Now that our daughter is six months and two days old, we’ve begun to try to train her to sleep. This is a enjoyable and calming experience, especially if you like the sound of constant wailing.
There are lots of different ways to go about this. Up until now, Felicity has had the luxury of her doting parents coming to her whenever she howls. That usually happens 45 minutes after she goes to sleep after her bath, and another 45 minutes after that, and then, depending on how full of milk she is and how well I recite the numbers from zero to one hundred in Spanish to her, she’ll go down for a few hours. And then wake my wife up after I’ve retired to the other room.
That can’t go on forever. Well, it probably could, but my mind and my wife’s body would collapse under the strain. Before six months we don’t believe a baby is capable of learning in this way, but from now on we don’t want her to bias towards manipulating her parents, so sleep training is what we do. The particular flavour we’re attempting is the Ferber method, which is apparently less cruel than dumping her on her own for a few days and leaving her to figure it out:
We feed her. We put her down. She immediately starts to howl. We leave the room for five minutes. She howls throughout those five minutes. We return, and tell her that we still exist, and despite apparently abandoning her, we do still care about her. And then we leave the room again, this time for seven minutes.
She howls throughout those seven minutes, but that’s tiring for a baby, just as it is for her parents. We go back in, and try to placate her by telling her we’re still there. Then we leave for another ten minutes.
She howls throughout those ten minutes. I’m sure you’re beginning to get the idea. We go back in, and say hello to her again, then leave… And part way through the next ten minutes, the howling stops, and she falls asleep.
So far, she’s been down for an hour and fifty minutes. When she wakes up again, we’ll have to go through the same rigmarole: regularly checking in on her with slowly increasing intervals in between, until she goes back to sleep again. I’m not sure how often this will repeat itself through the night: if it takes 45 minutes to get her to sleep each time, we’ll be just a little bit frazzled by tomorrow morning.
Still, we’ve just given her a nice new bed. It seems only polite for her to sleep in it when we ask her to. (Anyone who’d like to tell me that babies can’t be judged according to adult concepts of politeness and kindness is happy to come round while I’m trying to frantically calm our daughter and listen to the fun.)