Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sleep, no thanks to Dr. Sears

This is about my 7th attempt at writing this post. I keep alluding to our sleep story like it's some long, drawn-out saga, and it is - but living it is one thing and writing about it is another.

I don't know how to make our saga engaging. The long story short is, we love Katie. We didn't believe in letting her "cry it out." We believed the attachment-parenting gurus like Dr. Sears, who played upon our fears, telling us that we would be monsters to abandon our helpless, crying baby in the dark.

At first, Katie slept like a normal newborn (3-4 wakings a night), but around 4 months things got a lot worse (7-8 wakings a night.) And we plodded on, like zombies, trying anything and everything to get her to sleep.  We tried:

Putting her down awake (hah!)
Feeding to sleep
Sleep Sheep white noise maker (note: don't buy this. It's adorable and cuddly but has a timer that shuts the white noise off JUST as she's going through a sleep cycle change. Dumb.)
Bathing before bed
Co-sleeping in our bed
Feeding her relentlessly all day long in hopes that she wouldn't want to eat at night

...and on, and on, and on.

I read a couple of books on sleep that suggested that day sleep is really important to good night sleep. So I became the Nap Nazi, making sure that Katie got her naps during the day NO MATTER WHAT, even if I had to hold her in my arms the entire time. And usually, no matter what I did, she'd nap for 30-45 minutes and then wake up screaming.  Swaddling helped, but then she started to break out of the swaddle and it became clear that it was dangerous to continue.

We started sleeping in shifts in order to get at least a couple of hours of sleep each. Anthony was "on call" from 9-2 or 3, and then I'd take over for the rest of the night and get up with Katie in the morning while he slept until 9.  It was awful.

The torture lasted 14 months, until one day my mothers' club newsletter featured a Sleep Expert who was coming to give a talk at their next meeting. I called her THAT DAY.  That hour, actually! She came over for a 2 hour consultation, and basically convinced us that "cry it out" isn't inhumane or cruel, like the attachment-parenting folks would have you believe.

It took a lot of convincing, but this is what finally changed our minds. We'd both read an article about the supposed dangers of the "cry it out" method - namely that crying elevates the baby's cortisol levels, which is a bad thing for her overall health. Our sleep expert agreed that elevated cortisol is a bad thing, but pointed out that lack of sleep, over long periods, contributes far more to elevating the baby's cortisol than a couple of nights of crying. That was my "aha" moment. Katie hadn't had a good night's sleep since birth, and that can't be good for a baby's developing brain. (not to mention ours!)

So we did it. We Ferberized Katie. The first night was awful (2 hours of crying). The second was better. The third night, she cried 5 minutes and went to sleep. Naps took a LOT longer to settle into a routine, but I think I can safely say, 4 months later, that they're well established.  THANK YOU, sleep expert! THANK YOU, Dr. Ferber!

And absolutely NO THANKS to Dr. Sears.

This was taken in March. Please ignore the Christmas pajamas!

p.s. Even though Katie sleeps almost 11 hours a night, usually without waking, Anthony and I still haven't gotten our old sleep patterns back. We're still waking up many times during the night, still tired during the day. But at least now we have the opportunity to lie in bed for 8 uninterrupted hours.


  1. Girl, I salute you. I belong to the "whatever works" school of thought about everything child related. In fact, I am such a fan that I don't even judge those who make their daughters wear little sweat pants with ruffles on the butt....ok, that is a lie. Someone needs to stop that nonsense.

    But you and your sleep success? That is fabulous! Now, go take a nap.

    1. I think "whatever works" is a great school of thought. Should have signed up for it months ago! But what's this? Not a fan of ruffle-butt pants? Wait til you see how cute Super Baby looks in 'em. And also, good luck finding pants without ruffles! LOL

    2. Sigh...I fear you may be right about the ruffle-butts. Just as long as she never graduates to wearing a too tight pair of yoga pants with Juicy on them while doing shots on top of a bar during Spring Break 2030...then I will have done my duty.

    3. HAHAHAHAHAHAH! I never realized ruffle-butt pants were the "gateway drug" of baby fashion! Gotta burn those things! :)