Monday, October 04, 2010

The Sleep Chronicles

When Ayaan was about six months old, I sleep trained him. He was a very bad sleeper and refused to nap during the day and at that point, I had tried almost everything else and was running out of options and patience. So I read Ferber and followed his advice to the T. It was harder than was suggested but at ten months, Ayaan was completely trained and sleeping through the night. (The detailed post I wrote about it at the time can be found here).

Of course, I would have preferred to not let him cry it out. But things had come to such a pass that my sanity, his health and our happiness depended on him being able to sleep a reasonable number of hours in a day. But I have often wondered whether it was my fault that things got to be that way. From the day he popped out, he was a baby who would soothe only when he was being carried. I, aided by my mother and mother-in-law at various points of time, spent many uncountable hours walking up and down the house with him. He seemed to have an in-built motion and gravity sensor that made him take umbrage the minute the poor soul carrying him decided to stop pacing or, God forbid, sit down. Everyone said you must not let a little baby cry. At that age, they cannot manipulate you - they are just telling you what they want. Well, in Ayaan's case, he wanted to be carried till my spinal column felt like someone had been at it with a hammer. So that's what I did but somehow that got in the way of him being comfortable with being put down in his cot for a nap...

Anyway, when Tarana was born, I vowed I wouldn't let things get that bad. To start with, things went well. She was sleeping 5-6 hours at a stretch at night by time she was three weeks old and when she did wake, I would feed her and put her down next to me on the bed. She would play for a bit and go back to sleep, after which I would pop her back in her cot. Her napping behaviour was somewhat more erratic but overall, we were getting by and it didn't seem like any drastic measures would be required.

Then when she was six months old, she got sick. And with a stuffy nose, sleeping in a flat position became understandably difficult. So between an exhausted Jai and a fever-ridden me, we took turns sitting up with her asleep on our shoulders. It was just a few days, but it turned out to be habit-forming and she developed an aversion to sleeping in her cot. There were some really horrible night when she would be up for three hours. Actually, Jai and/ or I would be up for three hours at a stretch - she would sleep on our shoulders but get up the minute she was put down in her cot. Her naps totally went to hell. It took ages to rock her into a deep sleep and then she would sleep no more than fifteen or thirty minutes.

Again, things reached breaking point. But I still dithered on taking more drastic steps. Whenever I felt just about ready to throw in the towel and let her cry it out, she would go through a good phase and my resolve would weaken. Then, there was the whole hoo-haa about sleep training possibly causing long-term brain damage. Let's not even get started about the latent guilt about sleep training Ayaan that came bubbling to the surface. But let's just say that it made me even more reluctant to sleep train Tarana and add to that the burden of guilt. Lastly, by the time I was considering this, Tarana was already crawling, sitting up and pulling herself up to stand. I worried that she might get agitated and hurt herself on the sides of her cot...

Given that I was confused about how to correct her behavior, I decided to correct mine. I started going to bed really early - as soon as the kids were in bed, in fact. That effectively dealt with my sleep deprivation so I limped on for another couple of months. But Tarana was still not getting enough uninterrupted sleep so she was pretty cranky in the day. And without any lengthy naps and a grumpy, clingy baby, I found it hard to get any time to get my own stuff done or to spend much quality time with Ayaan.

I finally decided to experiment with a modified sleep training method. In Tarana's case, getting her to sleep wasn't a problem. She was asleep within minutes of being rocked - the issue was getting her to fall into such a deep sleep that she would not wake up when she was put down. To put things into perspective, her eyes would close within 3-4 minutes of being rocked but the last mile of getting her to be a 100% asleep would take anywhere from fifteen to thirty minutes. It was also a pretty elaborate process - first, I would walk and pat her, then I put sit down and keep patting her, then I would stop the patting and just sit and even then, when put into her cot, she would stir and so then some patting was required to get her to settle. Not fun, to say the least.

So I decided to do away with the 100% fast asleep objective. I would rock her to sleep for the initial 3-4 minutes and then put her cot and leave. (This was different from the Ferber method I followed with Ayaan where I put him into his cot fully awake). In this case, she was already very, very sleepy. So she cried only for about 5 minutes on the first day. And except for one occasion when she howled for 10 minutes, the crying never exceeded that. It's been about three weeks now, and she usually cries for under a minute before sleep overwhelms her.

So yes, I am sleep training her. But this is a relatively gentle method that I feel no qualms about. The crying is minimal and she is sleeping much better. She now takes two naps during the day, both lasting between 45 minutes and an hour. And she wakes only once for a feed at night. We are both more rested and she is much less irritable during her waking hours...

On a related note, do/ did any of your babies meet the sleep quotas recommended by the sleep experts? Neither of my kids ever came close to the hours prescribed here. Even now, Tarana sleeps an average of 11 hours in a day, which is quite a long way off from the 14 hours that they say she should be sleeping.


  1. Gosh. You brought back memories I have happily forgotten what with my younger one soon to be five.

    Div was gotten into the rocking-walking-bouncing habit by none other than my parents who came to the US for 3 months and left me to suffer the consequences of bad sleep habits for the next 3 months. Talk about losing sanity and health. I was heading into severe depression spending hours everyday and night putting her to sleep

    The moment she turned 6 months, I started a gentler version of sleep training. For the first day she howled for 45 minutes while I sobbed outside the door. But she went into such a deep sleep and woke up so contented and happy, that I didn't give up. Next day, 20 minutes crying. Third day 10 minutes. And for the next 6 months she would whimper softly for 5 minutes before she slept. But her naps and sleep and self-soothing improved to such a huge extent that we stuck to the 'routine' for good. She was plonked firmly into her crib, cuddled and kissed and left to fall asleep on her own. At age one, she stopped the 5 minute crying for good.

    With Dhruv, he was already used to falling asleep on his own, for the sad reason that his first 3 months were spent in a creche. So having learnt the hard way with the first one, we didn't make the mistake of starting off habits.

    I'd say if Tarana is quite cheerful and healthy, she's getting all the sleep she needs. Good to read that you're all happier and better rested.

  2. Yaawn... Sorry.. I feel bad.. i know how an unslept baby can affect your won mood and energy levels ... Sorry.

    Now.. as for my own kid: SHe is 33 months now.
    She has been a good sleeper, a light sleeper and is really close to the sleep expert recommendations.
    We are a bit rigid. She is in bed in the night by 8:30 and is up by 7 in the morning now. Th eevening bath seems to soothe her and she sleeps better. She sleeps around 1-2:30 in the afternoon. We try to have our activites around her sleep hours. This way she is happier. I know she gets cranky if she has not had her sleep.
    Even when she was about 15-18 months, she would sleep by 7-7 getting up once for milk when I would just give her a bottle and put her back to sleep.
    She has been sleeping in her crib (which is in our room until 6 months ago) since day 1.

    We didnt train-train her... just followed what my mom adviced.. the rocking is not helping anyone! It was really hard from birth - 6 months.. but then slowly and surely things started falling into place!

  3. Anonymous10:12 pm

    I co-slept with both kids, and they did get the sleep they needed. First one inherited my asthma though, so needed lots of time being rocked upright in a rocker, as a baby, when the wheezing hit and he couldn't lie down... Kids slept with us until they were 2~3 years each, and even now, at 10 and 8, come into our bed on occasion - we love it! Helps that I can fall asleep anywhere and anytime, and DH is a complete softie when it comes to his kids :)


  4. Gosh my twins are four -- still co sleeping.. most days are fine.. some are still bad. They sleep about 10 hrs as against the prescribed 12. Thanks for the baby centre url though.. will check it out at leisure.

  5. I d say my 17 month old pretty much sleeps as per the recommended quota so far. He does 7- 6 everynight except when teething or sick and a 2 hr nap in the afternoon. I pretty much did the bath,read a book, give him a bottle/sippy cup and keep him in the crib while I spoke/sang/read to him since he was 12 days old while he fell asleep on his own. It was hard work at first with the constant feeding and the nappy changing and me aiming for the 9-8 routine. But he pretty much picked the 7-6 routine at 2 months. We also always had a fan whirring in his room when he slept which seemed to soothe him.And it took us lots of tears and a couple of weeks to wean him off it at 1:). I think ur doing great with Tarana and she ll find her own sleeping schedule pretty soon. Whenever she is ready:)

  6. I guess I didnt realise how much I like using 'pretty much' in a sentence till I read my comment above. I ve 'pretty much' used it in every sentence;)

  7. I had a ‘ghodiyu’ (Gujju cloth cradle) for my kids. Weaned them off it after they were 20 months I think (or something like that, frankly can’t remember) and it was quite uneventful weaning. Best thing for blissful sleep for both baby and her parents.

    Offer still open - can have it delivered to your place, currently living in Mumbai only.

  8. We have had some sleepless nights ourselves here.
    Cantaloupe was such a bad night sleeper. BP rocked her to sleep for almost like 45 mins ... the moment she was put down, she'd be wide awake.
    At about 9 months, we changed the routine a bit ... we'd play the music and put her on bed and walk out. Surprisingly, she got adjusted to this routine. But we visited India when she was about 1 yr and that ruined all her sleeping habits. She was older now ... and more stubborn.... and insisted on being cuddled / rocked. She also kept demanding milk in the middle of night much against what doctor had advised us. We stopped her night feeds at about 18 months ... but then she continued to wake up for one reason or the other. (mostly bad dreams)
    She settled down I guess around the time she was close to 3 yrs.
    And those recommended sleep hours ... nope, my kids never came close to those chart hours.

  9. Ro - you know the struggles I had with KB's sleep. We tried the ferber thing - milder version of it - worked for a bit - but the India trip ruined it again. Somehow we get through it and it gets forgotten until we have to deal with it again. Good luck. If this is working, great. You have found your solution. KB never slept the recommended no of hours...

  10. Gosh Ro...its really bad for you aint it...infact try the Godhiyu that chox is talking about...its pretty effective for kids and they wean off easily...R was good for the first 2 months adn after that even I went through these carrying sessions which are seriously back breaking..I think I have permanently damaged my spinal cord :) Try giving her a bath in the evening (now that its hot and sulty here in Mumbai), that may work too :)

  11. I drop by your blog on and off. I cld have hugged you for writing this post. I had a terrible time making my kids sleep and they are 4 now (twins) one of them I can say is sleep trained and the other one I am still struggling.

    As for recommended amount they have been way off always and I have given myself tons and tons of heartache over it. Now I am reconciled to the fact that they are 2-3 hrs short of the recommended duration and that they are light sleepers.

    I have even yelled at them for not sleeping and shown my agitation :( But I now know only time solves the issue :(

  12. Anonymous1:43 pm

    My kid also did not meet the recommended hours of sleep.

    I still have to rock her to sleep once or twice at night though she is already 2.5 yrs. Many people including her PD suggested that I sleep train her but I am against it though at times I really feel drained during the day. I am sure she will also get a hang of it. It is just a matter of time.

  13. I hear you. I'm having a hard time with Arjun. Can't understand what he wants. There was a good phase and now its all over the place. I keep thinking let him cry it out. But the problem is he sleeps in the cot in Tara's room and she gets disturbed too. :( Struggling.

  14. Ah, the story of my life! I used to spend a good 45 minutes rocking Nikki to sleep (and breaking my back in the process)and the child would be up and fully alert in fifteen minutes flat. Talk about power naps! She didn't meet the sleep quotas recommended but her sleep patterns seem to have improved as she's grown older.

  15. Even we made the mistake of carrying/rocking S to get her to sleep and regretted it for a long time. So, when I had M I decided not to repeat the same mistake. I tried the same method that you tried with Tarana - putting her down half awake, letting her cry for a little while etc. It worked out well. By the time she turned 10 months old, we were just plonking her down in her bed and saying good night. Initially we would stay in the room, reminding her occasionally to go to sleep. Then we started leaving the room.

    Since you asked - yes both, S and M, used to get the recommended amount of sleep. In fact at the lasp physical the doctor was worried that M was sleeping to the higher limit of the recommended hours, LOL! (I mean, will these doctors find something else to worry about, puh-lease??)

  16. Nodding all along! I think docs exaggerate the sleep time of children, I am yet to see a child who exhausts his quota of sleep. At the same time, I think they have shrunk it up for adults. So between us, we make up for the deficit on the child's part :D

  17. With Bonbon, we got into the whole walking-her-to-sleep thing that you had with Ayaan. As she got older it was so difficult to keep it up. At about 12 months, my folks went out of the country for a bit and I was left to deal with her. That's when I slowly weaned her out of it. Both of us plonked on the bed and I'd sing to her or pat her. Initially, she'd get very upset and shout to be carried but slowly she'd calm down and doze and finally sleep deeply. However, the co-sleeping is still going on and I'm trying to figure out a way to get her into her own room to sleep. Sigh.

  18. Preeti9:44 pm

    Hi Ro. U is now 12.5 months and he's pretty much in the ballpark of the quota. For both L and U I followed the Tracy Hogg method (I think u mentioned her in the Ayaan post). It worked fine for L and now for U as well.

    One suggestion I would make - when Tarana has a cold, instead of rocking her in ur arms or sleeping with her upright, try a car seat if you have one. We have one of those infant seats which rock, and whenever it IS extra diff to get U to sleep (usually cos of a cold), I rock him in that and he seems comfortable, and I even leave him in there for the night if required.

    And as I'm sure u know, anything that gets them to sleep and frees u up at the same time, is well worth the effort :) In fact, with L we suffered for 2.5 yrs without a full nights sleep and that was one the main factors for me against having a second kid. But I guess the memories of those awful nights fade pretty soon otherwise I doubt there would be any families with more than one kid!!

  19. Wow your post brought back so many memories of my dear D. She's now 5 and sleeping in her own bed, but from birth upto the age of 1 she was close to impossible to put to sleep.
    We didn't get a cradle, or any type of rocking bed as the paediatrician we first saw gave very dire warnings about rocking children to sleep as they get used to it and have sleep issues later! Little did I know that I would nearly be a human cradle for her in order to get her to sleep atleast close to the supposedly required hours!! I've rocked her on my shoulder, sat on a gym ball with her to bounce her to sleep, tried lullabies of all kinds at all hours of the night.
    Finally what worked for me was sitting with legs stretched, pillow on knees with her head on the pillow, feet towards my stomach and rocking her to sleep on the pillow. That way I could put her down beside me along with the pillow without her waking up!

    Feel so proud of her as well as myself for reaching where we have :). Thanks for the reminder!

  20. Hi Ro,

    After reading your posts and the comments - I feel Im not alone! Chuktu hardly sleeps 10hrs - forget 14! And we are trying to sleep train him too. He keeps rolling around on the bed as long as we are sitting there and he can see us. And that can take upto an hour sometimes!
    When he wakes up for his midnight feed he refuses to sleep in the crib and like you've mentioned I also fear that he will hurt himself with all his 360deg turns, though I've tied cusions to the crib edges...
    And there are 2 opinions on that too :-( - elders say - thats ok-he's still a baby to be sleep trained...
    But books say this is the right time and that I need to ignore the cries and let him fall asleep on his own - and its so hard to decide what to do!!!

    I could've put up my own post - my comment is so long! :-O

  21. Oh! And when he gets a stuffy nose (which is rather frequent) I try putting him to sleep on his side or raise his mattress a little by putting a pillow or soft sofa cusion under it. And ofcourse Nasivion-S. It pretty much resolves the issue for 4-5 hrs...

  22. Gah! Just wrote a long comment and blogger ate it up. Here goes again:

    [Starry] Your experience with Div sounds just like mine with Ayaan. He was like a completely different (happier) baby after the sleep training so I think it was a necessary evil...

    [Garima] I am a slave to the kids' schedules but it doesn't seem to have paid off in longer sleep hours :(

    [M/ Obessivemom] My husband is a six-footer and a very heavy sleeper so I worry about him rolling over the baby. And because I worry, I sleep badly. So no, co-sleeping is not for us...

    [Ariel] I like the sound of your routine. LOL at pretty much! :)

    [Chox/ R's Mom] I wish I had tried the godhiyu earlier. I don't think she will take to it now...

    [CA/ Noon] Trips are the worse thing that can happen to established sleep routines. Just when Tarana is settling down into some sort of sensible sleep pattern, we are off to Mauritius and Jaipur at the end of the month. Oh well...

    [AA_Mom] You had my undiluted respect at twins!

    [Anon] I hope she settles soon. 2.5 years is a long time to go without a full night's sleep!

    [Manjima] Ouch. I am keeping Tarana in my room till she sleeps through the night...

    [NMOTB] These kids have no concept of cost-benefit huh?

    [CeeKay] *turns green* Why can't my kids sleep more rather than less...

    [Violet] LOL!

    [Noodlehead] Tarana thinks being put on the bed and being patted is some sort of game. It wakes her up!

    [Preeti] Hiya! Nice to have a face to put to the name :) I did try the bouncer but nothing but being rocked in someone's arms will do for this child!

    [Aparna] They all get there eventually, don't they? Before you know it, the problem is to get the sleepyheads out of bed in time for school...

    [RS] Books, elders... ignore. Do what works for you.

  23. Oh God, your post is SO relevant to me right now!My son's 5 months (actual), 3 months (adjusted)- which is how preemies are referred to. He is under the impression that the only way he can go to sleep is at my breast.When he is with my husband he knows there's no milk coming so he will expect to be jiggled around till he finally drops off to sleep (and we absolutely don't dare sit down at that stage!)He co-sleeps with us because its just easier for me that way to feed him at night. He sleeps about 4-5 hours at night, feeds and then sleeps for about 1-2 hours after that. He hardly sleeps during the day and our doctor told us he should be sleeping 14-16 hours at this stage!Help!

  24. Vikram was a very bad sleeper right from the beginning. Even as a newborn he would nap for 15-20 minutes at a time. It was very frustrating especially when friends would tell me that their kids slept for 2-3 hours after an oil massage and bath!

    We Ferberized him too at 6 months. The article you posted was quite scary and I have read similar things before about the ill effects of sleep training. But at that time we were desperate to get him to sleep well through the night. We also wanted him to learn to go to sleep on his own rather than having him to rock him for ages. He started sleeping much better after we did that and would sleep on his own very happily. I do worry about this sometimes and feel guilty for having done it but I suppose at that time we did what we thought was rightand what worked for him and us. We didnt do any reading about the pros and cons of sleep training before we started. We just followed the Ferber method as described in my baby book.

    He's 30 months now and sleeps roughly 10 hours at night (sometimes 9.5) and 2 hours in the afternoon. Thats probably a little less sleep than he should be getting but that's all he will sleep !

  25. Wow.. My son is about 8 and a half months now and it feels like its been years since I had a good sleep :)
    I have been intending to sleep train him for a while now but what holds me back is the fact that he is not that bad when it comes to going to sleep. Infact at times when he reaches his threshold of 9 PM, he will sleep however you hold him.
    Its keeping him asleep thats my problem. He wakes up every 3 hours out of habit. And its been an unhill task to curb that habit. He has been weaned ever since he was 6 months old but he's latched on to the bottle now instead for the pacifier effect.
    For now I try to give him water in his bottle to let him know that a feed is out of the menu. The next step is to cut off the bottle itself and to cut off the 3 hourly waking. But its a bloody daunting task just to think about it.
    I am tempted to try the Ferber technique...

  26. Thank goodness, I got to know about one more child (Ayaan) like mine in sleeping. I literally lived through my initial days with my child while reading it. Now, I am quite relaxed on his sleep training. My 25 month old still doesnt know how to self soothe and requires a jhoola to sleep. and to top it, he still has two bottles of milk while sleeping. My mother, mother-in-law, grandmothers (both the sides), grandmother-in-laws (both the sides) said, no need to worry, children have milk while sleeping until they are five. Not that I get influenced by their ways on all of it, but on this, I choose to relax as Ganesh allows me to brush his teeth properly without much of negotiations. I did try out, CIO when he was around 6 months(but went to him in 5 minutes) and decided will not do it again. Hopefully, he will not be on bottles and diapers until he is eligible to get married. :)

    BTW, you are tagged, check out

  27. I had happily forgotten about all that we went through trying to get N to sleep longer and more easily. Now i am 5 months pregnant and your post is making me wonder whether i should've really taken it on a second time!