Re-learning Self Settling

When I jumped the gun and wrote Survival Mode Part II: Relief, things had gotten better…before they got even worse. Last week we experienced 4-8 wakeups per night and day naps back to 30 mins. It was taking increasingly more time and effort to settle the baby who then seemed to have such light, restless sleep. When she did sleep, we tiptoed around the house…which seems pretty normal. Except that we had stopped having dinner, lest it break the fragile sleep cycle, instead opting to just go straight to bed on an empty stomach. We cancelled plans left, right and centre as we just tried to cope with each day. When she awoke upset, she would fall asleep on my shoulder immediately but wake 4/5 times of being put down. Even if I tried to put her in my bed next to me. So I was spending more and more time with her sleeping on me. I told myself that this was fine, so long as she got that sleep and wasn’t upset. I was getting more and more desperate, until one day I decided that the only way to cope was to accept that this was how she ‘sleeps’ now. Once that had sunk in…my stress alleviated and I became numb instead. I don’t know that it was a good thing, but that was how I was coping as I no longer held onto hope that conditions would improve. Through all of this, my poor daughter was such a pleasure during the day. She started giggling for the first time and was extra smiley. She knew how to help her Dad and I through a difficult stage.

So we had nothing to lose (sleep-wise) at the suggestion of trying something different. Before I tell you about it, let me just share a snapshot of what our days looked like last week for context.

Wednesday

Daytime – 3 x 30 min catnaps

Evening:

5.10pm Dinner, 6pm Bath, 6.45 Bottle

7.30pm In cot (chest rubbing for about 6 minutes followed by hand left on chest and shushing (from me and app))

7.40 Asleep

8.20 Awake (started resettling as per bedtime) – 8.40 Asleep

11.03 Awake (settled in cot with chest rubbing and shushing) – 11.10 Asleep

11.47 Awake: picked up and cuddled and rocked – 12.10am Asleep back in cot

12.55am Awake: picked up and cuddled and rocked – 1.15am Asleep back in cot

2.30am Awake: picked up, cuddled and rocked followed by numerous attempts to resettle in cot – 3.45am Asleep in bed next to me

4.15am Awake: picked up, cuddled and rocked…- 5am Asleep in bed next to me

6.15 Awake: able to resettle next to me in bed

7.20am up for the day and running 50 mins late on Baby Whisperer’s schedule!!

Thursday

Daytime – 1 x 45 min nap; 1 x 35 min nap

Evening:

5.10pm Dinner, 6pm Bath, 6.45 Bottle

7.30pm In cot (chest rubbing for about 3 minutes followed by hand left on chest and shushing (from me)

7.35 Asleep (promising!!)

8.30 Awake (started resettling as per bedtime) – 8.35 Asleep

12.20am Awake (settled in cot with chest rubbing and shushing) – 1.05 Asleep

2.50 Awake: picked up and cuddled and rocked – 4.35am Asleep back in cot

5.05am Awake: settled in cot – 5.15 Asleep

6:45am Woken for breakfast

Controlled Comforting

I had been feeding this back to the Baby Whisperer (during civilised hours!!) and not getting much back, until on Thursday when she simply texted “you’ll have to try Controlled Comforting”. I looked it up and wasn’t happy. It does involve leaving baby for 2 minute increments to teach her how to self settle. I thought, nup, not me. Not going to do it. My child cries because she needs me. She’ll sleep on me all night if she needs to. But as Friday dragged on at the end of a very long week, I started humoring the idea little by little. I did more research. I texted back “but what if she cries the whole time?” and got some sort of matter-of-fact response. I guess I had already made my mind up. I would give it a shot. I could always stop it if it wasn’t for us. I would never have even entertained the idea if you’d asked me a week earlier!! But at the very least, we needed to start having dinner again so that Andrew could have sufficient energy to do his physical work 10 hours a day!

I found these articles really helpful:

http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/controlled_comforting.html

http://www.jofrost.com/controlled-timed-crying-technique-ctct/

and was satisfied that it’s not the same as Crying It Out. I got Andrew on board and we decided to start on Friday night. I was prepared for crying because we had lots of it at every attempt to put her down. But no one has a baby to listen to them cry and it was very tough.

Friday Night

The first bedtime was gruelling. I did my usual bedtime routine, I put her down, said “nigh nighs for sleepyhead” and left the room. 2 mins of crying. Went in and said the same thing. She stopped crying…until I left again. 4 mins of crying. Andrew wasn’t happy with this at all! Because of course we were just sitting in the next room absorbing every single cry , sob and whimper, every single bit piercing our guts. After 4 mins, same reassurance. Onto 6 mins. Doubt starting to creep in. The sadness in her cry. The desperation on my part that this has to work. Went in to reassure after 6 mins and there was silence when I left. She was asleep as at 7.46pm. I don’t need to break down the schedule of Friday night because she slept.right.through.

I was shocked when Saturday day naps went smoothly. Was expecting to have to do the same. But she wasn’t upset when I left the room and even babbled to herself for a couple of minutes. I had missed those sounds.

Saturday night

I probably thought there wouldn’t be any tears at all because the day sleeps went so well, so was quite upset when there was the same amount of tears as Friday night. But again, she settled as at 7.45pm and slept right throught the night. She cried out once, but was quiet again almost immediately. Me, I was awake, waiting for the next pickup.

Sunday night

There were no tears at bedtime. After a couple of minutes, she cried out, but it didn’t amount to anything. I went to bed sniffling and sneezing, not expecting a good night sleep-wise, but was amazed to sleep 8.5 hours, as my little girl slept through the whole night without a peep.

Why I think it worked so quickly for us

I’m not suggesting this is for everyone – I wouldn’t and couldn’t do that. Despite the tears at bedtime the first two nights, it actually saved us all from more crying as she had cried everytime she woke up previous to this approach. She’s now remembered how to self settle.

I think it worked for us because:

  • Jessica had previously learned how to self settle at 4 months (see Sleep Like A Baby…)
  • All of her other needs were met
    • Food and drink (see Survival Mode Part II: Relief for dietary changes)
    • I knew she wasn’t hungry overnight
    • Wasn’t in pain – as she was able to immediately fall asleep on my shoulder
    • Clean nappy, etc. etc.
  • She was ready and so were we!

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