Despite the controlled crying, Arlo greeted me with his usual big grin after every sleep. This must mean that he didn’t hold a grudge against me and I wasn’t being an awful mum who was going to scar him emotionally, right?
After the first few days of our new ‘routine’, I was worrying about damaging our relationship and our trust. I was sad, mourning the lovely, cuddly times I had spent on the sofa in Arlo’s room, feeding him to sleep. He’d hold my hand, I’d watch as his breathing became heavy and his body relaxed, and I’d place him in the cot knowing he was sleeping peacefully. He knew I was there for him then.
Never feeding Arlo to sleep again and Arlo knowing I won’t comfort him were thoughts that almost had me running straight back up those stairs. But I kept focusing on the fact that it hasn’t been that way for a long time. Those calm, peaceful bedtimes had been replaced with biting, scratching, screaming and pushing away from me. And we hadn’t been able to find a more gentle method of persuasion that Arlo was happy with. I didn’t know what else to try.
Day 3 and 4:
By day 3 and 4, it was taking under 30 minutes for Arlo to fall asleep. He was having one night feed. We had a difficult 45 minutes during the middle of the night on day 4. After half an hour, I realised he that maybe he was just hungry ahead of his usual time and I knew he wasn’t going to settle without a feed. So, I fed him at 2.15am (slightly earlier than I should have according to the ‘rules’ we had set), and then he slept until 7am.
Naptimes followed the pattern of days 3 and 4, taking around 25 minutes for Arlo to fall asleep. However, at bedtime, he was asleep within 15 minutes – the quickest time so far. Day 5 also provided the record for longest gap without milk overnight. He moaned during the night at around 1.30am, but fell back to sleep after Sam went in and stroked his back. He eventually woke for milk at 6am – 11 hours after his bedtime feed. He went back to sleep until 8am.
It was now taking around 15 minutes for Arlo to fall asleep. At bedtime, he fell asleep within one minute of being placed in the cot. No crying, no protest. He was happy to fall asleep during the settling down time that we do as part of his bedtime routine (this usually involves putting his light show on, lying him down, stroking him and humming Twinkle Twinkle). In terms of progress, we hit the jackpot on day 6. Arlo slept from 7pm-7am without a single peep and with no night feeds. For the first time in his life, I had a full night’s sleep.
Stopping controlled crying:
Although we had certainly seen improvements with Arlo’s sleep by day 6, I decided to take a different approach. Yes, it was true that there was one instance where Arlo fell asleep with no crying at all. But in general, there was still a lot of crying involved. More crying than I was happy with and certainly more crying than I had assumed there would be after 6 days. Trusting my gut instinct and knowing my son as I do, I couldn’t see a point where Arlo would ever be happy to be left in his room alone and go to sleep without tears. What if, two months down the line, he still cried for 10 or 15 minutes? I knew I wasn’t happy to let him cry every day for such a long period.
Judging by the events of day 6, we were now at a stage where, if timed right, Arlo was perfectly happy to fall asleep in his cot without protest, and without needing to be fed to sleep. We started controlled crying to achieve these two things, and because Arlo was refusing any ‘help’ to fall asleep, I now had what I wanted – a baby who knows that his cot is where he falls asleep, and a baby who can settle on his own. But it was obvious that Arlo prefered company. He will now lie down in his cot, and allow us to stroke his back whilst he falls asleep. So, this is what we have been doing since day 7. Occasionally, we let him moan for ten minutes before going in and stroking his back, as he sometimes gets excited that mum or dad is there and forgets that he is tired and meant to be going to sleep. But there is no full on crying, and he knows that we will be back soon to keep him company.
The new bedtime routine has been in place for a week and a half. Since then, Arlo is either waking for just one quick feed, or sleeping 7.30-6ish straight through. Mostly he sleeps straight through. The downside (for Sam and I) is that if he does happen to wake during the night, he is not so quick to settle himself again like he was during the period of controlled crying. Usually, one of us has to stoop over the cot and stroke his back for 20 minutes. On a couple of occasions, it’s taken around an hour for Arlo to fall back to sleep.
So, our week of controlled crying ends with mixed feelings. I don’t regret giving it a go. I am loving the longer lengths of sleep I have been getting and I have a healthier mind. Controlled crying wasn’t all for nothing. Before, Arlo would not have entertained the idea of lying down in his cot whilst someone was in the room. He probably wouldn’t have entertained the idea of sleep without milk. Controlled crying has enabled us to reach a bedtime compromise that everyone seems happy with. But there have been a few changes in Arlo’s behaviour that I am pretty certain are a direct result of controlled crying. Separation anxiety has kicked in. He has been wanting lots of cuddles, and cries to be held. When he wakes in the morning, he stands up and cries. He used to roll around the cot and talk to himself for ten minutes before he started wondering where we were. I think he is anxious in case we don’t come in to him. He sometimes cries when I walk away from him, or leave a room. These are all new things. I am trying to let Arlo know I’m there for him as much as possible during the day, and he’s been having a lot of sling time. Slowly, I hope I am getting his trust back.