Bedtime for Baby: A tale of woe

For the first six weeks of his life, our son spent every moment in close physical proximity to one or both of us. He didn’t really have a ‘schedule’ because he slept when-and-wherever it pleased him as we lugged him around. During the day, he was either carried, worn, or in a bassinet in the room with us. At night, his bassinet was literally in our bed, much to our spines’, hips’, and shoulders’ dismay. Last week, because it has to happen eventually and because our health was starting to suffer, that all began to change.

prisonIt was time for the crib! For the first few days, we followed the ‘schedule’ we had all along, which is to say that baby went to bed after whatever feeding we were last conscious for. Given his recent growth spurt, that meant putting him down anywhere from 11 PM to 2 AM. Honestly, this stage wasn’t too bad! The first night, we got him asleep, put him down, he slept for two hours straight before needing a feed, and then got another three or four right after. By the fourth night, once we got him down he was sleeping for at least three and as many as six hours in a row in his crib.

Stage one was so immediately successful that we decided to move directly to stage two, ‘The Schedule’. We read about 1000 articles on how to make it happen, picked a reasonably easy to achieve bedtime (10 PM), and implemented the plan! Well, we tried to implement the plan. Well, in retrospect, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we blundered blindly through our own mistakes for a few days, thinking we had a plan. We decided immediately that ‘Ferberizing’ wasn’t for us, as a) there’s some science to support that the method can cause anxiety and dietary problems later in life, and b) listening to our child squall for even five minutes without going to him is enough give us nervous breakdowns. Therefore, the ‘plan’ was to put him down at ten, as sleepy as we could get him but with his eyes still open, and then go to comfort him every time he fussed until he finally settled in.

Needless to say, if I haven’t foreshadowed it well enough, this plan was not particularly well received, and has been heaped with criticism by its primary recipient. Now that we have our boy on a ‘schedule’, he effectively gets to sleep in the same time period he did before, only now, that achievement is preceded by between one and four hours of a constant, grinding cycle of ‘sleep for five minutes, then scream for twenty, then sleep for five minutes, then scream for twenty, rinse-and-repeat’, the ‘scream’ part of each cycle taking place mostly in the arms of one or both parents. We do not live in a peaceful house right now. The dogs are beginning to join in…

Well, at least we’re getting lots of exercise, running up and down stairs all evening, every evening!