When my daughter was 8 months old, we hired a pediatric sleep consultant. Before you cast aspersions please understand: We were not of sound mind. Eight months of waking 4-8 times per night will do that to people. Also, she didn’t just wake up and go back to sleep. We’d have to rock her, sing songs, and summon all the deities to get her to sleep again. When my 8 month old simply would not fall asleep, we started having insane ideas: We texted my pharmacist friend to ask about lacing my nipples with Benadryl.
Then we turned on each other. Each night finding new and ridiculous ways to blame each other for the baby’s sleep, when in truth she was a terrible sleeper and it was only her fault. That’s right. Hindsight being 20/20, I’m placing the blame squarely where it should have always been: the baby. She was the worst.
Back to the baby sleep consultant…
I did some research. I found a few contenders but one stood out to me, a woman in New York with a PhD at the end of her name who called herself a “Pediatric Sleep Specialist.” Her website was thorough and professional. It included testimonials from families all over America raving about the difference she made in their lives. My bloodshot eyes fluttered with hope. I stumbled out of bed, shoved my laptop in front of my husband who looked at me as I said, “GIVE HER ALL THE MONEY.”
We didn’t give her “all” the money, but it was quite a bit. Her fee was $500. This paid for an initial phone consultation, instruction, and daily support emails for 2 weeks. At the end of our phone consultation she said there were three sleep training techniques but proclaimed, “Extinction” as the overall most effective.
Ladies and gentlemen, we hired someone with a PhD to give us the following advice: “Put the baby to bed, close the door and do not come back in until the morning.” Fantastic, we don’t even have to be home. Let’s just have a date night out! Joking aside, “extinction” was not a method with which we were comfortable.
She then told us of the “chair method.” This is when the parent sits in the nursery while the baby cries. Each night the chair is moved closer to the door and eventually out into the hall. Don’t speak to the baby or touch her, just sit there and confuse her endlessly. I can see this method working for a toddler transitioning out of a crib, but at the time we could not use it on our 8 month old. No thank you, Dr. Sleep Specialist. What else do you have?
She instructed us to put her to bed and set a timer for 3 minutes. If she’s still crying, go in, say something reassuring, pat her and leave. Set the timer for 5 minutes, repeat. Max the timer at 7 minutes and repeat until she falls asleep. “Oh, the Ferber Method?” I say to her. Well, that’s just super. We just paid an expert $500.00 to suggest a method even my 80 year old grandmother has heard of.
We did as she said and the baby slept well for a few weeks, but it didn’t stick. We did it again. Again, we met with temporary success. She is now 4 and still comes in for hugs at night. That’s just the way she is. She isn’t comfortable on her own all night. There’s no way to “train” her out of it and nor should we, in my opinion. So, if you’re struggling with a baby who just won’t sleep like the mommy bloggers say they should/could, go easy on yourself and your baby. Trust your gut and get a library card. It just might save you $500. Cheers, friends.