22 June 2012, by Mandy Loh
Sigh, what is it with babies and sleep? Childcare experts have written tons of guidebooks about this subject, but it’s still one of the biggest mysteries of the universe. I love how they tell you that babies are perfectly capable of sleeping through the night, UNLESS they are on a growth spurt, teething, ill, experiencing night terrors, practising a new skill, too hot/ cold…and the list goes on!
In other words, nobody really knows why babies cannot stay asleep long enough for their parents to remain sane and happy. Like a wise person once quipped, the phrase ‘sleeping like a baby’ was probably coined by someone without kids!
To add to my confusion, Cristan’s sleep pattern had been pretty inconsistent throughout his first year. There have been nights when he would wake almost every hour, and then the next night, he would sleep soundly right through! It was just really puzzling!
If you’ve been following my blog, you would know that I had been pleased as pie when Cristan started sleeping through the night at 2 months — only to have him regress a month or so later. Back then, I put his sudden wakefulness down to teething pain, and convinced myself that a little cuddle would be ok. Another time, I wanted to establish a regular naptime schedule, and resorted to cuddling Cristan to sleep at fixed times during the day.
After Cristan turned one, I decided, “Ok, this is it. It’s time for Cristan to learn to fall asleep independently and stay asleep through the night. No more cuddling!”
I used the Baby Whisperer’s pick-up/ put-down method, which seemed like a gentler and slightly kinder method than Ferber’s famous cry-it-out approach. It basically allows you to pick up your frantically crying baby to calm him down for a while, before putting him back down into the cot. This can be repeated for as many times as is needed until he calms down and falls asleep.
The first time I tried it was at the unearthly hour of 4am (I don’t know what possessed me to start then). It took an entire hour and about 100 times of picking him up before he finally fell back asleep through sheer exhaustion. Encouraged by this success, I had the strength to do it again the next evening, putting him to bed for the night. Once again, it took about 70+ pick-ups before he fell asleep, with the backbreaking ordeal lasting 1 ½ hours.
It was the third time I employed the method that really did me in. I was trying to get Cristan down for his afternoon nap at the usual time, and he was already drowsy. However, he just refused to be put down in his cot, and cried frantically for about 2 hours. I had been in and out of the room at 3-minute intervals, picking him up 5 times each time I was in, and going quite crazy. To my delight, while I was waiting outside his room after picking him up 70+ times, I heard his cries weaken and he finally quietened down. I was just about to leap for joy when, to my horror, I realized he had fallen asleep while STANDING at the cot rails!
I couldn’t possibly leave him like that, and so I tried to gently lie him down without waking him up. Very unfortunately, once I touched him, his eyelids flew open and the wailing started again! Oh, woe is me!
By this time, it was 6pm; I was exhausted, frustrated, and really behind in getting dinner prepared. So I figured if he didn’t want to nap, so be it. I left him to his own devices, but he just kept crying until I finally succumbed and nursed him to sleep, a full 3 hours from the time I started trying to get him to nap!
After that episode, I’ve thrown in the towel, raised the white flag, and conceded defeat. What a debacle! Alright Cristan darling, you win. I’ll cuddle you to sleep till the day you leave for college!