Getting Enough Sleep without "Crying It Out"

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Last week’s post “3 Surefire Ways to Get Babies and Toddlers to Sleep” was one of my most widely-read posts of all time. It was also maybe the most controversial, bringing in 25 comments ranging in response from lukewarm to livid. This week I asked one of women who commented on the post, Hannah Katsman from AMotherinIsrael.com, to write something up about her cry-free approach to getting babies and toddlers to sleep…

When it comes to night-waking, parents are led to believe that it’s all or nothing: You have a choice between total sleep deprivation until your children grow up, or train your children to sleep through the night. But that’s simply not true.

Sleep experts encourage this attitude by promoting the idea that parents are negligent if they don’t teach their children to “self-soothe.” And how are parents to “teach” this skill? By leaving the baby alone to cry.

There is plenty of research about the risk of excessive crying. But my problem with “crying it out” is more ideological. Forcing ourselves not to respond to crying desensitizes parents, Leaving babies alone to cry goes against our instincts—we’ve all heard about one parent blocking the bedroom door so the other won’t run in and ruin the experiment.

We should be wary of methods that ask us to ignore babies, even if only for a few minutes. Maybe the baby doesn’t technically “need” to wake up at night, but at that moment he’s in distress. Responding is the right thing to do. Babies are social creatures and like all mammals, they want to be with their own kind. They’re not designed to cope on their own, and we shouldn’t expect it from them. We don’t teach children by withholding love and comfort until they “learn” what we want from them.

All children will sleep through the night and learn “self-soothing” on their own. I know it’s not for everyone, but I co-slept and nursed my younger children at night as long as they asked. The advantages are many: Just going with the flow. No worries about “self-soothing.” Simplicity. It’s the “lazy” mother’s way to a good night’s sleep. Most of my kids stopped waking at night, without intervention, at about two and a half years.

Nursing mothers do get better quality sleep, even though their babies wake more frequently than their bottle-fed counterparts. That’s because the mothers are able to respond to their baby quickly. Co-sleeping moms share sleep cycles with their babies, so when baby wakes up it’s not in the middle of Mom’s deep sleep. Nursing at night prevents post-partum depression, and extends breastfeeding infertility.

Lactation experts have learned that there are great differences among women’s breasts regarding milk storage capacity. Some women can store only 80 cc. (2.75 ounces) of milk in their breasts at any one time, while others can store 600 cc. or over 20 ounces. The mother with low milk storage capacity will need to nurse very frequently, but over the course of the day the baby will get enough milk. So it’s quite possible that a baby is waking at night because he is really hungry, especially the kind of baby who nurses frequently during the day. And despite the comment parenting expert quoted in the original post, it’s not the kind of thing your doctor is likely to know about. The only thing most doctors learn about breastfeeding in medical school is that it’s “best.” Older babies and toddlers may be too busy to eat enough during the day. Moms, not doctors, know best about when their babies are hungry.

Children’s night-waking is a big problem for some moms. The moms can’t function well, or are prone to illness, and they don’t enjoy co-sleeping either. (For the record, I used to be a restless sleeper and hated co-sleeping at first.) Here are some suggestions I give to moms in that situation. Maybe one or two will work for you.
• Rest at other times. Sleep when the baby sleeps. This can mean a nap, or getting to bed at the beginning of the baby’s longest stretch of sleep at night. Try a mother’s helper if you have toddlers. Or ask your husband to take over the morning or evening chores so you can extend your sleep time.
• Cut back on other activities. Can you eliminate paid or volunteer work, carpooling, or social events? The baby is just doing what comes naturally, when our busy schedules are really the problem (Facebook, anyone?). But make at least one favorite activity a priority.
• Stick it out. Frequent night waking is often temporary and caused by teething, illness or a new developmental stage. Try not to make important decisions about night-waking or weaning during stressful periods.
• Rule out physical problems. One friend realized that her 2-year-old’s frequent wakings were accompanies by gassiness. When she eliminated a particular food, he slept all night for the first time in his life. Pay attention: Children may be scared or thirsty, but they don’t usually wake up in the middle of the night just for fun.
• Take a step back. It’s not wise to start a battle over physical functions like eating, sleeping or using the toilet. When we are anxious, the child feels insecure. She then more attention and comfort, and will increase whatever activity we are trying to stop.
• Look at the baby’s eating habits. Nursing more frequently in the evening, or adding a healthy snack, sometimes helps.
• Clarify your motivation. Often mothers start weaning or weaning from night-waking because of outside pressure, whether from health professionals, friends, or family members. If the mother or baby is not really ready, the baby may pick up on parental ambivalence. Then the weaning becomes much more difficult.
• Read The No-Cry Sleep Solution. Elizabeth Pantley’s book gives excellent suggestions for gently teaching babies and toddlers to fall asleep on their own without a breast, bottle or pacifier.

I like Pantley’s child-centered approach. But when reviewing the book for this post, I recalled some points that bothered me. Pantley recommends letting a newborn fall asleep without nursing some of the time. Following this tip, she writes, will ensure that you don’t have to reread the book at 18 months. In the next paragraph she admits that this goes against a mother’s instinct, and she wouldn’t do it with her next baby!

When my youngest was born, I treasured every nursing that ended with her releasing the nipple on her own, satisfied. Then there were the nursing that ended by my getting up to wipe off a tush. Just like I advise moms not to spend their maternity leave worrying about whether their baby will take a bottle, moms of newborns don’t need to stress about sleeping habits 18 months from now.

Here’s my own bonus tip for nursing moms: The next time you find yourself drifting off during the day, take the baby into your bed and nurse him. Both of you will fall asleep nearly instantly, even if your baby just woke from a nap. This worked for me the better part of the first year. Breastmilk makes babies drowsy, and nursing releases hormones that relax the mother as well.

I loved nursing my babies to sleep. Ninety percent of the time, it’s the most convenient thing to do. If you lose that tool, it becomes more difficult to put baby to sleep when you’re in an unfamiliar place. I found that the few times when I needed to be out of the house at bedtime, my husband or the babysitter managed to find ways to get the baby to sleep.

I’ll close with a weaning story. My son was two years old, and I was pregnant. Because nursing was so painful, I had stopped except before bed and in the middle of the night. One evening, I put on a nursing jumper so he wouldn’t have access to my breasts. I turned off all the lights, and sat with him in the rocking chair. I held him or walked with him until he fell asleep. Later he woke up and wanted to nurse, but fell asleep after a few minutes of comforting. It only took a couple of nights until he stopped waking up at night. But that didn’t mean he fell asleep easily. For a long period, my husband or I lay down with him for a half hour at bedtime. What can you do? Children need attention, and some need more than others.

Every child will be ready to sleep alone and through the night at a different age. Our role is to be sensitive to our children’s needs throughout the day and night. When our children’s needs conflict with ours, we don’t have to take it lying down—we can look for solutions that respect our role as nurturing parents.

Hannah Katsman is a mom of six, including two soldiers, and has counseled nursing mothers for over ten years. Her work with young families inspired her websites: A Mother in Israel on parenting, and Cooking Manager to help home cooks save time and money. Click here to see Hannah’s 9 Reasons to cook with your kids as well as more about co-sleeping here: Should Co-Sleeping Be Outlawed?

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68 comments

  1. Perfect! Thank you for your support!!! I feel like I am always defending myself because I am either “always holding my baby” or “nursing him to sleep”

    Checking out your blogs now!

    Thanks to Chana Jenny one again 🙂

  2. I like the point that new mothers shouldn’t worry about their baby’s sleeping habbits 18 months from now. After having three very different children, I know that much of a baby’s nursing and waking style is their own, and can’t be taught. I’m surprised that some of your kids were still waking up at age 2.5. Not much of a comfort to sleep-deprived moms thinking they have over two more years of this. But it’s very true that co-sleeping moms get more sleep. I hate to hear about new dads waking up in the middle of the night to give baby a bottle. A nursing mom will fall back into deep sleep much faster and the middle of the night nursing is great for her supply and her hormones. I don’t think any of my kids were waking in the night by a year. My baby was sleeping through the night very early, but it was nothing I “taught” her.

    • Yosefa, I think I’d get in trouble if I told moms a year! I do believe that night waking at 1-2 years is common. But I talked this over with a friend before I posted, who told me her youngest woke at night until he was 8. My point was that it will eventually end even if you do nothing. Like you say, sleeping through the night doesn’t need to be taught.

  3. Hindel Levitin

    Thank you for this article! My favorite line: “We should be wary of methods that ask us to ignore babies, even if only for a few minutes.”

    The ignoring of the baby of the “surefire ways to get babies to sleep” was what was making me furious and just so sad to know that a mother might actually practice that. What is so genius about getting young babies to sleep through the night? It’s just plain wrong.

    Thank you for clarifying and explaining the right way to get the most restful sleep.

    • Hi Hindi! I don’t like to say that there’s a right way or a wrong way in parenting, because we all tend to think that our way is right. Still, I’m glad you agree with me. 🙂

      • Hindel Levitin

        There may not be absolute rights and wrongs, but there’s definitely BETTER and more effective.

  4. Ms. Krieger

    Thank you for your wonderful article on this…it is reassuring to hear from an experienced mother that yes, it is OK to cosleep or occasionally bring children in to your bed to sleep. We get so many messages saying the opposite!

  5. Brilliant article, thank you for it. FWIW, I know many children much older than 2 who wake in the night. Some breastfed, some not. Some co-sleeping, others not. Waking in the night is a very normal thing for babies and children. It can be hard work, but having realistic expectations often makes a huge difference for parents. Also second the co-sleeping/feeding in bed; makes a huge difference for so many mothers. I know it has kept me sane and rested since I last slept throughout the night, 4 years ago! Thanks again, Hannah.

  6. Was just thinking about this post and thought I would throw out a few more ideas that women often find helpful to cope with nights.
    – dont look at the clock when you wake up
    – try to soothe/nurse baby back to sleep right. Some women find that if they act fast, just as the baby stirs, they can get them back to sleep before the baby even opens their eyes or cries out.
    – aim to stay horizontal throughout the night
    – aim to not only stay lying down but to also keep your eyes closed, even through wakings/nursings. This can really help some women from waking up properly, making getting back to sleep much faster and easier
    – bed hop/ be flexible about who sleeps where, with the goal each night being to maximise sleep for everybody. Keep changing your set up if it is not working
    Hope some of these tips are helpful to somebody out there who is struggling with a wakeful baby and lack of sleep.

    • Those are wonderful ideas, Emily, especially “staying horizontal” and “keep your eyes closed.” Both of those helped me a lot.

    • “aim to not only stay lying down but to also keep your eyes closed”

      not just for the mother’s sake – it also makes baby less likely to think it’s time to jump up and play.

    • 4daughters

      I totally agree with all of your suggestions especially the “not looking at the clock” suggestion. I have co-slept with 3 of my 4 babies and I honestly could not tell my husband how many time or what times I woke up with them at night since I would just roll over to nurse them and then doze off when they were done.

      Love the “stay horizontal” comment. That is my motto and what I answer anyone who questions why I extended co-sleep.

  7. Thank you. I was livid after reading the first post. I honestly believe that people continue to use CIO because other people tell them to. I don’t think most parents would come up with it on their own. When parents learn to tune out society and to tune into their own intuition, the best parenting happens.

    • KEM,
      I’ve never thought of it like that. It’s certainly true that many moms revert to co-sleeping despite its being looked down on my the medical community.

    • I agree. What a statement! The greatest parenting really does come about when society’s norms and are ignored. A mother’s intuition is a powerful thing; it’s sad that so many women are so untrusting of it these days.

  8. KEM, I love your comment, “When parents learn to tune out society and to tune in to their own intuition, the best parenting happens.”

    Hindel Levitin, I also love yours, and I agree with it wholeheartedly, and not only because you’re my beautiful, beloved and brilliant daughter.

    Hindel – umm – I think I also noticed that you and I are the only ones who put both our names wherever we leave comments – one more thing we have in common.

    On a (very) serious note, mothers, please don’t fight your maternal instinct by letting your babies cry and feel abandoned. It could have long term repercussions. Pick them up when they cry. Or when you feel full, like it’s time to nurse. Love them. Hold them. Nurse them. Be there for them. And then, with Hashem’s help, watch them grow up to be emotionally healthy human beings. The other way – just not worth the risk.

  9. Hi Hannah! I enjoyed your post (as usual). B”H, my toddler (he’s 2) has slept through the night for quite some time. Our challenge is in getting him to actually go to sleep. For quite some time, he’s fought going to sleep. I’ve done my best to make sure that he is tired, not overtired, and that we have a routine which is low-key. However, he really doesn’t want to go to sleep.

    Currently, he hangs out in his crib for a while until he finally passes out, but we’ve been through phases where he’s been quite upset. I know he’s tired. He’s been fed, and he has water and his pacifier. But he still fights it. Same with napping. I tried cutting out the nap, but he’s miserable without it, and so much better with it, but the actual going to sleep isn’t pretty. I’ve tried staying in the room with him, but after an hour-and-a-half, he’s still not asleep, and I can’t keep doing it, as I have other responsibilities.

    Any suggestions?

    p.s. My baby is 4 months, and we’re enjoying our co-sleeping arrangement very much. He goes to sleep much nicer than his brother did at that age, so here’s hoping that stays the same!

    • Hi Rivki,
      I agree that an hour and a half is a very long bedtime routine. You say he’s tired, but is it possible he really doesn’t need that much sleep? Does he wake up at a reasonable time in the morning and seem rested? If you start the routine later, does it take just as much time?

      Two year olds generally go nuts without naps, I agree.

      The other thing that I have tried is to give the child something relaxing to do on his own either in bed or nearby. Looking at picture books or albums, doing a quiet puzzle, or anything quiet that he can do with minimal supervision. Then you can come in for the final round. This will not work with every personality.

      Another tip: The 2yo I weaned was extremely active and excitable. When I lay down with him at bedtime, I had to force myself to relax even though I was often anxious to get on with my evening. Only then would he fall asleep (and so would I, sometimes). Still, it didn’t take nearly as long as an hour and a half.
      I hope other readers can share ideas.

      • I tried putting a picture book in bed with him for nap and sleep yesterday, and it really worked nicely! Thank you!

        I’ll also keep in mind that he might need less sleep than I think he needs. Thanks again for the pointers. I really appreciate it! Have a great Shabbat. 🙂

  10. Hear, hear.

    Another tip, is that once you accept that babies “are not designed to sleep through the night”, everything becomes easier, because then you don’t think there is something wrong with you or your baby.

  11. Mrs Belogski

    I’m firmly with Hannah on this. My baby ( 21 months) slept through the night again last night – 2 out of 3 this week – in his own bed, having finally been moved out of my bed! he’s not yet falling asleep either easily or in his bed, but he is quite enthusiastic about the bed. He had been sleeping with me, even after he stopped nursing a few months ago, but we decided it was time to move on. There seemed no point in putting him in a cot/crib as he was sleeping in a bed safely.

    All my children have had phases of sleeping with me and they all eventually move out into their own bed and either sleep through the night or are old enough to deal with the issue – toilet, drink, etc themselves.

  12. Mrs. B., thanks for sharing your experience.

  13. Thank you! It is always nice to know that you are not alone in your approach.

    I have been a mother for almost 18 years now and even now with my youngest (14 months), I still follow my heart. At the time there was only Dr. W. Sears who I had to lean on. My favorite quote from him was that crying is good for the lungs like bleeding is good for the veins.

    I always felt that letting my babies cry at night was just teaching them that darkness meant that there is no one to care for them.

    Thank you again for this wonderful piece.

  14. Shirarocklin

    Hi,
    I completely agree wtih what you wrote about babies, cosleeping, nursing to sleep, etc. That’s what I’ve done with both of my children. But, I was at a loss with the first, and I am at a loss with the second currently, about what to do. At 2.5 for the first, and 2 for the second now, nursing at night has become one long nursing session. They never unlatched themselves, I had to take them off, or we’d sleep connected. Sleeping while nursing (rather than nursing them to sleep and both of us falling asleep and unlatching at some point) truly interefered with my sleep such that I never felt rested. Its only that way as they become toddlers. And if I do unlatch them (the older one in the past, and the younger until recently), they wake every hour to nurse back to sleep again.

    Both would not accept any other comforting for relaxing to sleep again. The elder, at some point I just refused to nurse her at night, and lay beside her and offerred what comfort she would allow… after a week of rejecting me and a lot of crying with me there, she began letting me rub her or sing to her to go back to sleep. And she began to sleep longer stretches as well. At 4.5 she still wakes up once a night half the time, and is very difficult to help to sleep at bedtime and in the middle of the night.

    Her younger brother is turning two on Sunday. In January the lack of sleep became unbearable. Although he slept 10x better as an infant, as a toddler he was the same as his sister. Again, I tried other methods of comforting him, tried to ease him into not nursing at night, or letting me unlatch him, etc… and nothing was working. And I did the cold-turkey again. And he also won’t let me sooth him. But instead of it lasting only a week, he still won’t let me soothe him several weeks later. I have to lay with him, offer him his water bottle, and listen to him fuss, and scream and cry for nursing, and sound very angry. He won’t accept my husband taking my place either.

    So, what did you do to lessen the nursing, or stop the nursing, at night, in the toddler years? Did they just do it on their own? Did their nursing not become unbearable at night as toddlers? Is there something I can do?

    I would like to just give him some toys in his bed, and let him play himself to sleep… but then I would have to stay with him for much longer periods, and get even less sleep. He won’t let me leave the room at all.

    I’d love some advice.

    Thanks. Shira

    • Hi Shira,
      That sounds like a really difficult situation. Your son is having a hard transition, and you’re not sleeping better, either.

      To answer your question, my toddlers gradually stopped waking to nurse at night, by about two and a half. Even before that, they didn’t usually nurse very often or long at night. I didn’t do anything special.

      It’s a good example of how every child is different and a method that worked for one child at a particular age (crying it out included) won’t work for another. Are you regretting the night weaning? It may still work, and it is just taking longer.
      I wish you much rest and nachat from your children.

  15. Great post, Hannah! This was my approach and my experience as well. My own mother parented me this way so it never occurred to me that you don’t have to lie down with a small child at bedtime – I think that kind of mental preparation helps a lot. That’s not to say I wasn’t desperate for sleep and discouraged a lot during those constant-wake-up periods, though. If I could back and tell my self something helpful, it would be: It will get easier, but you will also change; you won’t ever sleep the way you used to before the baby, but you won’t need to, either. I would have lost my mind if someone had told me that my son would be waking up still at three. But today, it honestly does not bother me. I love waking up next to him. Sometimes it’s a surprise because I don’t even notice him coming in.

  16. Mrs Belogski

    Shira,

    that’s one of the reasons i stopped nursing my baby – night nursing had become an all night snack bar, exactly as you described. i did what you did as well – singing, comforting, offering drinks of water and after about a week he was able to settle without. until this week he was sleeping in my bed and waking a couple of times a night for a drink and a cuddle, which usually involved skin to skin contact. now i’ve got him in his own bed, he has slept 3 nights right through, 1 night waking at 4 and 1 night at 6. i think probably we were both disturbing each other. haven’t cracked going to sleep easily though – still falling asleep snuggled with me. i have noticed that a really warm blanket seems to keep him asleep better. what about camping in your son’s room so that you can nap while he plays but he will see that you are still there?

  17. bs”d

    I’m sorry, but this is such an untrue article. Sad for me to hear moms really live like this. And believe me, it has nothing to do with ‘society’ that I like to get some good sleep at night.

    There is a way to have babies sleep much better WITHOUT letting them cry. Letting them cry without attending is just horrible, and I would guess it doesn’t work either.

    When babies wake up in the night, the first thing you do is determine, if possible, what is wrong. Don’t automatically nurse. That way you make baby think that that’s the solution to all problems.

    If something’s hurting him, try to find solutions for this, and just be around him with kisses and hugs. When he has calmed down, put him back to bed.

    If he wants to nurse, see if he’s really hungry or not. If he’s eating a full meal, it means he’s really hungry. If he’s just sucking a bit and then falling back to sleep, he is using you as a pacifier. Next time, instead of nursing, give him a kiss and stroke his forehead or do anything else you know calms him down. Even if this takes a long time. Be consistent and don’t nurse when he’s not hungry. But never leave him crying. With a little patience, within a couple of nights he will not wake up for nursing if he’s not hungry. That means better sleep for you and also for him! Don’t forget that good sleep is also good for the baby itself, plus everyone around you in the family.

    If he really is hungry, it can be that it is normal for his age. A newborn baby up until 4 months will wake up once or twice at night.
    After that, I like to feed them around 10 or 11 in the evening before I go to bed, even if they don’t ask for it (and are asleep). Even if the first or second time they don’t cooperate, they eventually will get used to eating around this time every night, and then sleep through the night.
    Also make sure he is eating enough during the day. And also during the day try to have them eat good meals (once every two and a half or three hours for little babies) and not just ‘snack’.
    After about six months of age, they should not wake up for nursing anymore in the middle of the night (if you feed them around 10 or 11 in the eve).

    Trust me, getting good sleep is good for everyone. Guide your baby, don’t let him guide you, and do this in a loving manner. Meaning you are always there when he asks for it. Don’t feel guilty about not giving him exactly what he wants all the time. You also need gvurah in raising children, only ‘chesed’ is damaging. It’s all about finding the right blend. Gvurah meaning: guiding them, having rules, but never meaning: leaving them to figure things out for themselves by letting them cry. You need to help them, love them, teach them wherever necessary.
    It takes just a couple of nights for them to understand your guidelines. And be flexible too, use your one instincts and wisdom. You know (or can get to know) your baby best.

    I don’t say my babies don’t wake up at night, they do when they are not comfortable, or with a fever, or bad dreams. And I am there for them. But this does not happen every night. Or not even every week. They certainly won’t get up at night to eat or drink. Unless maybe for water when they have a fever.

    I hope I have helped someone with this comment. Good luck with whatever way is good for you! That all maseenu may be leshem shamaim!

    • Esther2, you give many good suggestions for encouraging babies to sleep without letting them cry. I also agree that “gevurah” is needed in child rearing, just not necessarily in this area.

    • Mother of five

      I don’t agree that after six months babies ‘shouldn’t’ be waking at all at night. Who decided that? Also, as for seeing if he’s hungry, often the nursing is for comfort, for love which is a need babies have that is as great as hunger. This love, you presence, your milk that you offer whenever they want is the foundation of emuna and bitachon later in life. I think Gevura is for later, not the early months or even the first year.
      With my first two I got up in the night, lights on, for feeding. I was exhausted,I remember lying in bed listening to their stirring and whimpers and hoping hoping they would fall back asleep. Finally, resigned, I would drag myself out of bed. I have a newborn now and when I hear her stirring in the bassinet the next to my bed, I pick her up, lie back down and am back asleep in a minute as she nurses. Backache, though…
      I so regret how I trained my oldest two to sleep, without taking into account their normal need for night-time mommying.. I wish someone had taught me then that there is another way. Instead I was told again and again ‘you can leave them to cry. Nothing will happen to them. It’s not damaging’ today I cannot disagree less.
      ( this got a little off topic, just felt like sharing my regrets… I realize esther2 is not saying to ignore the cries… But honestly, withou nursing lying down, in bed, it is too hard for mothers…. So they become desperate to get the baby to sleep through. My heart breaks for these tiny, helpless babies. )

  18. I totally agree. Always good to hear from others that have the same philosophy!

  19. Thank you for the great blog.

    My baby comes with me to work (i take care of two other kids after preschool) and he falls asleep easily if i rock him in the stroller. i am so grateful that my first born is such a easy baby.
    at home we co-sleep and i think it is great apart of the fact that my sides hurt a lot if i sleep on them for to long.
    we just got a crib and i have been trying to make the transition.
    i put him to sleep (by feeding), then gently transport him to the crib. when he wakes up i move him to my bed and co sleep through the night.

    i know that it is the best thing for my baby to co sleep, but i am trying to show him (without any pressure, or crying) that there are other ways to fall asleep.
    he is 7 months old, so i know he is more aware of things, and it is a great time (for this particular kid) to start teaching him new things.

  20. bs”d

    I’m sorry, but this is such an untrue article. It has nothing to do with ‘society’ that I like to get some good sleep at night! Getting good sleep is good for everyone in the family. It gives the mom more energy and simcha for all the tasks she has to do. Guide your baby, don’t let him guide you! The baby was only just born and needs your guidance.
    You also need gvurah in raising children, only ‘chesed’ is damaging. It’s all about finding the right blend. Gvurah meaning: guiding them, having rules, but never meaning: leaving them to figure things out for themselves by letting them cry. You need to help them, love them and guide them wherever necessary.

    There is a way to have babies sleep much better WITHOUT letting them cry. Letting them cry without attending is just horrible, and I would guess it doesn’t work either.

    A couple of basic rules:
    – Never rock a baby. There are better ways of calming them down. I like stroking their forehead, whispering soft words, etc. This takes a bit of patience in the first couple of weeks of a baby’s live, but you’ll enjoy the outcome of this effort for the years to come. Now, if he wakes up at night, he doesn’t need to be rocked, and mostly will fall back asleep alone. Or sometimes he will only need to hear your voice or get a kiss to go back to sleep.
    – Try to figure out what works for your baby to help calm him down. Pacifiers, special blankets, etc. are good.
    – Don’t automatically nurse or bottle-feed when babies wake up in the night. If you always feed, you make the baby think that that’s the only solution you have (or live has) to offer all problems.
    – Be consistent with whatever you decide!

    When babies wake up at night, first determine, if possible, what is really wrong. And act in accordance to solve the problem.
    – Discomfort: dirty diaper, uncomfortable position, hot/cold, etc.
    – Pain: trying to massage, or grapes, etc, and just give him love. When he has calmed down, put him back to bed.
    – Hunger: if he wants to nurse, see if he’s really hungry or not. If he’s eating a full meal, it means he’s really hungry. If he’s just sucking a bit and then falling back to sleep, he is using you as a pacifier. Next time, instead of nursing, give him a kiss and stroke his forehead or do anything else you know calms him down. Even if this takes a long time. Be consistent and don’t nurse when he’s not hungry. But never leave him crying. With a little patience within a couple of nights he will not wake up for nursing if he’s not hungry. That means better sleep for you and also for him! Don’t forget that good sleep is good for the baby itself, plus everyone around you in the family.
    If he really is hungry, it can be that it is normal for his age. A newborn baby up to 4 months will wake up once or twice at night. If he’s hungry more than that or wakes up at night to eat even after the age of 4 to 6 months, take steps to prevent him being hungry at night. I like feeding them around 10 or 11 in the evening before I go to bed, even if they don’t ask for it (and are asleep). Even if the first or second time they don’t cooperate, they eventually will get used to eating around this time every night, and then sleep through the night.
    Also make sure he is eating enough during the day. Have them eat good meals (once every two and a half or three hours for little babies) and not just ‘snack’. When you want to reduce the amounts he eats at night (and increase the amount in the day), do this gradually and don’t cut night-feedings off at once.

    After about six months of age, they should not wake up for nursing anymore in the middle of the night (if you feed them around 10 or 11 in the evening and feed enough during the day).

    If this all is new to you and you want to give the above a try, give it some time, be consistent. You will be surprised how soon you will see it works out. It can take just a couple of nights up to a week or so for them to understand and apply the new guidelines. And be flexible too, use your own instincts and wisdom. You know (or can get to know) your baby best. Both moms and babies flourish with the above strategies!

    I hope I have helped someone with this comment. Good luck with whatever way is good for you! That all maseenu may be leshem shamaim!

  21. I think it’s also unfair to say all types of cry-it-out are examples when the mother is not listening to her intuition or her baby. There’s even a highly-respected Rabbi often quoted that letting children cry it out ever for any reason will undermine their capacity to have faith in G-d – what a nasty guilt trip!

    There are times when a mother is sure the child doesn’t need anything from mom at all – he just needs to go to sleep, and she very well might put him in his own crib and wait (and listen with discomfort) until he does go to sleep.

    There are also times when maybe a mother would have more patience but she is worn thin and needs her space – certainly if this is an ongoing situation some creative solutions need to be found, but a baby’s every need is not always the top priority in the home (like when the colicky ones cry through 2 hours of dinner because the rest of the family needs timely attention).

    I know a family whose 12-year-old daughter was fraught with anxiety unless one of her parents sat at her bedside until she fell completely asleep – there can come a time when co-sleeping needs to be supplemented with gentle and supportive discipline.

    Personally I only implemented a cry-it-out approach with one child, and that was to initially fall asleep. Night waking worked itself out over time.

    Cry-it-out solutions should be considered with some caveats: generic instructions in a book shouldn’t override a parent’s own thinking, the goal must be the baby’s own good and coming from a place of love, and that there will be times when the baby does need the parent even if they normally fall asleep on their own. Last, even the cry-it-out books themselves say not to use their methods until at least 6 months, often later.

    • MiriamS,
      Even though I object to crying it out, I agree that not all CIO is equal. It still bothers me, though, that it is presented to parents as the definitive way to get babies to sleep through the night.

    • I certainly agree. My son suffered from severe eczema and food allergies as a new born. At around 10 months ( with the help of three pediatric specialists) we had established a routine to help his skin , weight etc . Unfortunately I was forced to stop nursing and he went on a hypo allergenic formula but that combined with special creams,and allergen free detergents really helped him. It was only after I had the permission from all three doctors and was certain that he was comfortable in his own skin that I even attempted to sleep train him. Parents have to be certain there is nothing else bothering a child and since every child is different they should feel no pressure to go according to the self help books.

      The second point I wanted to mention was that I really did not want to do the” let them cry it out method” . My pediatrician recommended going in patting him and saying mommy is here and loves you but now its time to sleep and repeating that step with longer increments of time. I found this to be a much better method as it lets the child know your there for them and not ignoring them but that now its time for baby and everyone to sleep.

      Not all moms function the same way. Some can handle less sleep then others , need less time to unwind etc. I think its fair to say that for many moms getting your child to sleep through the night is a necessity . I had a much easier time coping with everything once I was able to sleep! I don’t think there is one right or wrong way as long as the mother has done some research and is flexible as opposed to blindly following a book or a certain method .

  22. I agree with all of this, and I would add one more point: for those with more than one child, what does it teach the older children when parents use a cry-it-out approach with the baby? Of course babies cry sometimes (mine cried a LOT — less so after we got her health issues ironed out), and older siblings need to understand that. but I remember, when my daughter was small and in daycare, seeing very young children respond with worry and sympathy to a smaller child crying (they would pat the head, hug, kiss, bring a toy or blanket, etc.) — what a shame to stifle that instinct by teaching them to ignore a crying baby! After all, we’re raising the next generation of parents …

    And of course there will be times (especially if you have several children) when you can’t respond instantly to the baby because someone else urgently needs your attention. It’s the idea that we are somehow doing babies a favour or teaching them something by sitting outside the door while they cry all alone that I find upsetting. I think KEM is right: this is not something parents come up with on their own. So many moms have told me that they were happily co-sleeping and/or nursing the baby to sleep until their mother/mother-in-law/co-worker/nosy neighbour/paediatrician/parenting book/etc. told them co-sleeping is dangerous or they must stop it right now or they’ll be sleeping with a ten-year-old one day or they are teaching the baby “bad habits” or whatever.

    Having realistic expectations is key. I would have gone completely crazy when DD was a baby if I hadn’t already had a lot of experience with other people’s babies who needed to be held all the time, nursed very very frequently, woke often at night, etc. And having all that reinforced by my family, at LLL meetings, and on the message board where I was posting at the time — this is how babies *are*, yours is not wildly out of the norm, you are not doing anything wrong — was what allowed me to hold out against all the people IRL who told me I was feeding her too often, I must not have enough milk, I was spoiling her by holding her all the time, I was putting her in danger by co-sleeping, we would never get her out of our bed if we didn’t do it now, etc., etc., etc.

    • but you’re not teaching your child to ignore a crying baby. My 2.5 year old is pretty with it, and we can talk to him and explain why his little brother is crying. He understands – we tell him he’s learning to sleep and sometimes he has troubles. He understands. We don’t tell him that he’s crying because we’ve abandoned him and don’t love him anymore. Of course that would bother him. As for raising the next generation of parents, it’s our job as parents to raise a kid who makes informed well thought out decisions. I would never teach my sons to do something just because that’s the way I did it. We need to teach them to think for themselves and to do what’s right for them.

      You’re right about doing what works for you. Being woken up every couple of hours to satisfy a child’s bad habit, and then being exhausted at work the next day doesn’t work for me. “Sleep training” for the night took 3 nights, and now I get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I can’t imagine going through the constant night wakings for 2 years. It just wouldn’t work, and that kid would have 2 cranky parents, which isn’t good for anyone.

  23. Thanks Esther2 for your post! I totally agree, it’s not horrible and mean to let your child show some discomfort with falling asleep. It’s not a mean cry when they’re crying themselves to sleep – they’re not thinking, “where is mom, this is horrible, how can she betray me like this?” It’s a cry like “I’m getting comfortable, finding it hard to relax, but I’m almost there.” That’s when you do it at 4 months.

    My middle child was 1 and waking up every hour of the night. It was torture. Someone gave me the book “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby” and I discovered my baby was overtired and relying on me for everything. BH she’s the best sleeper in the house now. But it was the worst time in my mothering life to get her to be like that (crying it out…)

    My third now is 5 months and I did what the book said to him at 4 months. AND HE NEVER “CRIED IT OUT”. They say to start at 4 months and he was so easy bh. He made a few kvetching as in “getting comfortable” noises and he falls asleep by himself all the time. (I always nurse him before putting him down so that I know he’s not hungry when i hear those small “upset” noises.) And he’s my first child to be asleep at 6pm at such a young age bli ayin hara.

    I follow what the book says, but I’m a tiny bit flexible. I DO go in and pat him if he gets too upset once in awhile. My point is – babies CAN sleep through the night, without torturing the mom. And we CAN get a good night sleep. Letting them ‘cry it out’ does not mean they’ll be screaming bloody murder and you’ll be cringing. there are slower options!

  24. I think cosleep is dangerous and unfair to the husband. Nothing wrong with letting a baby cry once you know Northing is wrong.

    • Hindel Levitin

      Co-sleeping is not dangerous unless the mother is a heavy smoker, or drug/alchohol addict. In a typical scenario, a Jewish mother who is fully aware of her baby (yes, even during sleep) and is not in a half-coma from addictive substances simply cannot harm her child in her bed. Infants are at greater risk being put to sleep in another room alone where they don’t have human contact reminding them that they are alive.

  25. In response to Sylvia_Rachel: My children understand that I’m teaching our baby how to sleep, which they understand is a very important part of life. What would they think, if I’d have to interrupt our storytime, or giving them food, or talking to them because I had to keep running to sit with our baby for a half hour to calm him or soothe him? Babies go to sleep so often during the day, and my other children can’t keep having to stop getting attention from their mother for the baby.

    When he was an infant, there was a time where he was crying in the swing and my 4 year old said, “babies crying”. I was busy giving them breakfast and I explained that Hashem gave him to us as a third kid and that means that Hashem knows that this baby will be okay when I let him cry for a few minutes. I believe that Hashem gives us our first children, who need us to go them for every cry. But when He gave us other children, then He knows our babies won’t be able to be picked up every time they need us, and that’s obviously what’s best for that baby.

    On children sympathizing with other children crying: (I saw this comment in my email, I don’t know if it’s been posted on this site yet). My 3 year old has a crying issue, she cries for everything. I don’t want her growing up as a cry-baby so my personal take on this is that I don’t answer her when she cries. She knows this, and I ignore her until she talks to me. My 4 year old however will always go to her and hug her and make her feel better. This doesn’t in any way take away from what I’m teaching her, she knows Mommy is waiting for words. And it doesn’t teach my 4 year old that I’m unsympathetic either, they both know what I’m doing it for and they’re both okay with hugging eachother in the meantime.

    • Sara, I look at it differently–second babies teach the first child that he or she is not the center of the world. I explained to the older child that he can wait a few minutes for their meal, but a newborn has no way of comprehending that. Of course, you’re right that second babies don’t get as much attention. On the other hand, they don’t need the same kind of attention thanks to our experience.

    • Also, this view does not take account of the fact that the second (or subsequent) baby can just as often more “high need” than the first (needs more touch, needs to nurse more often, cries more, does not sleep through the night so early, etc.). I think as well as teaching the first child that they are not the centre of the world, sometimes the second baby is to teach the parents that they are not perfect 😉

      As for what older children will think if you have to interrupt their lunch, storytime, etc., to sit with the baby, I have two thoughts about this. First, that as Hannah says, it is an opportunity for children to learn that because babies cannot do anything for themselves yet, sometimes what the baby needs does have to take precedence; a few minutes feels like forever to a baby, whereas those of us who are older and understand better about time can wait five minutes for our lunch. And second, that if you shift your perspective just a little bit, it will often happen that you can comfort the baby without much interruption to whatever else you need to do: nurse the baby while reading or talking with the older kids; wear the baby in a sling or a snugli while preparing the older kids’ lunch. If the baby can nurse to sleep in places other than her crib, you’ve suddenly made your daily life easier without any additional crying (at least, that was my experience and the experience of many moms I know, some of whom have a *lot* more kids than I do!).

    • I am definitely in the sara camp here. I like your no-guilt, pragmatic, justice-for-all and family mechanics logic. That is more my way of thinking.
      On the other hand, I do enjoy reading about this other species of mother, the co-sleeper, of whom I’m actually in awe. I’m simply not capable of it, as it happens I’m one of those low-dose milk storers.

      What is important here, really, is that NO MOTHER should judge another, since none of us are in the other’s shoes. Every soul is different, as is the soul taking care of that soul.

      As I learned in advertising: if you don’t like it, it isn’t aimed at you.

  26. thank you Sara- i am going to use those same words from now on when I am dishing dinner to all 4 and baby no 5 is crying- I always feel so stressed and bad and I go back and forth and tell them to eat quietly so I can hear the baby- I need to change that- they need to feel like they can eat dinner and ask me for things without being “quietted down” all the time. I never can run to the baby at all times while I am caring for 4 others and i know that – but the knowledge that Hashem designed it this way really strengthens my Emuna that HE is right there with me, supervising and guiding- thanks for reminding me! Now I can resent my husband less for working late! jk

    • YES, YES!!!!!!

      I loved that beautiful truth as well: something that gets lost around here with all these ‘experts’:

      HASHEM IS THE ONLY EXPERT!!!!!!!!!

      That’s going to become my mantra.

  27. Mrs Belogski

    One thing that i feel is coming through in these comments is that a lot of women seem to feel that things should be a certain way – all my children should sleep through the night from this age, all my children should be well-behaved all the time, i should have a spotless house and gourmet meals on the table, even though i have x young children. And by extension – not only my children/house, but also your children/house.

    Every person – mother, baby, older child ( and even husband/father, who haven’t made much appearance in these comments!) – is unique. some women can cope with CIO – if they aren’t traumatised by it and can do it in a caring way, maybe their babies won’t be traumatised by it either. some women prefer to co-sleep, nurse frequently and generally be more relaxed about who is sleeping where, when.

    it’s all fine – we are all engaged in the same important and holy job – raising Jewish children. As long as we provide them with plenty of love, appropriate boundaries and keep on davenning both for them and for ourselves to have the kochos to raise them, in the end, i believe it will all work out fine – each family will find their own way forward. It’s like pacifiers ( surprised no one has commented on the controversial picture at the top of the post:) ) and toilet training – no-one walks to the chupa with a paci/diaper – and noone will walk to the chupa nursing or needing their mother to sit with them before they go to sleep. It’s interesting to see how other people do things, but i feel it’s verging on inappropriate to say – what you’re doing is wrong.

  28. I think the main idea is you need to not ignore your baby’s cries, but you also need to know you kid. In general, it’s healthy for babies to realize their communication skills are successful – they cry, someone tries to comfort them. But my third baby did/does occasionally need to cry for a minute or two when she is over tired. If I think she is tired, put her in her crib, and she rolls over and starts laughing, maybe I was wrong. If she stays on her tummy and cries, it means she’s tired… barring a dirty diaper. She likes sleeping in her crib. Rocking her, carrying her, or pushing her in stroller will only prolong her discomfort. I don’t think this is common, and I realize for the most part we are talking about co-sleeping, but it’s not a one size fits all. Know your baby’s cries. Know your baby’s needs. And know your own limits – don’t convince yourself letting your baby cry is the right thing to do, when it’s you who is overtired. Ask for help. Call a babysitter. Take a bath with your baby.

  29. I’ll have to be the second person to disagree with this article. If I had read it a year ago I would have agreed wholeheartedly, but I have learned a lot since then.

    I co-sleep with my babies quite happily after they are born. But there comes a certain point when I stop sleeping at night because I can’t get comfortable around my growing child. I can’t align my legs and hips in a way that relaxes them. I wake up with sore joints, sometimes with nerve pain, and I am very badly rested. With my first son, I moved him out of the room at six months and continued going to him whenever he peeped. But he drove me crazy. He continued to wake up frequently during the night, even though it was clear he wasn’t hungry (he would refuse nursing!) and nothing else was wrong (diapers, teething, infections, we checked everything). And it would take forever to put him back to sleep. I can’t tell you what a dark and horrible period of my life this was. I began to resent my son. I was so angry and exhausted all the time. We had a beautiful bond beforehand; we had been through a lot together. But this was breaking everything apart. I know every normal mother experiences violent impulses at times and it frightens her and eats away at her with guilt for even feeling it, and I was no exception. On top of it all, a new pregnancy began and I needed my sleep more than ever. I was scared of losing the new pregnancy because of all the stress and lack of sleep.

    My husband had heard about some CIO methods and suggested we try it but I would hear none of it because I thought it was cruel, and as you say, it goes against our instincts as parents. We went for months like this until I finally gave in. It didn’t work perfectly, and my son is still a pretty finnicky sleeper, but the results were clear, and these days he sleeps well when we strictly guard his naps and bedtime.

    Honestly, I think the period of responding to him as soon as he cried was far worse for our relationship than letting him cry.

    Not every mother can allow herself to sleep while her baby sleeps. I have 15 months between my sons, I can’t let my toddler run around freely while I excuse myself with the baby! And what if I had never sleep-trained #1 and he were still waking up and demanding my attention at night while I was trying to adapt to #2? Talk about PPD!

    I am glad that this has worked for other mothers and babies, and I wish it had for me, but it didn’t.

    Like a commenter before me, I think each mother has to know what is right for her and her family and it is not fair to make blanket statements. We have plenty of time to show our affection and respond to our children during the day. They have to learn that night is for sleeping, and we deserve to sleep healthily too.

  30. I am a mother of 13 month old twins, and a 15 year old teenager. And with all of my children, I have taken a parent directed feeding/napping approach with all three children. All children are very different, but they are all amazing sleepers.

    All mothers have different approaches, and what works for them and their children, and families is different. My now 13 months old daughters, have been sleeping 10 to 11 hours by the age of 4 months, plus taking three naps a day at that time, and now they sleep 12 hours and take two long naps during the day.

    People tell me how easy, and happy they are all of the time. I tell them it is because they get enough sleep!!! It is that simply, with all of my girls! The only time they seem to be cranking, is right before nap time, and/or if they are sick. Even when teething, they still are very pleasant.

    I know not everyone is a fan of the “baby wise” approach, but this is the approach I took, with modifying the “cry it out method”. After a while, mothers learn their babies cries, and what each mean. There would be certain cry’s I would respond to immediately, and some I would wait to respond to, and then once responded to, I would direct them back to their nap time, or in the night, their bed time. Never once, were my children neglected, nor was my connection with they destroyed or less than. I have a close relationship with my 15 year old, and the quality of my relationship with my twins is just a strong.

    Remember, there is not just one way to raise a child. It’s like making soup, you can add your own ingredients, to get the flavor you are like and are comfortable with.

    We all have different approaches to our mothering, but if we all meet up at the same spot, it doesn’t matter how we all get there. As long as we get there safe and loved!

    Lisa, Mother of

    Olivia, 13 mos
    Isabel, 13 mos
    Morgan, 15 years

    and step-mother to
    Adam 17
    Aaron 20
    Angela 26

  31. BY the way, I really must applaud ALL you women out there who have such troubles with SLEEPING children. My problems are all when they are AWAKE… Hellllp??!!! Anyone???!!!!

  32. Amanda Marks

    I am a baby consultant in breastfeeding, weaning and sleeptraining.My history with children has been one over 27 years ranging from nanny, mat nurse, mother to 3 boys where I experienced difficulty with feeding due to lack of support and encouragement out there at the time. I trained as a councillor with Surestart and Unicef and through all my experiences began to work privately.
    I always had the “Gina Ford” approach with controlled crying as the only way to train babies/children, as you instinctively felt parents wanted things this way.
    My approach now is somewhat different and as a mother can only promote sleeptraining the natural way.
    My aim is to get the message over to parents in the future that controlled crying does have stressful effects on the babies/children, that it goes against any type of natural parenting. We are intact members of the animal kingdom and when do you ever see an animal ignoring its very young and detaching itself. It is a disgrace that we are allowed to feed our babies whatever formula we want, even if its at their detriment, choose to not feed on demand as nature intended and leave our young to fend for themselves at whatever price that may be.My programme consists of 5-7 days where parents change the sleeping habits as the baby is ready and with a firm, but calm effect passes over security and allows the baby to accept being alone and settling back to sleep
    I thought your article was very good and such a change to read rather than parents getting so excited when they have left their young to cry and scarily feel they have achieved something!
    If only they knew their damage.
    Amanda Marks

  33. The only part of this article I have a problem with is where you say that nursing at night prevents post-partum depression. I nursed my son on demand 24 hours a day until he was 23 months and he’s still in bed with me at 26 months and I had a raging case of PPD. I would hate for your otherwise great article to add the guilt and shame a mother has that she’s “doing everything right” and still unhappy.

    • Moms who nurse at night can still get PPD, and what I wrote should be reworded to say, “lowers the risk.” Thanks for pointing that out. I’m so sorry you had to suffer with that terrible illness. Chana Jenny, can you fix it?

  34. Being a mother to 14mo old triplets who don’t sleep well, and did not respond well to CIO… I’d be interested in how you would handle three babies at once. Its one thing to have several children close together but completely different to have several children all at once. Co-sleeping is not an option with three. What to do when all three are crying at once? When one cries and wakes another, how do you pick up and quietly comfort them both.

    I liked your article, but I feel like it’s idealistic and not very realistic for many. You say that our busy-ness is the problem and even suggest quitting our jobs at one point but in this economy that is very unrealistic and I think it will make many working moms, like me, who ALREADY struggle emotionally with having to work, feel really guilty that they are not able to be SAHMs.

    • there’s a program called “sleep sense”, I’m sure you can google it – we’ve found it very helpful, and it has worked for both our kids. There is support available for the program as well, which we’ve also found helpful. I’m sure they would have advice for your situation. What happened to make you say that they didn’t respond to CIO? How many nights did you try it for? How long did they cry?

    • Having multiples is a huge challenge! Mothers who are devoted to giving their babies a lot of physical closeness have a hard time even with twins, and find that they must compromise somewhere. I hope that you can get extra help, and let go what is less important, until your children get bigger. Take care of yourself, and don’t feel guilty about things that are out of your control. You sound like a loving, caring mother.

  35. Rhsnk you for a lovely post. I agree completely and look forward to my nighttime cuddles, nursing, dozing, and sleeping with my 6-mo old. We tried everything (except serious cry it out) with my older daughter, and she started sleeping through the night when she was ready around 1.5 yrs.

  36. People think it’s cruel to cry it out, but there are ways to teach your child to sleep that won’t leave them scarred with attachment disorders. One could also argue that it’s cruel to allow a kid to have years of interrupted sleep and to not teach them how to get themselves to sleep. Sleep is important, especially for a growing and developing child. We sleep trained our 2.5 year old, and he is the happiest, most well natured kid and we haven’t had to go into his room in the middle of night for 2 years. He self-soothes and sleeps through the night and is happy and energetic when he wakes up. When kids get to be a certain age/weight, they don’t need to feed in the middle of the night – but they will if it’s a habit, or it soothes them. When the child is put in the crib and cries, it’s because you’ve taken away the things that he/she needs to sleep – not because they don’t feel loved. You can still sit there and talk to them etc (ie. not abandon them), but they’re still going to cry because they want the boob in their mouth, or to be rocked etc. They don’t need it, they want it. It’s our job as parents to teach them that they don’t really need those ‘props’ to sleep. I suggest that 3-4 nights of crying is less detrimental than years of bad sleep. Also, mothers/fathers who work have to sleep in order to function in their jobs. How can you do your job if you’re not sleeping? Parenting is hard, and the hardest part is doing what you know is the right thing to do, even though it may not be the easiest thing or most popular thing to do. My kids are going to be well rested, and they’re going to have well rested parents which is the best thing for everyone. They won’t have attachment disorders because they cried in their crib for 3 nights either because, even though they cried in their cribs, they were never abandoned, and their parents never stopped loving them. I’m sure people will disagree, but having 2 kids who sleep for 12 hours at night is so good for both me and my wife’s mental and emotional states. My wife and I sleep alone in our bed for 8 hours uninterrupted and we have happy well rested kids (who cried for a few nights when they were babies).

  37. Thank you for the encouraging words. I am struggling with my almost year old child’s sleeping habits. We go through cycles of better and worse. Right now is one of the worse. He will not sleep at night or for naps without being held, rocked, walked, or nursed. I am tired and not functioning well after nearly a year of nursing 3-5 times per night and working full-time. I have one of those babies that needs skin to skin. The moment I lay him down, even for a nap he will wake and cry. Advice?

  38. My daughter is 18 months old and has always been a great sleeper, but on occassion she does wake up in the middle of the night, most of the time I just have to go in her room and hug her and tell her shes ok and that its still night night time and lay her back down.She is with us all day so I can understand that sometimes it might be a little scary to wake up in a dark room alone and just need some comfort, I have never been able to let her cry herself to sleep, I don’t know how that can be soothing, sobbing yourself to sleep… I remember when I was younger that was the method my mom used on my brother and it was so sad hearing him scream and then finally pass out from exhaustion and hearing his little sobs while he was asleep (nothing self soothing about that), that could be part of the reason why I can’t let my daughter cry in her bed because I remember his very upset little cries! Whatever the reason for my daughter waking up in the middle of the night I always want to be there to comfort her and have her know that I will always come to her if she is distressed beacause I don’t know what she is going through but its my job as her parent to figure out what she needs so she can get back to sleep and feel safe and secure!

  39. Hi,
    Couple of points. U seem to have set up a dichotomy between co-sleeping and the baby sleeping alone. This is as bad as the theories u appose. Our baby never slept well when co-sleeping much as we would have liked her too. I think your ideas are valid but also laden with assumptions. Would u agree that it is folly to say ‘babies are manipulative’? I do too but I also think generalized sentiments about the ‘experts’ being ‘sooo wrong’ is also folly and can be just as dangerous. I feel validated by even handed recognition of the variety of styles/methods that can be effective. I understand that doing things differently from the ‘expert’ driven norms can be challenging when things don’t go to plan but we don’t get anywhere without acknowledging diversity.

    Oh. And less importantly (but still important) – why are the babies in your article all boys and the settlers all women?

    Just back from sleep school and happy to see my 14 month old girl so much happier 🙂 as are we.

  40. I absolutely agree that when our babies cry, we have to respond to them in some way, even if it is simply to let them know they are loved while they cry. But given the rise in SIDS associated with co-sleeping, I don’t see how we can support the concept. It is an actual and demonstrated risk to our babies lives. Let me repeat that: It has the potential to be FATAL. It is our responsibility to STAY AWAKE. Not easy, but what else can we do??? It is part of the burden we bear being mothers, and we do so with gratitude. Is it better that we risk their safety so we are not exhausted in the morning? It is up to each mother to figure out what works best for herself and her child, but co-sleeping is simply not a safe solution. It is better to have circles under your eyes from exhaustion than it is to have swollen eyes from tears after a terrible mistake. The safety of our babies must be our first priority, and everything we do for them built around that in the fashion of a mother’s love.

    • Not sure about that, Jackie. SIDS means “no known cause.” Death from co-sleeping is from smothering. Safe co-sleeping is safe, unsafe co-sleeping (heavy blankets, drugged mother, space for entrapment) is not, just as unsafe cribs (drop-sides or gaps where babies can get stuck) are not.

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