Wednesday, February 25, 2009
The anti-crying-it-out sleep plan
So Audrey is almost 8 months old now, and has been going through an extended phase (since just before 6 months) where she has wanted to eat at least every 3 hours at night, sometimes much more than that. This started off because we went to see my parents over the holidays, and then went on to a family reunion in California. Both of these situations promoted a lot of "Audrey in bed with us" because she was just starting separation anxiety and we were in strange places, so it was easier for all if she slept with us. After we returned to Tucson, we worked on getting her back into her crib for the night, but she resisted, and then I got sick, meaning I didn't want to be getting up multiple times in the night to feed her, and so we were back to square one.
A little more than a week ago we decided to try a quasi crying-it-out plan - she would be in bed with us, but after eating, mom's restaurant would close down and she would have to sleep. This worked for a night or two, but then she wised up and just started crying for long periods. Like pretty much 3 hours straight one night. We couldn't stand it. So goodbye "cry-it-out-in-bed."
Last Friday, we decided to try something new, what I'm calling the tag-team plan. How it works is this: since she's been used to eating mostly all night, we don't want to cut her off completely (even though she can probably make it through the night without eating, as evidenced by "many other babies" everyone is always telling us about). Anyway, I decided I can handle 2 feedings, one at midnight (or later) and one at 4 am (or later) after we put her to bed (usually averaging around 8 pm). The tag-team part is that if, after I put her down at 8 pm, she wakes up anytime before midnight, Paul is on duty. He will go in and calm her down, walk with her (if he has energy), rock with her, and ultimately put her down and hold her hand until she goes to sleep. I then sleep as much as I can from 8:30/9:00 pm to midnight-ish, and then I feed her the first time when she wakes up after 12 (she tends to prefer 12:30 am). Then if she wakes up between the end of that feeding and 4 am-ish, I perform the same walk-rock-hand-holding maneuvers that Paul did before 12. Then if she wakes up after 4 am (give or take, I am not super-stickler about this and will feed her at 3:45 or whatever) she gets another feeding, hopefully to last her until at least 6 am.
So far it is working well. There is definitely less crying, especially after the first couple nights when she woke up quite a bit and stayed awake for longer than 20-30 minutes (the duration of a feeding or a quick-ish settling down). Since we are generally holding her when she cries, it is much easier to settle her down vs. having her in the crib crying and getting more and more worked up. Because neither of us is "on" all night, we are able to get more sleep - I might wake up at 11 if I hear her cry and Paul doesn't, but then he'll go settle her down and I can go back to sleep.
Our hope is that we can work down to one or no feedings overnight, and Audrey seems to be working toward the one-feeding goal too. The other night she woke up just once, at 2:30, to eat, so we'll see how it continues to go. Paul and I decided that "consistency is key" - we both try to do the same things to settle her down, and we follow the same tag-team plan so she knows who she's getting based on when she wakes up. The big challenge on the horizon will be Paul and I going on our belated "Valentines date" on Saturday - we'll see what effect that has, although it may not be too bad since it might just delay her bedtime (or mean she gets a "bonus" feeding when we get home at 9:30 or 10 pm). Keep your fingers crossed for the continued success of the tag team and Audrey's continued cooperation with our efforts!