REAL Sleep Training: Day One

Friday, March 15th (Day One of REAL sleep training)

Two weeks ago, we gave sleep training a real half-assed attempt, having read no books or articles or anything other than consulting facebook. Ten minutes into Day Two, I changed my strategy. My wife called off the mission and made me do research before we tried it again. This is the result.

I spent the day reorganizing our bedroom so that the crib no longer had a direct sightline to our bed. Apparently it defeats the purpose of this strategic torture if they can see your deliberate neglect. I also locked Poe out of the room so she wouldn’t contaminate the whole experiment, as she has a habit of going batshit nuts randomly at any time of day (Poe is a cat).

I followed the same pattern as before, only this time determined to actually wait for her to cry it out rather than go to her rescue after ten minutes. I had read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (well, a chapter) after literally everyone I talked with had recommended it. That was only four people, but one was a pediatrician, so I felt that carried some weight.

I played my last song, kissed Mabel on the head and went downstairs, kicking Poe as I opened the door to make sure she didn’t get through. I then set my stopwatch so I wouldn’t be tricked into thinking an hour was really only 3 minutes and 10 seconds. Then I sat in a dimly lit room with a book in my hand and stared blankly at the wall while Mabel tested the boundaries of her lungs.

The Day One Sleep Training Timeline:

4 minutes: I went into the bedroom to pick her up. I wanted to start a routine where the last thing I would do before leaving the room was to pick her up and tell her that mommy and daddy love her and I forgot to do that when I left the room 4 minutes ago. I thought it might help, given how that went down on Day One of FAKE Sleep Training. (I was wrong)

Reset the stopwatch

4 minutes (again): My wife came in to remark on how much crying she was doing. This wasn’t like when we put her in the swing. Or even the time Mike Tyson punched her in the face. And Jenn was being polite. These weren’t cries. They were the unmistakably piercing screams of abandonment.

15 minutes: The interval between crying began increasing and the length of the crying spells began decreasing. It was the opposite of labor. It was more like how a cricket’s chirps determine the weather. The longer between crying, the calmer she was.

19 minutes: She went an entire minute without crying for the first time.

24 minutes: That was the last whimper I remember hearing. It appears as though she had actually fallen asleep well before all the painful hours the testimonials had said it took them. Amateurs.

26 minutes: Check that. Another whimper. But very small. Just letting us know the cricket is alive. Shouldn’t even really count.

33 minutes: I went upstairs to check on her, making sure to try to unlatch the door as quietly as possible, all while kicking Poe to keep her from coming in and setting us back a half hour of torture. She was asleep clutching the corner of the crib, much in the way you find corpses who were buried alive.

34 minutes: Cuddled with my wife, who apologized that I had to endure the brunt of that and said that if we lived in another country, we wouldn’t have to do that.

5 hours, 31minutes: Mabel woke up at 3:20am for a night feeding and changing. She went back to sleep after half hour but not before I stole 5 minutes of cuddling.

9 hours, 37 minutes: She finally woke up at 7:30am, about half an hour later than normal. She didn’t seem to hate us when we went to get her from her nightly tomb, but she also wasn’t the excited, smiling morning baby we had become accustomed to. Hopefully she’ll get her morning spunk back once she gets the routine. Or else you’ll probably hear about the aborted REAL sleep training next week.

Baby’s First Bracket

I believe it’s important to expose my daughter to lots of different adult activities at this early age. And for that reason, I made her fill out a bracket and we’re going to go root for Bucknell at Buffalo Wild Wings. Below is her bracket. For those who are especially interested, I’ll add the videos that show how she came to these decisions later. And sure, it looks like she’s just picking random blocks and putting them in her mouth. Or maybe she’s trying to find a way to communicate with me to make sure I get her bracket right. Anyway, play along with her below and find out if you’re better at picking games than a 9-month old. 🙂

Baby's First Bracket

Baby’s First Bracket

The following is a 6-minute video explaining how I was going about having Mabel picking her bracket, during which Mabel did not cooperate. But she’s super cute.

Step One: Pick the Final Four
The following are three videos showing Mabel picking her Final Four using blocks numbered 1-0 (Daddy wouldn’t let her pick anything over 10 in her first year. Also, I put the lower numbered blocks closer to her to create a sort of advantage for the lower seeds. Except in the West region, where I just threw them willy-nilly on the ground).

Step Two: Pick the number of 11-14 seeds to make the Sweet 16, limit of 10 (Daddy wouldn’t let her pick any 15 or 16 seed upsets in her first year, even though it happened twice last year, as she pointed out to me last night).

Step Three: Pick the Sweet 16 upsets. She did this by first picking the ranks of the two upsets, then by picking the regions they were from.

Step Four: Pick the National Champion and runner-up. We did this by using the letters from her wooden alphabet toy.

Step Five: Pick Villanova over North Carolina. Daddy made a bet with another father about the location of a playdate. So we had to pick Nova. No video necessary.

Step Six: Pick one more first round (I mean second round) upset per region. Daddy let Mabel pick one more first-round (I mean second-round) upset per region (Again, daddy wouldn’t let her pick a 15 or 16 until at least her second year. Also, the East region upset was not videotaped because we ran out of battery. It was Bucknell. Oh well.).

Step Seven: Fill in the rest of the bracket according to seed. I don’t think we have the stamina to do this 63 times.

And there you have it. It was that easy. Actually, it was pretty difficult at times. Here are some unproductive, albeit cute outtakes.

Sleep Training: Our First Actual Half-Assed Attempt

Friday, March 1st (Day One of sleep training):

(Ed Note: The fact that I called it the “first” attempt should indicate whether or not it was successful)

I had come to terms with the fact that the intimacy I had with Mabel last night would happen again on occasion – during naps, trips and again tomorrow night when we decided we couldn’t go through with this kind of torture. But it was time to test our baby’s resolve and actually put her down in her crib before she was asleep.

And then leave.

It was 9pm and she was facemashing my leg through my sweatpants. It was time to take her upstairs and start the process. Really, an hour passed time to start it.

Phase One – Feeding: I started feeding and she was almost asleep before the end of it. But she managed to turn one of her pillow facemashes into a full body twist and found herself on her knees and crawling over me to get her favorite toy, the remote on my nightstand. On to Phase Two.

Phase Two – Story Time: I read her favorite story, Oh, the Thinks You Can Think, by the good doctor. This took about three minutes. She was, as she always is, attentive during the entire story. I tried to read her another book. After opening the cover and failing to see the circle of birds from her favorite book, she again went for the remote.

Phase Three – Last Chance Feeding: It was time to force her back down to feed again. She typically fights lying down about three times before finally realizing that daddy is indeed going to win this battle of strength. She finished up the better part of seven ounces and took a small break before once again going for her remote, this time grunting her tired grunts. On to Phase Four.

Phase Four – Nighttime Serenade: Normally, I’d put her in the swing and sing to her. But this was to be the night to put her in the crib. So I put her down in the crib and sang my requisite four songs for her. Mostly Billy Joel, but I’ve found The Weight by The Band is boring enough to put her to sleep. During every song, she’d stand up and hang on the side of the crib, grunting. Between every song, I’d put her back down on her back and shove one of four pacifiers back in her mouth. She protested more than usual, likely because she wasn’t strapped down to a swing like a Nascar driver. And because this was abnormal. After the four songs were up, it was time for the final phase.

Phase Five – Leave: We had done this dance in the swing many times. She had learned how to fall asleep on her own in there. I would leave her awake and she would grunt loudly as I left. The grunts puttered out in under five minutes 90% of the time. I found that if I just left and did something like change out the laundry or poop that by the time I returned, she would be magically asleep. But this night would be different and confusing. I kissed her on the head, put her back down on her back one more time and left.

The screaming started within seconds. I went downstairs. Jenn and I wondered if this was going to ruin our heretofore perfect baby. She smiles all the time, has reached every milestone early and doesn’t hate her mommy and daddy. Would this strategic neglect ruin her?

I had a contingency plan. Keith had mentioned that he and Meghan didn’t feel comfortable leaving Grant to cry it out, so they used a technique in which they’d pick him up without saying anything until he stopped crying, and then put him back down. Seven minutes into Mabel’s crying fit, I implemented the contingency plan. After all, they had been right about the epidural. I went in, picked her up, didn’t say anything, kissed her on the head, and put her back down. The screaming took a few seconds to start this time, but this time it died down after another three minutes.

Seriously? Day One of Sleep Training and she was asleep in 10 minutes? I checked on her to make sure it wasn’t just the blanket pulled down on top of her muffling her screams. Nope. She was out. She was curled up and clawing at the corner of the crib like the skeletons you see that were accidentally buried alive. But she was asleep. Of course she was. As Jenn said, she can do anything we ask her to do. Sleep training is easy.


Saturday, March 2nd (Day Two of sleep training):

Not so fast, Dustin.

This night went more as expected. I’d pick her up and she’d stop crying momentarily, but started right again as soon as I put her back down. Eventually she started crying on the way down. After an hour, my wife and I hated books. “What the hell do books know? We know our baby! Who gives a crap what they say in books? Fuck books!”

And thus ended our first half-assed attempt to sleep train our daughter. And our crusade against Barnes & Noble. Instead, it was back to the swing. Hell, she won’t be 25 pounds for another two or three months.

The Calm Before

Thursday, February 28th (T minus one day until sleep training):

I arrived home at 10:30pm to find both my wife and daughter still awake. The text messages, which detailed my wife’s growing unrest (“Your daughter won’t go to sleep”) stopped 45 minutes ago, so I thought ignoring my problem once again made it go away. Nope.

My wife and I had decided that tomorrow was the day we would start to sleep train her in her crib. Bunny had either been sleeping in a swing or with us in bed (with occasional unconscious transports to the crib) for the first eight months of our lives and it was time to tough it out so that all three of us would be able to sleep better. Eventually. Hopefully.

“Your turn.” My very sleepy wife handed me a very sleepy baby.

“Hey bunny. I hear you’ve been giving mommy a hard time tonight.” I heard the door to the guest room close. Bunny smiled at me and mashed her face into my shoulder as we headed up the stairs.

Phase One – Feeding: I formed my wife’s pillows into the standard T formation so Bunny would have her head slightly elevated and be able to facemash the vertical pillow in between sips from her bottle. I laid my sleepy ball of precious down in her spot to surprisingly little resistance. She let me put the bottle in her mouth and it became clear very early that there would not be a need for phases two through five.

She fell asleep in under five minutes, her hands stretched out on either side of my shoulder, grasping it very lightly, like a beloved potato chip. I have about a 35% success rate at transporting a sleeping baby from the bed to the crib, but this was a gimme. Still, I waited the requisite ten minutes to ensure a deeper sleep. In that time, I thought about the road ahead of us. Tomorrow night, I wouldn’t be putting her to sleep gently on my wife’s pillows. I’d be sitting on the stairway five feet away trying to summon the strength to follow through with this long, painful, cold strategic neglect for the sake of her long-term health.

I picked her limp body off the bed and put her down in the crib. I stared at her a while longer and shed a couple tears, wondering when or if I’d ever again reach the level of intimacy I just had with a perfect, trusting baby girl who just wanted to see her daddy one more time before she went to sleep.

Sleep Draining

“Let’s just let her sleep in the swing until it breaks.”

I said this two months ago after we unsuccessfully tried to sleep train Mabel. My wife said the exact same sentence last week.

Not only can we not get her to sleep in her crib, but we can’t even agree on if and when we’re willing to try. And our actual efforts are much less than half-assed. Maybe not even eighth-assed. We would put her down in her crib and she would start to cry and I’d say “Well, we tried” and do what I needed to do to get some sleep, which was either to put her in the swing or in bed with us.

We always postpone sleep training to the weekend so my wife won’t have to endure the first few nights of intermittent (or constant) screaming and trudge through work the next day. And every weekend, I find another reason to postpone it again. She has a cough, she just started eating pureed meats, Wild Card weekend. I have become good at finding reasons not to go through with it. And not just because I was lazy, but because I was lazy AND I enjoyed having her sleeping in bed with us on occasion.

Only now, she doesn’t seem to like the swing. And now, she kicks for a minimum of four hours each night. A typical night looks like this:

  • 9pm: We successfully sooth her to sleep in the swing, followed shortly thereafter by a livingroom chardonnay toast to our success
  • 1am: Baby wakeup call, followed by a feeding in our bed, where she’ll go back to sleep
  • 3-7am: A mini-karate double infant leg kicking exercise in which I get pelted in either my gut or my spine, depending on my tolerance of pain for either area at the time
  • 7am: Baby wakes up happy. Mommy is tired. Daddy is miserable. We swear we’re going to really give sleep training at least a half-assed shot this weekend.

I called around to ask some friends what they did. None of them waited eight months. My translation: I love my daughter more than them. Actual translation: They are not lazy and probably read at least one of those baby books that I’ve been collecting and storing in the closet like baseball cards. Apparently, it just sucks. Some methods are quick and painful; some are long and less stressful. I have no idea what I’m going to do but I’m supposed to start it tomorrow night.

Sensing my uneasiness with the upcoming challenge, Rachel made note that she has a class full of 15-year olds and has assured me that none of them still sleep with their parents. While that does make me feel better, I’m not sure where she gets her information. It seems like it should be illegal to ask those kinds of questions, but it’s still nice to know. I just worry that every new thing we try is going to break Mabel. She’s so perfect as is right now, what if our strategic neglect breaks that trust? I guess I’ll let you know next week, assuming I can get at least one whole cheek behind weekend’s training.