On Going to Sleep


When Sophie was born, I became obsessed with sleep. I lived my life in a fog, constantly Googling “newborn sleep,” reading every sleep book out there, hoping for a cure to one of the worst side effects of having a baby—sleep deprivation. There was a cure—time. And eventually Sophie worked out her days and nights. She slept for three hours at a time, then four, then five. And for several blissful months we’d do her bedtime routine and put her in her crib awake, and she’d put herself to sleep and stay asleep for 12—yes 12—long, wonderful hours.

And then she turned nine-months old. Our pediatrician warned us about night terrors. She’s teething and crawling and standing—all activities that can disrupt sleep. And last night, in our Academy of Pediatrics’ Caring For Your Baby and Young Child Birth to Age 5 book, I read this: “As her separation anxieties intensify in the next few months, she may start to resist going to bed, and she may wake up more often looking for you.” Our sweet child starts arching her back and kicking her feet before she even hits the crib mattress.

I’m not big on letting Sophie cry, for any reason. But I do think there are a lot of misconceptions about the Ferber method. He does not promote letting your baby cry it out until she falls asleep—rather you let your baby cry for five minutes, then intervene, then 10 minutes, then intervene, etc. However, the method is still difficult for me.

But we’ve stood by her side, rubbing her back and feet, stroking her head and cheeks—for more than an hour (not kidding). I’ve done all the things books and well-meaning people say to do and not to do—I’ve nursed her to sleep, rocked her to sleep, taken her into bed with me. I remember one night, when she was screaming particularly loud and particularly hard, I simply took her out of the crib and back downstairs—instant smile, instant giggle. In fact, anytime we enter her room her screams turn to smiles. The girl’s smarter than I think and sometimes I wonder if we’re not training her—rather she’s training us.

We’ve only tried the Ferber method for two nights now. And the first night really shouldn’t count. We let her go five minutes, then 10, and then I screwed it up. The “intervention” is supposed to only last a minute and involves a hand on the back, a stroke of the cheek, a reminder that you love her. Andy came upstairs, hissing into the crack of the door, “What are you doing?” after five minutes of me holding and rocking her. Last night, though, we let her cry for five minutes. I intervened, left the room and she went to sleep. Hopefully five minutes is all it will take from here on out. I don’t think I could go much longer than 10.

I think the trick is consistency, love and patience. And coming to terms with the fact that just when you think you’ve got something down, she, we—life—changes.


“Having a child is surely the most beautifully irrational act that two people in love can commit.” —Bill Cosby