Friday, February 12, 2010

The Sweet Smell of Success

When Matthew was three months old, I decided that it was time for him to learn how to sleep through the night (I know, it may have been a bit early to worry about that, but that's all hindsight).  My challenge was to figure out how to meet two goals I'd established for myself: first, because I wasn't of the let-them-scream-it-out school, I wanted to use a method that wouldn't require me to leave him screaming in his crib; second, despite the importance of the first goal to me, I wanted Matthew to learn how to fall asleep on his own, from being put into his crib awake - my objective here was that I didn't want to be in a position where he would some day be three or four years old and still dependent on me to rock him to sleep every night.

The method I ended up using combined suggestions of Dr. Marc Weissbluth (author of Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child) and Tracy Hogg (author of The Baby Whisperer).  Following my plan on the first night of implementation, when I heard Matthew crying, I immediately went into his room and picked him up.  Without talking to him or even looking much at him, I rocked and comforted and held him until he quieted; as soon as he was calm, I lay him down in his crib again...awake.  As you can imagine, he began to cry again almost immediately.  So I repeated the process: pick him up; calm him down; put him back down.  Eventually, after sixty-three (yes 63!!) repetitions, Matthew lay calmly in his crib and fell asleep.  I walked back into my bedroom, woke Geoff up, raised my arms and pumped my fists in triumph; my words to Geoff were:  "I am the baby whisperer!"  After a week's worth of nights like this (the number of reps necessary reduced substantially every night),  Matthew slept through the night...for thirteen consecutive hours!  We've never looked back.

I was reminded of that triumph today.  When Matthew woke up this morning, I was a bit startled by his appearance: he was pale, had purply smudges under his eyes, I could count his ribs, and his arms looked like scrawny little sticks to me...all the result of his last week's illness and not eating much since last weekend.  I felt like bundling him up and driving him to emerg so they could put a feeding tube in him.  Trying to keep the anxiety out of my voice, I told Matthew that we needed, today, to focus on starting to get a bunch of food into get him strong and healthy again.  When he said that he wasn't really hungry, I felt my anxiety turn into panic, and I admit that I used fear as a tactic with him - I told him that if he wasn't going to try to eat, I was going to take him to a hospital so that they could feed him there.  I felt horrid as soon as the words were out of my mouth - surely I've scared him off of hospitals for the rest of his life - but he seemed fairly indifferent.

I decided, though, that, like yesterday, I needed to do what it took to get food (way more than yesterday) into the boy.  I asked him what he'd like to eat and he said "fruit smoothie."  I promptly whipped up the healthiest smoothie I could think of:  a banana; a cup of mixed berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries); two small probiotic yogurts; some carrot and apple juices; two teaspoons of freshly ground flax; about the same amount of wheat germ; and a bit of agave nectar to sweeten it.  I then plunked him down in front of the tv in his little armchair, hoping to distract him from the fact that I was about to put a funnel into his mouth and force-feed him (j.k.).  In fact, distraction worked again - every time he opened his mouth to smile at something on tv, I unobtrusively slipped the straw into his mouth...and he unconsciously started sipping his smoothie.  In the next hour and a half, I have no idea what he watched on tv; I totally focused on watching his face for opportunities to get food into him.  I got all but about an inch of the whole darn smoothie into him, along with three little crackers with cheese.  About an hour later, he finally started showing some signs of energy and mischievousness...and I started breathing a bit better.

To celebrate success, I snuck into the living room for just a moment and raised my arms in the air, pumping my fists.  It was that moment which took me back six years, to an earlier moment of triumph.


  1. oh ruth, that is very hard and scary...when our oldest was about that age, she got horrible awful mouth ulcers (over 70) and didn't eat for over a WEEK...she was always, and still is, very very tiny...i wept when i saw her..FINALLY finally finally, she ate ICE CREAM! and we let her eat four bowls..i remember well that moment of 'yippee, thank You Lord!'
    so glad he is on the mend. darci

  2. I have almost-3-year-old John and I used Dr. Weissbluth's method for teaching him to fall asleep on his own when he was 4 months old. It was painful (for both of us) and I called my sister crying each day. It took longer than a week for him to fall asleep without crying, but he did it and is now a great napper and night sleeper. I'm going to have to do the same for my little Joseph, who will be 4 months old at the end of Feb. I like how you used the Baby Whisperer methods with the Healthy Sleep Habits method. I think I'll try that with Joseph, in the hopes that it will take a week (or less?) and perhaps less tears from both of us???