Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sleep Training

As the parents of a new baby, the most precious commodity in our house is sleep.  Sleep is what we covet, what we dream about, and what occupies our most elaborate fantasies.

If the pornographic film industry wanted to make a dirty movie just for parents of young babies, then the guy who shows up and says "I'm here to fix the cable," would just go into the bedroom with the buxom young home occupant and sleep.  If it they were REALLY NAUGHTY, they would turn off the baby monitor during their nap.  SO BAD.

Sleep is also an important resource for our little one.  There is nothing in the world sweeter than a baby who has gotten enough  sleep. They are adorable, life-affirming little cuddle machines that make you amazed to be alive.  When our baby has gotten enough sleep, she is like a combination of a golden retriever puppy and a new baby kitten, multiplied by a unicorn.

Conversely, when our baby has not gotten enough sleep, she turns into a hateful little snot-harpy, who wants nothing to do with life, her parents, or anything in the world apart from screaming at her crib mobile.

When Mille turned four months old, her sleep-- and by extension OUR sleep-- took a definite turn for the worse.  Even though she had been sleeping in 7-9 hour stretches since she was 2 months old, she suddenly began waking up 5-6 times a night. Sean and I were getting almost no sleep. If you looked at our internet browser history in those days, you would see searches for terms such as "sleep training," "cry it out methods, how old?," and "sell baby on craigslist, how much?"

That's when we read the book "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems," by Dr. Richard Ferber. If you are a parent whose baby is having problems sleeping, I would definitely read this book.  (Unless you hate yourself, your baby, and your marriage, in which case I would keep to your current course!) If I ever meet Dr. Richard Ferber, I will probably try to open-mouth kiss him.  So will Sean.  Odds are good on both of us sticking our tongues down this poor doctor's throat and frenching his face off-- just to show how grateful we are for our improved quality of life.

When we started his program, our baby considered going to sleep without nursing to be a barbarous activity, roughly equivalent to water-boarding. It took at least half an hour to get her down for each nap or nighttime waking, and each time there was a strong chance she would wake up again as we transferred her to her crib. We began following Dr. Ferber's program of heartlessly listening to her cry at increasingly long intervals.  The first time she cried for 30 minutes.  It was agony. We were the WORST PARENTS. The second time she cried for only five minutes. It wasn't so bad. We were okay parents really. The third time, she rolled onto her side, sucked her thumb and fell asleep. It was heaven. We were the BEST PARENTS IN THE HISTORY OF PARENTING.

Now, it's like we have a whole different baby.  She doesn't have to be rocked or nursed to sleep, and she doesn't cry at all when we put her into her bed.  She just smiles, sucks her little thumb, and rolls one her side to sleep.  The best part is, since Millie goes to bed so early, Sean and I have some free time to watch movies in the evenings.  The past couple of nights we've been watching "Lethal Weapon," but I'm hoping the pornographic film industry will take my hint and make "Debbie Does NyQuil" soon. I can't wait to see adult film stars Lunesta Jamison and Yawn Jeremy in action as we curl up on the couch and rekindle our pre-baby romance.  Dr. Richard Ferber-- wherever you are-- you're welcome to join us.

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