As with my post on cloth diapering, this post is written due to popular demand. I’ve sent basically the same long message to many friends and acquaintances after they’ve followed my [and Harvey’s] journey from waking up countless time at night (yes! countless! some nights I lost count after 14) to sleeping 12-13 hours at night.
From birth, Harvey would wake up on average every 2-3 hours throughout the night to breastfeed. I didn’t expect it to be any different, but it was still a bit of shock to my system. His sleeping pattern never really changed until he was about three months old. Around that time, he started waking a lot more frequently and quickly transitioned into waking every 40 minutes to 1.5 hours all night long. I had no idea what was going on, and I was sent on a whirlwind. It was no pleasant for anyone…
I suspect the change in his night wakings were due to the common “four month sleep regression”. Apparently, this can happen anytime between 3-5 months. This is due to developmental changes.
After a couple weeks of this, I posted on facebook groups and messaged so many of my mummy friends. The most common response was: cry it out- it works! or “this too shall pass”. I never considered doing any type of “cry it out” methods or controlled crying, so that was out of the picture. And hearing “this too shall pass” made me feel even worse. It had to get better, now! When I would wake in the morning, I was pretty convinced that I could not manage another sleepless night. But I did manage it… for months!
I noticed my general mood and personality growing frustrated and upset upon waking that wouldn’t subside all day long… I became scared of bedtime. Something had to change… I needed to find something to help us all. By the time Harvey was five months old, I couldn’t take it any longer.
The first outside reference apart from friends and family was the book The No-Cry Sleep Solution. I read it cover to cover in one afternoon while I was desperately trying to get Harvey to nap one day. I didn’t care what it took to get him to nap, I rocked him until I finished the book. I was immediately hopeful and very ready to give it a try. I adapted all of the methods and began making logs. The first night I charted our wakings… 16 wakings! And that felt like a pretty normal night to me. That was so terrifying to me. How did we get to this place?! Poor Harvey, and poor me!
I documented his nap times and lengths and our bedtime routine. I became aware that I needed to help Harvey get in longer naps and that we had no sort of wind-down routine for naps or bedtime. Harvey needed consistency and we needed to get rid of the crutches we were using to get him to sleep. We were relying on rocking him, pushing him in the pram all around town and through the house, and nursing him. Babies have 40 minute sleep cycles and often stir or wake as they transition into the next one. If the baby relies on other things to get him back to sleep, she/he will need that to go back to sleep.
Besides implementing more structure, I didn’t feel like the methods in the “No Cry Sleep Solution” helped much. After a good 3-4 weeks, I wasn’t seeing much change. I liked how gentle the methods were, but they were such small changes that I was pretty sure it would take months to see a big change. I couldn’t bear that…
Then I read about the “Pick Up Put Down” (pupd) method by Tracy Hogg. She wrote the book The Baby Whisperer. I didn’t actually need the book to find out all I needed about the method. I read these two links and that was it. Harvey was about six months when we started using pupd.
We had immediate success. I couldn’t believe how little effort it took in the beginning and how well Harvey adapted to it. The journey had some hills and valleys, but it was always moving up from where we started from. I think we had a bit of a regression with the pupd around day 3 or 6 and lasted about a week, but it steadily got better.
When we started using the pupd, Harvey was co-sleeping. After a few weeks, we moved him into his own cot into our bedroom close to our bed. When he was about seven months old, we moved him into his own room in his cot. Even with these changes, his sleep kept improving. After a couple of weeks in his own room, he started sleeping 10-12 hours through the night. He’s now been sleeping 12 hours consistently at night.
The naps were a lot harder to master! I used Tracy’s nap suggestions and began trying to conquer our nap time struggle… The results took longer and I think I was even more frustrated with naps than our night wakings. They took so much effort.
Harvey didn’t really have any sort of naptime schedule, and when he did nap, it would be for about 15-30 minutes and would take hours to get him to sleep. I used the pupd method to get him to nap and to stay asleep. Tracy says a good nap is at least 1.5 hours. We were far from that! So when Harvey would wake before 1.5 hours, I used pupd to get him back to sleep. Although this took a lot of work, it eventually worked. Harvey now naps at least 1.5 hours twice a day.
I will say that the pupd method is a more gentle and responsive method than a lot of other sleep methods that involve CIO and controlled crying. However, Harvey did cry when we were going through this. However, when she/he cries, you pick him up to comfort him. Once he’s done crying, you put him back down. This cycle can go on for 5-60 minutes.
To be honest, sometimes his crying was too sad for me and I wanted to resort to our other “crutches” to get him to sleep (rocking, pram, nursing, etc), but I knew that it wouldn’t help either of us in the long run. Although it worked very quickly for us, it was still hard sometime.
Writing this and trying to recall how it all went down was a bit surreal to me. In one sense, I can’t believe we made it through where we were and I can’t believe where are now. How was it such a struggle in the beginning, and how is it so much better now? It was a roller coaster journey, but we made it through!
I hope this post gives you a bit of hope and some tips. Please comment with any specific questions or thoughts…