It’s time. Time for my kids to sleep through the night. Time for them to sleep un-frigging-swaddled. Time to stop making bottles between the hours of 7pm and 6am. Tonight, we Ferberize.
I had hoped I’d be able to make this happen gradually, that my kids would just start to sleep through on their own. Not so much. So I decided I’d go the Ferber route. Everyone I know who has done it says it’s a few rough nights but then all is well. Sounds good to me. But if I was going to do it, I wanted to really know what I was doing. I didn’t want to rely on my assumptions of what it was all about, or someone else’s re-telling of how it’s done. So, while I was in Florida, I actually read his book.
And you know what? I’m really glad I did. All I knew about Ferber before this was something about gradual crying-it-out, increasing intervals of time. And that, somehow was supposed to make the kids sleep better. After reading, now I get it. It’s not about the crying. It’s about sleep associations. What conditions am I putting in place for when my kids fall asleep, and will those conditions be the same when they wake up overnight (as all people do), so they can easily fall back asleep (as most people do). I realized I was perpetuating the overnight bottles, because our bedtime routine essentially includes feeding them to sleep. Shockingly, then, when they wake up at night, they want the bottle to fall back asleep.
I also had thought I needed to get them out of the swaddle before I could “Ferberize,” (not entirely knowing what that meant). Now, I realize that swaddling is just another sleep association that needs to change. And that, more fundamentally, is Ferberizing.
I realize that most people haven’t read his book. And I understand, most people don’t have a ton of time, and think they understand what it’s about. But there’s a lot of misconceptions out there. I told a friend I was planning on it this weekend, and she said “don’t go too hardcore. A friend of mine did that. She let the kid cry for like six hours, and he had pooped and vomited and was just lying there.” That’s not Ferber, though people assume it is, which is why lots of people balk when you say you’re Ferberizing. No, Ferber would have you go in and check if the kid is still crying. And if there’s poop or puke to deal with, you deal with it. You don’t have to let the poor kid stew in his juices all night. Anyways. If you’re interested in the idea, I highly recommend picking up the book. You can skip the chapters on sleep apnea and bedwetting (or save them for later). Just read the first parts.
We’re going kind of cold-turkey tonight on a number of things, which may seem a little harsh. But you know what? I could re-do this process with each condition that needs fixing, or just do it all at once. My kids will not be emotionally scarred. They’ll be just as upset with the change if I do it one thing at a time versus all at once. According to the book and nearly everyone I’ve talked to, this should all be over in three or four nights. Let’s hope that’s true.
The new bedtime routine, as of tonight:
- bathtime (same)
- PJs and sleep sack, maybe some songs while getting dried off and dressed (same)
- no swaddle
- upstairs, sit in the rocking chair for a last bottle (no longer while in bed, unlikely to fall asleep while eating)
- lie down in crib, read story (used to read while eating bottle in bed)
- smooch, good night, lights out.
For tonight, the cry-it-out intervals are 3, 5, and 10 minutes. If/when they wake up overnight (anytime before 6am), the intervals re-start. But no picking up and rocking, no bottles. A quick belly rub, a reminder that we haven’t really gone anywhere. But that’s it.
As for things specific to Ferberizing twins, I have decided to keep them in the same room, as always. M is not thrilled with this idea, and wants to separate them so they don’t wake each other up. I have three responses to that argument. The first is this: our house is not that big. If one is carrying on for an extended period of time at any real volume, the risk of waking the other is still present. The rooms just aren’t that far apart. Second: if they’re going to wake up and scream, I’d just as soon they did it at the same time in the same place. It’s incredibly frustrating to me when, as soon as one has calmed down, the other starts up. That means that mommy gets no sleep. And possibly even worse is when they cry at the same time but in different rooms. No thank you. My third response: I want our kids to share a room for the next couple of years. Part of that means learning to sleep through a certain amount of commotion. If you constantly separate them when one is disruptive, then you’ll always have to do so. Whereas if they learn to sleep through each other’s noise, then you can have some pretty sound sleepers on your hands, who aren’t easily woken when one gets sick, has a bad dream, or even when there’s noise from mom & dad’s dinner party downstairs.
I don’t mean for this to be one big commercial for Dr. Ferber’s theories. As with any of these books, there are things with which I disagree (including what he says about twins and his ideas about appropriate times for naps). And as with any of the millions of highly-touted methods for getting your baby to do this or that, everyone has to make the right choice for their family and situation. All I suggest is that any decision be an informed one. Whatever the theory/method may be, read the book.
Alright, this has become quite an epic post. Obviously this subject is taking up a lot of my emotional energy at the moment. But no more putting it off. The longer I wait, the worse my kids’ sleep seems to get. Project Ferber is a go.
Wish me luck.