Ready to Begin Your Sleep Journey?   Yes! Show Me How
Ready to Begin Your Sleep Journey?   Yes! Show Me How

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Reader Interactions


  1. Simone says

    My baby was able to self sooth before he was 3months

    • Debbye @ The Baby Sleep Site says

      Thanks for sharing @Simone! That’s great!

  2. Beth says

    Thank you so much for this article. I’ve been worried recently about the stress hormone and have chosen to do a gentle, non-CIO (or as much as possible) sleep-training method. This makes me feel so much better (although I would still choose the non-CIO for my own peace of mind).

    • Neosha says

      @Beth – You’re very welcome! Please keep reading and sharing!

  3. Sabrina says

    The link to the article debunking why that stress study was incorrect doesn’t work ?

    • Nicole Johnson says

      @Sabrina Thank you for pointing that out! We have updated the link. It looks like the website changed. Thank you for commenting and visiting our sleepy little village!

  4. Emily DeJeu says

    @ Kathleen – Very good and cogent questions! I have no expert answers, as I’m not a trained sleep consultant nor am I a sleep science researcher, but here are a few points to consider:

    1. the reliance on cortisol levels as a quantitative measure of “toxic stress” is flawed, as the FitMom article points out. Cortisol ebbs and flows naturally throughout the day and is a product of both negative stress (distress) and positive stress (eustress). So it may actually be more helpful to consider elevated cortisol levels as less-than-ideal indicators of distress.

    2. Implicit in your question is the assumption that (a) all stress is the same and (b) babies always cry as a result of stress. However, I’d suggest that all stress isn’t equal; I imagine that for a child, the stress of being handled by an unfamiliar caregiver vs. the stress of having a fever and being ill feels quite different.
    So it may be helpful to parse out different kinds of stress and treat those types differently.

    Second, you mention in your comment, ” why, if they had so many actual good reasons to be stressed and upset, were they not crying to try to tell their mothers about it?” In response, I would assert that the “natural” response to stress does not have to be crying. Indeed, that is the a premise upon which the whole theory of sleep coaching rests.. Simply put, when you sleep coach, you are gently teaching your baby that he or she can soothe himself/herself through minor stresses (like waking briefly at night or feeling sleepy). Gradually, your child learns how to cope with those small stresses himself/herself, through self-soothing activities like sucking a thumb or stroking a lovey. By contrast, we would not expect (nor does sleep coaching teach) a child to self-soothe through larger stressors (like being ill, experiencing physical pain or discomfort, being frightened, etc.) This is anecdotal, but 4.5 years of working here has taught me that even the most perfectly sleep coached babies still wake during illness, or due to abrupt life changes (like birth of a new sibling or moving to a new home); indeed, many wake often during developmental leaps like sleep regressions.

    So, to summarize, I’d say that sleep coaching teaches a narrow set of self-soothing skills designed to help a child cope with minor, sleep-related stressors like wanting to fall asleep, feeling sleepy, and waking in the middle of the night. These things may feel minorly upsetting to a child, but they are mild stressors that we can reasonably expect a child to soothe himself/herself through over time. But, for better or for worse, sleep coaching will not create a situation in which your child no longer EVER cries for you, even in situations when he/she probably should. In my experience, that just doesn’t happen. That’s no doubt because the self-soothing skills that can work to alleviate minor stress won’t work for larger stress situations: in other words, no amount of thumb-sucking will make a fever go away, and no amount of lovey-stroking will make the scary barking dog noise stop. In my experience, babies and toddlers know this difference and don’t hesitate to call for mom or dad during times when mom or dad are needed.

    Sorry this comment is so long, Kathleen – hope it helps! 🙂

  5. Kathleen says

    Every criticism of the Middlemiss study that I’ve ever read, including the one linked above, points out how many other things, besides sleep training, could be responsible for the babies’ elevated cortisol levels: “Elevated cortisol levels may have been caused by a variety of factors, including mom and baby being in an unfamiliar environment (the sleep lab), handling of the baby by strangers (nurses), the mother’s anxiety, or even chronic sleep deprivation. . .” What I want to know, and what was really the thing that kept me from sleep training my son, was why, if they had so many actual good reasons to be stressed and upset, were they not crying to try to tell their mothers about it? What I was worried about with using CIO or controlled cry methods was not that some stress during the sleep training process was going to permanently hurt my baby, but that he was going to learn 1) how to fall asleep himself and 2) that there’s no use in communicating his problems to us at night because we won’t respond (or if we do, we won’t do anything but pat his back and leave without addressing said problems). The Middlemiss study, flawed as it was, seems to support #2 as a possible outcome.

  6. shayla mcgill says

    My 7 month old has always been a non-napper but when she was 5 months we started developing a pattern ( thank goodness!!) Up until 2 weeks ago that is… its back to 10-15 minute naps and a very grumpy whiny baby all day long 🙁 I really really hope after I read the downloaded material I have from you we can get back on track. I’m completely going insane now I think! I should be used to this since its happened since she was born but I’m so not. Thank you for helping me understand my little love so we can both be happy and well rested!!!!

    • Emily DeJeu says

      @ shayla mcgill – absolutely! So glad to hear we helped 🙂 And thanks for commenting!

  7. Sam Smith says

    I thought babies are capable of self-soothing! Thanks to your blog, it makes more sense to me. 🙂 This is a great read.

    Stan of Baby Crib Finder

    • Emily DeJeu says

      @ Sam Smith – So glad you found the article helpful! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  8. Marybeth says

    This was a great read, especially regarding #2 as that was part of the reason we waited so long to start any kind of sleep coaching and even worried me up to the present day. Thank you!

    • Emily DeJeu says

      @ Marybeth – so glad you found it helpful! We fully support the notion that there are MANY ways to help a baby learn to sleep, and that it’s kept to sleep coach in a way that fits with your parenting style (or to skip sleep coaching altogether, if it’s not for you) – but we take major umbrage with the notion that sleep coaching is harmful in any way. It’s just not true, and it only serves to scare already exhausted, overwhelmed parents.

      Best of luck to you and to your family, Marybeth!

  9. Hyeon Lee says

    Here, I’m not saying that sleep training is harmful.
    But as you said 2012 cortisol-related study was profoundly flawed, 2012 sleep-training-no-harm study was also flawed, too.

    • Emily DeJeu says

      @ Hyeon – Thanks for weighing in with your opinion! We definitely agree that there are flaws to be found in many studies, and we don’t believe that cry-it-out approaches to sleep training are appropriate in every instance. In fact, we rarely recommend methods that utilize extended crying. The point of this article is not to prove that cry it out is 100% safe for all babies, but rather to show our readers that the fear-mongering of those who are totally against sleep coaching is irresponsible and irrational.

      Hope this helps! Thanks again for commenting.

  10. Whitney says

    I have 3 kids and every time at the 6 month appointment they asked if my baby was able to “self-soothe.” I hate this question! Of course not, it’s a 6 month old baby that could not survive without me! Yes, I nurse my baby to sleep, or rock her, or whatever she needs, because she is just SIX MONTHS old!! I did the same with all of my children. Now at 7 years old my first baby is a GREAT sleeper! He goes to sleep on his own, he sleeps through the night, and he has healthy sleep! My 4 year old also has great sleep (though getting rid of that pacifier was a bit harder!), even if I wish he slept a bit longer! So I know my baby will learn. I hate that the doctors feel that how one puts their baby to sleep is any of their business. It is a parenting choice. We all make our own choices and reap the consequences.

    • Emily DeJeu says

      @ Whitney – thanks for sharing your viewpoint! Always appreciated 🙂