At six months, Stella has been hitting every milestone on time, sometimes even earlier. She turns on her sides and back, she grasps toys with a firm grip, she coos and laughs and makes great eye contact. She can’t yet get us the remote control or fetch us a beer from the fridge, but we’re working on it. For the most part though, she has been on point on just about every single developmental milestone.
Except for one thing. Her sleep. That glorious activity that is essential to every person’s sanity and survival. For several months now, Stella would be nursing every two hours at night. I lie in bed in complete terror, looking at my baby’s perfectly angelic face and hoping to the lord almighty that she stays asleep. Which, of course, she doesn’t. Two hours after she drifts off to sleep, she would start squirming. Small, but not imperceptible, squirms, which would then develop into full blown thrashing. All this with her eyes closed. I would sigh, pull up my shirt, and do the one thing that ends the thrashing: nurse her. A few minutes later, a satiated Stella would drift off to slumber once again. I meanwhile, would be wide awake, looking at my husband sleeping beside Stella, blissfully unaware of the murderous looks I was throwing his way.
So now I’ve taken it upon myself to fix this problem that I might have created. There are many many sleep training methods, but all of them boil down to the following general categories:
1. Cry It Out Method – This method encourages mothers to do just what the name suggests, let their baby cry it out. This is also called the Extinction Method, which was popularized by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. The idea is to set a bed time, leave your baby to sleep, and go back the next morning. You presume the baby will cry herself to sleep for a few days, until she learns how to self soothe.
I, cannot, for the life of me, do that to Stella, although I make no judgments on parents who do. Parents who opted for this report a well-rested, happier baby. Still, the thought of leaving Stella to cry her lungs out, and making no attempt to soothe her, makes ME want to cry. Option number 1 is out.
2. Controlled crying – Again, as the name suggests, this method involves crying, but in graduated stages. Also known as the Ferber method, this method involves checking the baby at timed intervals, making small attempts to calm the crying baby such as a pat on the bum, or a soothing voice, but ultimately still leaving her to soothe herself.
At this point I might have to say that I am a wuss and I cannot stand the thought of letting my baby cry, for any amount of time, and not doing anything about it. All the sleep training guides also point to negative sleep associations that hinder a baby from sleeping well. One of which is nursing them to sleep. Sorry naman. Guilty as charged. But what is a sleepy, bleary-eyed mom to do when the only thing that would calm a baby down is to nurse her? The sleep trainers say that a baby should learn how to put themselves to sleep without these “crutches,” whether they’re nursing, or rocking to sleep, or ssshing, or patting the baby’s bum.
I will just have to find a way to sleep train Stella without any form of crying. (Incidentally, there is a book called the No Cry Sleep Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley, which I have yet to read).
The first order of the day is to make sure that Stella’s getting enough milk during the day so she doesn’t have to feed at night. I read that one of the reasons a baby is wakeful at night is because they might not be getting enough nourishment during the day. This might be true for our situation, seeing as how my breastmilk supply isn’t the greatest. I have also noticed that Stella seems to nap better when I give her expressed breastmilk in a bottle, as opposed to simply nursing from me directly. I’ve increased her milk intake, up to 4 oz per bottle during the day when I’m away in the office, and tonight I will give her an additional bottle after our final nightly nursing session.
So help me God.