Progressive waiting, comfort nursing, and the battle of the ZZZZzzzz’s… (Part 1)

It’s been a long couple weeks — between Halloween (for which I’ll have pictures!), getting sick, my 29th birthday (during which I was still sick), Matt traveling for work, and Tycho going through a fussy phase, I haven’t really had the chance to blog lately. Which is a shame, as I have lots of things planned, including a handful of giveaways!

These past few days have really inspired me to get back to y’all, though, my faithful readers. Because of Tycho’s fussiness lately, he’s been sleeping rather poorly, often waking up three or four times a night screaming. Not even one of those whimper-for-a-few-moments-and-increase-to-ear-splitting, but going straight to ear-splitting. It’s been a trying time, and both Matt and I have lost our shit at least once.

I started to think that this was a developmental thing, especially since it was happening during the daytime, too, where he would start to fuss when I left a room. After the first two nights of piss-poor sleep, I checked my Wonder Weeks baby app and happened to read this:

fussy period

No shit, Sherlock. :P But thanks for the confirmation!

It’s been really difficult on me in particular, as it doesn’t seem to be daddy-centric at all: Tycho continues to scream and wail when Matt goes in to soothe him, but the moment I take Tycho (and usually upon offering the boob), he instantly starts calming down. It has meant a lot of comfort nursing, a lot of my getting up in the middle of the night, and probably most importantly, a lot of my patience. Which is hard to come by when it’s 3am and you’re up for the third time and you have work in the morning and the only thing that will do it is you and a boob.

When we were formula-feeding and transitioning Tycho to his crib, we were actually doing a form of Progressive Waiting, known on the street as “Cry It Out” or “Ferberizing”, the method introduced by Dr. Richard Ferber in his book Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. According to Dr. Ferber, the method involves a series of waiting-it-out and checking on your child to reassure him that you’re still there, but not introducing any crutches like holding, feeding, pacifying, and so forth. The building blocks can be put into place as early as 3-4 months, but “training” really shouldn’t begin until 5-6 months, when baby is theoretically able to go 10 hours without a feeding, provided baby is developmentally ready and at a healthy weight.

Progressive Waiting

The chart above may be modified to fit the parent’s and the child’s need (for instance, starting at 1 minute 1st wait intervals). Other rules include:

  • Putting the child in the crib or bed awake, in the place where you want him to sleep. No rocking, swaying, swinging, etc. while training. He should be able to fall asleep with the same circumstances under which he would he be when waking normally through the night.
  • Checking him briefly at the intervals described above (or adjusted to your or baby’s own comfort level), and staying no more than one or two minutes when checking in. No picking up, rocking, swaying, swinging, etc., and some even say no touching. The purpose is to reassure him, not help him fall back asleep. A fallen blanket or toy may be replaced once, and only once.
  • The schedule should be repeated if the baby wakes in the night, to last until 5am or 6am when the baby wakes for good. If he’s still asleep at his usual waking time in the morning, baby should be woken up.

Dr. Ferber notes that, by the third or fourth day, the baby “will most likely be sleeping very well. If further work is necessary, continue following the chart down to day 7.” There are alternatives in another chapter to explore, as well as throughout the internet, if things don’t improve or get worse.

Naptimes are treated the same way, but if the baby hasn’t fallen asleep after a half-hour or is awake again and either calling out or crying vigorously, end the nap. Falling asleep in another room is okay, so long as there are no associations that the parent is trying to break. Naps should also stop around 4pm so as not to interfere with nighttime sleep.

This actually worked really well when we transitioned Tycho to his crib. After only two days, he was sleeping pretty easily and would go until the wee hours of the morning, when he would wake up hungry (he was still young, so cutting out night feedings was out of the question). Even still, we have a very good sleeper on our hands; a good night is one where he sleeps until 2-4am, then wakes hungry, nurses, and goes back to sleep until 6am or 6:30.

photo 3 (3)

But things, they have a-changed since relactating. Our routine has shifted from trading off duties every night — mommy would bathe, daddy would feed to bed, and we’d switch off the next night — to only daddy bathing and only mommy nursing to bed. While this works great most of the time, during this fussy period in particular, Tycho wakes one or two additional times during the night needing mommy (and only mommy) (and, probably more poignantly, nursies) to fall back to sleep.

So… do we change what we’re doing? Do we go back to Ferberizing? Or do we maybe adopt something new?

(This is a two-part series — check in tomorrow for Part 2, where I talk about nursing to sleep and other such things that would make Dr. Ferber’s skin crawl!)

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