The [Former] Blog Ian

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems

From birth, it has been difficult for the Notorious Jigb to get to sleep.

Initially, it was colic that kept him (and his parents) up at night. That was particularly hard for Marysia and me, because everyone is so concerned about SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) that there's a lot of propaganda advocating "back to sleep"--that is, you must put the child to sleep on his/her back. But our colicy baby only wanted to sleep on his stomach. So, for a few hours, we'd let Ian sleep on his stomach so that he and we might rest, but we'd feel terribly guilty about it and keep checking him to make sure he was breathing.

That went on for weeks until his doctor finally said, if he can hold his head up, it's fine to let him sleep on his stomach.

Thus, one sleep problem was dealt with, but subsequently Ian decided that he just didn't like to go to sleep. Virtually every night, for at over two years, he battled going to sleep at night. Some nights were worse than others, but few nights were easy. (And nap battles were so bad that when he and Marysia were alone in Poland for 5 months he almost never napped.) We tried various techniques to get him to sleep--cajoling, threatening, offering rewards, letting him cry it out.

The worst nights were marked by him screaming for an hour and a half or more--making it difficult to do anything else in the house. It was taking its psychic toll on Marysia and me.

Then, on 27 December 2006, we were at Books-a-Million, a local Alabama bookstore, and we stumbled upon a book that spoke to us: Dr. Richard Ferber's Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems. We were both very skeptical, but it was encouraging to see that Ferber is the director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders, Children's Hospital, Boston. If he doesn't know kids' sleep issues, who does?

With our skepticism in full force, we tried his method. It's quite simple. The parent puts the kid to sleep and, in no uncertain terms, tells him/her that it's bedtime. No other options are open. Inevitably, the child cries. The parent waits 3 minutes, then goes into the bedroom and, without really engaging the child or patting him/her or getting a glass of water or whatever, the parent reinforces that it's bed time. The child continues to cry and the parent returns in increasingly longer intervals: 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes. The next night, the process begins again, but the intervals get longer: 10 minutes at first, then 15, 20, 25, etc.

After four days of this, Ian's sleep problems was solved!

Four days! We were astonished at how fast it worked. After a mere four days, Ian was settling down after being read three books and was not complaining about going to bed. He even asks to have his door closed "so that Java won't come in" his room. Occasionally, he might talk to himself for 10 or 15 minutes, but that's it! No screaming!