All I want for Christmas is a silent night.
You swore you’d never CIO, and the thought of letting your sweet baby cry herself to sleep makes you sadder than sad. But she’s waking all. the. time, demanding to nurse all. the. time, and you’re… done. Hubs is on board but there’s still one problem – how the heck do you do it?
A plan… in a nutshell.
We’ve been asked to elaborate on our experience with crying it out. Yay! We love taking requests peeps, so here goes.
There are basically three ways to get ‘er done:
- Extinction: put her down, shut the door, walk away, don’t look back.
- Comfort from afar (aka Fade Away/Sleep Shuffle): Stay in the room to console verbally while she wails. Move further away every night or three until you’re outta the room.
- Ferber: put her down, shut the door, walk away, and return at VERY specific times for a little break from the sobbing.
They each have pros and cons and will work IF you’re consistent and give her time to adapt (could take up to two weeks). Timing is key, so she has to be at least four months old and you don’t want to start on Christmas Eve or any time you won’t be able to stick to a few days of schedule.
We decided to Ferberize baby Alex after much gut/heart-wrenching debate. We’d hit a co-sleeping wall, weren’t ready to Extinct it out, and Fading out wasn’t sustainable: he screamed bloodier murder when he could see/hear us and we didn’t pick him up, which made it even more impossible to resist picking him up.
The first step was getting Alex to fall asleep on his own. He’d always been nursed/strollered/rocked to sleep, so this was HUGE. Our new routine consisted of a bath, cuddles and songs while PJing, turning on the white noise, reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Goodnight Moon, a sleep sack zip up, a kiss while getting him cozy à la crib with his fave blanket, switching off the light, and walking away. The first night didn’t go well. Neither did the second, or the third. We followed Ferber’s superhandy schedule to go in for a quick pat/kiss/shhh, which was hard: he stopped crying the second we opened his door and then amped up with a vengeance the second we shut it. But finally on the fourth night, he went to sleep after a whimper-sigh… only to wake up three hours later to nurse.
So hurdle number two: cutting out night-feeds. Since he was a regular at my all-night buffet bar, ixnaying the ilkmay cold turkey would have been harsh. He was freakin’ hungry! The first night he went to sleep without crying (so that was night four after starting to Ferberize) I nursed as usual when he woke up. The next night, I refused the first wake-to-feed, repeating Ferber’s scheduled-interval technique until he fell asleep. I then fed him the rest of the night when he woke up. The following night, I again refused his first wake-up (which had now shifted later) Ferber-style, but fed on the next wake-up, and again the next night, and the next night. This pushed his feed later and later each night until it was pushed right through into the morning – yippee!
So what’s Ferber’s superhandy schedule? Pick the time you’re comfortable with to check-in and then gradually increase it a little bit each night up to a max. Then increase the initial check time each following night. So checks on night one with Alex were every 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and 7 minutes (and then every 7 minutes – the max for each night is the third bump-up and each new wake-up resets the clock to the first check time). Night two was 5 minutes, 7 minutes, and 10 minutes (and then every 10 minutes). Night three was 7 minutes, 10 minutes, and 15 minutes. Night four was 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and 20 minutes. And so on and so on and so on.
The checks need to be short and sweet: a quick pat, say something calming like “I know baby, shhhh, go back to sleep,” and then boot it out of her room without any further interaction. She’ll scream at you and it’ll break your heart, but eventually she’ll fall back asleep. DO NOT pick her up and only give her dropped paci/blankie/lovey back once. If she tosses it again, it stays on the floor while you hightail it outta there.
Since we’d followed this plan with Jack and Lola, they went to sleep well and mostly stayed asleep well, but there was still one last feed to be cut when they were ready. It might feel like waking once to nurse isn’t a big deal, but it’s actually incredibly confusing to a baby. A 5am wake-up call can easily turn into 4am, then 3am, then 2am AND 5am, then… disaster. When we cut out that last night feed for Jack, the intervals on night one were 7 minutes, 10 minutes, and 15 minutes… yup, we were a little more CIO-savvy. Lola’s intervals were supposed to be 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and 20 minutes, but she fell asleep before the first check so it never really felt like we Ferberized her at all. Which was fine by us.
It’s your call whether sleep-training is right for your fam. But if no one’s getting enough sleep and you both think it’s time, working out a plan before you shut the door and walk away means you won’t be stuck without a clue at 3am. Research plus consistency equals confidence, which means less confusion and in the long run, less crying. For both of you.