Our two boys may be the same age, but they could not be any more different. Adam likes to sit, Zach likes to stand. Adam likes to talk, Zach likes to laugh. Zach’s poop doesn’t smell, Adam’s smells like a sewage plant. Zach sleeps in his crib at night, up until last weekend Adam did not. And that’s why we’re here.
The first question people usually ask new parents is “aaa ya gettin’ any sleep yet?” and the answer is often something like “no, we get up every few hours to feed” and so on. When babies are young they wake up a lot at night to eat. As they get older and eat more per sitting they can eventually be satisfied enough to sleep through the night. Zach hit that milestone somewhere around three months. Ever since we moved his crib out of our room and into his and Adam’s, he has slept in it every night, usually until the morning. Zach loves to sleep and does it well. We’re lucky for that.
Adam is a different story. He’s always had an issue with sleep. When he was a newborn, he had to sleep in a co-sleeper in our bed in between our pillows. By two or three months he could fall asleep in the crib after five or ten minutes of crying at bed time, but would wake up several times throughout the night to eat. Sometimes we could get him to sleep again in the crib, but most of the time he’d end up in his swing after a mid-morning meal.
Part of Adam’s sleep issues are due to acid reflux. He used to wake up with a burning throat, which to a young baby feels no different from being hungry. So he ate. Often. After taking him to the pediatrician he was put on antacid medication which started to make things better, but somewhere in that three-month area he started to get worse. He’d wake up every two hours some nights screaming at the top of his lungs. We had no choice but to put him to bed in his swing hoping that an upright posture would reduce the acid. It did for a little bit until he got a cold which turned into pneumonia which caused him to wake up three times a night and throw up entire bottles. Some nights we spent almost three hours trying to take care of him. It was miserable. Then there were the nights when he’d wake up screaming… except he didn’t actually wake up. Sometimes it took us 15 or 20 minutes just to get him to wake up. Once he woke up and realized what was going on he was fine.
Over the past month or so Adam recovered from the pneumonia but also started to outgrow his swing. Some nights the swing wasn’t even enough and he had to sleep in our bed with us. That’s when we decided that it was time to sleep train. We decided to start last weekend using the 10 minute rule. If Adam woke up crying or screaming, we’d wait 10 minutes. If he didn’t go to sleep after that, we’d go in and try to soothe him.
We started on Saturday, anticipating a rough night listening to him wake up every two hours and expecting to soothe him at least once or twice. We were pretty sure we’d end up feeding him and he’d wake up in the swing in the morning. Fortunately none of that happened. He did wake up several times, but he wasn’t screaming and fell asleep in less than five minutes. He awoke the next morning refreshed and happy. We saw an immediate difference in his attitude. We were worried that Zach would have a really bad night and while he made it through OK, he was a bit more grumpy than usual the next morning. Overall our first night of sleep training was a surprising success.
The next few nights followed a similar pattern – five minutes of whimpering at bed time, a couple of whimpering incidents during the night, and a refreshed baby in the morning in his crib. The pattern changed a bit Wednesday night however. Adam woke up screaming at the top of his lungs and coughing at 10 PM. It was the same cry that he makes when he has an acid burn. We almost went in to get him, but within five minutes he had fallen asleep. At around 2 AM he woke again in the same way but didn’t fall back asleep. I went in to get him, walked around the house with him, gave him some Mylanta, and when he didn’t calm down I fed him a bottle. He took it fine and finished it up. I gave him a quick burp and… he vomited all over me. After cleaning us up, I put him to bed in the swing so that the reflux would not continue to cause him discomfort. Zach probably needed a break from the screaming anyway.
Thursday night was similar at 10 PM and 2 AM, except I only gave him water and he didn’t vomit on me, but he still went to sleep in the swing. On Friday night he had his 10 PM wake up, but didn’t wake up until 5AM to eat. Since he usually gets up at that time on the weekdays, we considered once again that he slept through the night! Saturday night was a little bit different because we had a block party and he was wound up, but after a couple false starts he stayed asleep and woke up at 5:30 AM.
Overall our first week of sleep training has gone extremely well. Adam is getting much more comfortable with his crib and no longer screams when we bring him near it. He’ll even lay in it just for fun. He seems more refreshed during the day and is in a better mood. We actually get to sleep through the night too, which is amazing. It’s only and I’m sure there will be regressions but at least we know that sound sleep for all is possible.