From Attachment Parented Child to Ferber Mum (Part Two)

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Last week I wrote about the first half of our journey into “sleep training” (of sorts). Thank you for all the responses, it was my most read and commented post! You can read part one here if you missed it. So here’s the second part of our journey, although I will say it is by no means the end of the road. Dealing with children and sleep is a major issue for many, many parents and goes on until they leave home! Enjoy reading the next part of our story…

And so something changed. We stopped spending hours per day or night rocking him…

My research into sleep training was extensive. No way was I going to do something I was uncomfortable with or put my child through anything that I thought could harm him. It took a while of reading different methods and people’s reviews and experiences but eventually I found what I was after – Ferber. Our boy had become dependent on being rocked to sleep. As Ferber described it, this was his sleep association. N#1 knew that when he was rocked that meant it was time to sleep. What he didn’t know, and what we’d never taught him was that saying goodnight, turning out the lights and putting him in his cot also meant it was time to sleep. He was waking up in the night and thinking “Hey, why am I not being rocked anymore? Mum? Dad? Why is no one rocking me? This isn’t right!” Ferber compares it to an adult falling asleep with a pillow and waking up without one. How annoyed would you be?

In my heart of hearts I felt that this was the right thing, but the more I researched the more I found the one thing I’d always been scared of – judgement. Boy, were some folks on the internet mean! The backlash that parents were receiving for simply admitting that they were considering using Ferber’s method was horrible. Why? Because it involves crying. Sometimes not much, sometimes hardly any, sometimes a lot. Having read and reread so many accounts of parents who have used Ferber’s ideas I am convinced that this method was not the right method for those children who cried a lot. Maybe they didn’t read Ferber’s book properly, maybe they didn’t read it at all, but “Ferberization” as it’s known in the States, is for training a child to sleep who has a specific issue. It doesn’t work for every child who sleeps badly. It won’t work if your child’s sleep concern is not to do with sleep association.

And you know what? The more parents I spoke to about what we were doing, the more parents opened up about their own experiences. People will generally ask “And does he sleep well?” but no one ever offers their own experience until someone opens up and does it first.

So, confident that we were doing the right thing, my husband and I set about on night one of “sleep training”. I fed N#1, burped him, sang to him and put him in his cot. He began to cry. I sat and listened as I waited out the first interval of five minutes. I went back in to him after the time was up, spoke gently, sang again and then left. The crying continued as we waited out the next interval of ten minutes. I started to cry. After the ten minutes I did the same thing again and left. Luckily we never made it to the fifteen minute interval – he fell asleep. He woke twice in the night and after a feed we started the same routine. Both times he fell asleep before the fifteen minute interval.

Night two came and I was terrified. I knew I couldn’t go through it again. I’d cave in knowing he was crying for the second night in a row. I needn’t have worried – he fell asleep as soon as I left the room. No crying, nothing.

I’m not saying it worked straight away, was a smooth transition or especially that we’ve never had to deal with a bad night since. Teething, changes to routines and all sorts of issues have messed with what we just call our “bedtime routine”. But at twenty months old we now put N#1 in his pyjamas, read a bedtime story, sing “Twinkle Twinkle” and he goes to sleep. Most nights, we don’t hear from him again until morning.

I can’t sit here and tell you to do what we did because it was so fantastic. It worked for us, and for all you sleepless Mummies out there that’s as much as I can offer. Find something that worked for you and your family, that you feel comfortable with – whether that’s co-sleeping, Ferberization, or a mixture of the two. Even now we have nights where something goes wrong and we sit and deliberate how to deal with it. With N#2 on the way I can’t even say we’ll do the same thing again. We’ll do whatever works.

I will give one piece of advice though – trust your instincts as a mother. I have never been so sure that as your child grows, so do your internal motherly instincts. Those gut feelings are usually right and I would suggest you go with them.

Thank you for reading Part Two – I hope you enjoyed reading about another part of my life as a mum! I know the idea of sleep training can be a touchy subject but all views and opinions  and encouragement are welcomed here! My next post will be up on Wednesday, focusing on writing (Mum Mondays, Writing Wednesdays, Friday Five). Your comments and constructive criticism (on the blog itself) are welcomed. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @mumwriting.

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