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the eric update - day 250: super sleeper! or the almost-no-cry sleep solution.

let it be known far and wide that on day 250 odin slept though the night! well, actually, he slept for 8.5 hours and since he goes to bed around 7, "through the night" means waking at 3 a.m. - but still - it's far, far better than waking every hour or so.

obviously, a well-slept baby is a happy baby.

amazingly, we changed his sleeping patterns in less than a week. what was our secret to success? well, we locked him in the room, turned off the monitor and let him scream all night for 5 days until he figured out that we weren't coming in to comfort him!

just kidding.

in reality, we our plan for getting him to fall asleep all by himself worked wondefully and he wasn't really having any troubles in that department; but the strategy of increasing the time between nighttime feedings by 15 minutes each week with the intent of slowly training him to wait 5 hours between feedings wasn't going so well, as he was still waking up every hour or two.

at our last pediatrician visit, he was quite convinced that since odin could fall asleep by himself that he was probably a lot closer to sleeping through the night than we thought. he recommended that we should give odin more of a chance to figure out how to put himself back to sleep at night. in other words, he was recommending that - if we had the fortitude - we should let odin "cry it out".

we knew that there was no way we could simply lock the door and let him scream for hours on end, so we devised an alternate plan where we'd try and see if we could get odin to go 5 hours between feedings. if he were to wake up before 5 hours had passed, we resolved to try really super hard to push ourselves to not run into the nursery after a few minutes. 10 or 15 or 20 minutes seemed reasonable.

much to our suprise, the pediatrician was right! odin really was closer to sleeping through the night. we discovered that if we just waited a minute or two or three longer than normal, rather than working himself into hysterics, he'd fall back asleep! it was like magic. apparently - for all these weeks, when we imagined that we were "rescuing" odin from turning into a screaming ball of infant fury, he was really only minutes away from falling back asleep.

for the first couple of days, we noted a repeatable pattern of waking after 3 hours or so, "night crying" for 5-10 minutes and falling back to sleep, followed by waking every hour for brief periods ( < 5 minutes ) of "night crying" until his "5 hour" feeding. after a few days the incidents of "night crying" quickly diminshed to bursts of a minute or two over the full 5 hours. and in only 6 days he's decided that he'd rather sleep right through his 5 hour feeding with no "night crying" at all!

now, i'm not saying we're advocates of "cry it out" methods for sleeping and i'm not sure what we would have done if we had not discovered that odin was, in reality, so close to sleeping through the night; but it seems to me that there's a startling and counterintuitive lesson that we've learned.

sometimes it's better if you don't follow your instincts.

but when do you follow your instincts and when do you take the advice of others, even when it goes against what your instincts tell you is the "right" thing to do? surely someone must have an answer to that weighty question :-)

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3/11/2005 10:28:00 AM 2 comments


Congratulations!! We have been lucky with our baby deciding himself to sleep longer rather than eat. The first time is scary; you wake up hours later thinking something is terribly wrong with the baby, then you realize something is terribly right! As far as the instinct thing, the hard part is tuning your instincts to realize there is a short term reaction that may not be the right thing for longer term. That's not what instincts are good at, but you can try to train your gut reaction to look further out.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:58 PM  

learning when the kids were "complaining" and when they "needed help" was just about the hardest thing for me to figure out. I think we err'd to far on the rescue for our first and as such he's not that great at recovering from traumas himself (like when he drops his donut on the floor). We've struck a better balance with the second one, I think, and he recovers from the disasters a two year old faces much better.

By Blogger Derek, at 2:57 AM  

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"it is hard to be brave," said piglet, sniffing slightly, "when you're only a Very Small Animal." rabbit, who had begun to write very busily, looked up and said: "it is because you are a very small animal that you will be Useful in the adventure before us."

the complete tales & poems of winnie the pooh

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this site chronicles the continuing adventures of my son, odin, who was unexpectedly born on the fourth of july at 25 weeks gestation, weighing 1 pound 7 ounces.

he's quite a fighter and you can always send him a postcard to the most current address listed here if you're inspired by his adventures. see the postcard project/google maps mashup to see a map of the postcards.

if you're new, you can browse the archives to catch up. and don't forget to watch a few movies that i made while we were in the neonatal intensive care unit. or if you want the abridged version and you can find a copy, you can read about his adventures in the november 2005 issue of parents magazine.

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