January 26, 2013

Sleep training Squirt

Category: Being Parents

[Warning: a lengthy blog post]
Sometime towards the end of November last year, we decided that it was time to move Squirt into his own bedroom. He was just short of a few days before turning 6 months old (we moved Spud to her own bedroom when she was at about 5 months). Although sleeping through did not happen every night, he has proven to us that he was more than capable of conking out till dawn breaks for a few intermittent nights over several weeks when we put him down at 6.30 pm (with the last dream feed at 10.30 pm).

Although there were nights when he would wake up once or twice, whimpering or just crying, we discovered that if we just leave him to his own device for 5, maximum 10 minutes before checking up on him, he would usually fall back to sleep. If he cries for more than 10 minutes (sometimes we let him go for 15 minutes), we took turns to soothe or sush or pat him for a little and then leave him alone. We do this over and over at 10 minutes interval till he eventually fell asleep on his own – which could sometimes be for hours. Sometimes, all he needed was just a little cuddle and then off to sleep he goes!

Squirt was waking up at ungodly hours – at time, just 5 or 3 minutes before 5 am during his final last 2 weeks leg in our room. Way, way , way too early to be waking up and it was getting annoying! It was also the time when we realised that if we ignored his fussing long enough (doesn’t even take 10 minutes), there was a good chance that he would fall back to sleep. He probably did not want to go back to sleep because he knew that we were there. It also made us wonder if he was actually being woken up by us tossing and turning or the occasional coughing and sneezing while we were asleep!

And so we thought Squirt was ready to be moved to his own bedroom, not only just so that we all could sleep in peace, but the fact that we could also have our own bedroom and privacy back!

Getting Squirt to sleep through the night without a feed was not easy. While we did start sleep training earlier (at slightly over 3 months)with a much, much milder version of it as opposed to Spud’s version, it took us (and him) at least 2 months before he was ready to sleep through.

This time round with Squirt, Silver Bullet was physically and emotionally behind me. Yet, this time round, I was the one who wavered with the techniques of sleep training.  I was the one who was unsure and I had my reasons.

While Spud gave very clear cues and indication that she was feeding out of habit for me to embark on a full-on sleep-training; with Squirt, it was not as clear cut.  I hesitated mainly because of his reflux, and he had seemed to need his night feeding more than his sister ever was. When he fed, he fed ravenously.  However, there were nights which he skipped his first night feed without any intervention from us. Using that as a cue, we managed to stretch out his night feeds for longer, reducing the number of feeds from 3 to 2. Squirt was quite unpredictable – there were times in between when he would wake up every 2 or 3 hours, and, sometimes, we cannot always be sure if it was triggered by his reflux or something else or if he was genuinely hungry. We were riddled with thoughts that there may be an element of growth spurts at play – something we know we should not be messing with in the name of sleep training.

And then, there were times when he would just be sleeping till 4.30 am after his last 10.30pm dream feed. Sometimes, he would fall back to sleep, and sometimes, he wouldn’t stop crying for more than 20 minutes – by then, everyone in the household would be wide awake. Every night was different, and we never know what Squirt would be up to.

And so, it took us a long time to reduce his night feeds to just one and eventually none. Given his reflux was a major consideration, I cannot count how many times both Silver Bullet and me were on the verge of giving up on sleep-training altogether.  We even considered getting some real (paid) help with his sleep-training, and only to find that he would be sleeping through again a few days later.

It took solid team work from both Silver Bullet and me to pull this through. We weren’t always sure if we were doing the right thing, but we become each other’s devil’s advocate. When I wavered, he persisted. When he got frustrated, I persevered. We both were always knackered from the constant wakings during the night to sush and comfort Squirt, but eventually the night feeds at ungodly hours stopped when he was about 5+ months old.

We eventually dropped the 10.30 pm dream feed altogether as of the first week of Jan 2013 (7 months) as the little man was showing signs that he was annoyed when we shoved a bottle into his mouth. And, if he did drink from it, he would take no more than 30 or 40 ml before he pushed the bottle out with his tongue and rolled over – whinging and whimpering and sounding irritated. It was a marked difference considering that he easily would polish off up to 180 ml while being dream-fed in a single sitting not too long ago.These days, Squirt gets his last bottle of the day before he goes to bed at 6.30pm. Squirt is a fickle feeder – he would struggle and clamber and we have to try several times before he eventually decides to take the bottle and drink his milk. Refusing to be held and fed at the same time, he usually finishes off at least half a bottle of his milk while he lies in his cot – a habit I am not too fond of, and something I hope to be able to break when he is a little older.

Other than that, I am actually quite happy that our little man is now able to sleep through rather soundly – a testament that our persistence and hard work with sleep training had paid off.

Unlike with Spud, I don’t even remember what we actually did on a day-to-day basis to get Squirt to sleep through the night. Sleep training Squirt felt like eternity, and I was too knackered to record his sleep log.  I could only remember that it took us more than 1.5 months to wean him off the night feeds.

One could argue that maybe he wasn’t ready when we started. Or maybe, had we waited it out, he could have done it all by himself, we need not go through such trouble and we would have not ignorantly be starving our child at night. Who knows! Regardless, it was something we had to do.

Besides, he was (still is!) such a big baby that we think he has excess fats to spare and that night feeding would just be extra rather than him actually needing it. In the end, everyone wins. He is sleeping better, and so are we.

I hope I’m not jinxing it by saying that it has now been almost a month since we stopped his 10.30pm dream-feed.  Squirt is now officially sleeping through till 6am. (Most times till 5 or 5.30 and on some rare occasions, 6.30). For now, I can’t complain.

Sleep and naps are a much more pleasant affair these days. It does appear that Squirt seems to be cutting us just that little bit of slack as compared to Spud. That being said, I am also quite convinced that, in a way, we probably could not have achieved much without some form of sleep training.

It was hard, but all worth it!


Related post(s);
Sleeping through the night
Demystifying cues

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