sleep training the colicky baby.

my baby turned 3 months yesterday, and i decided that it’s time that learned to sleep. that’s right, a baby needs to learn to sleep. i read something that a mother of a colicky baby wrote somewhere: that once the colic passed she felt as if she were spending all of her time and energy undoing all of the bad habits that her baby had developed as coping mechanisms while colicky. all of the things that you do just to get through the tantrums and meltdowns turn in to bad habits once the screaming fits stop. 

my son is 3 months and slowly getting over the colic episodes, but slowly. contrary to popular belief colic does not just magically disappear one day, it fades with time. it fades as you learn to cope, to stop focusing on the cause and focus on the solutions. to be in that moment with your baby as they cry. it fades as you both learn how to have this baby outside of the womb. 

i read several books and articles on sleep training but didn’t pay much attention as a pregnant woman and a new mother. when you are absorbed in the world of colic things like sleep training and potty training seem like distant planets, much like things like breastfeeding and co-sleeping seem like distant planets to the world of being pregnant. my boyfriend found elizabeth pantley’s the no cry sleep solution at the thrift store and brought it home when i was about 8 months pregnant. i breezed through it and thought, i’ll never fall into those traps. reading that she had all four of her babies sleep in her bed (and loved it), reading that she would nurse all night until her baby depended on it to sleep, reading about women who would go to bed with their babies at 7pm because baby would not sleep without her, i thought, how pathetic! until i became those women. until i became a mother i had very high ideas about parenting. having a baby with colic, for me, meant living in a constant state of crisis aversion. trying to trick my baby to sleep and praying he wouldn’t wake up was how i functioned for the first two and a half months. but then, i decided i had to do something.

colic, or the kind of colic my son has, means that the baby does not want to be put down. not ever. he wants to be held, rocked, cuddled and cradled at all times. he certainly doesn’t want to sleep alone. i spent my first several weeks with him nursing him to sleep and holding him close, praying he wouldn’t wake up and start crying again. he didn’t learn to fall asleep on his own, or to soothe himself. but as he got bigger i could see that he wasn’t getting the rest he needed. he survived on cat naps, in a constant “light sleep” without ever really getting into deep, restful sleep unless by some miracle a long car ride got him out for an hour or so. my son did not nap, not really. 

despite a typical struggle to go to sleep at night he did, however, sleep fairly well through the night (in bed between mom and dad). i noticed how he clearly knew what was nighttime and what was day time. he knew to keep quiet at night, and slept basically the same hours that i did. he even slowly learned to not freak out when he woke in the morning to find me gone, but to wait in bed while i worked out. typically he would wake a little after i got up, and stayed in bed quietly while i worked out. he would usually begin to fuss after about 45 minutes, about the length of my daily exercise routine. after spending week after week feeling like a slave to his moods, i realized that he is after all just a baby, a little sponge waiting for my direction.

about two weeks ago i began putting him into his crib, in his room, during the day. at first he cried. i would set him down on his tummy and let him have tummy time in the crib for about 10 minutes at first. then i put him in for a few minutes while i straightened up his room. i talked to him the whole time & didn’t leave the room. then one day i brought home a spinning mobile to hang above the crib, which really caught his eye. he began laying in the crib to watch the mobile spin. finally one day as he drifted off to sleep in my arms i put him in the crib. he cried and i comforted him in the room. this continued for a couple of days, until finally one day i put him in when he was clearly sleepy, and watched him drift off in the crib. the first day he took and hour nap there. the second day was a struggle. he would get sleepy, i’d put him down, he’d be wide awake and fuss. i’d take him back out & comfort him until sleepy, put him back down and then he’d wake up and fuss again. often times it takes pulling him out of the crib and putting him back down after rocking or doing something else. and after about 2 weeks he still only wants to nap there for about 30 minutes. but it’s a start. today i introduced a second nap in the crib. baby steps.

my baby has always hated to be swaddled, from the start he has only become more agitated and fought his way out of any swaddle or swaddle sack. i did often notice thought that when he would fall asleep, he would frequently wake himself up with the little jerking motions his body would make as he slept. at nearly 3 months i knew we were past swaddeling age, but wished there was some way to keep him from flailing awake. then i found the magic sleep suit. i just got this, and waited until he was 3 months to test it. so on his 3 month birthday i put him in the suit, turned on the little munchkin sound machine projector and set him in the crib. maybe it was the newness of it all, maybe he had become comfortable with the crib, but he laid there without fussing and watched the projector. i even left the room, and he went to sleep all on his own. i prepared bottles for him to keep him as quiet as possible. i slept on the couch and found myself at his door more times than i’d like to admit. but he slept, through the night. he slept through the first feeding, woke briefly at his 4am feeding, and went back to sleep without my help. he even woke around 5:45 when his papa left for work, then went back to sleep on his own until 7. the second night was a little less smooth, but still cry-free. 

i read somewhere that sleep training is harder on parents than babies. i get this now. i have to admit it is difficult not having him in bed with me, not just because it is easy to just take a breast out and go back to sleep to feed with him in bed. but also because i miss have him snuggled up to me. and i feel a bit guilty and worried that he may be lonely without me. but seeing this boy, who a few weeks ago could not be put down without screaming, soothe himself to sleep in his own room, is so amazing.

i really highly recommend the no cry sleep solution and the magic sleep suit if you are trying to introduce sleep into your babies life.

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