The Sleep Lady Shuffle

At 15 months, my daughter was still having issues with sleeping through the night.  Around 6 months, she hit a really bad series of night wakings.  I was up with her every hour or two and I couldn’t figure out if she needed to eat or just needed me.  We rocked, we walked, I leaned over the crib for what felt like hours, we let her stay up later, we put her to bed earlier, and we changed when she ate.  You name it, we did it.  Then, I tried to let her cry. She would get sick within minutes either because she would work herself up to the point of no return or because she would gag on her own fingers.

As first time parents, my husband and I thought that we must have been doing something wrong because babies her age should be sleeping through the night, right? It was difficult to hear about other babies who cried for three nights and then slept like they were in hibernation mode.  It was also tough to hear our own parents talk about how we slept and we were stuck comparing our daughter to ourselves!

At one point, I told my husband that I needed to bring her to bed with us because I was beginning to resent staying home after being up all night. He was OK with it and for that I am grateful. She began to sleep better and soon she was back in her crib, sleeping through the night! But our little girl likes to pull pranks on us and within a few weeks she was back to her old tricks again.

Then we traveled. Then she had ear infections. Then her teeth started coming in. Then I was at a loss. I tried to let her cry again and the first night was tough. The second night wasn’t as difficult. She cried for six minutes and slept through. I told myself that I could take six minutes of crying. The next night didn’t go so well.  I noticed that every time I tried to lay her down (naps included), she would get rigid, cling to me, and start to cry even before she was in the crib. I realized that I worked so hard to make her crib a cozy place and now she was resisting it because she was afraid that I was going to leave her. That broke my heart.

So, I reached out for some advice and Kim West’s book, The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight was recommended. I downloaded a copy and started the “Sleep Lady Shuffle” that night.  Kim West takes you through a series of steps that you need to take every single night in order to get your infant (or toddler) more comfortable with sleeping on her own.  As you gradually leave the room, you are building your child’s confidence (and your own!) as she learns that she doesn’t always need to be in your arms to settle back down.

It’s been about six weeks and our daughter has shown so much improvement.  In fact, we began to see a better sleep pattern after just one week. She has slept through the night multiple times and has learned to (sometimes) put herself back to sleep.  When she does wake up, she usually needs a quick pat for reassurance.

Her naps have improved too.  And even though she still isn’t the best sleeper, I will take these changes over five wake-ups in the middle of the night.  Will she be the toddler who can lay down, wide awake, and fall asleep on her own?  Probably not.  Will she ever consistently sleep through the night before she is….5?? Who knows?!  I am still excited to see the progress she has made over the last month and a half.

I want other moms to know that Kim West’s, The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight, is worth the read. I have tried the methods from a variety of well-known sleep training books and “The Sleep Lady Shuffle” has, by far, proven to be the most successful and gentle sleep solution for our family.



To Cry or Not to Cry…

When my pediatrician told me to let our 6 month old cry for 20 minutes before picking her up, I told him it was going to be tough.  On the car ride home, I silently questioned whether our bedtime rituals were creating what some people consider to be bad habits.  My husband and I had been battling with letting her cry it out for a very long time. I kept wondering–is it healthy for the baby? Is it healthy for us?  What about everything I read on having to begin the process all over again if the normal bed time routine gets disrupted?

At seven months, she usually sleeps from 8:30-5:30, nurses, and then sleeps in to at least 7:00. There are some nights that don’t go quite so well.  If she falls asleep while nursing or drinking her bottle, she almost always wakes up about 40 minutes later.  A couple of pats on the back and she rolls over to fall asleep again. It took a lot of work to get us to this point.  I hope that one day, she will pass that 40 minute mark every single night and make it to the next morning.

Then there are the nights when she doesn’t fall asleep while eating and she thinks it is still time to play.  I lay her in the crib and she goes right to all fours and starts crawling around.  If I leave the room, she begins to cry–separation anxiety has definitely kicked in!  One night, it took 15 minutes of her wailing (we gave the pediatrician’s suggestion a try) and me going in to find a crib full of vomit, to determine that “crying it out” wasn’t going to work for us.  So, on the nights when she refuses to fall asleep without being held, I leave the room for a few minutes at a time before I go back in and I do my best not to pick her up.

I haven’t found any one single method that works perfectly or a book that has all of the answers.  That’s the thing about being a first-time mom.  You realize that sometimes it’s like a big science experiment with a lot of trial and error.  You also learn that many outside factors have an impact on sleep.  For instance, as I write this article, she has been sleeping for over two hours!  While yesterday, her afternoon nap was broken into sessions.  I blame that one on the evils of gas.

I try my best not to read too many articles where moms talk about how their babies have been sleeping through the night since three months.  Or wonder what I could have done differently so that my baby would fall asleep on her own night after night.  Our little girl has her own personality.  And you know what, even I sometimes struggle to fall asleep.  Some nights, I find myself chatting my husband’s ear off in bed until I pass out.  Maybe she just wants to do the same thing, too.