Why Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution
Doesn’t Always Work

Pantley-No-Cry-Sleep-SolutionSometimes I hear from parents who have tried Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution and have not been able to get it to work. This article will discuss possible reasons why sometimes it doesn’t work for a variety of families.

First, let me say that Pantley’s book The No Cry Sleep Solution has a lot of good information in it in terms of how babies sleep and the most common sleep problems. As with most books about sleep, it is over 200 pages and has a lot of common sense information in it that you likely have already tried. As I strive to save you as much time as possible (new parents rarely have time to read multiple 200+ page books), I tend to try to extract the most useful information from a variety of sources in order for you to create your own personal sleep plan without reading 10 full-length books, millions of pages on the internet, etc. Today, I talk about one important piece that is missing from Pantley’s book and that is about your baby’s temperament and personality and why that leads to her methods not necessarily working for your baby.

Pantley does talk about one of the most common sleep associations which is “sucking to sleep” by either breastfeeding, pacifier, or bottle. I would say the majority of parents I work with on a daily basis have one of these issues. The remaining parents need to rock, pat, sway, bounce, or walk their baby to sleep. Some people have to do a combination: bounce on a ball while feeding with one leg up, for example. :) Pantley mostly focuses on the sucking to sleep association and, specifically, breastfeeding for the most part, as she is a big proponent of Attachment Parenting and co-sleeping.

In a nutshell, Pantley’s “Gentle Removal Plan” is to give your baby the pacifier, bottle or breast, but continually remove it until your baby finally falls asleep without it in his mouth. On the surface, this is good advice and for some babies, it will work…eventually. Let’s consider why it won’t work for some babies or take so long that you wonder whether your baby simply outgrew it.

Have you ever tried to break a long-term habit? Let’s face it, your baby may only be 6 months old, but if she’s been breastfeeding to sleep her whole life, this is a long-term habit. My mom has repeatedly tried to quit smoking. She just hasn’t been able to quit, unfortunately. Similarly, I’ve had friends who try to lose weight and they might lose some and then gain it back. I’m sure many of us can relate to breaking habits in one way or another.

One big thing about habits is that you can try to moderate yourself. You can try to smoke just one cigarette a day, for example, or allow yourself to eat one piece of cake a week, but what tends to spin us back into bad habits is that one leads to many. It isn’t that you are weak. It isn’t that you don’t want to change. Habits are hard to break and if you allow yourself one, you are giving yourself permission to say that it’s okay to “do” it. Therefore, it’s hard not to continue to do it. If something is not good for you and moderating yourself hasn’t worked, you have to tell yourself it’s never good for you and not allow yourself to have it even once. It’s in our nature to want more. That’s why some diet plans tell you to throw away all of your sweets, for example.

Wait, does this mean you should never give your baby a pacifier or breastfeed him?

No! I am not saying that at all. In fact, it makes me sad when moms wean from breastfeeding only to find their baby still won’t sleep well. :( But, I am saying, that when it comes to your baby’s sleep, you can’t “tease” your baby and give him the very thing you want him to stop waking ten times a night for. You can’t give it to him ten times at bedtime and expect him to “get” it that he doesn’t need it to sleep anymore. Granted, adaptable babies will often make quick changes that way, but this is where your baby’s temperament or personality come into play.

Some babies simply do not respond to Pantley’s method, because the only thing you are truly teaching him is that he does need to suck to relax and fall asleep. You are only delaying your baby’s sleep. Instead, you want to teach him how to relax AND sleep without the pacifier, breastfeeding, bottle, rocking, etc. You want to replace his sleep association with something else, not reinforce he still needs it. Going back to quitting smoking. My father, on the other hand, did quit smoking many years ago, but he replaced one habit for another. He now chews sugar free gum almost EVERY time he gets in the car, when he used to smoke. This has been over 10 years or more! (Side note: I am honored that what finally sparked my father to quit smoking is a paper I wrote when I was in High School. Who knew? :)). When someone is trying to change their chips-before-bed habit, they might try replacing carrot sticks (since they are crunchy, too). The idea is not to deprive yourself or your baby from a habit, the idea is to replace it with something more in line with your long-term goal.

Does this mean not to try Pantley’s No-Cry method?

No, it means it’s just the first step and you still need to keep moving forward. While Pantley believes in “No Cry”, I tend to lean towards “Limited Crying” and believe that when you attempt to stick to no tears whatsoever, you will generally have little success unless your baby is so adaptable that she only needed you to stop helping her so much in the first place. Sometimes, crying during sleep training is inevitable, but it doesn’t mean you have to do cry it out, either. I really hope people stop making it so one or the other. If you view sleep coaching as a continuum with no-cry on one end and full blown cry-it-out at the other end, your goal is to find the method that fits with your baby’s temperament on that continuum, not force your baby to be something he’s not. Embrace his uniqueness and you will have more success than you’ve dreamed of.

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. 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, where you will receive a personalized sleep plan you can feel good about!

What is Your Pantley No Cry Sleep Solution Story?

Will Your Baby Be Spoiled If You Don’t Sleep Train?

Sleep Training Spoiled ChildA client e-mailed me not too long ago concerned about what a co-worker told her about her baby. Her co-worker told her that if she didn’t sleep train and let her baby cry it out, her baby would grow up to be spoiled. She alluded to the fact that by the time he was 7 or 8 years old, he’d be “running the show.”

This particular client has experience with two very different cultures, one being in the West and one in the East. In the West (where she lives now) she feels tremendous pressure to let her baby cry it out. In the East, in her experience, this is unheard of and co-sleeping until the age of three is the norm. Of course, not everyone in each culture follows the norm and, given the number of clients I work with on a daily basis on no-cry methods, I would argue that there really is no “norm” in the West. I would say most parents try to limit crying. I’m not sure what parent likes to hear their baby cry, though.

Will your baby be spoiled if you don’t sleep train her?

I obviously feel passionately that sleep is very important that it needs a whole website focused around it, complete with a support system to help you through it, but honestly, this might be one of the more absurd things I’ve heard in a long time. I don’t mean to offend anyone who feels strongly about sleep training, but to put pressure on a parent to say that if you don’t sleep train a 6-month old he will be “running things” in a year, three years, or ten years is simply ridiculous! Does that mean I believe you should give up and NOT sleep train? Nope. Work on it, yes, but don’t make it your life’s mission or sacrifice your beliefs because you believe your baby will turn out to be a terror if you don’t.

Your 6-month old is not manipulating you. Your 8-month old twins are not conspiring to keep you awake at night (as much as it might feel that way). Your toddler is not planning his night-wakings to correspond with that work deadline the next day. (Note: If you are convinced your baby is conspiring, when you are ready for a good laugh, read Awake Training for Parents).

Our babies are simply not NOT sleeping on purpose. As much as my five year old says he doesn’t like to sleep, he still sleeps through the night every night (unless he has a nightmare). We successfully established healthy sleep habits when he was a baby and worked hard to do so, but by no means did I think if we hadn’t he’d be a spoiled brat. He just needed the sleep!

It makes more sense that there will be some non-sleep-trained babies that are spoiled and others who are not, just like there will be spoiled sleep trained babies and those who are not. Why? Because spoiled comes from what we do with our children day in and day out. It might be related to sleep, but it might not.

If, as a baby grows into a toddler, she is allowed to come into your bed every night, she can learn one of two things:

1. She can get whatever she wants OR
2. She can go to mommy and daddy whenever she needs them and feel secure

Which is it?

One of the keys to navigating this crazy thing called parenting is to learn your baby’s temperament. Children need limits in order to feel secure, but they also need confidence and to know they can go to their parents when they need them just the same. By far, I am not saying I am a perfect parent (oh how I wish I were!), but somehow I have made sure I have given my son the “ok” to come to me for a nightmare or when he loses his “blankie” when it falls down between the crack of the bed and wall, yet set enough limits to make sure he stays in his bed all night, if he doesn’t truly need me. It has not been a perfect road, nor a short road, and sometimes I feel like we never quite ever get off the road, but when I think back to the baby I once had, I know just how far he’s come. And, I would say he does have his “spoiled” moments, even though he is “sleep trained” and we are trying our best to teach him humility and appreciation, yet another parenting challenge that does not happen overnight.

If you need help establishing healthy sleep habits in your baby or toddler, please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 (tear-free) Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. 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, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.

What do you think? Will babies be spoiled if you don’t sleep train?

How Sleep Training Progress Looks

When clients update me on their sleep training progress, sometimes it is a little frustrating for them if their baby has a good night then a bad night and some back and forth. I thought it would be a good idea to talk about that and why it happens. If nothing else, it helps to have realistic expectations while sleep training.

Sleep Training Process Going UpOne of the biggest lessons I learned when I was struggling with my own son’s sleep problems is that when the books implied all of our problems would be gone by the third or fourth night, they lied. I don’t think it was intentional, but they must lump a small minority of babies into a group who may be taught to sleep and then sleep well for the rest of their childhood (gross exaggeration there). In my experience (personally and professionally), this is rarely true. I will say that a large minority will have great success (maybe not perfection) in 1-2 weeks.

For some babies, sleep training is a linear progression where each day is better than the last much like the baby going up the stairs in the picture here. Most of the time that might look like two really rough nights followed by an okay night, then the next night and most nights after those first three are decent. The baby may have an off night due to teething, illness, or sleep regression, but jump right back into the swing of things afterward. These babies are usually highly adaptable (some might use the term “easy”).

Sleep Training ProcessMany babies, in my experience, don’t generally improve in this way during or after sleep training. For these babies, the sleep training process is more like a roller coaster. You might start to go up, then come down, and then go through some twists and turns (especially during teething or after illness). Part of the thrill of a roller coaster is not knowing what’s coming next, but when you are sleep training, this leads to frustration and the feeling that you might be doing something wrong. You are likely sleep training a tortoise, rather than a hare.

So, why are some babies taking you for a ride on a roller coaster?

My mom has been a smoker for most of her adult life. She has tried to quit many times. My older brother even quit for a whole year and then one cigarette led to another and another. My father-in-law had triple by-pass surgery, but still can’t seem to give up yummy-too-rich-for-heart-problem foods. Have you ever tried to break a habit such as smoking, eating a whole bag of chips at a time, or biting your fingernails? Have you ever tried to develop a new habit such as exercise 3-4 times per week or floss every day?

Breaking habits take time, commitment, and consistency. Remember my brother who quit smoking? That one cigarette after a year led to many. Inconsistency can spin you way off track and lead you right back to the beginning.

Why can your friend break her habit before you break yours? You are different people, right? What drives us to break a habit is different for everyone and our ability to stick with it varies, too. Perhaps you aren’t as persistent as your friend or your daily stresses are too insurmountable. Whatever the case may be, you are different than your friend. Not better. Not worse. Just different. What one person must work at, others work double to achieve the same results (remember that friend who could eat a whole bag of chips and NOT gain weight? Grrr!). Ever try to lose the same ten pounds with a weight loss buddy and you take longer? It sucks, but you can feel doubly good when you achieve your goals.

Making new habits take the same time, commitment, and consistency. I used to be an avid worker-outer (yes that’s a word). Now, I am lucky to get on a treadmill once a month! My daily responsibilities have completely overwhelmed my daily schedule that I can’t seem to fit in the time consistently. I think to myself “I can find 30 minutes.” but then 30 minutes doesn’t include getting dressed, then showered afterward, telling the boys they can’t exercise with me, etc. All of a sudden, I don’t have an hour and I can’t work out anymore. I have recently taken steps to help me with this by recently announcing two jobs for assistants to help me with my daily responsibilities here at The Baby Sleep Site. Yeah!

So, when you are sleep training your baby, please remember that they aren’t too different than you. No two babies are the same. None are better or worse, just different (believe me they all have their own challenging aspects!).

Babies aren’t always happy about changing habits much like the person with a heart problem who has to stop eating red meat. Not all babies can learn a new habit in just two or three nights.

Babies might fall off the wagon a few weeks later and have a rough night.

All your baby asks is for you to be realistic. Don’t expect too much more from them as you expect from yourself in terms of breaking or making habits.

As I mentioned in my recent post 7 Tips When Hiring a Sleep Consultant, part of my job is to help you stick with your sleep plan just like a personal trainer helps you stick with your exercise regimen. If I can help you stick with it long enough, I believe many (not all) babies will make large strides in a relatively short amount of time. Just remember, your baby has had their habits for 4, 6, 12, 18, or 24+ months. They won’t just go away overnight for all babies. I wish we were all among those lucky few. I might not have this job, but I’d sure have happy families! :)

Is/Was your sleep training progress like stairs or a roller coaster?

Knowing When You’re Done Sleep Training

Baby SleepIs it always clear when you are done sleep training? Not for everyone, unfortunately. Success in sleep training, like so many things in our lives, is on a continuum and what is success for you might not be for someone else. It also depends on your expectations and what your goal is from sleep training.

For some parents, sleep training is allowing their baby to fuss a few minutes and voila, they sleep 10-12 hours a night ad nauseum luckily for those parents. 😀 For other parents, it won’t be quite as smooth. They might take 2-3 weeks using a no-cry sleep training method and then have a baby who pleasantly sleeps 10-12 hours per night or parents might use cry it out and in 2-3 nights, they are also sleeping through the night.

Still, there are the few of us who don’t fall into either camp. We struggle on and off for the better part of a year 2 years however much time it takes. We get on a path that starts to work and then baby gets sick. We start seeing some improvement and baby gets teeth. Our toddler has a language explosion, starts to walk, or begins to use his imagination and starts to have nightmares, and we fall back once again. We have a new baby and our 2 year old stops napping, but is a mess before bedtime. The setbacks can be numerous.

How do you know when you’re done?

For many, it will be obvious when you are done because you will be well-rested and, most importantly, so will your baby. You may have temporary setbacks, but your baby bounces back to normal quickly. But, what if you’ve done cry-it-out and your baby is still crying every night? What do you do? Does that mean it didn’t work?

As a general rule, if your baby fusses or cries lightly for 5-10 minutes, drifts off to sleep and you don’t hear a peep for 10-12 hours (or just for feedings and they go right back to sleep), you most likely just have a baby who unwinds a little before sleep. When my baby was in a good place, he would often unwind, not so much by crying, but almost moaning or humming himself to sleep. I think it’s possible that a stranger might think he was crying or fussing, but I knew him best and I know he wasn’t crying (we had plenty of experience to know the difference, unfortunately). He would sleep well at night (possibly with a feeding or two, depending on age) and there was a time that I’d go in too early in the morning where he’d be “talking” and would fuss at me for coming in too soon (I would have bet you a million dollars that wouldn’t happen!). Most importantly, he was very happy in the morning with a good night’s rest.

If your baby is crying hard for 10 minutes, then settles down, it’s still possible you are at a point that it’s going to be as good as it gets for the time being. We have been at this stage, too, unfortunately. We went through a time my son would cry hard for 5-10 minutes, we’d go in and re-settle him and he’d go right to sleep. It was a little frustrating, but fairly easy to deal with. Knowing him today, no doubt it was the same reason as now that he just didn’t want the day to end, even though he was exhausted.

If your baby is crying hard for over 10 minutes (I am generalizing — you know your baby best) and it’s been longer than a week of sleep training, most likely you have a lingering problem. In babies, this problem is probably over-tiredness and you need to bump bedtime EARLIER. Even after sleep training, my son would get over-tired and over-stimulated and cry and cry at bedtime some nights “for no reason”. He was fed, dry, etc. and was just T-I-R-E-D! It was very very frustrating. We couldn’t really soothe him all the way to sleep every time (though we’d go down that road, too) because that led to our 3 hour rocking marathons every. single. time. or worse, waking every so many hours for re-rocking / re-soothing. We were still basically at the best place we could be at the present time. We tried with everything we had to keep bedtime early enough. Even now, he will get cranky when he’s tired, but insists “I’m not tired!” and then promptly falls asleep 5 minutes later, literally.

For toddlers, crying at bedtime or resisting a bedtime could be over or under-tired, depending on the toddler’s schedule and temperament. Unfortunately, without knowing the specific details, it’s difficult to know which one it is. In general, if your toddler was going to bed fine and all of a sudden started fighting the routine, you might consider she needs longer wake-time before bedtime. If she recently transitioned naps, you might need to consider less.

There are many times you might have setbacks, but in general, if things haven’t improved in 2-3 weeks, regardless of the method (closer to 2 for crying methods and 3-4 for no-cry), you might want to re-evaluate your chosen method to get your baby or toddler to sleep.

How did you know when you were done?

Will Cry-It-Out Change Your Baby / Child’s Personality?

Cry It Out Personality
I happened upon an article where a woman (and husband) was against cry-it-out and specifically, The Ferber Method, but ended up doing it anyway, because it was what worked. In that article, Confessions of a Ferberizer, she said that, in the end, her son stopped wanting to be rocked or cuddle. She did not seem to regret doing cry-it-out, I don’t think, but reading the article reminded me that many of us wonder whether doing cry-it-out will change our child’s personality, so I thought I’d reflect on that today.

Will Cry-It-Out Change Your Child’s Personality?

In some ways, it might, and some ways it won’t and of course, all babies are different. And, if your child’s personality changes, it could be for the better. I do stand by the fact that I do not choose one method of sleep training over another. I truly believe that everyone must find what works for their family. For help finding the right solution for your family, check out my sleep training series. What works for your family will take into account your baby’s temperament, your temperament, your philosophy and both of your personalities.

Let’s look at a baby who is sensitive to being overtired and is chronically sleep-deprived because he is waking up every 1-2 hours all night long and only napping in 20 minute stretches. He might be very whiny and clingy all day long because HE IS TIRED! Let’s assume that mom is adamantly against crying methods, but has not yet found a no-cry method that has worked for her and her baby. Now, let’s assume she reluctantly uses The Ferber Method and her son begins to get enough sleep and is well-rested. It’s possible likely that her once fussy and clingy little boy is now happy!! This would be a “personality change” for the better. It is very common for a baby who is sleep deprived and fussy, to start being a very happy baby after he starts getting more rest, regardless of the sleep training method you choose.

So, what about the other way around? You have a baby that actually takes his sleep deprivation in stride and is, overall, a fairly happy baby. He just doesn’t sleep much. I don’t have to remind you that sleep problems can lead to obesity, depression, behavior problems, or that there are a variety of other reasons to get your child enough sleep. What might cry-it-out do to this baby?

Depending on his temperament, it can go one of two ways. The first way is that he is so easy-going that he cries for 5 minutes and sleeps all night like some books want you to believe will happen to your child. I do know that there ARE really babies like this! It isn’t a myth. My eldest son just wasn’t that way, that’s for sure! I don’t think anyone would say that 5 minutes of crying would do harm to any child. After all, you can be in the bathroom for 5 minutes.

The second type of baby does not have such an easy-going temperament and might cry, let’s say an hour at bedtime. Will this baby stop being as happy during the day? True, sometimes there are a few days that babies are clingier during the day after cry-it-out. This is due simply to the change in routine and adjustment to the new way to fall asleep and for the really sleep-deprived, they begin to catch up on their much needed sleep and therefore, are more tired during the day. It generally goes away after just a few days, if it was there at all. So, will an hour of crying make this particular baby damaged for the rest of his life? I guess we all need to decide for ourselves whether this is true, but I personally don’t believe it.

Now, back to the article. When I sleep-trained my eldest son, we did end up using a crying method, in the end, and I never regretted it. I actually did not notice any change in personality whatsoever. Not in a good or bad way. He was always pretty happy, when he wasn’t tired and he wasn’t clingier during the day, either. The only thing I saw was that he became more rested so I guess you can say he was happier for more of the day, since he wasn’t so tired. He never once seemed to “remember” the previous night’s bedtime. In fact, once he became a toddler and could talk and occasionally would have a tantrum right before bed (usually because he was overtired as he is still sensitive to that), crying himself to sleep once again, the next morning he was always bright and chipper and never even seemed to remember what happened. And, for his entire first 2 years of life, until we transitioned him into a room with no rocker, we rocked EVERY night. We cuddled EVERY night (and still do!). I nursed him EVERY night until we weaned at 13 months. Nothing changed but the fact he could fall asleep without me and continue to sleep all night. I, of course, am not saying that the woman in the article was making it up. I’m only telling my story to show that all babies are different and it’s possible her baby’s personality didn’t really change. Maybe he never really did like to rock to sleep but didn’t know how else to go to sleep. I don’t know.

As I’ve said many times before, when we were pregnant with our little ones, we didn’t decide one day “You know what. I’m going to let him cry so he can sleep, even if it takes an hour.” before he was even born. No parent wants to do that! But, unfortunately, for some of us, it truly is what works for our child’s temperament and personality. My second son started going to sleep on his own at bedtime without cry-it-out. All babies are indeed different, even within the same family.

Children are very resilient and our relationships with them are very complex. There have been no studies that show cry-it-out has long-lasting effects on our children. There is not ONE thing you can do (or not do) for your child and make THAT be what makes your relationship positive or negative (apart from the purely heinous crimes like child molestation, of course!). There is not ONE thing that will violate his trust in you. If that was the case, the ONE time you didn’t catch him when he was learning to walk and bumped his head would cause him not to trust you anymore. The ONE time you were late changing his diaper and he was cold and crying and you didn’t know would cause harm to him.

It is all the love, affection, and care you give him all day, day-in and day-out, that builds the relationship between mother/father and child. THAT is what is important. Just as your child might cry and scream he can’t put a fork in an outlet or eat a cookie before dinner, he does not really know what is best for himself and he trusts you to do what’s best for him. You are not making him cry, you are letting him cry and it’s an important distinction as he grows into a toddler and young child. Just remember, sleep deprivation is no better for him as it is for you!

One other thing to keep in mind is not to project your feelings onto your child. Your guilt might make you feel that she feels abandoned, when in fact the true reason she could be crying is that she is tired and simply would rather be asleep and is upset that you aren’t replacing that pacifier 10 times per night anymore or rocking him to sleep or whatever other sleep association you typically provide for her.

Just something to think about if the only thing standing in your way to a better night’s rest is your worry that your child’s personality will change. You may be interested in reading more about how I define cry-it-out and what it is and isn’t. It means something different to everyone and I am, in no way, recommending that you allow your baby to cry for hours on-end for anything and everything.

Read more about the lack of evidence that cry-it-out causes permanent damage, from a co-sleeper, in fact.

So, what do you think?