Last night was our first venture into controlled crying with Freya, this morning I feel like I’m hungover, I’m riddled with guilt but I’m proud of our little girl. For those of you who haven’t heard of controlled crying it’s not a contentious method of helping your baby sleep well and those who have tried it generally block it from their memories. The idea is that you put your baby in her cot awake, say goodnight to her, and then leave the room. Then if she cries,and she will, you wait for a few minutes before going in. Stay with her for a few minutes to reassure her, then say goodnight and leave the room again.
Then you extend the time between visits by 5 minutes (or an interval of your comfortable with) until she falls asleep. You leave your child to cry for a longer stretch between visits. The promise of this method is that your child learns to soothe themselves to sleep and your house will become a restorative sanctuary of rest for all.
This is method is controversial to say the least. Some people think it’s cruel and unnatural to leave a small baby cry for any length of time. Some people think it’s nothing short of barbaric and will emotionally scar your child. So why are we such cruel and evil parents? Good question.
It’s one I asked myself a lot during 2-3 am. The current situation is that she wakes once a night, has a bottle and returns to sleep. She is not hungry but the bottle soothes her and she sleeps. Over two weeks we have reduced her bottle from 6 ounces to 4 ounces. She is not overly concerned about the reduction. The comfort from feeding is all she needed to settle.
Part of me thinks I should count my lucky stars. She’s only waking once, she settles with a bottle, get on with it and thank the sleeping Gods. In fact thanks isn’t enough we should offer them bountiful gifts for being so merciful! A bigger part of me knows that feeding her when she’s not hungry is far from ideal. She has never got herself back to sleep once she wakes in the night. At the moment she simply can’t soothe herself. To me it makes sense to teach her how to soothe herself by giving her some space to do that. She won’t want to. She’s used to us soothing her to sleep. She likes that. But I really do think once she gets the hang of it she will sleep better and be able to get herself back to sleep when she wakes. Which is win win. If it works!
So for right or wrong we decided to brave “controlled crying” technique last night. Our biggest mistake was not talking about how we would comfort her when we are going to her before we got into bed. Steve thinks that anything short of picking her up and cuddling her until she is no longer crying is too horrible to even think of. I think that when you pick her up she thinks, “great here comes my bottle” and so the heartache of being put down again is too much and too confusing. I opted for rubbing her back and saying ssshhh five thousand times, mixed with telling her I loved her while I tried not to choke on my own tears. In-between we whispered about what on earth we were doing but mainly stayed silent and tried not to move.
It’s bloody miserable. It’s” heart being ripped out of you” kind of horrible. One minute feels like three hours. Every muscle in your body tenses. If I didn’t know it was humanly impossible I would have said that I held my breath for the full hour.
The task was made all the more challenging by the fact that we are sharing a room with her. So she can see us. We are in the bed beside her cot and we aren’t going to her. She’s devastated, beyond devastated, she’s distraught, her heart is bounding,she’s using every last ounce of energy to scream for us. All she wants is us and to sleep (a bottle would be a welcome addition). As I waited out my time to be able to comfort her my mind raced.
“Give her the bottle,this isn’t fair. She’s hysterical, she thinks we don’t care. What is wrong with us. This was all my idea. Steve must think I’m a monster. This is horrible but in a few days it will be worth it. She can learn to settle herself, she can. Ewan did. This worked with Ewan. He isn’t emotionally damaged. Is he? How would I know if I had inexplicably broken a bond, if on some level he never really trusts us. I wonder what time it is. I’m afraid to move to check. Anytime I move and don’t go to her she gets more upset. Maybe that’s my imagination. Maybe she won’t love me tomorrow.”
I have a knot in my stomach just thinking about it. But here are some positives. She went to sleep by herself without having taken a bottle. From her first cry to a snore took just over one hour. During that hour there were some (brief) quiet times and at one time she was babbling to herself. She slept all the way through to seven after her trauma hour. She greeted me in the morning with a big smile. She had a full bottle when she woke at 7 but she didn’t seem ravenous.
She did it. We are alive and smothering her with kisses this morning. I was certain with Ewan that we were going to stick with controlled crying. We did and after 4 days he slept through the night and continued doing that ever since. With Freya I’m not so certain. I think the difference is when we started with Ewan he was older, we were tireder and needed him to sleep so much while we waited for the time to go in to comfort her a concrete wall separated us
As you can hear I’m full of doubt and uncertainty but I also know that at some point she will need to settle herself without a bottle. I just don’t know if she needs to learn that now.
I’ll report back next week but for the moment. I’m going to watch this piece of television that puts it all much better than I can https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBifwhMwCrI Then I’m going to look at endless photos of her because she’s hanging with her grandparents today.