I feel I have a lot to say about sleep-training since it is one of our biggest challenges, so this may have to come in 2 (or even 3!) parts.
“Sleep-training” in the strictest definition is generally a foreign concept to most Filipino parents like me. For one, it’s typical Filipino (or is it Asian?) culture to allow our children, however many they may be, to co-sleep… until they’re 30 years old (Seriously, we generally let them decide when they can move out of the room and into their own space, praying that their age is still within the single digits). They don’t sleep in a separate room from the get-go, as is common here.
Secondly, because of the presence of extended famiy members, yayas and other warm bodies, babies never really have to “self soothe” or “cry it out” since there’s always someone that is there for them. Again I speak in general terms — I know of some of my contemporaries who have done sleep-training by the book desspite of all these other people around. Yet I feel it is safe to say, independent sleep for babies and toddlers is not something we’re very strict about. Even some of my Filipina friends here, like Mommy Virginia-Boston, only really sleep-trained her eldest daughter during her 3rd trimester with her 2nd child (more on this as we go along).
On the contrary, most of my American friends have Sam’s playmates in a separate room from about 3 months old and up. Again I can understand why too — here it’s generally just you and your child, and so you’ll go nuts if you were at their mercy every night and nap. I suppose you also really have to have the drive to get it done, and I would have to admit even if I tried, I couldn’t see it through.
We were never really strict about sleep training Sam to begin with. Especially since my husband absolutely could not and would not hear of her crying for over two minutes. In his defense, I hear that is typical behavior of first-time fathers, particularly of girls.
Hence, my days were so much shorter because I’d spend so much time getting Sam to sleep (both naptime and nighttime). She’s also a very light sleeper, so any single noise or change in body temperature, such as me leaving the room eventually, she’d wake up.
Pre-sleep training days, our nighttime routine would consist of a bath, some books, and two hours’ worth of delaying tactics between me and her dad before she’d finally doze off. I’d have to be in on the bed within reach too. More often than not, it was so exhausting that I’d fall asleep and I wouldn’t be able to get much done on the off-chance I’d still wake up after. She has all these “bed friends” too who come to sleep with her every night and would take up space.
Of course I realized that this so-called routine could not go on with baby #2 on the way, and so I made the firm decision that after she turned 2, then we would start to train her to go to bed independently. Anyway the Sleep Easy Solution book that I read said it would take about 3-5 days if we were consistent about it. Lesson #1: NEVER BELIEVE IT!
I will tell you about a book that I did like though: the 90-minute Sleep Program by Dr Polly Moore. The basic premise of this book was to follow your child’s basic rest and alert cycles, or BRAC for short, which generally lasted in increments of 90-mins, up until a little after a year. After that, then they go by the clock. That was generally what Sam was like as a baby and I’d have to say this book helped keep me sane.
Okay, sorry to veer slightly off-topic. Anyway, after she turned two last December, it’s been sleep-training zone in our apartment. It’s now three months later — and before I tell you where we are in terms of progress, let me give you a few scenarios as to why I don’t believe it will take only 3-5 days to get it right.
It’s hard to be hardcore consistent. First of all, with any kind of sleep training, crying will definitely be involved. I realized later on that they cry because they’re protesting the change (Who likes change anyway?), and because they’re obviously not getting what they want. So depending on your tolerance level, then it might be hard to listen to for long periods of time.
As mentioned previously, Daddy has a negative tolerance. So the first month we were up and down. On some days he would just walk out and drown himself in the TV, and on some days, when I would try to run into the bathroom for a shower in an attempt to give Sam her “space” but still be in the room, she would wait until I’d close the bathroom door, and then run out of bed and bang on the bedroom door to get her daddy in. So by the time I’d come out of the shower, he would be playing with her again and nothing would happen with our initial attempts.
Other times, we would work it out such that Sam and I would go for days detaching and getting through the crying (it does stop after 3 days, I’ll give them that), but then something happens, like a telecon I’d have to attend for work, then the progress is put to a halt because it’s not me putting her to sleep.
Also, at least in our case, dummies really don’t work. Some books said to give her a companion to “replace you”, but as you can see from above, we just end up sleeping with the zoo and then some.
Mind you, as I was doing this, I was (am) also pregnant and hormonal, and my patience could only take me so far. There were nights when I’d just really give in because I was so frustrated and think that it will all work itself out later on. It was that or, we would learn the hard way. And when this would come to mind, my resolve would come back in full force to try again. Therefore, I concluded early on that sleep-training was (is!) an emotional roller coaster of a ride!
So it took a while. A looong while, but eventually, I did get some sort of a result. 🙂
Watch out for it in Part 2!