Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ferberizing aka Sleep Training

There is a controversial method of "sleep training" children developed by Richard Ferber, MD that Zak and I have completed. It is also commonly known as the "cry it out" technique, but I think that term is a bit of a misnomer. I didn't document our daily struggles with sleep training on this blog as not to bore you, but rather I wrote one blog, a little everyday last week, to document our experiences.

Some background
We knew that Brooke's pacifier was a sleep addiction for her. Meaning, she needed to be sucking on it to fall asleep. According to Dr. Ferber, this negative sleep association is a problem because once she's in deep sleep, the paci falls out. When she awakens, due to normal sleep patterns, and finds her paci is no longer in her mouth, she will scream and scream until we put it back in. This would repeat during the night between one and seven times! Obviously, we cannot wake up seven times per night to do this. Ferber's technique, sometimes called "Ferberizing" is designed to retrain Brooke's sleep associations so she can fall asleep by herself.

We all have sleep associations, even as adults. It could be our favorite pillows, our own beds, our partner next to us, a specific side of the bed, a certain position, reading a book, or watching TV. These are things that we need to fall asleep. The theory says that if you don't have these sleep associations, you have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. Imagine, as an adult if you fell asleep in your own bed, then found yourself on the floor in your of your living room. Ferber says that babies feel that way after falling asleep one way (usually rocking and nursing in a parents arms) and waking up another way (alone in a dark room with no parent). You'd be pretty pissed off too!

How it works, in a nutshell (for healthy children at least five months old)

Put your child to bed when she is awake but tired/drowsy (this is very important). The goal is to let her fall asleep under the same circumstances that she will wake up in the middle of the night. She will likely cry because she is used to going to sleep with you (while feeding, being rocked, or sucking on a pacifier). She may scream bloody murder. This is the hard part. Parents don't like to hear their children cry, and this is mainly why this technique is criticized so harshly. People say it's cruel and your child will feel abandoned if left alone to cry. The GOOD part is that you get to go check on your baby at specific time intervals. During the first night, you go in there after three minutes of crying to "soothe and reassure" your baby. You can't pick her up, give her the paci, or put her to sleep. Again, the goal is to teach her how to go to sleep alone. After this soothing (we just rubbed her head, spoke quietly to her, gave her a soft blanket) you are to leave. If she continues to cry, you wait five minutes, repeat the soothing, leave, wait ten minutes, etc. As each day passes, you are to wait longer between soothing the baby. She will eventually fall asleep and hopefully stay asleep. If she wakes in the middle of the night, you are to repeat the process. You do the same thing for naps.

Our experience
Day One (Sunday night):
After a three hour drive from Houston, and a three hour car nap for Brooke, we were nervous that she wasn't going to be sleepy enough at her normal bed time to do this. We reversed the normal bedtime routine from bath, rocking with Zak, nursing and rocking, putting her down in crib while she was asleep with her pacifier to bath, nursing (not letting her fall asleep), Zak holding her in the living room, and putting her in the crib once she was drowsy, but not asleep with no pacifier.
8:00 p.m. She cried, but for less than three minutes, and fell asleep!
10:00 p.m. Woke up crying, we waited five minutes, went in to reassure her, she fell asleep after just a few more minutes of crying.
2:30 a.m. Woke up crying, (not sure how long she was crying since I was dead asleep), went in to soothe her, but by the time I was about to open her door, she was quiet. I didn't go in.
5:30 a.m. Woke up crying, I fed her. This is kinda against the Ferber technique. However, we're trying to break her of the paci habbit, not the middle of the night feeding habit. One thing at a time! Also, by this time she had slept 9-10 hours. Ferber would say it was time to wake up and start the day. Um...no thanks. I put her back to bed after feeding her (she was awake). She cried for a minute or two then fell back asleep.

Day Two (Monday)
8:30 a.m. I woke her up. This is something that I wouldn't have normally done. I would have usually let her sleep for as long as she wanted to. However, the goal is to develop a normal sleep pattern, and since I want her to nap during the day, she needed to wake up. She was her normal cheery self.
10:45 a.m. She was showing signs of being sleep, and it was time for her nap. Instead of taking her to her room to be rocked and nursed to sleep. I fed her in the living room, where she tried to fall asleep, carried her upstairs to wake her up a bit, placed her awake in her crib. She cried for less than five minutes and then fell asleep.

2:30 p.m. Fell asleep on her own for her second nap!

7:45 p.m. I fed her in the living room, Zak carried her up and swayed a bit, then put her down awake. She cried for about 30 seconds.

Day THREE (Tuesday)

I must admit that I have stopped tracking every sleep time. Why? Because it's been so easy. AND IT IS WORKING. At naps and bedtime, she rarely cries and if she does it is short. Then, blissful sleep.

Day FOUR (Wednesday)

I broke the rules and picked her up from her second afternoon nap after just 15 minutes of sleeping, then 5 minutes of crying. I figured she wasn't really that tired after all. She went to bed for the night with no problems at 7:45 p.m.

Day FIVE (Thursday)

So, it's now nap time that is a problem. Probably because of what I did yesterday. It's now 10:45, and she was SLEEPY, so I put her down. She was quiet for a minute or two, and now she's screaming. Maybe she's hungry? But, I gave her some baby food at 10am. I knew I should have nursed her before putting her down. I can't go in there to nurse her now, or I will really screw things up. I know she's very tired.

Day SIX (Friday)
Brooke slept until 4:20 a.m., then she screamed for thirty minutes. I went in to reassure every ten minutes, like the book says. At least I think it was every ten minutes, mabye more like 20 minutes. I was sleepy.

At nap time, she cried for 20 minutes then slept. This day was not as easy as earlier in the week. Maybe I'm not being consistent enough?

Day SEVEN (Saturday)
It's all good! Just a few minutes of crying. Napping and sleeping through the night!

Day EIGHT (Sunday)
It's been one full week of teaching Brooke to sleep alone. Tonight, I laied her down at 7:45 when she was awake (and happily talking to me). I was afraid she was "too awake" to fall asleep. I left the room as she was still talking to me, told her goodnight, and she promptly fell to sleep while Zak and I enjoyed a glass of wine.

Mission Accomplished. Hooray!


Anonymous said...

Good for you! We are in the same boat with Abigail. She will sleep all night for 2 or 3 nights and then up on and off all night. I am weak! I need sleep so I comfort her, sometimes in my arms for 1-3 hours as we both sleep! So hard to let them cry but it is so worth it, maybe I'll try!

Anonymous said...

That was from me, Sandy, in case you didn't know. I forgot to sign it!

Anonymous said...

Age old technique just a different name !!

francie said...

I knew I needed your children as my own.I will never forget when Maddie simply said Goodnight David and Francie, gave us love and went right to bed...and now this. You and Zak make such awesome babies. I love you guys.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the memories. I was so fortunate to have such great Kids.
Love the day to day updates.
Love always