Taking the Cry Out of Cry It Out

No Cry SleepAll of us are looking for ways to help our babies sleep with as little crying as possible. No crying would be ideal and surprisingly (when I look back at our long and difficult journey), the first few nights I actually helped my challenging sleeper of a son learn to fall asleep with virtually NO tears. It took TWO LONG HOURS for TWO LONG NIGHTS, but by the third night he did it in just 20 minutes and then on the 4th night with no tears into his crib (we were trying to stop cosleeping because it wasn’t working for us). It was a test of my patience when I knew nursing him to sleep would have made him fall asleep in less than two minutes. It was frustrating for both of us, but I was able to keep him from crying by using many of my mommy “tools” and doing anything but nursing him (I had already nursed him for a feeding before we started, so he was not hungry) but not until he was all the way asleep.

Learning about sleep associations was the single-most important thing that helped me start getting better sleep for my son (which was and still is very important for his happiness and behavior) and therefore for the rest of the family. It seems so obvious now, but back then I surely did not “get it” why he would wake up the minute I put him down. Didn’t he “need” to nurse to fall asleep because of the sucking reflexes of a baby being so strong that I read so much about and because he never used a pacifier? Once I understood that nursing to sleep and rocking to sleep became the things he thought he needed to fall asleep and the thing he needed recreated all night, the next step was to figure out a way to help him learn to do that without feeling like I was taking away an emotional attachment that nursing was and feeling like I was damaging him, without replacing the nursing or rocking with something else I’d have to recreate and with no tears, if possible.

Keeping your eye on the long-term goal is the #1 key to successfully helping your baby from no crying to sleep. It will always be easier right this minute to go ahead and nurse, give her a bottle, give her the pacifier, rock her to sleep, bounce on a ball, put her in a carseat on the dryer, put her in the car and drive around, walk her around, dance and sing than to take the time to teach her a new skill. Just like it’s easier to feed your baby than to let her learn to feed herself or put on your toddler’s shoes rather than let him try by himself, it will be easier to do it for them. But, for long-term progress and to let her learn how to do something herself, you have to let her try and you have to avoid doing it for her. Take it as slow as you want, but it is a learning process that you need to get out of the way of for it to work. Sure, you can wait to see when she might learn it on her own, after all no one goes to college not knowing how to put on their shoes, but is a month, six months, 16 months, 2 1/2 years, or 4 years of sleep deprivation worth it to wait?

Who knew when you were pregnant that you’d have to TEACH your baby to sleep? Teach your baby to read, teach your baby sign language, or teach your baby to write, but teach them to sleep? Such a foreign concept, but it’s true. To teach a baby how to sleep without much YOU need to recreate all day and night is a challenge and depending on the baby’s temperament and tendency to “fight sleep” or not will be the deciding factor on how difficult it is to teach your baby. Some don’t have much learning to do while others will struggle on and off for so long that you don’t know even know when you’re done teaching them.

Unfortunately, my no cry sleep results were short-lived in our house and we struggled a lot around sleep, but it has made me so happy that the things I’ve learned since then has helped me help other parents with no cry sleep methods. I’ve helped a mom stop sleeping in a glider with her 8 month old baby and a 16 month old transition to the crib, just to name two, with no cry sleep methods. Those were a couple of really tough cases, too!

Cry it out is certainly not easy and certainly not the first thing we try as parents, but it makes me wonder if I had someone like ME when I was in need of sleep support whether I would have avoided our tears or not. I never regret it, I know it did not change my baby’s personality, and I guess we will never know, but I’m fortunate to be able to use my knowledge in my quest to help others.

No cry sleep methods are not for the faint of heart if you have a challenging sleeper and they take more time, but with a strong support system, they are possible to put into practice.

Is Co-Sleeping a Solution for Baby Sleep Problems?

Co sleeping solutionWhen I was pregnant with my first, I was adamantly against co-sleeping. The reason was that I saw how difficult it was for other parents to get their child out of their bed, months and years later. Although I knew it was right for some, it wasn’t for me. Before you have kids you have all these ideas about how you will do things, but after the baby comes it’s a whole new ball game. I did end up co-sleeping with my first baby for about 2 months and with my second for just 3 nights. This article will talk about whether co-sleeping is a viable solution for you and your baby’s sleep problems or not.

My first son was a challenging sleeper from basically the beginning. Once the newborn sleep-all-day stuff wore off, he was difficult to soothe to sleep for every nap and especially at bedtime. I had to rock him for 2-3 hours (I’m not exaggerating) only for him to sleep for an hour or two before needing to be rocked again. It wasn’t that he wasn’t tired. He’d fall asleep just fine, but would wake up whenever we’d put him down. I know many of you relate.

Once my son was 2 months old, out of necessity, co-sleeping was the only solution. I had gone back to work and just couldn’t hack it anymore. Getting up every 2 hours was not even a possibility anymore. Co-sleeping was just a temporary solution for us, though. The main difficulty for me was that I was getting depressed going to bed every night at 7 p.m. and missing out on time with my husband. More than that, he was still waking every 2 hours to breastfeed for 30 seconds to go back to sleep and although he went right back to sleep, I didn’t always. I was getting more sleep, at least, but it still wasn’t the best and I was petrified I was going to roll on top of him or my husband would cover him with blankets. So, we did transition back to the crib at 4 months when I learned about 4 month sleep and sleep associations. Once he was gone, I did miss him. :( But, it was the best thing for me and my family. We were all happier after that, mostly because he was getting way more sleep than ever, since he was so cranky without it (still is!).

Although co-sleeping wasn’t a long-term solution for us, I do believe that it can be for others. We only did it 2 months, but it doesn’t mean others can’t do it longer and still be successful at helping your baby sleep better. Knowing what I know now, I know that you can co-sleep, you can break sleep associations if you must, and you don’t have to let your child sleep with you until they are 8 if you don’t want to. I have personally helped many parents transition from co-sleeping to crib at a variety of ages.

Co-sleeping Solution

If your baby is having sleep problems, co-sleeping might be a good solution for you. Whether you are breast feeding or bottle feeding, if numerous night wakings are doing more harm than good for either of you and you feel your baby is too young to learn to self-soothe, you may find simply sleeping together is the best option. This is a personal decision for each family. The main thing is that you do co-sleep SAFELY. There have been several recent news articles about the risks of bed sharing and the increase of suffocations. The thing to keep in mind is sleeping on a couch, sofa or other unsafe place is included in these statistics and there are safe ways to co-sleep.

For co-sleeping to be a solution for you and your family, it is best when both parents are on board as a first step. In my case, my husband did support my decision. He did want a sane wife. :D In some cases, a partner will take up temporary residence in a guest room to get more sleep. Here are some guidelines for safe co-sleeping:

• Do not co-sleep if you’ve been drinking, on drugs or on medication that makes you too drowsy

• Do not smoke in the room you are co-sleeping as it’s an increased risk to SIDS

• Do not co-sleep if you have a too-soft mattress or waterbed

• Do not co-sleep where baby can get stuck in a hole or crevice (such as between you and the back of the couch)

• Do not place a baby to sleep next to an older child

• Do sleep on a firm mattress with not too much adult bedding (too much bedding in a crib is just as dangerous!)

• If your baby is young, consider a sleep positioner or Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper

• If your baby is older or a toddler, and moving around, consider a bed rail. I have had parents come to me when their child crawls right off the bed and falls.

If you think co-sleeping might be the right solution for your family I encourage you to read more detailed co-sleeping safety tips and the benefits of co-sleeping. We also have more information here about the differences between bed-sharing and co-sleeping.

Co-sleeping is not a solution for everyone and my philosophy is that we all must find our own way to parent our children and find the right solution to our baby’s sleep problems. Hopefully this article has helped you determine whether co-sleeping is the right solution for you and your family. Keep in mind that even co-sleeping, you may need manage sleep associations in order for all of you to sleep well. And, when you are ready to transition to crib, I typically recommend a slower approach the longer you’ve been co-sleeping. I don’t typically recommend jumping to cry it out for long-term co-sleepers. If you’d like to discuss options, I’m always here.

Was co-sleeping a solution for you? Share your story.

Sleep Associations – Is Rocking Your Baby Harmful?

Is it a bad idea to rock your baby? It depends. It is never a bad idea to cuddle your baby and give him/her lots of love and affection! It’s only when rocking your baby becomes something you can’t keep up with is it a problem. Let’s take a step back and let me explain what a sleep association is.

What is your sleep association? How do you fall asleep?

What kind of routine do you do before you go to sleep each night? Do you watch TV? Talk to your partner? Do you read a book? Do you sleep on a pillow? These are the types of things you associate with going to sleep each night. What would happen if your power was out and you couldn’t watch the news or read your book? Would you have trouble falling asleep? Perhaps. Or, perhaps not. Would you have trouble going to sleep without your pillow? That might be more likely to give you trouble. Some sleep associations are stronger than others. What if you went to sleep with your pillow and covers and 2 hours later woke up and they were gone? Would you be able to go back to sleep without looking for the pillow? Now let’s look at how this concept might affect your baby/child.

What is your child’s sleep association? How does your child fall asleep?

Let’s look at how many babies fall asleep. They might fall asleep while their mother or father is rocking them in a rocking chair, bundled up and very cozy in their parent’s arms. Or, they may fall asleep sucking on a bottle of breastmilk/formula. Or, perhaps they doze off with the simple use of a pacifier. Minus the teeth issue with breastmilk/formula later on, there isn’t a problem with any of these methods of falling asleep until it is a problem.

From the time my son was an itty bitty baby, he loved to be walked, rocked and nursed to sleep. He also loved napping in the moving swing. At first this was not a problem. He would fall asleep quickly and we’d put him down. But, several weeks later, I found myself rocking him for 2-3 hours each night to put him to bed. He’d fall asleep easily, but then when I put him down he’d wake up! Ah! And, then I’d need to repeat it every 1-2 hours when he woke up. It was exhausting and I was at the end of my rope! So, we took to co-sleeping, which got us both more sleep, yet I was so nervous I’d roll on top of him or my husband or I would cover him with blankets. I’m not the best sleeper, so every time he’d want to nurse, I’d have trouble going back to sleep (and I never got good and switching sides without actually switching sides either). Co-sleeping works for many and I’m not knocking it. It just didn’t work for us and it is important for every family to learn what works for them best. After learning about sleep associations I was able to transfer him back to his crib at 4 months old and we both got a LOT more sleep then!

The problem with sleep associations lies in the fact that your baby needs YOU to recreate the environment in which they fell asleep. YOU become their “pillow” and when they wake up through sleep transitions (that we ALL have!) and their pillow is gone, they don’t know how to go back to sleep. So, the key is to allow them to go to sleep the same way they will wake up periodically throughout the night. If they wake up briefly and find you gone or the movement has stopped (as with my son) or their pacifier is gone or…they will wake up more and have to call out to you so you can “help” them once again. The beauty of this is that after they get to be about 3-4 months, they really don’t “need” you as much as you might think and they can actually learn to fall asleep on their own, if they haven’t learned already up to this point.

One final thought. I want to reiterate that rocking your baby, using a pacifier, nursing or drinking a bottle before bed, etc. are not bad things to do. If you don’t mind rocking your baby for 10 minutes and (s)he falls asleep, you transfer him/her to his/her bed and (s)he sleeps all night, then there is no problem. It’s only when you can’t keep up with the (insert sleep association) that it becomes a problem. Keep in mind that your sleep fragmentation that makes you exhausted is no better for your baby than it is for you. If you are cranky, don’t you think (s)he will be too over time? I would have LOVED to rock my son and boy did I try (unintentionally — just in my nature). We slipped back into bad habits more times than I wanted to count, but it just became a hitch for him EVERY time. In the end, I was able to continue to nurse him to sleep once he learned the necessary skills to go BACK to sleep throughout the rest of the night. With opportunity and practice we can all learn a new way to sleep, even without a pillow!

If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 40 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night. Or, join our Members Area packed with premium content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations.

What kind of sleep associations do you have? What about your child?