Commitment to Sleep Training: The Key to Sleep-Filled Nights and Chunky Naps

IMG_2340I have to be honest: I am the last person who should be talking about commitment to sleep training.  If I had been more committed, John might have figured out how to nap on his own a lot faster than he did.  But as it is, I wasn’t very committed, so it took an entire month to teach John how to fall asleep on his own for naps.  If you remember my post from two months ago, we attempted to teach John to be a better sleeper using a Cry-It-Out sleep training method.  I would say that it was 75% effective.  Bedtime became a dream over the course of the weeks that followed our first attempt at sleep training, and now John falls asleep in his crib with absolutely no tears pretty much every night.  In just one week, he went from sleeping in his swing with his pacifier with a ton of rocking to sleeping in his crib without anything but a very lightweight blanket.  Bedtime has become a breeze, and I no longer dread it like I used to.  Naps were an entirely different story.

We attempted nap training for two weeks with no change before I finally gave up.  I couldn’t handle the crying anymore, and it just seemed cruel when we could pretty much assume that John would cry steadily for an hour and then promptly fall asleep with a bottle as soon as it was all over.  We had made absolutely no progress in those two weeks, and with a trip to visit family on the horizon, we decided to give up.  We returned to our old nap-time habit of rocking, though John now slept in his crib without a pacifier.  I wasn’t about to make my mom listen to John cry for an hour straight, especially since there was a very good chance that he would never fall asleep.  It just seemed pointless.

IMG_2306So we abandoned all efforts, content to revel in the fact that John was sleeping like a champ at night with only one wake-up and even napping in his crib without a pacifier.  Like I said, 75% success.

For a while, it wasn’t so bad.  We could rock John to sleep in about five minutes, then wait another five before placing him in his crib, just to be safe.  In the first few days, his naps were still fairly long- over an hour when he was in his stroller, and between 30-45 minutes in his crib.  And no, 3o minutes is not long for a nap, but it could be considered average, even long, for John.  But then, with each passing day, his naps grew progressively shorter, until we reached the point that 20 minute naps were considered ordinary.  At that point, we decided that something needed to change.  There was no way that we were going to manage with 20 minute naps, when we spent the first 10 minutes rocking and holding him.

So after a bit more research and some prayer, we decided to recommit ourselves to sleep training with the Ferber method.  For the most part, our plan remained the same.  We allotted one hour for his nap, and if he cried through the entire hour, then we would call the nap a failure and use another method to put him to sleep, normally a bottle.  This time though, rather than capping the checks at ten minute intervals, we decided to commit to the full Ferber waiting periods, with a maximum of 30 minutes.  With a plan in mind, we mentally prepared ourselves for the tears that were sure to come and began.

IMG_2327The first few days would all qualify as failures in my book.  For each nap, he cried for an hour straight and then promptly fell asleep with a bottle when official “nap time” was over.  We did notice some change from our first experience of nap training though.  John’s cries often dulled to low moans, and we could hear him rolling around in his crib.  Sometimes there would even be a minute or so of quiet before John’s cries would start back up.  Though he wasn’t able to successfully soothe himself to sleep, it at least seemed like he was trying, which was nothing like the first time around.  The first time, he just cried for sixty minutes straight, and the only time that he took a break was when we went into his bedroom to calm him down.  It wasn’t much, but we considered it a definite improvement.

After a few days of failure, everything changed very suddenly.  It was like a switch- one day it was off, and the next it was on.  Or in our case, one nap it was off, and the next it was on.  His morning nap went just like all the others before it- he cried for an hour and then fell asleep with his bottle.  The only thing that was out of the ordinary was its length.  Normally, after crying for an hour, he would sleep for at least an hour.  This time, he woke up after just 30 minutes.  Two hours later, he was ready for another nap, and Andrew put him down, fully expecting to have to go back in eighteen minutes later.  He was very surprised when four minutes into John’s nap, there was nothing coming from the baby monitor except the sounds of a bubbling brook.  He only slept for half an hour, but we still considered it our first success.

IMG_2319During his next nap time, he cried for sixteen minutes, and then slept for seventeen.  Not very long, but at least he was falling asleep on his own.  This nap was a success, but not quite as successful as the one before.  It was his last nap of the day that was the best of all though.  After Andrew put him in his crib, he walked out of the nursery just as he always did, expecting to hear some crying.  But there was only silence.  We’re not sure how long it took him to fall asleep, but it was obviously not long, and we didn’t hear from him again for thirty minutes.

At this point, John is going down for his naps with no tears about 75% of the time.  Sometimes, it’ll take him a few minutes to get settled, but most nap times are actually restful now.  From time to time, John still has a rough day where he won’t fall asleep, but at this point, Andrew and I are no longer worried that this is a fluke.  This is our reward for committing ourselves.  It might have taken a while, but now John is falling asleep in his crib without any assistance from us.  His naps are even beginning to lengthen, now that he’s six months old.  We do not have to look into his red-rimmed eyes as he stared tiredly back at us.  We don’t have to bounce him indefinitely between naps because he’s too cranky to play.  As I write this, he’s been awake for nearly two hours and he’s still kicking around in his bouncy chair.  Just a few weeks ago, I would have been bouncing a baby who was tired but still couldn’t manage to fall asleep.  Now everyone is so much happier, and I definitely have a much better appreciation for the value of commitment.  It was hard, but it was so worth it.

Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!

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