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Do you want more sleep?   Yes! I need more sleep.

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  1. Thank you so much for posting this response to the Psychology Today article. My friend, a Pediatrician, posted it on her page and it rubbed me the wrong way for some reason. It appeared to be written in a very biased way- the tone and the word choice I felt were too broad sweeping and alarmist. And even though I have never done CIO with my son, I felt accused. It seems with this debate we always go to the extremes when really there is so much nurturing middle ground with sleep training. I too am so sleep deprived I’m forgetting words for common household items, dreaming when I close my eyes for even two seconds, beginning to be clumsy-dangerous when driving, etc. The pressures of attachment parenting, wearing the baby 24-7, co-sleeping, never letting the baby make a peep, is very difficult for mothers who have colicky babies or babies who don’t ever self soothe. And to imply that mothers who want more sleep are a product of a non-nurturing society that manages their children as an inconvenience is a bit harsh. Of course I don’t think a baby should bend to my adult schedule. But should my baby control every single aspect of my life and every single minute after those first few important months/ maybe a year? I don’t know. A lot of mothers who judge others about CIO methods have babies that sleep fairly well, or they have nannies or housecleaners, etc. I just wish we could give all mothers a bit of a break. The science is important and we need to study and read it, but I’m disappointed in the Psychology Today article, and I’m glad you commented on it here.

  2. I have so many mixed feeling about CIO. I’ve used it, quite frequently, with my daughter who is now 17 months old. I was never able to be consistent, some nights I just couldn’t take it! I never let her cry more than 45 minutes straight. For a while I though it worked, she would even fall asleep on her own. Most nights she would whimper for about 5 minutes and then drift off to sleep. I thought I had in the bag, but as she got older we somehow slipped back into some bad habits. I can’t bear to use the CIO method anymore, it’s too painful to listen to her scream, so now I rock her until she falls asleep and put her to bed. She also tends to wake up at night and cry. Sometimes she falls back asleep within minutes, other nights her cry’s turn into screams, and there I am, rocking her back to sleep. I know this is bad, but I’m not sure what else to do. I try to be consistent with a routine, but somehow I’m missing something. She fights me every night, even when I’m rocking her, sometimes it takes all my strength and patience to get her to relax. She even pulls her own hair to stay awake. Like you said in your guide, giving baths to some children can sometimes have the opposite affect, and my daughter is one of them. So instead we put her pajamas on, brush her teeth, and then cuddle in to the rocking chair to watch some TV. I’ve tried reading to her, but she’d rather chew on the pages. She’s very independent and extremely smart, in fact she was crawling at 7 months and walking at 9 months.

    If you have any advice for me, I would greatly appreciate it!
    Thank you so much for your insight.

  3. Hi Nicole,

    I agree with you that a single cry-out will probably not have an impact on an average child. Also, when reading your guide for sleep-training, I did not notice any cry-out technique.

    Every person is different and reacts different to the events in his or her life. One can get depressed because he / she made a major mistake, another one would take it as a lesson and become a better person.

    I think one-formula-fits-all simply does not exist. For example, most of the sleep-training experts talk about how a child/baby that was co-sleeping will have hard time to make their child to sleep on his/her own. My daughter was co-sleeping first 10 months and when I got very bad cold I put her in her bed. She slept without any crying or complaining from her first “solo” night onward. It was completely natural to her.

    The questions you pose above are best answered in a book called “The Science of parenting” by Margot Sunderland. She explains the brain development, and how we (parents) can grow a child that is psychologically well adjusted, balanced, and emotionally healthy. I like this book. It is also much more comprehensive than the articles you mentioned.

    Every parent tries his/her best. Maybe we just do not have enaugh time for our children, because our daily life rhytm gets faster and faster, and working hours longer. It might be that we are much more stressed than parents in 70’s and 80’s (a child can very well feel when we are stressed). Some say the air pollution and the chemicals in the food contribute to the disseases and disorders as well.

    I would never cry-out my daughter, but I can understand that for some parents this works very well. One-right-formula for the parenting (and sleep-training) simply does not exist 😉

    • @Matea That is so wonderful your daughter transitioned so easily! I wish all of us had that experience! 😀 There may not be a website, but at least sleep would be much less of an issue. Thank you for your comment and I’ll have to check out that book. Sounds interesting!

  4. @Nicole I was actually a client of yours several months ago because as many of the moms who discovered this site, I was worried, doubtful and tired due to the lack of sleep of my little baby. Later on I kept on reading and searching and I found that it made more sense to me the fact that sleep is a process that will mature in time and I preferred to respect the own natural timing of my daughter. So I know about lack of sleep and I know what I’m talking about. And most of all, I think I can put my self in someone else’s shoes: my child’s.

    To continue with your example, my daughter crawled at 13 months! And for sure I think that she didn’t do it before because SHE COULDN’T. She did it when SHE was ready, when she could figure it out. She’s 15 months now and she doesn’t walk yet. Of course there are babies that crawl at 8 months and others that walk before they are 12 months, but still these are not skills you teach them! They do it when they are ready, each one at their own time. So from my point of view sleeping is the same thing.
    Sleeping is a vital need, like breathing. And babies’ sleep in immature, like they are!

    About CIO, of course I think it’s not the same to hold your baby while she’s crying than to leave her all alone. It’s clear that sometimes, no matter what we do, they cry and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. But I don’t think crying is the way to teach/learn anything. I think is disrespectful to a baby and to any person.

    And besides the respect matter, I think there’s also a “guts” thing. Something inside you that tells you when something is just wrong.
    Among all the books I’ve read regarding baby’s sleep, I read a very famous and controversial one (“Duérmete, niño”) written by a Spanish doctor who mostly recreated the Ferber’s method. In that book, he suggested that if the crying of your baby bothers you at the point that you could break your “consistency”, you could use a headset and listen to music during the process. COME ON! If a mother feels in her guts that all this crying is affecting her and her child it’s because there’s a connection and a preservation instinct that I think should be always listened and followed.

    I’m not part of any Attachment Parenting community. As all of you I’m a mom who tries to do her best for her child. And personally don’t like those “labels”. But I know parenting ideas and practices divide people, sometimes even more than politics, religion or sports…

    Thanks Nicole for your respectful way of sharing your thoughts and for allowing this space to exchange ideas and experiences. Even though I don’t agree with sleep training, I usually read your articles because they are full of interesting information and I enjoy your writing 🙂

    • @Mahua Thank you for sharing what you have learned about depression and for your personal story! That is so wonderful your son is so happy, too! 🙂

      @Vanina I’m sorry. I didn’t meant to imply you didn’t know what it’s like to be a tired mom! 😀 I meant I know it’s hard to imagine how it can be “bad enough” that you’d let your baby CIO. I get a LOT of emails daily/weekly/monthly and send literally over 100 emails a month or something. I think it is different for families who look at their baby and see suffering. Red-rimmed eyes. Bags under the eyes. Unhappy. Won’t play. Cranky. Toddlers with behavior problems. Parents that fall asleep at the wheel. Parents about to lose their jobs. Parents who say their marriage is on the rocks. Sleep problems/deprivation affects everyone so differently, babies and parents alike. That’s all I meant. And, so many times, it seems like the choice is continue on the path you’re going or CIO and that’s just not true, either. There is often a middle ground.

      I agree with you that not all babies can “learn” to sleep at the same time. But, I disagree that all of them will do it when they are ready. I work with families with kids of all ages, including 3 year olds, still waiting for their “baby” to outgrow their sleep issues. Imagine all that lost sleep for both parents and child in THREE years! Many times, it’s not that they CAN’T do it, but they just don’t know how or what to do without their current routine. It doesn’t mean a baby or toddler can’t learn a new routine. They just haven’t had to. A lot of times it’s expectations, too. They expect a bottle or breastfeeding to sleep and so they “need” it. It doesn’t mean they can’t learn to sleep without it, they just expect it. Changing expectations is not impossible, but does take some time, direction, nurturing, and follow-through.

      Babies and our children do not have the wisdom to know if something needs to change. We do. And, I’m not saying your situation needs a change at all, if it works for you. All I’m saying is that if there is a family who has a 6 month old and they do CIO (whatever that means to you because I guarantee some would say it’s CIO to let them cry in your arms, too), don’t be quick to assume the 6 month old is not ready. Sure, maybe sleep won’t be perfect, at that age, but it doesn’t mean it’s “normal” to wake up 10 times a night for a pacifier, for example, either, right? There are “normal” waking up in babies and then there is excessive.

      I can actually get by a lot less sleep than average, but waking up every 1-2 hours DID ME IN. I could NOT do that any longer. And, even if I could, I was not the mom I wanted to be. Short-tempered, wanting to lay on the couch all day, unable to engage my kids in the way I wanted to spend awake time with them. With my youngest, he actually wasn’t a perfect sleeper. His waking was manageable and so I never even “worked” on it. I guess we all have priorities. Some of us prioritize the baby’s sleep over our own, no matter the consequence. Some people prioritize daytime activity. Some people prioritize the baby’s happiness during the day. If you don’t have those tough choices to make, it’s a lot easier, but some of us do have to make those tough choices.

      As far as CIO being respectful or not, that’s a tough one. All crying is not for the same reason and some babies actually cry more/longer with a parent in the room NOT doing something. Every baby’s temperament and preference is different, in that regard. Some temperaments are simply more persistent and demanding and if a baby were hungry, that would be different than demanding to be held in a rocker all night. Again, it would depend on age and reason for crying. A toddler crying “I want cookies for dinner!” if it went on long enough, I probably would leave the room to let him have his tantrum (my son is very persistent and had looong tantrums). I think it also depends on how consistent your routine is and whether you’ve set expectations. I don’t think it’s fair to co-sleep for a year, for example, and then just put your baby in a room and shut the door. You haven’t set any expectations or changed routines. But, once the routine is set, expectations are clear, he’s had some transition time, and you know he is just exerting his will, I think you have to draw the line somewhere. To squelch crying at any cost is to deny them from emotional expression. I would argue we don’t want them to bottle up their emotion, either, but I don’t think we can stop them from EVER being upset. It’s actually okay to be upset, in my opinion, to a certain degree. Every baby and family will just have different lines and different methods of handling them. The baby’s temperament is a huge factor, too, in my opinion.

      Thanks again for the great discussion! 🙂

  5. From what I’ve learned (as a public health researcher) depression is largely a result of genetic-environment interaction. People don’t have major depression due to ONE factor. Using CIO certainly does not cause depression. Neglect IS a risk factor – but CIO is not neglect. It’s ridiculous to say or imply that. And, yes, some babies continue to need to be fed once or twice until they’re a year or even older. But, others wake up b/c they’ve just gotten used to it (like my boy). If a parent is not comfortable with CIO and has chosen not to use it (or, if they are one of the lucky ones who either had a baby who got sufficient sleep for his/her age, or was successful with other methods), then that’s their decision. If a parent has chosen some from of CIO, well then, that’s their decision too. Just like it’s ridiculous to chastise or guilt-trip Moms who don’t breastfeed, or those who decide to/have to continue working outside the house, etc., it’s ridiculous to say that one night-time parenting method is better than another. Do what’s right for your own child and family, and don’t worry what others are doing. Most – if not all – parents who visit this website obviously have their babies on their brains a lot, and are trying to do the best for THAT baby and THAT family. After I night-weaned my baby at 14 months (and Dad offered water when he woke, but we did let him cry, sometimes for more than an hour in the beginning) my boy was SO MUCH HAPPIER. Much more alert during the day, more active, many more smiles and laughs. Hearing him cry was hard, but I knew at that point that he didn’t need to eat at night anymore, and wasn’t even hungry or thirsty (since he would just suckle, rather than actually feed, when I nursed him). Did I like hearing him cry? No way. I hated it. It was hard. What kept me from “saving” him” ? I knew he needed to sleep more than 4 hours at a time by that point (well, he needed to that before 14 months, but we had a lot of backsliding since he’s an extremely inconsistent baby). Now, when he wakes at night, we know something is wrong. We tend to him quickly. We comfort him, offer him water, check his diaper, etc. But, his cries are more distinguishable, and – b/c he generally sleeps well – we know if he is waking and crying there is a specific reason (not because he’s gotten used to waking at certain times, as before). Each of us parents know our babies the best. Better than any other adult, even those that are sleep or child “experts”. So, if someone tells me I’ve damaged MY baby by letting him cry some at night, well….I’ll leave it to my fellow readers to guess what my reply would be…

  6. I think what a lot of these proponents of NO CIO EVER fail to recognize is that there are huge ranges on the emotional spectrum of a human, and crying for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, even an hour for a few nights is not going to damage a child for life. This is exactly the same as when they tell you ANY alcohol during pregnancy will damage your fetus. “They” base this claim on “studies” which show its true, but if you have any education in statistical analysis you will see that they define “moderate” drinking as 1-3 drinks PER DAY. To me, that is way more than moderate. Everyone has their own definition.

    I personally think that the short amount of time it takes most babies to learn how to sleep thru a CIO method (usually a few days to a couple weeks at the most) is much less damaging than a couple of years of fragmented sleep every.single.night. My son was sleep trained (yes, trained; changing the term doesn’t change the meaning) at 7 months and is a happier, healthier baby because of it. Before we took the leap he was fussy all day, wouldn’t nap, and wanted to be held constantly. Now that he sleeps well at night, he wakes up smiling and playing in his crib, he takes 2 hour naps and explores on his own. Once he went through the method he suddenly hit three huge milestones all at once. Crawling, sitting up by himself, and standing while holding on to something. And, yes, I breastfeed.

    My baby cries when he is in his car seat and doesn’t want to be. Should I take him out so I don’t damage his brain? No way. I don’t understand how crying = damage can apply in one situation but not another with the same parents involved who love and nurture their child. We are not talking neglect here, that is a different matter, and I find it pretty insulting to suggest that CIO always = neglect, or laziness, or selfishness. I think a lot of parents who choose this method have thought about it hard and decided that it is best for their child’s health.

    • @Dana Very well said. That is a good analogy with the drinking. I didn’t drink any caffeine my whole pregnancy with my first, but with my second, I drank one cup of coffee a day (when you have two, you need a pick-me-up sometimes haha!). Their personalities are opposite than you’d think if you based it on caffeine alone. 😀 And, my eldest cried every car ride for his first year (until he was turned around). I sat in the back for most car trips, but could only keep him happy for 10-15 minutes and then nothing would keep him from crying. I definitely was not about to turn him around early or let him out of his car seat! Thank you for your comment!

    • You don’t drive for10 to 12 hours do you? Your baby knows that’s it’s a short ride from here to there and gets to enjoy the scenery along the way to distract him while awake. Totally different to sleeping the whole night through.

  7. @Vanina I think you are confusing convenience with survival. Some of us, for example, have to drive on occasion, and if we do that frequently on an hour per night of sleep, eventually something really terrible is going to happen. Even if we are somehow able to spend the entirety of our baby’s infancy without leaving the house, generally total sleep deprivation does not make for ideal, or even passable parenting.

    And that’s not even considering the BABY’s health and wellness. You seem to believe that the worst thing a baby can suffer is crying alone. Personally, after seeing my son in the morning after being rocked to sleep every hour on the hour compared to my son sleeping in solid chunks after one hour of crying at bedtime, I disagree about which is worse.

    Co-sleeping worked for you? Fantastic. No cry worked for your friends? Super. Cry it out worked for my baby. I still feed him twice a night without complaint, I go to him and comfort him if he wakes up and needs comfort. It has nothing to do with convenience or putting my wants before his needs. In fact, I miss rocking him to sleep. But I don’t do it because it’s terrible for his sleep. I KNOW my baby and I know what he needs. You don’t.

  8. @Nicole I understand your point about the co-sleeping but the difference -I think- is that you or your husband are adults and have your own preferences regarding the way you sleep which you have been choosing (and maybe changing!) during the years. I also understand even your boys now may prefer to co-sleep or not. But a newborn or a young baby works differently and has other needs. I know sometimes is not the most “comfortable” situation in terms of space, but I think it’s worthy. A newborn needs full contact with his mom (literally ALL the time if it was possible), in order to recreate the feeling of pleasure, protection and security he felt in the womb. Some authors are even referring to the first year of a child as an exterogestation. The point is to decide as an adult responsible for that child if it’s possible to be emotionally and physically available for the baby as he truly needs. It’s a hard path to go through, I know. And everyone does the best they can.

    About the CIO issue, I think that it’s not the same if a baby cries, than if a 2 year old, or a 6 year old cries. When they can express through the language, the crying situation can be controlled in a different way and you can even negotiate, as in the example of your kid crying because he doesn’t want to go to school. But in the case of a baby, whose only tool to express discomfort is crying, I believe it’s something to take care of without fear of being “parenting a monster who will dominate you”. Yes, I think a baby should be comforted every time he cries, and if he needs to cry anyway to express himself, to release energy or whatever the need is, the adult in charge should be there to support him and just be with him, holding him and helping him go through that stressful moment.

    @Melissa In any case, co-sleeping is one form of sleeping, but I’m not saying that the options are co-sleeping or CIO. I’ve got many friends that do not co-sleep and would never let their babies CIO. So I’m not parenting a method. I choose to co-sleep and absolutely respect those who doesn’t. But I don’t agree with CIO. I don’t see how letting your baby cry can teach him any good thing.

    @JD Probably it’s an irrelevant “semantic” detail, but the word “train” linked to parenting doesn’t sound good in my head.
    I don’t say my baby is a bad sleeper. I say it’s not a good sleeper if that means sleeping through the night. I know she’ll do it when she’s ready, the same as crawling, walking or reading. And when she’s ready she’ll leave our family bed to sleep in her own room. They grow up! If it wasn’t that way, then don’t use a pacifier, don’t breastfeed, don’t use diapers because some day you’ll have to take that all off. And if once she goes to sleep on her own she needs to come back some nights, we’ll be happy to receive her and be there for her as always.
    I think the problem is we want them to be independent before they’re ready to because it’s convenient for us. Would you expect a 2 month old to walk? A 1 year old to speak your language perfectly? So why should you expect a (you name the age) to sleep through the night when his nervous system is not mature enough?
    I can assure you that independence comes after feeling security when they need it, and letting them CIO is quiet the opposite from my personal point of view. It’s like saying “You’re on your own now. Figure it out!”. I think not many good things can come out of that experience AT ANY AGE.
    Animals who eat their young are rare cases. Most of them act in a protective and caring way. I believe you understood the point.

    • @Vanina You have some valid arguments in theory, but in practice, it just doesn’t always work that way. I have had two recent clients tell me they felt ABANDONED by the Attachment Parenting community because they simply could not get any “no cry” anything to help with their baby’s sleep and they CANNOT function the way they are going. I understand a lot of people think it’s for convenience, but many times families cannot function at all day to day. It simply sounds like you’re having difficulty putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and I don’t blame you. If someone told me that I would be in an abusive relationship at some time, I would have said “no way!” but until you’re there, you don’t know what you’ll do. And, I don’t disagree with you that newborns need a lot of attention, affection, and care. The point where we diverge is deciding for everyone at what age more independence should occur. My boys didn’t crawl until they were 10 months old. Families have told me theirs crawled at 6 months. Is it wrong that they “let” them crawl at 6 months, even though average might be 8 months? Of course not. Their babies were ready sooner. Similarly, you can’t say that NO baby is ready to sleep independently at 6 months, just because yours doesn’t. It doesn’t mean she can’t, she just hasn’t. If a parent picks up their baby all the time, he may not walk until he’s 18 months. Does it mean he CAN’T walk sooner? No. Parents are just doing what they feel is right for their baby and their family. So, just like we don’t say you are doing wrong by your baby by co-sleeping past a year, you should not pass judgment that others need to take a different path for their family.

      And, for the CIO issue, would you consider it CIO to hold your baby while she is crying, but not nursing to sleep? Some would and others wouldn’t. Again, the CIO definition is blurry. There are some, and maybe even your friends, who allow crying, but stay IN the room with them. Are you saying that is okay, then? Because, you said a parent should be there to support them. Again, that’s what this article is about in terms of the “research” not being clear about what they’re talking about and scaring people into staying in their sleep deprived states by making a blanket statement implying that ANY crying is harmful.

      In regards to “training” I always find it amusing that it’s okay to potty train, but not sleep train. It’s really just a bad way to say “teaching.” In some parts of the world, I think they say “toilet learning” and I have used “sleep coaching” on numerous occasions to try to get away from the now stigmatized word.

      Thanks again for the great discussion! I think it’s important and useful for others making their own decisions for their families. I doubt we’ll ever agree, but it’s good to talk it out with another intelligent and well-spoken mom without it getting nasty! 🙂

  9. @Vanina

    You use the word ‘training’ like it’s a bad thing, but really as parents we do a lot of that. Training is a form of teaching and I see nothing wrong with that.
    When you teach a child to say “thank you” when they receive something, you are essentially ‘training’ them to have a certain response to a certain situation.
    Sleep training and its many forms is very similar to that. You are teaching/training a child to be independent and self soothe during sleeping hours. A certain response to a certain situation.

    Abandoning is not the same thing. Most well adjusted, sane, hardworking, loving parents do not abandon their child. My guess is that they use CIO as a final resort because they LOVE and RESPECT their child so much that the realize that quality sleep is very important.
    CIO was very hard for the parents that I know, but yet they chose to do it to help their little ones get the sleep they need.

    You yourself say that you don’t have a good sleeper and yet you co-sleep.
    I could easily spin the very little I know about your situation and say that you are not helping your child learn how to sleep independently. But that would be silly of me, because I’m sure you’re doing what you believe is best for your child….just like the rest of us. 🙂

    At some point he will learn to sleep in his own bed.
    You will teach/train him that that is the appropriate place to sleep.
    What will you do when he cries and wants to stay with you?

    Will you let him experience ‘abandonment’ or teach him ‘independence’?

    P.S. When using an animals to humans comparison, please remember that some animals eat their young. 😉

  10. I did CIO when my twins were 6 months old. We tried the no-cry methods and had no success. They were waking 12-14 times a night EACH and taking one 20-minute nap per day. Have you ever been so tired that all you do is cry? Have you ever felt your PPD spiraling out of control? Have you ever fallen asleep while driving with your children in the car? Those are real and they happened to me.

    My son never smiled. He never laughed nor giggled. I thought he wasn’t a happy baby. What I failed to see is that he was unhappy because he was tired. I wasn’t respecting his need to sleep. To me that is bad parenting because I was allowing him to become so overtired that he was miserable. My body hurts when I am tired and I can only imagine how his little body felt. When he was finally sleeping (waking 3 times a night) he became the happy child he is today.

    BTW Vanina my 17 month old hates cosleeping. I tried to put her in my bed when she was sick and she cried harder. She kicked and punched me until I put her back in her space.

    Parent your child, not a method.