I’m writing this now from a very lowly place. The place reserved for only the cruelest parents; parents like Joan Crawford, Darth Vader, and every mother from TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras. It’s the place where parents go during Sleep Training.
Our daughter is now 7 months old and so far her personality has revealed that she is, and probably always will be, impatient and driven. She has already begun “cruising,” which, if you’re not familiar, in baby speak means she is standing and shuffling along the side of the crib or sofa. We think that this is not so much because she’s particularly gifted, but rather, being unable to do so disgusted her.
This opinion is also based on her approach to crawling. She didn’t crawl in the strict sense as much as got to her hands and knees and launched herself forward like a linebacker. She’s clearly less about the journey and more about acquiring the destination by force.
In fact, she really doesn’t care to hold still, period. Trying to snuggle with her is like hugging a meerkat on meth. Her milestones are coming fast and furious and often times overlapping. The perfect time to start Sleep Training.
The timing wasn’t by choice, but necessity. Like many first-time parents, my wife and I were very attentive to our daughter’s cries. We were assured (and rightly so, we believe) that, being her only form of communication, a baby’s cries should be addressed as quickly as possible. And so we did. But as we are learning, and as veteran parents know all too well, raising a child is a never-ending balancing act between holding on and letting go.
Up to this point, my wife and I have always soothed our daughter to sleep; sometimes by nursing, other times by singing, and once with one of my old performance art installations where I used pork chops and a box fan to illustrate the futility of lusting for fame.
But, obviously, she has to learn to sleep on her own.
The idea that we need to learn to sleep seems strange; it seems like this should have been covered earlier. Like before the Bronze Age, before we began smelting ore, maybe we could have tackled this problem of not knowing how to sleep. But, sure enough, it has to be learned.
What’s maddening to parents is that, while baby has to learn it, it cannot be taught. Baby has to discover it for herself. Parents can help however.
Techniques range from true Cry It Out (CIO), where baby will cry as long as it takes to soothe herself to sleep (or pass out trying) to co-sleeping until baby is old enough to get creeped out by it, and eventually asks to sleep by herself. Somewhere in between is something called the Ferber Method (also the name of the 5th highest-grossing wind chime-based New Age musical group of 2007).
The Ferber Method
involves gradually increasing the time between parental involvements. For instance, the first check-in is at 3 minutes, then 6, then 9 minutes, on up to 15 where you top out, and check in every 15 minutes after that. Check-ins are brief and neutral, and not more than a minute or two. Easy enough.
And then the crying starts. What Dr. Ferber doesn’t mention is that, in addition to learning to soothe herself to sleep, baby is also learning to plumb the depths of her crying, searching for the most possessed wail or tortured shriek that will bring her parents to her crib on their knees, begging to be forgiven for such a foolish and disrespectful experiment as “Sleep Training.”
It’s a process, and we’re not there yet, but it’s getting better. We’re consistent, and every day the crying spells are shorter. However, I’m curious to know Dr. Ferber’s opinion on levitation.