Tuesday, May 6, 2008

5-10-15 Revisited.

Jo Frost, television's "Supernanny" cohosted The View today. While I usually click right past the clucking hens on The View, I stopped today because I honestly adore the Supernanny. She's like Dr. Phil before he became Maury. Shoots straight from the hip. I wish I had that gumption.

She was helping a mother who was having trouble putting her little girl down for naps. Her insights into the problems of the overtired mother made me dust off an old entry in the drafts folder which I shall post now.

It's just about three in the morning and she's still going. So while she screams at me I thought I'd share a little tip that's helped me hold onto my "baby won't sleep" sanity. I read about it in my sleep bible and have used it ever since.

I call it the 5 - 10 - 15 rule.

There are two ways of going about handling your screaming baby. You can let him cry it out or you can spend however long it takes rocking, walking and soothing him to sleep whenever he wakes. I like to think of 5-10-15 falling comfortably in the middle. I could never do CIO... it hurts my heart to hear my baby wailing alone in the dark. But I also know I'll be crippling my baby's chance to learn how to fall asleep on his own if I coddle him to sleep each night. As my sleep bible puts it - soon he won't be able to sleep without me there and I will have become a sleep crutch.

I've gone through my bedtime routine with my baby. He knows it. I know it. I lay him down to sleep. As soon as I make my escape the whimpers turn to wails.

I've spent many a restless hour translating them.

"Why did you leave me?"
"Where are you?"
"Don't you love me?"
"Moooommmmy! I need you!"
"Don't leave me alone!"

Oh, the temptation to rock him to sleep every night is overwhelming! Sometimes I lay on the couch holding a pillow over my head and choking back my own sobs. What a shameful, horrible mother am I, to leave my baby bellowing in the dark alone!

But babies are programmable - like computers... and if you set their program to read: Mommy will always save you or Mommy will come in and save you if you scream long enough or Mommy will rock you to sleep in her warm safe arms each night - then it's going to be a long haul getting them to ever sleep on their own.

That said, I don't do CIO... altho' I know many other mothers advocate it.

For my own sanity I wait through five minutes of crying. Then I go in and do whatever it takes to soothe my baby. With Longlegs I could do it by leaning over his crib, rubbing him and making cartoonish soft breathing noises. With Sweetpea that didn't cut it and I had to pick her up and rock her from side to side. I wait until they give me their cues. Once they've relaxed, uncoiled and their heart rate has come down I lay them down in the crib again.

Chances are the screaming starts again, post haste.

Don't go back in again. Wait an extra five minutes. Now you're letting him cry for ten minutes.

Then go back in. "It's okay. Mommy's here. I didn't leave you! I'm just giving you some space to figure this sleep thing out for yourself." Repeat the soothing process you generally use and put baby back to bed.

Then wait fifteen minutes. You get the general idea.

As sleep training was progressing I found my babies usually giving up by the 20 minute mark. Altho' sometimes they kept me going for much... much longer.

So you see how it's the best of both worlds; Crying It Out and The Baby Whisperer. You are giving baby the room and space of CIO but you are returning to him at intervals to assure him that he's not been abandoned. It's hard to keep it up at first and the temptation to undo all your work and.... oh, I don't know... take your baby to bed with you so you can get a few hours of sleep... is understandable. I know parents who loved co-sleeping with their baby. I also know their baby still doesn't sleep the night. Still co-sleeping is another kettle of fish I'm not tipping over.

Keep up the 5 - 10 - 15 march, I say. The fruits of your labours (a solid 12 hour sleep out of your baby) is well... well worth the effort.

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