Wednesday, July 11, 2007

We cried it out

I spent all of last Friday in a funk about the sleep thing. I realize that, compared to a lot of twin moms, I have it really unbelievably easy. The bad bedtimes are a recent development, not something I've been suffering through for ten months. More, as a general rule, they stay asleep once they go to sleep, rather than waking multiple times to nurse. So I probably shouldn't have bitched too much about it at all.

However, that said, I was getting frustrated already. I didn't have any post-bed time to do household necessities like cleaning, laundry, and cooking supper, to say nothing of spending time with my husband. I could certainly handle that for a while, and I wasn't at my breaking point with it. No, what bothered me was that bedtime was getting worse instead of better, and it had been affecting their daytime behavior as well. Katherine had been getting to be super-cranky, and was becoming increasingly touchy about being put down. Claire took it a little more in stride, but she was obviously getting sleep-deprived as well.

I talked to my mom, who told me to let them cry. I talked to my sister, who told me to let them cry. I talked to my friends, who pretty much all told me to let them cry. I went to the bookstore and skimmed all the sleep books, all of which advised me that the bedtime battle would have to be fought, though they differed on the amount of crying required. And at the end of the day, after the babies had taken no naps and were screaming for no reason other than sheer exhaustion, I decided it was time.

I don't consider myself hard-core AP, although I probably fall more to that end of the spectrum -- I'm nursing twins, I cloth-diaper to some extent, I make my own baby food, I have only the loosest of daily routines. Sleep has always been the area where I diverge the most sharply from Sears & co. We decided to use a co-sleeper until the babies slept through the night, however long that took, but moved the girls to their cribs in the nursery after that, at about 12 weeks. I did bring a baby into the bed at night sometimes, if she woke and needed nursing, but I always tried to transition her into the pack-n-play in our bedroom. Between my husband's heavy sleeping and the space requirements of two wiggly babies, not to mention the horror stories of all our friends whose school-age children sleep in the bed, the family bed was never an option for us.

That didn't mean, however, that I thought cry-it-out was a good plan. The babies were too small, and wouldn't understand why we were abandoning them upstairs. I couldn't figure out how to get a solid enough bedtime routine in place. I didn't think they'd actually give up and stop crying, and I didn't want them to cry until they threw up. They were sick, and sick again; the bad bedtimes were just a phase; maybe they were teething. I had a million reasons, some good and others not.

When I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that at ten months, they might be more emotionally ready to handle this. They are showing clear signs of understanding simple language, enough to recognize "time to go night-night". A bedtime routine has (finally) begun to form around supper, bath, and snuggle time. What ultimately decided me, though, was that there has been so much crying going on during the rock-to-sleep process. I hated the idea of leaving them to wail, but frankly, if they were going to wail anyway, I might as well have it do some good.

Friday night, I took Katherine upstairs, told her it was time for night-night, and laid her down in the crib. Then I stood there for 40 minutes, patting her back and singing to her, laying her back down when she stood up, until she finally quieted down and went to sleep. The next day, we repeated the same routine for naps, and while Claire fought hard, Katherine went a little easier. That evening, the crying was down to 20 minutes, and they slept from 9:30 to 8:30. They took two solid, simultaneous naps the next day, and then on Monday evening, the magic happened: I put wide-awake babies in their cribs, closed the door, and walked away. Claire cried for less than a minute, but Katherine didn't so much as make a peep. Last night, there was three minutes of crying, and 10 hours of sleep.

I started off staying in the room with the babies until they fell asleep, since I hoped that would keep them from feeling abandoned. After two days, though, I started to think that maybe that was only helping *me* feel better about it, and that it just aggravated them to have me almost within reach. I decided to do the Ferber-style periodic checkups after that, but I didn't -- they never again cried for long enough to merit a five-minute checkup. They have cried for longer than five minutes a couple times, but it's a few cries and then silent periods, rather than five steady minutes of wailing.

I have to tell you, it's absolutely wonderful, being able to put them down awake. As good as the bedtime is the newfound ability to nap -- no more cranky napless days and non-consecutive naptimes! We are now working on slowly moving bedtime earlier (currently, it's 9-ish), and I think I'm just a few days away from achieving baby sleep perfection. Everyone in the house is much happier with the new regime, I think. G and I have gotten some us-time back, and Claire and Katherine are less fussy now that they're getting the sleep they need. If I've left them with deeply rooted trauma to their fragile psyches, it's not showing.

It's not the right thing for everyone, by any means, and it's not always the right time to do it. I'm really glad I didn't start the sleep training until they were getting older and more independent -- I would not have felt good about doing that with a five-month-old, but it's a different story when they're almost toddlers. It was the right choice for us right now, though, and so far, it's working out so incredibly much better than we could have imagined.


Suz said...

Yes. And yes. We've been doing a modified version of CIO since about 8 months and it's worked for us. I'm glad that it's worked for you as well.

LeftLeaningLady said...

Congratulations. I think I started letting my son CIO at about that time. I would never recommend it before 6 months to me that just seems mean. My brother never did it with his girls and at 6 years old, if one woke up at 2am, he had to go pat them on the back to get them back to sleep! That's not healthy.

Eva said...

Good for you. We're still trying to decide what to do for ours. At some point, things have to change. Perhaps when I start teaching again in the fall I'll be at my breaking point. If I knew mine would react the same way as yours I would definitely try it, but as you know, mine have never been as good sleepers as yours are.

One question -- while you were patting and singing to Katherine that first night, where was Claire?

Thanks for sharing the story with us!