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Tired of researching?   Yes! I need help and more sleep.

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  1. Laura Parker says

    I really enjoyed reading this article, and the different views posted afterwards.

    Can I add my two-penneth??!
    I’m personally quite unconvinced by the research that purports to show that sleep-training (CIO-type methods) are harmful in the long-term. If this were true, then all parents would be harming their babies from the outset, because in my experience, small babies cry and cry in the very early days and parents have little real idea what they really want for a good few weeks. We are not really ‘meeting their needs’ during this period, although of course we are all doing our best to second-guess what these might be; we are doing the basics of keeping them clean, warm and fed, but not necessarily in the order of priority that the babies would choose were they able to express themselves in a way other than crying!

    Re (biological and cultural) anthropological critiques of CIO and sleep-training.. I have heard it said that x and y cultures do not leave their babies to cry; or that we in the west are being ‘unnatural’ by employing sleep-training methods: first, this is a generalisation and the idea that people in other cultures are somehow closer to nature and more ‘intuitive’ with babies I (and many modern anthropolgists) find an outdated idea. There is a tendency to essentialise so-called ‘tribal’ or ‘traditional’ peoples and imagine that they do things better in the areas where the west seems to fail. I think this says more about ourselves and our percieved weaknesses than other cultures. Let’s not forget that there are many childrearing practices in other cultures and in past societies that one might find very disagreeable – for example, very painful, ritualised female and male circumcision as a rite of passage to adulthood.

    On a personal note, I did wrestle with the idea of doing a modified version of cry-it-out. ultimately, it was the only thing that worked for us and while I sometimes do feel a little guilty for doing it, on the other hand I am more rested and so is my lovely daughter. We both enjoy each otehr far more. I am not pressured towork full-time, but everyone needs sleep and sanity is not compatible with being woken 8-10 times every night. My role in life is to teach my daughter and love her and give her the best, but that doesn’t mean that I always have to be a complete martyr to her apparent needs. Sometimes it is OK for us to guide them and steer them, even if it is not alwauys 100% pleasant at the time.
    Laura.

  2. Nicole says

    @Emi Thank you for your thoughtful response. I just want to clarify that I never advocate CIO to replace needs that your child may have. CIO is mostly about breaking habits that hinder your child’s ability to sleep. In the case of my son, robbing him of hours of sleep to try to “help” him sleep and avoid his cries, actually did more harm than good because he desperately needs his sleep, even today. If co-sleeping had worked for us, perhaps I would not have taken that route and that’s why this whole site is dedicated to helping parents find what works for their child and them. A judgment-free site to help you find what works for you, but encourages you to put your baby’s sleep as a top priority. You see, my thoughts are that just as sleep fragmentation is hard on you, it’s very hard on your child, too. And, you are right that some parents do have needs as well that need addressing.

    From an evolutionary perspective, you are right, it is not possible that we could have been cave dwellers and allowed our babies to cry. But, back then we also did not have to keep as much of a house, work 40+ hours a week and often have a 2-income household to even just be able to eat. We probably wore our babies in a sling-type carrier and picked berries, etc. Our culture was different and as our culture evolves, the method in which we deal with any type of problem has to evolve. As another example, we also probably did not have to worry as much about childhood obesity, either, but things simply change. And, we can’t ignore those changes. Back in cave days we also had more of a “it takes a village” approach where if you needed to nap, if you couldn’t do that very well with baby, someone else would help you out. We simply don’t have that as much anymore.

    And, lastly, you are right that crying does NOTHING to teach baby anything. It’s mostly about setting limits (no I won’t replace your pacifier 10 times per night) and breaking poor sleep associations (you have to rock every hour to go back to sleep). The act of crying is baby frustrated and protesting the change. It is up to the parent on how they deal with this protest and frustration. You can a) give in and do what is robbing them of sleep or b) you can help them find a new way to sleep with or without you in the room as they go through it. And, there are a variety of things you can try besides CIO (see my sleep training series which goes over all methods including No-Cry methods). I would never say co-sleeping is bad as in the case of your childhood. It’s what worked for you and your mother and that’s what the site is all about. Finding what works for YOU and your family.

    Thanks again for your comment!

    Nicoles last blog post..Cry It Out Defined and Age to Do It

  3. EMi says

    Nicole – Although you are right that colicky babies cry sometimes for hours a day (interestingly that in some cultures where babies are held in arms a lot more than here in the West – colic is not as much as a problem) they are mostly being held and so they are not alone to “deal” with it. My problem with CIO is that it does not make any sense. It just happens that the babies needs are being ignored at night- if these same needs (that we really don’t know what they are) happened during the day we would not ignore them. I have a very wakeful baby (anywhere between 4-8 times per night) and she is sometimes fussy during the day because she is tired and sometimes she is fine. But we have unrealistic expectations about babies and sleep- we have a lot of sleep problems as adults in this country (US) that we often deal with medication and CIO seems to me to be more for the benefit of the adults and not for the good of the baby.

    Babies who are clingier after CIO – are expressing a need to reconnect not just dealing with an adjustment. Maybe some babies seem ok with CIO, but from an evolutionary perspective it seems like it would not make sense.. It is a “modern” way to deal with what we think of as a problem. If babies who were born to cave people we left alone in another chamber and not attended to they died or were eaten. Although those are not what babies are dealing with now, they still need to be close to caretakers day or night and deserve to be taken care of because in the end we really don’t know what the crying is about- we are just guessing.

    I had terrible night anxiety as a child and if my mother had not allowed to me sleep with her and nurse me as often as I needed to – attended to my needs- then I might not have become as well-adjusted an adult. Babies are intense and their needs are intense and I think most parents are not prepared for that and have some other expectation and needs (to sleep for those parents who have to wake up and go to work the next day). It is our “family values” society that has set it up to be difficult for babies to get their needs met and for parents to be able to meet them. If like in many European countries parents got 1 year off of paid parenting leave it might be easier to to do what is really best for the child.

    In the end if we ask the children- I think they would say “please take care of me, don’t leave my by myself, even if it means I am a little tired”.

  4. Nicole says

    @Greg I am not a cry-it-out pusher if it’s not what you want to do, but other methods simply don’t always work for every child. Sleep deprivation causes many health problems in all of us. Instead of attacking in your comment, perhaps you can share your research showing cry-it-out causing so-called permanent damage. There are plenty of babies with colic who cry HOURS upon hours every single day and turn out to be healthy children. It’s ridiculous to say that crying will cause permanent damage, especially when there are some babies who literally cry for 5-10 minutes. Show me the research and I will gladly post about it.

    Unless you’ve had a challenging sleeper, you won’t know what people go through with sleep deprivation.

    The *one* Harvard study I found even touching on this subject is not proving anything. For good reading, read this article from a co-sleeper who has a great article about the lack of evidence that cry-it-out causes permanent damage: http://goodenoughmummy.typepad.com/good_enough_mum/2006/07/cio_sleep_train.html

  5. Greg says

    There actually have been studies done at Harvard that show the traumatic effects of letting your baby cry themselves to sleep. It does permanent damage to the nervous system. Quit defending your passive parenting methods and do your research.

    Or maybe for you and other CIO advocates, ignorance is bliss? Hey, whatever helps YOU sleep at night.

  6. Nicole says

    @Planethalder Sounds like you might have one of those “easy” babies I hear about! 😉 That’s great! Just know that if she is swaddled (I think that’s what you mean by “winded”), her ability to self-soothe may be limited as she gets older. Around 4 months, their sleep system matures into adult-like sleep cycles (they enter sleep into non-REM like adults rather than REM as they do when they are infants — I should do another blog post about this shift). If that happens, you can always find your way back here. 😉

    Nicoles last blog post..Sleep Quick Tip – Sleep Training, the (Parenting) Method

  7. Planethalder says

    Thanks Nicole. I think we will try the Ferber method for a bit as though a month old our baby self settled again this evening after 15 minutes of crying (we had already changed her nappy, fed her, winded her).

  8. Nicole says

    @tom Thank you so much for sharing your story!

    @Planethalder Many parents find going in intermittently only upsets the baby more and opt not to go in as often or at all. I, personally, don’t recommend allowing a newborn to cry very long, but there are methods and books out there that suggest that 20 minutes or less of crying is OK for a baby, including newborns. As I stated above, there is no evidence crying does damage to babies (think of all the colicky babies that cry for long periods even in a mother’s arms). The reason I suggest waiting is more to allow you to get to know your baby better and also because some newborns simply will not have the ability to soothe themselves until they are closer to 4 or 5 months old. Every parent needs to decide for him/herself when the “right” time is. Hope this helps! Good luck!

    Nicoles last blog post..Sleep Quick Tip – Sleep Training, the (Parenting) Method

  9. Planethalder says

    Is it too young to use the Ferber method on a one month old baby? My parents let me “cry it out” with intermittent calming when I was a newborn and so did my husband’s parents and we both turned out to be very contented babies and toddlers (and adults!). We leave our 1 month old to cry for a few minutes to self settle and notice that if we go in and pick her up after a few minutes of crying she wails louder and takes longer to settle. Can we leave her to cry longer then as our parents had (we tried this once and it worked a treat – after leaving her to cry for 15 mins we went in and patted her until she calmed and then left; she cried for another 10 mins and then fell asleep).

    Planethalders last blog post..Endless…

  10. tom says

    I would loved to have read this about fifteen years ago. But we didn’t have blogging then… etc. Anyway. I have used the Ferber method for three different kids with three different personalities, and each of them retained their own personalities through it all.

    The first one was somewhat snuggly, and she stayed that way. The second one was always snuggly and stayed that way. My son, who came along just recently, was never much of a snuggler, and that hasn’t changed.

    I stand by the Ferber method – though I would never call it “cry-it-out” as some do, since that implies just turning a deaf ear to the child as opposed to conditioning him to soothe himself and not rely on others to do it. This is modified during those times when you sense that the child needs you for some other reason. As a parent it’s important to respond to that when it’s appropriate to do so.

    Great topic.

    toms last blog post..Dad’s Words of Wisdom