime routine is critical for babies and toddlers and timing is everything. Sleep training cannot begin when your child is sick, just achieved a major developmental milestone (like crawling or pulling up) or during acute teething when a tooth is actually breaking through. 
To that end, we developed a very specific bedtime routine for Coco that integrated with our needs as a family. After dinner, Coco had a little time to play. Then for two weeks before beginning sleep training, we did the following together.
  • Walk together through the apartment opening all of the windows to air our space.
  • Turn the lights low in our bedroom.
  • Go into the bathroom and brush Coco's teeth, then wash her face and hands.
  • Go into her room, close the window and put on face lotion, change into a new diaper and put on pajamas. 
  • Close all the windows throughout the apartment.
  • Say goodnight to daddy.
  • Go into our room and close the door.
  • Coco sits and plays in her crib with a pacifier and her bunny and two books while the Fisher Price Rainforest Soother plays lullabies and sounds and lights up.
  • Meanwhile, I close the window and prepare our bed so that the blankets are folded back for Coco and her pink lovey is  ready with a pacifier on top between J's and my pillows.
  • I lift Coco out of the crib and turn off the soother. 
  • We sit together on the side of our bed with the Boppy pillow and read two stories, Mama Mama and Goodnight Moon.
  • Then I turn the lights down very low (our bedside lamps have a dimmer switch) and nurse her on one side.
  • I turn the lights off completely and nurse her on the other side.
  • Then I offer her her pacifier and gave her a snuggle and then lay her down on her lovey. 
  • Finally (and this was the rough part!) I stayed with her for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour and half until she fell asleep. Whew!
After two weeks of solidifying our bedtime routine, we were ready. In the book, they suggest setting up a station with pen and paper to jot down notes, reminders of why you're teaching your baby to sleep independently to keep you strong and having the phone handy to call a pre-designated person for reassurance. It's the "least-cry approach" but there is still some crying and it can be so difficult for parents to get through, so having these structures in place ensures you will remain consistent and make sleep training as fast and painless as possible for your baby. Then, the big moment comes. You go through your bedtime routine and finish with laying your baby in her crib, saying goodnight and  then you immediately leave the room, closing the door behind you as you go.

When I decided it was time to sleep train Coco, I admit I wasn't prepared at all. I was putting her to bed last Sunday, when we were at the part where I was supposed to stay with her for all eternity until she wound down and fell asleep. She was climbing all over the bed, playing with her pacifier, trying to play with me, stepping on my hair while trying to get at the lamp and glass of water on my nightstand and I just said, "Enough!" I explained to her that even though she had taken her first steps just a few days before and had a few teeth pushing through, that if she was well enough to scale the bedframe and try to pull the art off the walls, she was well enough to have a go at sleeping in her crib. And so I put her in there, said goodnight and I love you and left the room, closing the door behind me as I went. 

Wow! It felt so empowering to set limits. I checked my watch, started timing ten minutes to the first check-in and braced myself for her screams. Nothing. Within a few minutes, we heard her babbling and playing. So far so good. Then she realized I wasn't coming back and started complaining in baby babble. Although she wasn't using words, her intonation and cadence said it all. "Mommy come back in here now! Where did you go? We are supposed to be playing! This is the time of night when I hold you hostage and climb on your head! I want you to come back! Do you hear me screaming? What is going on?" And then, it finally gave way to crying. She was crying all alone, but it wasn't the type of crying I expected. It didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. She didn't sound sad or needy, just angry, which I could deal with. J got me a glass of red wine and we sat together on the couch. About half way through the ten minutes, her crying changed and it was harder. She sounded like she really needed something and I suspected she had thrown her pacifier out of the crib in protest. I stuck to it, and waited the full ten minutes. 

When I went in for my check, I remembered to be brief and not pick her up. I said, "It's okay, Coco. I love you and you're learning to sleep in your crib. Goodnight, sweet pea, I love you" and I got just close enough to give her her pacifier, which had been on the floor when I came in. When I leaned in to give it to her, I could not believe the rush of anger that came at me from that little tiny person. She was not pleased and then she really came apart! A friend had warned me that doing the check-ins makes parents feel better about sleep training because it softens the process for them, but that it can make things worse for the baby. This was definitely the case for Coco. I went back out and closed the door behind me and she screamed her head off and cried and sobbed. Now it was really hard to listen to! And we had twenty minutes until the next check-in. Yikes!

I asked J if he thought we were doing the right thing. He reassured me we were. Then I drank some more wine. Then I asked him if he thought she could climb out of her crib? He said no. Then I drank some more wine. Her screaming escalated and it sounded like she was going to explode! Oh my goodness. Then I got on Facebook and, while I took another drink of wine, asked my mama friends to send reassuring messages ASAP. I got a flood of helpful, reassuring messages within minutes. And it kept me distracted. Pretty quickly (even though it felt like a long time) her crying changed. It would stop for a few minutes and I would hear her shuffle around and settle in her crib. Then she would cry a little more. Then she would re-settle. Then she would cry a bit more. She started to wimper a little bit, like she felt sorry for herself! And finally, two minutes before the second check-in, she was asleep. All was quiet. Just like the end of Goodnight Moon, "Goodnight noises everywhere." The house was silent and she was sleeping and I could hardly believe it! :)
The second night we adapted the bedtime routine slightly omitting the part where she played in her crib and moved her lovely into her crib. She cried two or three minutes. Honestly, I didn't even have time to check my watch! 

The third night, she cried maybe 2 seconds. The fourth night nothing. And now, our nights have completely turned around. She goes to sleep with no crying or fussing whatsoever between 7 and 8, sleeps for six to eight hours, wakes up to nurse once and then goes back to sleep until 7 or 8 the following morning. She even takes her naps willingly and peacefully in her crib now, as shown in the pictures. 

I cannot tell you how wonderful it is. Coco sleeps in her crib, but she's still in our room so I don't feel completely separated from her. And everyone is sleeping better. Best of all, she loves her crib. I can tell that she feels super safe and comfortable in there and she never, not once in her life slept an eight hour stretch while we were co-sleeping so I feel really confident that we did the right thing at the right time.

It's possible to start sleeping training from six months of age, but we really enjoyed co-sleeping with Coco until she was close to one year old. For our next baby, I think we will do the same thing and co-sleep from birth until 9 months or so and then look for signs that everyone would be better off with the baby in his or her own crib. In my view, sleep training is never appropriate for babies under six months of age because they have not yet developed a "demand cry" and really only cry to communicate genuine needs. But there are still tips for babies under six months included in the book to help everyone sleep better. 

The Sleepeasy Solution is amazing. It felt truly magical to go from difficult, almost unbearable nights to what we have now. It has completely changed our lives! Sleep training is something I thought I would never do, but in the end, it worked out so well. Did you sleep train your baby? Would you?

7 comments:

  1. Sounds awesome, Lindsey! What a terrific, well-balanced approach. Happy sleep, happy baby, happy mom!

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    1. It is awesome, indeed! Thank you for the support and encouragement, Margaret! xo

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  2. Great News!!! So glad everyone is sleeping well now :)

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  3. Thank you so much Lindsey for the so good explanations! I'm looking so forward to read the book. Will tell you then if it worked with Valentino. Really hope so!

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  4. PS: Your blog is wonderful! Wanted to say that since so long. And sorry for my english, dear Lindsey!

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    1. Oh, Isabelle! Your comments made my day. :) I hope you will have good results with Valentino. Just keep it consistent and it will work like a charm! xo

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