It can be a nightmare for exhausted parents when a baby will not sleep through the night. Many parents consider the Ferber “Cry it out” method of sleep training. But for some, hearing their baby crying is extremely difficult, even if it is just for a few minutes. I admit, we were in this category. We bought the Ferber book and gave it a try; for one night. We did not have the strength to go any further. Night after night, I would put my son to sleep and night after night, after an hour or two or maybe three, he would wake up crying. I ignored Ferber’s teaching and would again rock him back to sleep and quickly go to grab a few hours of sleep myself, before the process repeated itself.
Then one night, I asked myself: What if I was part of the problem? What if the reason that he was waking up was to get me to come to him? What if by picking him up and soothing him back to sleep, I was actually giving him the reward for waking up and crying?
I decided to take a different approach that was half-way between what I was doing then and the tougher “Ferber-Method”. I decided that if he were to cry, I would go to him, but I would not pick him up. In fact, I would not even allow myself to enter his room. From then on, after he was asleep, if he cried, I did not go back inside his room. When he cried, I would stand outside and talk to him through the open door. I would stick my head into the doorway and talk to him. I would pull up a chair and sing to him. I would calmly shush him or do whatever was necessary. It did not matter how long it would take. I wanted him to know that he was not alone, that I was nearby. But I would not go into his room.
The first night, I sat outside his room for several hours. He was awake, but when he understood that I was not coming, he eventually stopped crying. I pulled up a chair and sang the same songs that I would sing when putting him to sleep. I remember being there for several hours that night. The next night, the same thing happened, but I did not spend as much time there. After 4 or 5 nights, he stopped waking up in the middle of the night. It seemed like a miracle.
The next problem was how to get him to sleep until the morning. We read about a device called a “Gro Clock”, which is something like an alarm clock for kids. But instead of an alarm which can be heard, when it is time to wake up, the clock face turns from a tranquil blue with a star to a lively yellow with a sun.
The clock actually did not work for us at first, because it was too early. My son did not yet understand the concept of colors. A few months later, when he understood the difference between yellow and blue, we tried it again. And it worked! I explained to him that, when the yellow sun appeared, all he had to do was say “Yellow Sun” and I would come and get him from his crib. He did! When he would call “Yellow Sun” I would immediately go to him. Because that was our agreement. He kept his part of our agreement by waiting for the Yellow Sun, and I kept my part of the agreement by going to him immediately when he called me.