Monday, September 18, 2006

Sleep baby...but where?

I was looking through the newspaper and an article "Sleep baby...but where?" about children and parents cosleeping caught my attention. Should the baby "cosleep" with the parents or sleep in the crib? A hot topic amongst parents. Being a parent myself especially in the US where children are trained to be independent as early as possible in all ways possible - sleep in the crib, sleep in a separate room, eat on your own, tie your own shoes, cosleeping is certainly not taken for granted as it was when I was a child. We had our baby sleep in the crib until our trip to India when he turned one. When he was an infant, we were terrified that we would suffocate this tender little being by rolling over him or throwing a big fat pillow over him - so we did not entertain the idea of this him sleeping in our bed. I would wake up 4 or 5 times a night if he needed to feed, but I would put him back in the crib. When he was a month old, our pediatrician (a jovial old man, 6 foot plus who wears Hawaiian shirts so babies will enjoy looking at the bright colors, his years of experience showing in the way he would casually swoop the little baby in a football hold with one arm!) casually asked me "So how is the night time?"' and I promptly relayed my woes like a child would complain to a parent about a troublesome friend, of how often he wakes up to nurse and how I wish he would at least just cut it down to just once a night. And he casually said "You know he doesn't need any night time feeding now. He is ready to sleep through the night"! "But doctor, he is only a month old and he cries so much if I don't nurse him when he wakes up". "Well, he has opinions. Why do you want him to be happy all the time?! Let him cry. It's ok. He will learn to sleep eventually". I didn't know what to say to that. The next appointment with the pediatrician was a couple of months later and things hadn't changed too much on the night front. This time he again asked me "So, how is the night time?”. Knowing things could turn on me I was careful in how much I poured out. "Well, it's okay, I mean, not too bad. He still wakes up...but it's okay". "You know unless you let him cry it out he is not going to learn to fall asleep on his own". Oh dear, there it goes. “It's my fault. I need to train him to sleep. But how can I let him cry! What if he is thirsty? I can't go to bed without a bottle of water beside me" I thought to myself. "But what if he doesn't stop crying, how long do I let him cry?" “Well he won't cry for as long as you think. You can keep patting him, but don't get him out of the crib. If he cries for four hours, then may be you have to do something about it".On the way back I ask my husband " You think we can do that?". He quite simply says "Not with grandparents around". That made it easier for me. Yes, blame the grandparents. They just won't let me train him to sleep! My mother would come rushing in and ask what the matter was if she heard him cry for longer than 5 minutes. No way I can train him to sleep now. Let me just keep status quo. Change of guards. My parents leave and my husband’s parents come to stay with us and spend time with their only son's son. Now this little one is the king of the house needless to say in their opinion. There is even less of a chance for me to train my son to sleep through the night by letting him cry it out. I mean I cannot do that in front of my in-laws! What about my reputation! "She let's the poor baby cry and won't let us hold him" I imagine the gossip spreading amongst the in-law circles! Move on. Month 6. Parents alone with baby. No doubt it was great having both sets of doting grand parents around. But now we have our baby to ourselves and do as we please - well to some extant - there's always the phone monitor with both grand mothers asking for regular updates. "Ippo thoongardha kozhandhe? Appdi dhan kozhandhai naa minna pinna dhan irukkum!" (Is the baby sleeping, well if not, that's how babies are - goes back and forth you know" implying I should just deal with it and not take extreme measures). My close friend, mother of two calls me up. "Well NOW what is your excuse? Don't chicken out. Just Ferberize him, I am telling you! It's totally worth it". I convey this to a older relative who had a child pre-internet days and she is horrified "Ferberize?! What is that? Sounds bad!" "My friend who suffered sleepless nights for two years with her first child tells me it worked like magic with her second child!", I tell my skeptical relative on the other end of the line. Guilt strikes again. I mean what kind of horrible parent would I be to let my baby cry for even 2-3 hours if that's what it takes to train him. On the other hand things are so out of control by now, baby waking up 4-5 times a night and all my feelings by the third or fourth waking are negative and I feel so much anger and frustration. "I mean I just nursed you, rocked you and put you in the crib. How can you do this to me?!" I would complain to my wailing baby when I picked him up from the crib. Finally I peruse the relevant chapters in Dr.Ferber's book on sleep training (my friend points me to those) and the case studies presented are exactly what I am going through with my child. I now brace myself to "Ferberize"! . Month 7. Start of sleep training. I keep myself busy in the kitchen that night preparing something for guests who are to arrive the next day. Husband, the cool "I am sure I can do it, I just don't know if YOU can handle it" father has been handed the job of "Ferberizing" the baby. I am so nervous that I clean the counter top frantically. We let him cry for 5 min, pat him and leave the room, then 10 min, pat him. then 15 min, pat him. Our son carries on now full-throated! This is the break point I need to cross. I am not going into the room yet. Next cycle. Now you can go into the room only after 15 more minutes, not 5 minutes! We look at the clock. Time seems to go very slowly. Has it only been five minutes? It feels like he has been crying forever! Suddenly there is silence. I am worried. Is he asleep or has he lost his breath? My hear beats faster. I ask my husband if he checked in on him. It's not yet 15 minutes but my husband is also a bit nervous I think with the sudden quiet. He goes in, checks on baby's breath and comes out triumphantly and declares "Baby is asleep"! I wait for him to wake up for the next two hours. Nothing. He is still asleep. Breath check ok! He wakes up only once that night. The next night he cries only for 5 minutes and falls asleep on his own. The third night, I am able to leave him in the crib half awake, without any crying, five minutes later he is asleep. And sleeps through the night until 5.00 am. This is miraculous! I still do not sleep through the night. I wake up all those times the baby would normally have woken up. I have been banished into the guest bedroom for those few days. Finally I can't take it anymore, I come back to our room and all is well. Baby now sleeps through the night. “That wasn't so bad”, I think to myself. "See!" my friend says as expected. I am thrilled at this marvelous change in my baby's sleep routine. Soon enough we take it for granted. Until the trip back home!One year old. Bangalore, India. No crib in the house. Of course baby has to sleep between us both. We can't deny it felt good to have him so close to us. The mornings were precious. He would wake up singing some baby sounds, fresh and happy with a burst of energy and sit up and look at us. He would smile and dash towards my face. Pretend to bite me like a little koala bear. He would do so many cute little things that cannot even be put into words. It was somehow more delightful to experience all this without getting out of bed first thing in the morning. Precious moments for doting parents. The first few nights are calm and peaceful. And then slowly and steadily he starts waking up two or three times a night, feed and then go back to sleep. One month of this while in India. Back in the USA. Jetlag strikes baby. He is up playing actively from 1.00 am to 5.00 am in the morning. I am up playing with him patiently, giving him his meal at 3.00 am! I decide not to deal with putting him back in the crib until he is out of jetlag. It is now a whole month since he came out of jetlag and we are not making any attempt to put him back in the crib. I wake up three or four times a night when he does and my body clock has adjusted to that. Every morning at 3.00am I get frustrated and tell my husband “This is it, I can’t do this anymore. We are going to put him back in the crib and make him sleep through the night”. And yet every morning when our child wakes up and mesmerizes us with all his cute antics I forget about my resolution. Every night we stay up for an hour or so watching TV or reading after our baby goes to bed. And when we go to our room and climb into bed and feel the warmth of our baby sleeping innocently next to us, we can only feel the joy of having him right next to us. No thoughts whatsoever of putting him back in the crib. I suppose I need to look for a book on how to Ferberize parents who co sleep with their children!

38 comments:

itchingtowrite said...

ferberizing twins? anyone knows how to do it? have read many posts on this topic but what if the 2 brothers sleep together & wake the other one with the full throated cries?

the mad momma said...

ferberizing....

we tried and failed...

The Brat learned to sleep by himself just one night... just slept right through...

as for the guilt..i think we indian mothers specialise in making ourselves feel terrible!!!

noon said...

ITW - Wow that's a toughie! Training one is hard enough - two I don't know. I think formula fed children tend to sleep better - may be giving some formula at night will help - I was told so - only problem was my son refused to sleep without nursing. May be until the twins get trained you can have them in separate rooms and then put them back together once they have learnt how to fall asleep.

noon said...

TMM: That's really good and you are lucky that he learnt to sleep by himself through the night!
yes, Indian women are born with a good dose of guilt I think! Only keeps building up over time!

Aqua said...

i still haven't figured this one out! i love having dd sleep with us...love waking up to her smile and stuff...but y're so tired in the morning as my dd is a fussy sleeper and gets up often at night. so after a sleepless night she's back in the crib. then after a day or so...i feel bad and bring her back in... GOD I need help :)

Aqua said...

mad momma is right about the guilt bit i think :)

noon said...

Thanks. And yes you are not a good Indian mom if you don't feel guilty! :) You should feel guilty about not feeling guilty!
And do keep us posted on crib situation! :)

The Visitor said...

LOL. An lol is inappropriate, but there is nothing further I can offer :)

Rohini said...

I did the ferberizing. It wasn't magic and it was almost 3 months before Ayaan stopped crying altogether. But totally worth it - sleeps in his cot, sleeps straight from 9 p.m. to 6.30 a.m and wakes up in a good mood.

On the co-slepping, Ayaan has never slept in out bed. To start with, it was too scary and now, he will only go to sleep in his cot and is a pretty light sleeper so getting him out of there is a surefire way of waking him up.

Itching - If possible, you could try putting them in separate rooms till they are trained?

noon said...

At least some relief in knowing a few others too struggled thro the same problem...I don't know why this is but almost every American person I talk to says their kids sleep through the night. I wonder if it has to do with the parenting habits or just the way the kids are - may be they eat better?! Not sure what. Well, ofcourse Dr.Ferber I am sure wrote the book based on the experiences of his American patients - but I hardly meet people (non-Indians) who go through such struggles!
Visitor - yes - it is still LOL material - the way these littles ones wield their power over us!

Dog's Best Friend said...

Mine's 1 and a half and he still wakes up for his bottle in the middle of the nite...I've been putting off weaning him for too long...its too excruciating to soothe that brain-numbing shreiking at 2 am. I just CAN'T. Atleast he grabs his bottle and goes back to sleep. There is a god. You lucky thing noon - I wish I had Ferberized mine too - a long time ago...sigh....

Tharini said...

Hi Noon...thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. I followed your link and read this post and oh my god........story of my life....we sleep trained our son at 9 months (after all that India trip), and it wasn't Ferber, but the direct crying it out.....no going into the room as regular intervals.

He settled down within a month and till 2 and 1/2 years slept thru the night. Of course, with him growing up a bit the resistance to sleep time started, but we kept doggedly on.

Now at 2 and 1/2 years we took another India trip where he slept between us. It was such a goooood feeling and no problems with waking up etc (and no feeds of course by that point), that we just couldn't out him back in his room on our return.

Even now at 3.25 years he sleeps in a crib-converted toddler bed in our room.

Now with the second baby coming I wonder how we shall approach it this time. No set plans yet, will take it as it comes.

noon said...

DBF - Well, I ferberized at 7m plus but at the 12th month we were in India and now it is all gone! He sleeps in our bed and wakes up 3-4 times a night. Have to referberize but don't have the heart to put back int he crib now. Somehow have to get him to sleep through the night or wake up just once...

noon said...

Tharini - very good that he has been sleeping through the night. It is a blessing! Well I have a friend here who said she, her husband and son (8) and daughter (10) sleep on a queen bed! Now finally at her 10th birthday they told her officially when she blows the candle she has to only sleep in her room! :)
I don't know whether it is us who don't want to let go or the children who don't want to sleep in their own room! :)) Enjoy the warmth and cuddles when they are babies! :)

Anonymous said...

noon, reading your comment on american babies i remembered a conversation i had with a german neighbour recently.

their 1 year old has to be gently told to go back to sleep and she is asleep in less than a minute! well we are indians, and therefore not so with our 1 year old!

i said to her i wonder if there is anything drastically different in the body composition of german babies and indian babies?

i think there is something different in the mental composition of german mothers and indian mothers she said! (yes mad momma, indian mothers and the art of feeling guilty!)

d

noon said...

I agree with you Anon! It cannot be genetic! :) My friend had the exact conversation with her American collegue..."Every Indian child I know has similar issues...I don't know what it is with Indian babies"! And the collegue looked at her with a pause and my friend knew what she meant! And she said "Don't you think it has more to do with the Indian moms?!" :)
But I still wonder!!!

Just like that said...

Sonny boy sleeps with us- he's 3-and I love having his warm little body nearby, his hand groping for my ear in the middle of the night..At times, he gropes and gets my Hub's face, he feels the bristles and then gives it one push and then turns back to me..

I have read quite a few posts on Ferberizing, but have no urge to ferberize Sonny boy, am delighted to have him sleep with us. Yes, it has put our sex life on the back burner, i am not too bothered...

Neera said...

came here from ur 100th post ..I too have no heart to ferberise Jiya again after coming back from India. After the first round of sleep in the crib till about 1:00, she blissfully sleeps 'like a baby' between me and dad or me and Vansh. I too was sure that there was something abt the genetic structure of the amrican kids that made them follow directions so well, but this post gives me a different perspective on it being about us moms :)

comfortablynam said...

I am so glad I found your blog. I am going crazy getting up 3-4 times at night with my little one..
I guess I will need to do the cry it out sometime soon. :( Not looking forward to it..

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