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June 06, 2006

Nite Nite! :)

We've had lots of success with putting Gwen to bed and walking out of the room while she's still awake. The method has been around for years but someone named "Ferber" made it his own and sold a few gazillion books on the subject.

The concept is simple. You make bedtime a positive experience but leave your child in her (or his) crib while fully awake. This teaches baby to not expect mommy and daddy to administer rocking and back patting to soothe baby to sleep. It helps baby figure out how to put him/herself to sleep -- or "self soothe".

Lots of Chinese orphans figured this out long ago. After all, with caregiver to infant ratios around 30:1, not everyone was consistently rocked to sleep each night. But who wouldn't want that if they could get it. But, more importantly, the question should be: Who really benefits from that.

I slept with Gwen for the first five months she was home with us. I thought she really needed this but her sleep patterns never really got better. Towards the end of that fifth month, she was waking several times per night and beating her way over my body towards the bedroom door where she'dbang her little fists and scream for up to 90 minutes! Nothing I could do would give her comfort.

I hadn't slept with my husband for five months and wasn't in great spirits during the day either. Gwen was pretty grumpy too. But I had friends all over the internet who were reporting success with an infant/toddler sleep system of "crying it out" -- aka, "The Ferber Method".

At first, I thought this was absolutely heartless and swore silently to never attempt it. Gwen already had 14 months in an orphanage where she was forced to cry it out since nobody loved her enough to answer her cry. But she had a mommy now and it was my job (and my honor!) to respond when she needed me!

But did she really need me? It sure didn't seem like it during those 90 minute hysterical fits as her tiny fists pounded on the bedroom door. I opened the door to see what she'd do and she just collapsed, in a sweaty heap, on the floor where she cried for another hour. She didn't want "out". She just wanted to sleep. She didn't want my soothing caress or my cuddles. She didn't want to listen to Mommy's soft snoring. She just wanted blissful sleep!

And you might think it's terribly selfish of me but I wanted that too!

On that fateful night in February of this year, we put her crib back together and planned what we thought might be the biggest betrayal of our relationship with our new daughter. We felt really guilty but we were determined to give it an honest try.

We were going to plunk her into that white wood cage and read her some stories for bedtime and then we were going to kiss her goodnight and walk out of her room and not return for 11 hours! We knew we *could* return during those 11 hours but we also knew our daughter very well and we knew that walking back into her room would only frustrate her.

She really needed to get through this without us.

We braced ourselves.

The first night was easier than expected. She cried the entire time we were reading the stories but cried for less than 30 minutes after we left her room. She didn't cry at all the rest of the night.

The 2nd night, she didn't cry during the stories and only cried for about half as long after we left her room.

The 3rd night, she didn't cry at all.

That was 4 months ago and we've had beautiful/glorious success every night since! We read her 15 or 20 minutes of stories and then we kiss her goodnight and walk out the door. She sleeps through the night and we return to her room promptly 11 hours later to sweetly wake her up. We NEVER make her cry for us in the morning!

The result is that Gwenny loves her crib. She loves to go there at night and she loves to be woken up in the morning by mommy or daddy. She doesn't think of it as confinement at all. We never would have thought this was possible when we brought her home last September.

Maybe she needed those five months of co-sleeping before she was ready to succeed at this new plan. Or maybe we just thought she needed it. We'll never know. But what we do know is that every person we'd heard from who tried this sleep program for at least a week had incredible success with it. They slept better and their child slept better.

It's not as easy for every family as it was for us but it sure seems to be worth the agony in the long run.

See for yourself: Here's a video of the last 17 seconds of Gwen's bedtime ritual. She's a happy little sleepy girl every night! (Note: please disregard our teenager's dirty socks in the hallway at the end of the video ).

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