Um, yeah, remember I said that I had a bunch of posts in the hopper waiting to be automatically uploaded at regular intervals? Well that didn't work as well as I had planned, did it? I have no idea what happened, but it seems that nothing has yet been posted. Sorry… and onward.
I am currently travelling with our two lovely but CRAZY three-year olds. Crazy in that they are completely unpredictable. We flew overseas and of course I was sure they'd eventually SLEEP overnight. You know, on that OVERNIGHT flight?! They did not sleep ONE WINK. How does that happen? They were up until 2 am and they seemed permanently set on party mode. I was convinced that the rest of our trip would be fraught with sleep HELL. I certainly was prepared to be up ten bajillion times per night as they adjusted to being jet lagged. And yet, for the first 3 nights of our trip they've slept 14 hours straight through the night, 13 hours and 12 hours, respectively. Go figure… I don't know why any of you listen to me. I have NO IDEA what's up with this sleep stuff. But enough about me let's move on to the reader's question:
I started 'sleep training' over a week ago with a 'gentle'
approach by sitting by his crib and soothing him. Each night I moved
further away until I was out the door. When I was out the door, we did
the Ferber method. Generally speaking, it's worked pretty well. The
most he ever cried so far was 40 minutes. He's gone to bed the past
few nights without any crying and when he wakes in the night, he
typically puts himself to sleep in under 5 minutes. I still feed him
once in the night, but will work on that in a few weeks. I plan to
work on naps next since he typically nurses through the duration of his
nap and is always held. So, after all of that long-winded background
information, here are my questions:
- Does the timing in your book apply to naps as well? Do I need to
be 'all done' with sleep training my son for naps before he is 7.5
- I've heard and read that it may be necessary to 'sleep train' your
child multiple times. For example, after illness or after traveling.
If we travel after our son is 7.5 months old, do you recommend we hold
off on 're-training' him until after 12 months?! Or, does your timing
generally only apply to the first time you 'sleep train' your child?
We have quite a bit of travel coming up during the 7.5-12 month
timeframe and I'm concerned about the impact to our son and us.
Great questions. Let's start with question #1: The short answer is, yes. Timing ANY big transition is best done outside of the sensitive developmental windows. As you may have figured out by now, I think that the developmental transition periods are periods of vulnerability during which children are sensitive in general and changing any established habits — including, but not limited to naptimes and bedtimes — are more difficult during these stages. Extending this idea, I actually think that events such as potty-training, entering a new daycare, changing caregivers, and weaning could best be done (IOW, more easily and with less distress) outside of these sensitive developmental stages. But returning to the specific question, being "all done" would be ideal, but of course circumstances in our lives usually don't align themselves perfectly with optimal developmental timing. All we can do is to try to time things as far away from these ongoing sensitive periods; but remember, these ages are approximate and you've got a little leway on both sides of the ages spans we talk about here (and in the book).
In terms of the second question, yes, the dirty little secret that very few people talk about is that MOST of us have to sleep-train our children more than once. Illness, travelling, a new sibling, moving houses, and parents going back to work (or changing hours) may all be reasons why hard-won sleep habits can disintegrate and sleep-training efforts will need to be renewed. From our experience with our own children and hearing many stories from countless parents, I DO believe that the subsequent sleep-training efforts are usually more easily implemented and cause generally less distress for the whole family. BUT THIS IS NOT BASED ON ANY RESEARCH EVIDENCE. I need to be clear about what I have a strong feeling about, based on experience and anecdotal evidence, and what is backed up by empirical evidence. Also, we may have to use different methods at different
developmental stages. For example, I think straightforward Ferberizing
can work quite well for some children around 6 months or so, but 3
year-olds are not going to be easily "Ferberized." So not only do we often have to sleep-train a few times, but we may need to be flexible with the methods that will be most effective over these repeated efforts.
So back to the second part of question #2, I think that sometimes, if kids have already learned to put themselves back to sleep at one time, when those habits get shaken up (by illness or travel, for example), you can "remind" kids how to do it, even during developmental transition periods. This is because these "booster" sleep-training sessions may not trigger the same sorts of fears of loss, anxiety about the "unknown"; basically, they may not be loaded with the same intense emotions the second, third or fourth time. So, if I were you, I would TRY to re-train as soon as you get back from all your travelling. Implement your preferred sleep-training method for a few days and if after 3 days or so things don't start improving, then you may indeed want to wait for a couple more months. But you may be surprised by how easily your baby "remembers" the skills she learned so well a few months ago.
Enjoy your time away, good luck with the "re-training" and keep us posted with how it goes. Because there are no systematic studies on this exact topic, I am genuinely interested in whether this advice is sound. Anyone else have any datapoints a la Moxie? Any other parents have experience with sleep-training multiple times? Was it easier each consecutive time? Did it depend on what age you were "retraining"? I'd love to conduct a study on this…