Ode to Dr. Ferber

I will tell anyone who will listen that Charlotte is my easy baby. Super sweet, easy going, happy little cherub. However, she is particular about one thing. Sleep. For the vast majority of her life, she had been sleeping next to our bed in the Fisher Price Rock N Play.

bedThe thing is great, but once the baby can roll over or sit up, it’s high time they sleep in their crib. The problem? Little miss Charlotte did not want to sleep in her crib. Then it got to the point that she did not want to sleep in the Rock N Play either. Or the Pack and Play in our room. She just didn’t want to sleep anywhere. Then suddenly it was 3 a.m. on a Thursday morning and she had only slept in 30 minute increments all night long. And her poor daddy hadn’t slept at all. Something had to change.

I knew the “Cry-it-out” method was not for us. I couldn’t justify letting a barely six month old baby scream her head off in her crib until she passed out from exhaustion on her tear-stained crib sheet.

Night after night, I’d follow the same bedtime routine and put her down in her crib where she’d drift off to sleep for a total of 30 peaceful minutes. After that, our night would begin. She’d cry and I’d pick her up where she would immediately drift off to sleep in my arms. I’d put her down in the crib and her eyes would fly open immediately and she’d wail. I’d pick her up and she’d quickly drift off again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Any parent can remember those dark, long nights when babies won’t sleep. It is universal and not pleasant. Especially when you have to work the next day. Not cool, babies. Not cool.

So finally, we broke. It had to end. We all had to sleep.

Unbeknownst to me, Derek picked up his iPhone on a Saturday night and searched “Cry-it-out.” He explained that we need to lay her in her crib, tell her goodnight, pat and shush her for one minute and then leave the room – even if she’s crying. Then we’ll wait 3 minutes and if she’s crying, we’ll go in again and pat and shush her for a minute and leave the room again. Then we’ll wait 5 minutes and if she’s crying, we’ll go in again. I asked him which technique this was and he said Ferber. Ok, I thought. I’ve heard of that.

He seemed confident and I was pretty close to my wit’s end, so I figured it was worth a shot. It wasn’t ideal, but we knew we had to act, so at 10:30 on a Saturday night, we began the process.

We put her in her crib and then we climbed into our bed and waited. The crying began. She sounded tired. Derek went in and comforted her after 3 minutes. He didn’t pick her up, but he patted her and talked to her in a soothing tone. She quieted and he left the room. As soon as he was back in our room, she was crying again. In the next 30 minutes, he went in to comfort her 6 times. We never let her go longer than 5 minutes.

But it. Was. Horrible.

She was no where near hysterical, but Little Miss was displeased and wanted us to know it. I begged Derek to let me go in. I whimpered into my pillow. In the darkness of our bedroom, I think I saw Derek roll his eyes at me.

And then at 11:00 …silence. She was asleep. A half hour? That was it? It’s over? The article Derek read said the first night would be the worst and she should get the hang of it by the third night.

So Derek and I happily drifted off to sleep. For one hour.

At midnight, Charlotte woke up again and she was MAD. It was my turn, so I went in and patted and shushed her, but it didn’t really help. I went in every 3-5 minutes for the next HOUR. It was rough, but by 1 a.m., she was asleep again and then slept soundly until 5 a.m.

I’m happy to say that yes, that first night was the worst.

These nights, she regularly sleeps in her crib from 8:30 p.m. until 4 or 5 or WOOHOO 6 a.m. She wakes up and I feed her and then she goes back to sleep until 7 or 8. When she wakes up, she happily talks in her crib until we come into her room, where she greets us with a drooly smile.

It works. I can’t believe it works.

So the other day when I got our regular Babycenter.com email, imagine my surprise when I read the headline that mentioned “Cry-it-out” and the article mentioned the Ferber method.

Wait? We did Cry-it-out with our 6 month old baby? No! That’s mean! The poor babies just wail all alone in the dark for hours on end. I would never do that to my baby.

Except that’s not what this is. Charlotte felt safe and secure in her crib. She has learned to drift to sleep on her own, something that took Riley forever and a day to learn. So I guess Cry-it-out isn’t mean if it’s done properly. And for our little baby, it works.

And I would like to end this post with one big giant, KNOCK ON WOOD!



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