The Sleep Chronicles: Christina’s Story

Hey all!  Today I have another edition of the Sleep Chronicles for you.  Christina blogs over at This Woman Cooks, blogging delicious recipes as well her life as a stay at home mom to 15 month old Adeline.  I’m excited to have her share her story today!

I’m so happy to share my sleep story with you. I know that I would have benefited from a series like this when I was in the thick of it. Sleep deprivation is no joke! I’m sure you’ve read many articles online and learned all about the different “methods” out there. But what you really need, what you will really connect with, are the stories from other moms going through the exact same thing you are.

Where should I start? Well, let’s start with the good stuff – my daughter, Adeline, is now fifteen months old and sleeps 12 hours straight (most nights, unless she’s teething or sick). Yippie!! If you told me that a year ago, I would have laughed in your face. You crazy, I’d say, my baby? Sleep? HA! You don’t know what you’re talking about.

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Yes, that’s how I felt, my friends. I know I know, everyone tells you, “It’s going to get better!” WHEN? That’s what I wanted to know. I wanted a clear, set, date and time. So I could plan a party afterwards. Other advice I’m sure you’ve heard: “Sleep when the baby sleeps” (this never worked for me), “When she starts solids, she’ll sleep through the night” (not in our case), “Try giving her formula or cereal” (I breastfed and did try this a few times, didn’t work).

I’m sure some of this advice applies to many babies. There are babies who WILL sleep better once they start solids. I bet there are women who can lie down in the middle of the day and take a long nap while their baby naps (I’m not a good napper). By all means, if this is you, DO IT. Laundry can wait, the floors can stay sticky, the bathroom grimy, and dinner will eventually be prepared (or order a pizza, you deserve it!).

So. Here’s our story.

(Disclaimer- I know sleep training is not for everyone, but despite everything else we tried, our daughter was not sleeping, and neither were we. We had to do something, because what we were doing, was not working. Sleep training is one of the best decisions we made.)

Adeline let us know right away that she was NOT a good sleeper. The first night in the hospital gave us a glimpse into what the next seven months were going to be like. Granted she was only a few hours old and I didn’t expect her to sleep through the night (obviously), but I never thought it was going to continue like that for so many months. She was up the whole night, crying, wanting to be fed, and held.

In the beginning, Adeline slept ALL day, during the day. There was nothing you could do to wake her up. She slept through the vacuum, the TV, phone calls, and our dog barking. One thing I could count on was her getting enough to eat because she would wake up when she was hungry. She did exactly what all newborns do- she ate, pooped, and slept. Except at night.

She ate every two hours around the clock, which meant she was up every two hours, and sometimes more often than that, for about four months.

I had the arms reach co-sleeper at first, which was right next to our bed, saving me the effort of having to get out of bed. A few weeks later we decided to try the rock-n-play, since so many people sung it’s praises and said their baby slept for hours and hours in those things.

Not our baby.

The rock-n-play made a SLIGHT difference- 2 hours and 30 minutes of sleep, at most. When it was time to transition to the crib, we hoped and prayed this would be the answer to our prayers. Maybe she would like her crib! Maybe she’ll sleep!

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No dice. I think the only time she slept for more than four hours before we sleep trained was when she got her four month shots. It was glorious. At her wellness checkup I asked her pediatrician for advice. She told me that we would probably need to sleep train Addie and there were many methods to chose from- the Ferber method, The Happiest Baby on the Block, the No-Cry Sleep Solution, and the Sleepeasy Solution, to name a few. However, our doctor thought it was too early to sleep train- she was only four months old and she wasn’t fifteen pounds (she’s always been on the petite side). So we had to wait.

In the meantime, I kept trying everything else she recommended: swaddling, establishing a bedtime routine, dreamfeeding, giving a bath before bed, giving a bottle of formula before bed, and offering a pacifier. Nothing worked.

We waited until Adeline was six months old to try the Ferber method.

Here’s how it works:

When baby wakes up, go in, comfort (don’t pick up), and leave
Wait 5 minutes
After 5 minutes, if baby is still crying, go in, comfort (don’t pick up), and leave
Wait 7 minutes
After 7 minutes, if baby is still crying, comfort (don’t pick up), and leave
Wait 10 minutes
Increase intervals to 12 minutes, 15, and so on
Eventually, baby will fall asleep. Ferber says that by the third or fourth night, baby should be sleeping through the night, or have improved greatly. 
I did this for about a week. I kept track of how long it would take her to fall asleep. Sometimes it was after 20 minutes, but most of the time, it was after 30 to 45 minutes. I was dying. And then, a few hours later, she’d wake up and I’d have to do the whole thing over again. I knew this wasn’t going to work for us and went back to the library for a new book – The Sleepeasy Solution.

I read Sleepeasy cover to cover and realized I was doing so many things wrong. The book talks about sleep associations; pacifiers, nursing, and music are all associations a baby can tie in with sleep. Adeline was relying on all three of these things to fall sleep, which meant that whenever she woke up, if the same conditions were not the same when she fell asleep, she was not able to go back to sleep on her own. Finally, something that made total sense to me! She was relying on me, her pacifier, and her seahorse to fall asleep.

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I had some major work to do. First, I had to wean her off from nighttime feedings, because she was still feeding so often throughout the night. The book explained that since baby is accustomed to being fed in the middle of the night, chances are they ARE hungry, and you need to train their body not to be hungry (the book also suggests to separate the last feeding before bedtime routine begins, so baby is not associating food with sleep). I had several feedings to drop, and since I was nursing, I decided to pump and give a bottle. I figured that would be easier. You do this gradually, by reducing the amount of milk baby receives per feeding. So if your baby is eating five ounces, you’ll give four ounces the next night, three the next, and so on. I took it very slowly, dropping one feeding a week. Once you’re down to one ounce, the hope is that the next night baby will not wake up for that feeding. If he/she does wake up, you start sleep training.

The method is similar to Ferber, but with more wiggle room on how short or how long you want to go in between intervals (I don’t remember the exact intervals, but this is what I did).

1.  Put baby down awake, with no sleep props 
2.  Leave the room
3.  Wait 5 minutes
5.  Check in, comfort baby in soothing voice (don’t pick up, offer pacifier, or bottle) and leave the room
6.  Wait 10 minutes
7.  Check in, comfort baby in soothing voice (don’t pick up, offer pacifier, or bottle) and leave the room
8.  Wait 15 minutes
9.  Check in, comfort baby in soothing voice (don’t pick up, offer pacifier, or bottle) and leave the room

Adeline was eight months old when she finally slept through the night (with one middle of the night feeding). I should also mention that we gave her back the pacifier a while after she started sleeping through the night. I forgot to take it out of her crib one night and when we realized she wasn’t waking up if it fell out of her mouth, we decided it was okay to let her keep it.

Wow. If you’ve stayed with me this long, thanks for reading! I hope I’ve helped in some way if you are dealing with a sleep problem. My final words of advice – keep a notepad, write everything down, so you can see what’s working. If a particular method isn’t working after two weeks, forget about it and try something else. And yes, one day, your baby WILL sleep through the night. It is just a long road for some of us to get there.

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About Jess

Jess Beer is a full-time working mom of two girls who writes about motherhood, wellness, easy meals and style.

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I’m Jess! I’m a working mama of two sweet sisters living in the DC area. This is my space to share inspiration, real stories of working motherhood, recipes, style, and more! I can’t start my day without coffee and always try to show the real side of motherhood – the good and the challenging. I’m so glad you’re here – thanks for following along on my journey!

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