Friday, April 13, 2007

Modifying Ferber

Sunita's query on the Before Ferber post deserves a longer reply than is suitable for a comment, so here goes:

I got Richard Ferber's book from Rohini earlier this week, and spent the day (or as much as I could) reading it. Now, this book was promised a few weeks before that, and as things would have it, no sooner had I sent Rohini the SOS than The Bhaeblet decided to show a sleeping pattern of sorts. But I still found the book of enormous interest because --

1. It explained sleeping habits and patterns, not just in infants but also in older children. V and I are both occasional insomniacs, and my family has a history of insomnia. Therefore, I wanted to know more about how to make it easier for WB to develop regular sleeping habits from childhood. Not just the napping or the fixed bedtime, but also how to fall asleep when in bed. Something I don't do very well myself.

2. Till about 8 weeks ago I used to keep WB up in the evenings, hoping he would be sleepy at the time of the last feed around 11, so that he would sleep in till past 8 the next morning. It was only by accident that I realised that this was not necessary, because he used to feel sleepy after his 9 p.m. feed anyway and if I did things right, he could sustain that sleep till the next morning. In other words, the midnight feed had become unnecessary. This did mean he woke up earlier, but that was less of a problem. Ferber helped by explaining the circadian cycle of sleep that each human body follows, and how it can be changed for the worse by careless indiscipline. Also, that by midnight, WB was really too tired to be able to fall asleep easily.

3. Bedwetting runs in our family, and I have seen my brother really suffer. For years my parents couldn't accept that it wasn't his fault. Ferber explains very clearly how to deal with it, and I read up on this in case WB ever needs it.

Now, Sunita's question was this:
hey so did you manage training your little one? I just gave Rohini's method a try and got into a bad fight with hubby & mom. I am waiting to hear your success story and then get my hubby a paid vacation to somewhere, my mom to her mom's place and then try. Will come back to check :)
Well, my answer would be that I modified the method to suit the existing pattern (rather than impose a whole new pattern altogether). I explained in the older post how I got him to sleep by pinning his arms and legs down. I have noticed that this calms him down, and when he is calm he sleeps sooner, since he is, after all, tired and sleepy. Ferber talked about the associations that one forms with sleep, and I figured part of my present problem is that WB still needs too many things to help him sleep. The holding and the patting and the singing are all right for the occasional bedtime, but not every single time. So I am trying to ease him out of these.

He takes two naps during the day. For now I let him play either in his cot or in the pram till he falls asleep. He sometimes cries for attention before he sleeps, but picking him up only makes a tired little boy try harder to drive away sleep, and I fail to see how that is good for him. So I let him cry a little and usually, if his tummy is full, he does fall asleep. If he doesn't I pick him up. Maybe feed him or pat him, but I try to avoid these as much as possible.

This is making it easier for him to learn to fall asleep at night. I no longer hold him or pat him in my arms. I put him in his cot. If he thrashes a lot I pin him down, but usually, once he is calm, I let him go and sit in the chair next to him and look away. Eventually, he falls asleep. I have cut down on the physical contact and am aiming for not having to sit next to him for long either. This is not quite Ferber, but I have to use my own intuition as to when he will sleep sooner if I go away and when my departure will be the signal for him to start howling. So I basically evolved my own method, and Ferber helped me justify it.

Now Sunita's daughter is a year old, and I think she will need slightly different methods. You know, Sunita, if your husband and mother don't agree, you can't follow Ferber exactly, so I suggest you modify as I do. For one thing, you can start insisting Joyce go to bed at exactly the same time every night, come rain or shine. After a week of this she will start feeling sleepy at that exact time.

Does she sleep with you or in her own bed/room? My suggestion would be that when its time for bed, you change her, tuck her in bed, darken the room (nightlights are always acceptable though) and keep the door almost closed. The quiet and dark are necessary. Insist that the family be quiet, that the tv volume be lowered. This is only a temporary phase until she has learnt to fall asleep on her own.

If she cries at being left alone, stay in the room but a little apart. Avoid eye contact, but it's ok if it helps her to hold your hand. See if she sleeps to music. Classical is usually good (although it didn't work so well for my son). These compromises should make it easier for your husband and mother to accept the firmness.

In turn, you have to accept, as I do, certain restrictions on yourself. One is that you have to stay in that darkened room doing nothing until she does fall asleep. Also, if Joyce sleeps in your bed then you will have accept that your bedroom is out of bounds from her bedtime, i.e. anything you need to do there you have to do before she goes to bed, because afterwards the room will be dark.

It will probably have to be you who insists upon the bedtime. Incidentally, Ferber stresses on pre-bedtime rituals. An aunt of mine suggested one that might work for a little girl. Half an hour before her own bedtime, teach her to put her dolls to sleep. 'Change' and 'tuck' them in. Let her explain to them how important sleep is, to be fresh the next morning. I am not saying this will work, but it's worth a shot.

My own difficulties are less now with getting The Bhaeblet to sleep than with helping him go back to sleep should he wake up for some reason. When he wakes up in the middle of the night I still try not to pick him up, but at these times I bend over him in his cot and keep my face near his. It usually soothes him. Even here, Ferber was of help in explaining sleep terrors. WB often cries out in the pre-dawn hours. He is not quite awake but keeps crying and often, it takes a while to soothe him. But it was only after reading Ferber that I understood that the problem was not a nightmare but one where the transition from a deeper to lighter sleep (or vice versa, I think) was not made smoothly. Knowing that makes it easier for a sleepy, impatient me to wait by his bedside, holding him and talking to him until he quietens down.

I hope that helps. Rohini, if it's ok I'll keep the book for a couple more weeks and then send it back. Do let me know if you need it earlier.


Rohini said...

Oh good you finally got the book. I am glad you find it useful and it's great that you have evolved your own version of it.

Don't worry about returning it. Keep it as long as you like - I currently (touch wood) have no need for it.

Sunita said...

Sue, I really appreciate your effort in taking to reply to me. Currently she naps twice during the day when I am not around and mom says in 10 mins of putting her to bed and patting her, she is out. The night sleep is the problem that I am trying to tackle. Currently she has a pattern of activities before going to bed. I am also trying to wean her off and that might be adding the extra difficulty. She is a co-sleeper. Will let you know how the method works for me.

Sue said...

Rohini - Touch wood indeed!

Sunita - Maybe she only needs one, longer, nap? Why don't you try a 10 min lie-down next to grandma instead of any one nap? She lies down still and hears a story or something? That way they both get a little rest and there's no patting.