Monday, July 9, 2012
"OPERATION CRY IT OUT!"
* This is an old blog post that I wrote but never got around to posting! I wrote this back in December of 2011, seven months ago when the twins were 16 months old. This was 3 months after we survived, "Operation CRY IT OUT!" I found it because a friend of mine is having trouble with her infant son not sleeping well. So, I guess now is the perfect time to post it!
I'm happy to report that at 21 months old (and for many months now,) the twins are asleep by 7:30pm (with NO crying at all) and sleep straight through the night until anywhere between 6:30am and 7:30am. (Although sometimes they are up a little earlier or sleep in later.) And now for the past 6 weeks or so, Elijah has hit a big milestone and usually naps for 1.5 hours! (Much more than his usual 30 minutes!) And Will also naps longer than he used to and sleeps 2 to 2.5 hours!
Needless to say, "Operation CRY IT OUT" was a big success for us!
Operation CRY IT OUT
Let me first say that there have already been many times in my short 16 months of mommyhood where I have felt that I have had no clue what I was doing. I am told that many mothers often feel this same way at various points in their lives. Therefore, I'm not the only lunatic. Good news! Whew!!
During our Vincelli "Operation Cry It Out", I definitely felt like a horrible mother. That become pretty evident when I sat outside their bedroom door crying and listening to their wails, wondering if we were creating future serial killers by letting them cry it out.
But with that said, I can honestly say that this was the best and smartest thing we've done so far as parents and our only regret is that we didn't do it sooner...much, much sooner. Although hindsight is 20/20....who knows if there really was the "perfect" time. And maybe when the time we did it was that "perfect" time.
I am in no way saying this is the way that everyone should do it. But it was right for our family and worked miracles for us. And no, I do not think it has damaged our children in any way. In fact, I think they are happier babies because of it.
Secondly, let me warn you that this post will most likely get incredibly long and perhaps boring. It just depends on if you want to read about how we taught out babies to finally sleep through the night. If that interests you, then please read on...
If not, stop reading and have a glorious day!
Thirdly, I wrote this so that I can remember exactly how we did it, not only in case we do it again with any future children, but because I am so very proud we did this and survived and documenting it sounded like a darn good idea. It's sort of like giving myself a big pat on the back for surviving!
And lastly, I hope and pray that this can give someone else the strength and courage to do the same, if that is what is right for your family.
So here's my story of how Nick and I learned what it's like to have sleep again. Oh sleep...how I love you and missed you so...
It's hard to believe we've only had our twins sleeping through the night for a little over three months now. Three months of beautiful, precious sleep! Yes, they are 16 months old, so you did your math correctly, they didn't sleep through the night until 13 months old!
I had imagined, looked forward to, and relied on the fact that by one year old, my beautiful twins would finally be sleeping through the night. And by "through the night," I mean like over 10 hours long in a row! (Although the professionals call sleeping 5 hours straight "sleeping through the night!") But I was wrong, very wrong. I suppose we only have ourselves to blame, but we didn't do it on purpose. When the babies came home from the hospital, they were on a strict "eat every 2 hours" schedule during the day and "eat every 3 hours" schedule during the night so they would gain weight and get back up to their birth weight. Elijah was 4 pounds 15 ounces when we brought him home from the hospital and Will was 4 pounds 11 ounces. Of course they had to eat so often, they were so tiny, their little tummies could only hold so much at once. Thankfully, they gained weight just beautifully, and after a few weeks, our pediatrician gave us permission to feed them when they awoke. Although with twins, it's a bit more complicated. (Isn't EVERYTHING a bit more complicated with multiples?) When one twin would wake up to feed, we'd automatically wake up the other and feed him at the same time. If we hadn't done this, we most likely would have been awake with one baby or the other...all night long! Therefore, when one baby woke up to eat, we fed the other at the same time.
A few weeks before they turned 3 months old, we moved them out of the pack-n-play they shared in our room, to their own separate cribs in the nursery. That went amazingly well! At that time, we were still feeding them about 2 times a night. At right around 4 months we were down to just feeding them once during the night, which was usually around 3 am. We enjoyed the extra sleep and were all a lot happier! I could feel us inching closer and closer to our nighttime freedom!
Finally at seven and a half months old, both babies slept through the night for the first time without a feeding (meaning we didn't hear a peep from them all night!) for 12 hours straight from 7:30pm to 7:30am. SA-WEET!! It was then we decided that any middle of the night feedings were over! Alleluia! I remember having a dream for the first time in months. I remember thinking, "Oh my, I slept long enough in a row to have a dream!" It was amazing!
Naturally, we very quickly hit another road block. Will would wake up at night and cry. And since we decided that we weren't feeding them any longer, they would keep crying. That noise would then wake up Elijah and he would cry. Or Elijah would wake up and cry and that noise would wake up Will and Will would cry. Ugghh! And trust me, two awake crying babies in the middle of the night just isn't fun. Not. One. Bit. In response, whenever we would hear a baby cry, we'd run into the room as fast as we could in order to quiet the one baby crying so he wouldn't wake up his brother. (That definitely wasn't teaching the babies to self-soothe.) This lasted about a month before we knew something had to change.
So, when the boys were eight and a half months old, we decided to try a new plan. Operation: Sleep in Separate Rooms! We moved Will's crib over to the guest bedroom, right next to the nursery. The idea was that we would be able to let the boys cry it out a little to self-soothe since they wouldn't be able to hear each other. Then we wouldn't have to hop out of bed at the slightest sound to go quiet a baby. It sounded like a good plan, except we still found ourselves going in to soothe crying babies throughout the night because they cried and cried until we would come in. It just broke our hearts to hear them cry. And unfortunately, they could still hear each other between the walls. Ultimately, they just didn't know how to self-soothe. Foolishly, we once again thought they'd grow out of it, and those shenanigans continued on for about FOUR more months. How we did that for so long, I have no idea!
But there was light at the end of the tunnel....
Nick and I had finally reached our breaking point. On October 6th, when the boys were almost 13 months old, we both said, "We're doing this TONIGHT!" We decided we were going to finally let them CRY IT OUT! And we went BIG! There were major, major changes.
1. We moved Will's crib back into the nursery with Elijah. (Sorry, suckers, you're gonna have to learn to sleep through each other's crazy noises!)
2. We took Elijah's pacifiers away cold turkey. (Go BIG or go HOME!)
3. We shut off the baby monitors that we normally had on all night next to our bed. (No more hearing every little teeny tiny noise because we weren't going in unless we heard "bloody murder" screaming!)
4. We would let them cry it out and not go in their room at all, even during the night. (Unless someone was sick or hurt.)
Oh my...we had no idea what we were in for. But we figured as long as we were going to let them cry it out, we mine as well let them do it together for support and to get used to sleeping through each other's noises again. And since it's recommended at one year to get rid of pacifiers, why not just do that at the same time as well? Then we wouldn't have to deal with suffering this again later on down the road. That was my genius idea, and I am pretty proud of that one! And by shutting off the monitors, Nick and I wouldn't be hearing the little noises, letting the boys learn to self-soothe. We were right in the next room, so we would be able to hear them if they cried loud enough and something was really wrong.
And so we let them cry....it....out. And CRY. They. Did. :(
I had previously asked for advice via facebook and received a lot of good ideas. (For which I am so very very grateful for! Thank you to all you awesome mommies and dads for sharing your expertise and knowledgeable advice with us!) From all that advice, Nick and I decided that we would go in every 5 minutes to check on them, lay the boys back down if they were standing up in their cribs, pat their butt quick, and tell them, "It's okay. It's time to go to sleep. We love you." And then leave the room.
We went in every five minutes for three times that first night before we realized that just was not a good idea AT ALL, even though most people suggested it to us. It was too heartbreaking, we'd walk in and see them desperately crying and reaching their arms out for us. Every time we went back in, they cried louder and became more upset. (My heart was breaking.) So, we decided we just wouldn't go back in at all. And that was a GREAT idea! They just expected us to come back in every five minutes, so naturally they'd just keep crying. They are smart little guys. I call them my mini manipulators!
I remember Nick and I sitting on our bed in our room right next to the nursery that first night. I cried and Nick reassured me that it was okay, we had to stay strong for the babies. Elijah and Will cried and screamed. Each cry felt like a jab in our hearts. We just sat there listening to them before we realized that doing that was only making it harder on us and there was no point for us sulking there as the minutes passed by so slowly. So we got farther away from the crying. It was unbelievably heartbreaking and stressful and I felt like I was letting my babies down. It sucked. I'm not gonna lie...it really sucked. But I knew we had no other choice. If this didn't work, I don't think there was anything else left to try.
That first night of "crying it out," Elijah cried for 30 minutes before falling asleep and Will cried just under 1 hour. We vowed to not set one foot in their nursery throughout the night either (well, unless we knew they were hurt). Eli slept all night long and we heard Will cry for 30 minutes at 11pm, 30 minutes at 3am, and 30 minutes at 6am. It was hard, but we had survived night number one! And honestly, it wasn't nearly as bad as I had imagined.
Bring it on, night number two!
We were prepared for the worst for night number two since we had read that it was usually worse than the first night. I told Nick I couldn't bear to hear them cry again, so I left to go over to my sister's. But we were grateful because it was an ever bigger success than night one! They both feel asleep after crying for about 25 minutes. Again, we didn't hear one peep out of Elijah all night and Will we only heard cry ONCE for less than 10 minutes during the night. WOW!!!!
Oh yeah, baby. Night number three!
On night three, I left the house again in order to not hear the babies cry. I went over to my sister's and Nick called me 20 minutes later saying the crying was already over! So by night three, Will cried only 15 minutes and Elijah just 3 minutes before falling asleep. And we didn't hear either of them ALL NIGHT LONG! AHHHHH!!! Seriously....why didn't we do this sooner?!?!?!
Night four: Eli cried 15 minutes and Will only 5 minutes before falling asleep.
Night five: they both cried less than 5 minutes before falling asleep.
I am more than overjoyed to report that by night number 6 our "Operation: Cry it Out," was officially over. Both babies now rarely cry when being laid down for their naps or at night for bedtime. And if they do cry, 99% of the time it's for less than 5 minutes. And most nights we don't hear a peep out of either baby during the night. They usually sleep from 7:30pm to around 7am. Although it can vary from waking up between 6:30am and 7:30am.
I cannot truly express in words how much this changed my life for the better. I am so thankful we finally did this. My stress level was insane with the lack of sleep and worrying about all the times they were waking up. This change has made all the difference. I'm happier. A lot happier. And I'm healthier due to less stress and of course lots more sleep!
I would dread going to bed at night because I knew we'd be up various times during the night. That should have been a calm, peaceful time for me. And usually we'd be up there a handful of times before Nick and I would go to bed before 11pm. My dear precious sleep had become something I dreaded. Thinking about sleeping shouldn't be stressful and it was. But now that is all in the past. I am so grateful.
There ends "Operation Cry It Out" for bedtime.
If your eyes aren't bleeding yet, you can continue reading on to learn how it worked for naptime! :)
We also let the boys cry it out for their naps at the same time we started letting them cry it out at night. We figured it was best to do that too so they wouldn't get confused. At this time, they were still napping two times a day.
It didn't work as well for naptime and they cried longer than just a few minutes. This is when we thought maybe they no longer needed two naps a day and decided to only nap them once.
It's hard for me to even want to write about this since it gets my heart racing and I feel sad. Naps were hard for me....really hard. More like torture...
We started putting the boys in their cribs for their 3 naps a day right before they turned 4 months old. And it was awesome. They would sleep at their set times and I could have breaks without having to tip toe around them when they used to be napping in their swings or on the floor in the same room as me. I could lay Eli in his crib and he would usually fall asleep on his own while I held Will while he feel asleep. It was manageable, even though I wished Will would go to sleep on his own. Some days were easier than others of course. But at least Elijah usually went to sleep on his own. This lasted for a little over four months. But then they both got sick with their first colds mid May, when they were eight months old. That threw a loop in everything. Suddenly, they wouldn't go to sleep on their own and they wanted to both be held for both their AM nap and PM nap. This caused a lot of stress for all of us.
It's impossible to hold two babies at the same time to get them to fall asleep. And trust me, I tried. It just doesn't work. So, then I would leave Will downstairs while I brought up Eli and held him to fall asleep since Eli would fall asleep fairly fast. Then after Eli was asleep, I'd bring Will up and hold him until he feel asleep.
We didn't have a rocking chair so it wasn't this nice "cuddle, relax, and while rocking your baby and gazing into his eyes" sweetness. I would hold each baby sort of bouncing him up and down while walking around the room. It was stressful and the bigger they got, the more tired my arms got. Sometimes I would have to hold Will for 30 minutes before he'd fall asleep. And he would cry and push away, not every day, but most days. So, like I said, it was wasn't a calming and bonding time. It was stressful. While I would walk around trying to get the boys to sleep, I would desperately pray and beg that they would just fall asleep. And even more than that, I would pray that I wouldn't lose it. Because there were countless times I thought I would do just that.
So, by the time I would get Will to sleep, if they each only napped 45 minutes total, that meant only a 15 minute break for me before Eli woke up because I had just spent 30 minutes of that trying to get Will to sleep. And I did that 2 times a day.
We didn't buy a rocking chair because I was afraid of the babies getting used to being rocked to sleep and we didn't want that to happen. I knew it would be too hard to do with two babies. From the beginning we were pretty strict about just laying them down in their cribs/pack-n-play to fall asleep. We didn't want them to get used to being held/rocked to sleep because we knew we'd pay for it later. We were even cautious in the beginning about letting people hold the babies too much while they were sleeping. Once again, we didn't want them to get used to being held to fall asleep. I probably was a little overly paranoid, but we had the right idea and it worked pretty well for a while. (And believe me, things are different with twins. I probably wouldn't have been so "strict" with one, but we had to do what we had to do to survive! It was the utmost importance for the babies to be able to fall asleep on their own because there was two of them. Because like I said before, it's impossible to hold two babies at the same time to get them to fall asleep.)
This all continued on for a few weeks before we decided to move their cribs into separate rooms. Then a month later in early July, Will started crawling. Well, there went our previous routine because now it wasn't safe for him to be left alone downstairs while I put Elijah to sleep. Also, at this point Will began some separation anxiety and would scream every time I left the room. Therefore, I started brining him up to his crib so at least he was closer and I knew he was safe and I could check on his easier. At this point, I would run back and forth between the boys in both rooms, trying to calm and settle down both babies. That was insane. It just didn't work. And it broke my heart to hear one cry while I was with the other. Every now and then Elijah would fall asleep on his own and that was heavenly. But odds were, one baby would cry while I desperately tried to get the other to sleep even though he was distracted and upset by his brother's cries. And it wasn't just a cry, it was a hard cry where sometimes they would start coughing a lot, like they were going to throw up.
It was during these few months that I began having a really hard time again as a mother (beyond those first few months with some post-partum depression). I started becoming afraid to be at home alone with them again because nap times were so stressful. I was so stressed out and sad. It was hard to go through that twice a day and then sometimes at night for bedtime if Nick wasn't home to help. If you added it all up, I was spending between 2 to 3 hours every day stressed out trying to get two babies to sleep. That just isn't healthy at all. I wished there was someone who could have came over and helped me with nap times. (It's times like that where I really regret not living in the same town as grandparents!)
The stressful naps continued on until we started "Operation Cry It Out". Then the naps calmed down quite a bit. They would only cry and fuss for a few minutes before falling asleep. It took longer for them to get used to falling asleep for naps on their own, probably close to a month. (Not like the less than 5 days for them to get their night time falling asleep down!) But they would only cry for a few minutes for nap time during that month of transition. And now, if they do cry, which isn't often, it's only for a few minutes.
With their one nap a day, Will usually naps anywhere between 1 hour and 1 hour 45 minutes. Elijah usually naps for only 30 minutes. (Yes, only 30 minutes...it's too short of a break for this momma!) Although every once in a great while, it can be up to 1 hour. But we survive!
I want to thank everyone (and there's too many to name and I don't want to miss anyone) for your ideas and support. Thank you for pushing me and encouraging me to become a better mother. I want to say a special thanks to my friend, Kim. Even though there were many people instrumental in encouraging me and listening to me, Kim was the one who basically came out and said, "Are you crazy? You can't go on like this. You NEED to let them cry it out!" She even offered to come and help us do it. She gave me the final kick in the butt and courage to do it. And I am forever indebted to her! (Seriously, Kim, you have no idea how grateful I am for that conversation that September night at Plaza as I cried in front of you and Jesse. And Jesse, I know you are mad at me for giving the credit to Kim, but I still love you and yes, you give me lots and lots of awesome advice and inspiration! But yes, it was Kim who gave me that last final push I needed.)
And more than anyone, I want to thank my husband, Nick. There is no way I could have done this without him. He is the rock of our family and I'm so blessed to call him mine. Elijah and Will have the perfect father in him. Dear God, thank you for all my precious miracles.
Even the miracle of SLEEP. :)
Posted by Amy Cox Vincelli