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The great baby-sleep experiment

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POSTED: August 12, 2013 10:40 a.m.

It’s not exactly a secret that new parents get little sleep. I’m OK with that. It comes with the territory. But no one tells expectant moms and dads that their little ones eventually will tease them by occasionally sleeping through the night, sometimes for a week or two at a time, but then will regress back to waking up once or twice — sometimes even three times — per night.
These sneaky little tykes also go through ups and downs when it comes to bedtime, going down with little fanfare one night and then screaming bloody murder at the sight of a crib the following evening.
My 15-month-old daughter, Reese, has gone through countless cycles when it comes to sleep. She had her days and nights mixed up as a newborn and often slept all afternoon, seemingly so she could conserve her energy and remain alert well into the wee morning hours. That didn’t last long, though, and she eventually began to sleep through the night, but not with any regularity.
These days, my husband and I have, more or less, a 50/50 shot of getting a complete night of rest. Reese may sleep 10 hours one night and wake up three different times the next. At this point, I’m pretty much used to it. However, I have done a bit of research online and in parenting circles to see how others handle babies’ unpredictable sleep habits. Ultimately, I learned there is no right or wrong solution to this problem, but everyone has an opinion.
My husband’s co-worker swears by the Ferber method of “crying it out,” i.e sleep training. He swears his 9-month-old takes to his crib like a champ every night and doesn’t make a peep until the next morning.
In one of my “mommy circles,” rumor has it that sleep training is borderline cruel and co-sleeping is the way to go. I have, on occasion, allowed Reese to spend the night cuddled between my husband and me in our bed, but I don’t think it’s something I could adjust to. I sleep terribly when she’s there, mostly because I’m afraid of rolling over on her, but also because she’s a “thrasher.”
Relatives have told me that it’s all about cutting off the nighttime feedings. Once a baby realizes he or she isn’t going to get any milk during these middle-of-the-night escapades, they won’t bother to cry out. If they wake up at all, I’m told, they’ll simply roll over and go back to sleep. I’m not willing to employ this method, since milk usually is the only thing that calms Reese down and gets her back in “sleep mode” at 3 a.m. I’m not about to listen to pre-dawn screaming for several hours in an attempt to make my baby realize her midnight snack is not, and never will be, forthcoming.
Most nights, my husband and I use some combination of these methods with varying degrees of effectiveness. We’ll put Reese in her crib and let her fuss for 10 or 15 minutes. Once the fussiness escalates to all-out wailing, I retrieve her. At this point, we’re usually only about two hours removed from dinner, which means it’s a little too soon for a bottle.
Often, I’ll lie down with Reese in my bed and rub her back until she falls asleep. I then wait 30 minutes before attempting “the transfer,” which involves slipping my arms beneath her as slowly as possible, lifting and carrying her to her room, and then depositing her carefully and silently in the crib. About half the time, she wakes up and starts wailing again.
At that point, the charade usually has been going on for about an hour, which means enough time has elapsed since dinner that a milk bottle is a very real possibility. Hey, I’m not breaking the “no midnight snack rule” if it’s only 10 p.m. right?
And if Reese still refuses to snooze after the bottle, well, I’m not sure what happens next because, in my house, that’s when it becomes daddy’s problem!

 

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