"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Help me, Dr. Ferber...you're my only hope

Call me cruel, call me unfeeling, call me a bad bad mummy. We are Ferberizing this kid, and the process starts PRONTO.

I used to brag that I had the best little baby in the world, because up until a month ago, Jade usually went to bed around 9pm, got up once at 3am and then slept until 8am. "What a good baby!" people would exclaim when I proudly told them she only got up once. Yes, she was my good, smart, perfect child. Until she turned 5 months old, that is, and began to display a penchant for partying in the wee hours.

I don't mind getting up once a night to feed and change her, but 3 and 4 times gets to be a little much. I become Zombie Mummy, Jade becomes Miss Crankypants, and together we don't win any congeniality contests. Ferberization began to sound pretty good.

Ferberizing, for those of you not up to date on your kiddie psychobabble, is a method of sleep training where you let your baby cry in small increments, while reassuring her that you are still there, you still love her and it's okay for her to GO TO SLEEP. The trick is that you don't crack and pick her up. That's what she wants you to do. That's what she knows YOU want to do. So you have to fight every instinct in your body that is commanding you to go and seize your screaming child in your arms. Instead, you have to fight nature and let her "cry it out," as they say in Ferber parlance.

Several of my friends have used this method with great success. Several others, proponents of attachment parenting, think I am sick and cruel. My step-mom, who is a nurse, applauds Ferber, but I have a feeling that my mother-in-law is in the second camp, although - to her credit - she rarely offers advice. But you can tell a lot from the tone of a MIL's "Oh?" in response to your declaration that you plan to let her beloved granddaughter cry herself to sleep.

Our first attempt at the whole Ferber thing occurred last night. Jady Lady sleeps in a crib in our room (Daddy's idea) which makes the whole process even trickier. D is a big softie and I was hoping he'd sleep in the Blue room so as not to disturb my resolve, but he stayed put and admirably held fast to the rules. I fed Jade at 10:30, then again at 2:30, but when the fussing began at 4:45am, I said a silent prayer to Dr. Ferber and let her cry for the recommended 3 minutes before going over to give her a comforting pat. I went back to bed. The crying turned to screams of rage. D and I clung to each other; neither of us needed to say a word, but we were both thinking, "LET GO OF ME! I MUST GO AND PICK UP MY BABY! MY BABY NEEDS ME! LET GO OF ME!!!" We tightened our grip on each other.

At the 5 minute mark, I went and talked to Jade again. The screams turned to shrieks so loud my eardrums reverberated. Same thing at the 9 minute mark, and the 12 minute mark. But at the 15 minute mark, her shrieks subsided into angry hiccuping sobs, punctuated by the familiar "squish squish" sound of Jade sucking the heck out of her favourite two fingers (think Maggie Simpson's soother sound, but wetter). She was still ticked off, but had figured out that screaming wasn't going to help. And she slept through until 7am. Whoo hoo! Best of all, when I asked her this morning if she still liked Mummy, she gave me her signature gummy grin and squealed. Phew.

Tonight is Return to Ferber Mountain; let's hope it goes smoothly. If we crack now, baby Jade will know she rules the roost and that won't do us any favours now...or in 16 years!


tanzi said...

Love it! That must be soooooo hard! I would only think it was mean if you weren't reassuring her that you're there for her. I say, go for it.

And, I will do my best not to pick her up and wreck your progress when I'm home...I think. :)

Susan said...

Stick to your guns, baby! (I mean, Mommy!) If she gets you now, you are totally screwed.

By the way, in case you didn't already know it, I love the way you write! You make it seem so easy! :)

Lois said...

You gotta do what you gotta do.