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Crying it Out - Archive

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Sleep > Crying it Out - Archive


1999

Subject: The "letting them cry it out" in the middle of the night debate

I have a 9-month old baby who still wakes up crying around 2 a.m. wanting 
either attention, or to nurse.  Our pediatrician tells us that 
she is probably not hungry but just wants the attention and that this is 
a habit we should not encourage.  He suggests not nursing her when she
cries and instead going in each 10 minutes, patting her/reassuring 
her and then returning to bed.  He is certain that after letting her 
"cry it out" for a few nights she will start sleeping thru the night.  
Well, we have tried this in the past  (somewhat half-heartedly) 
and after a good 20-30 minutes of crying have "caved" each and every night. 
When talking with friends about this issue we have discovered that 
there are really two camps in this "let them cry it out" 
debate.  Some see such behavior as "baby trying to manipulate 
parents" and feel good about breaking that cycle. Others tell us that 
it has never worked for them and that they find it unduly "cruel".    
I would love to hear people's real-life experiences with this.  Ideally, 
I would like to maximize my sleep without ignoring legitimate infant
needs in the process.  I guess if we hear enough success stories
(without undo baby trauma) we will become more resolute in our attempts.  
Right now I almost find the disease easier to deal with than the cure. 
Anybody battled with this one? 



I dealt with this one...my 4yo not only slept with me but also nursed at
night out of habit..at 17mo, I finaaly said no more because I realized I
need the sleep..

My husband and I prepared ourselves, and here's how it went..the first
night, he sat up and screamed for 45 minutes..remember he was in our
bed...then fell back to sleep..second night...more screaming for about
45mins...night three...screamed for 15 min, went to sleep, and afterwards
never woke up again for the nighttime nurse..

BTW, I am a stay at home mom, with 4 kids..14, 13, 4 and 1.  My husband is a
PhD student in the engineering dept.  We are residing at Smyth-Fernwald.
______________________________________________________________________________


To Linda with the 9 month old baby crying in the night:

My husband and I were in two different camps on this issue, and since I
could not sleep with one of my children crying, I was the one to go down and
calm them.  My kids (now 7 and 4) both had some trouble learning to sleep
through the night, but eventually did figure it out.  While a baby may learn
to "give up" if a parent doesn't show up to comfort them, I always felt that
the child needed some kind of comforting or they wouldn't be crying.  When I
was growing up, I was lucky enough to have a very brave younger sister who
shared a room with me, so when I woke up scared at night (and this happened
until I was a teenager) I could wake her up instead of my parents (and she
never minded, and we are best friends to this day).  My kids still wake up
in the night for various reasons, and they know if they are scared or don't
feel well they can wake me up.  It doesn't happen often, but when it does, I
walk them back to their bed, talk them through the fear (or with my son,
help stop his bloody nose usually), and tuck them in with an extra kiss.  I
don't allow them to sleep with my husband and I, but I do spend some time
with them in their rooms.  It's a real individual thing, but I, like you,
could not handle the agony of listening to a baby cry for 30 minutes or
more.  I had stopped nursing my children by 4 months (as I had to go back to
work full time in SF then) but I do know from some friends' experiences that
breast fed babies seem to wake up more at night, so you could consider
weaning as a possible aide to getting that full night's sleep.

_______________________________________________________________________________

The most important thing to understand about this topic is that there
is no magic solution.  Going to sleep is something a baby will learn,
and you can do a fair amount to encourage sleep, but you can't force a
baby to learn how to go to sleep any more than you can force a baby to
learn to roll over.  The bad news here is that there is only so much you
can do.  The good news is that while it's worth trying different techniques,
the ultimate responsibilty does not lie with you.  It's nature's way
of preparing us for giving driving lessons.

Our history is that we tried crying-it-out several times.  The first
few times we gave up after a couple of nights of listening to extended
crying with little or no success. Somewhere around 10 months it worked.
After that we used the technique a few  more times when our son had
seemingly lost his ability to put himself to sleep.  In those later
instances, he had been sick over a week and had his whole sleep pattern
had disintegrated. He often got back on track after one night of crying.


_____________________________________________________________________________

With our infant daughter, we experienced a sudden change to crying
fits every time we'd put her down to sleep. She'd fall asleep feeding,
but as soon as we put her in bed she'd scream. It was a scream
that expressed pain rather than the cry of frustration we'd heard
many times before, and it seemed she couldn't get comfortable. It
turned out she was suffering from an ear infection, and it was the
pressure in her ears, especially when lying down, that was the cause.

_____________________________________________________________________________

     With regards to crying it out, our pediatrician said the same thing 
     about the baby wanting attention.  We experimented a little with 
     letting him cry and, I too, had a really hard time with it- I couldn't 
     sleep anyway, so I might as well be with my son.  We did usually 
     find that our son was crying for some reason- usually he was stuffed 
     up and had a hard time breathing or we found out several days later 
     that he had an ear infection.  There were several times that I went to 
     him and he was laughing which did not go over very well....This 
     subject also makes me think of a close friend whose daughter woke up 
     during the night and they discovered that she was always put to bed 
     asleep and therefore did not know how to put herself back to sleep 
     when she woke up. They did let her cry for several nights and the 
     problem went away...Hope this helps.. Janette White Shelton

_____________________________________________________________________________

Regarding the "Letting them cry it out", I feel you know your child better
than anybody else and follow your heart. It is also good to examine your
child's sleeping patterns during the day.

My daughter was getting too much iron in her diet (She was on Infamil with
iron and vitamins that included iron ), as a result she would cry a lot at
night and we could not figure out what it was. Luckily my husband and I felt
very strongly about not letting her cry it out, so we would take turns
pacifying her. My mother-in-law saved us, she forgot to give Aliya her
vitamins when she was looking after her and told us that aliya was sleeping
through the night. After talking about what it was that mother was doing
different the culprit was too much iron in her diet.

Every time I feel frustrated about the baby crying I always remind myself
that she is only going to be a baby once. But definately examine your
child's diet and sleep patterns during the day. Giving Aliya a bath before
bedtime everyday also helps. 

Do not feel bad you are not the only one who has gone through this trauma.
Good Luck. I am sure the baby will start sleeping through the night soon.
(May be that's too optimistic) !!
 
______________________________________________________________________________

We never considered letting our babies cry it out.  I much prefer hearing
about the societies where someone is almost always in physical contact with
the children rather than the ones that expect an infant to develop
independence before they can even walk and talk.  We practiced family bed
at our house and each of our babies slept either with us or alongside our
bed until they decided they were comfortable elsewhere.  If they cried in
the night, they got immediately snuggled (or fed when I was nursing) and
there was no trauma involved.  I don't even like letting a puppy or kitten
be lonely through a long night.  Life doesn't have to be so hard.

______________________________________________________________________________

 I can certainly sympathize with your doubts on the course of action that your
 pediatrician suggested, especially if he didn't provide any more information,
 reasoning, or support than a simple "baby wanting attention".  With my two
 babies, I had the same situation, and I finally came to the conclusion that
 Yes, they probably weren't hungry, but just nursing out of habit at that time 
 of night, and  No, they probably weren't consciously demanding attention or 
 trying to manipulate me and prevent me from sleeping. Rather, their bodies got 
 used to a certain rhythm of sleep cycle - falling asleep and then waking after 
 a certain number of hours, and having trouble getting back to sleep.  What I 
 did was to go in almost immediately, lay him down if he was already sitting up, 
 and just rub his back until he fell back asleep, but not pick him up or nurse 
 him.  This usually worked, but I do remember letting him cry a bit if it 
 didn't, and then going back in and trying it again.  There are also some books 
 on the subject, which are at the Berkeley Public Library, and which may be 
 helpful - one is "Helping your child sleep through the night".  Good luck.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

I mentioned I was taking a class, taught by two professionals from Kaiser,
in Raising Your Spirited Child.  I just want to mention that the child
psychologist said, "The Ferber method basically works well for pretty
adaptable children.  Most people find that, for the child with the
"spirited" temperment the Ferber method simply does NOT work at all."

----------------------------------------------------------------------------


From: April

I'm adding my voice to the sleep suggestions because I haven't seen the
Ferber method mentioned. If I missed it then just delete this. 

My second child was a light sleeper who frequently woke at night.  We used
the method outlined in the book How To Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems
by Ferber which I highly recommend. Some posters seem to view the "cry it
out" approach as an all or nothing strategy that would be wrenching for
any parent.  Ferber's approach is much more moderate and does not result
in leaving a child crying in its crib for extensive periods without
parental contact.  Because it involves a phasing in of periods alone in
the crib, the child learns to comfort itself to sleep when it awakes,
which is the skill it needs in order for the parents not to be used for
that purpose. Ferber's description of how parents unwittingly reinforce
children's need to have parents around in order to go to or stay asleep is
very useful. We found it worked within two nights but had to be re-done
every time our son had a setback due to a cold or other physical
disruption. 

Friends of mine who couldn't manage to stick to Ferber's suggested
schedule wound up dealing with months or years of sleep difficulties in
their children.  This was mostly due to their own sleepiness and
unwillingness to get up repeatedly for a few nights.  This resulted in
them bringing the child to bed with them instead of using Ferber's
technique.  So, for parents who want to teach their children to sleep in
their own bed's at night, I recommend purchasing the book and sticking to
the instructions and schedules recommended. I know many families for whom
it has worked like a charm. 

 
_____________________________________________________________________________

Linda,
We heard that same line, and tried it briefly on the first kid. Three kids
later, I can safely say it's very bad advice.
A nine month old doesn't have any ulterior motive.
Trust your instincts.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Re: crying it out.

When my first daughter was young and crying at night, my wife and I got 
the same advice from our pediatrician.  On asking around more, I heard:

1) from my parents, that the two camps (let them cry vs. pick them up) 
seem to alternate every ten years or so... so do what you feel is best, 
and ignore anyone who tells you something you don't believe, in your gut.

2) no matter what the doctors say, it may be impossible for _you_ not to 
pick them up... so don't fight it.

Now, still, when one of my daughters is sick at night, my wife or I often
sleeps on a double-bed mattress to comfort them without having to 100%
wake up ourselves. 

_____________________________________________________________________________

Dear Linda,

Recently I, too, struggled with the "letting them cry it out" issue.  My
daughter, Emily, who is now 14 months old, was just like your little one.  I
remember being so worn out when she was 9 months old.  But soon after that
things changed.  We understood the arguments for "letting her cry it out"
but it was too painful and time-consuming to do.  We tried it several times,
but found that it didn't work with her.  She would get more and more worked
up; crying longer each night.   I found that I got more sleep in the end if
I attended to her needs right away. 

What finally worked for us, was my decision not to nurse her in the middle
of the night.  Instead, my husband attended to her needs.  Sometimes he fed
her a bottle, other times some water, but many times she would fall back to
sleep in his arms within a few minutes without anything.   This broke the
expectation that she would be able to see me and nurse when she woke up.
After about 3 or 4 weeks of this, she started sleeping all the way through
the night several nights a week; and soon she was sleeping for 10-12 hours a
stretch every night.  She occasionally cries out in the middle of the night,
but it only lasts a minute or two, and she now knows how to put herself back
to sleep without us.  

She also goes down for bed without a fuss.  So long as we keep to her
bedtime routine, she almost welcomes bedtime.  She likes to sing herself to
sleep; which is so much better than the nights where she used to scream at
the sight of her crib.  I really think it's a developmental issue.  I think
they reach a certain point in their development where they don't feel
abandoned and have the ability to fall back to sleep on their own.  Possibly
the "letting them cry it out" technique, when it works, hastens this
process. Also, when they start to walk and are more active they are very
tired and thus able to sleep deeper and for longer stretches of time.  Other
tips that helped us include making sure she had some small toys to play with
in her crib, a friendly nightlight, and waiting a few minutes to see how
long she will cry instead of immediately going to her room. 
______________________________________________________________________________

Oh, man, oh yeah, we dealt with that too!  Nine months is a good age to try
to work it out, though -- as I recall, that's about when we first did it.
One thing we found that helped was to make sure we put Danny (now 2 yrs.
old) to bed under the same conditions that he would find when he woke up by
himself in the middle of the night.  That is, we read him his stories and
sang him his songs and rocked him to help him relax before bed, but we made
sure he was still somewhat awake when we put him in his crib.  It's too
disorienting (I've read, but our experience seems to confirm) to put them to
sleep in your arms and then not be there when they wake up.  We also make
sure he has a snack before bed, so you don't have to feel like you're
letting your child go hungry.

When we first steeled our courage to tough out the crying, it took about 30
minutes the first night (go in and check after 10, pat him/her, talk a very
little bit, say you'll be just down the hall, and leave w/o picking him/her
up).  It took about 10 minutes the second night (just as I was about to go
in, he quieted), and the third night, he cried only as long as it took me to
walk down the hall!  We were *so relieved* (after spending the first two
nights holding hands and watching the clock tick those awful 10 minutes away...)

Two caveats though: 1) the procedure has to be repeated occasionally,
usually after some small trauma like his ear infections.  When he's sick, we
get up with him in the night, but then he seems to get accustomed to this
and wants to hold onto the pattern when he's well.  2) This doesn't work at
all during a period when he's feeling insecure and we have not pushed it at
those times.  For instance, around the time of a move or when one of his
parents has been working long hours and he hasn't seen that parent much for
a few weeks.  At those times, after a few weeks of nighttime wakings, he
starts sleeping through again on his own.

It's so hard to listen to your child cry.  I don't know if we would've stuck
to this if Danny had been more insistent about it.
Good luck!
______________________________________________________________________________
Re:  crying it out.

I had a kid who kept getting me up 2-3 times a night until she was 18 mos
old, at which time I was 9 mos pregnant, in my second year as an assistant
professor, and figured if I didn't do something about it I would never
sleep again.   I found a book called "solve your child's sleep problems"
extremely helpful.  The chapters about sleep are very interesting, even if
you don't  decide to use the method.  I did use the method and it worked
well.  With my second child, I followed the book's advice from the
beginning and my second daughter, a far more cantankerous child than the
first, is a reknowned expert sleeper.  A role model at nap time in daycare,
and full of energy the rest of the time.  In retrospect, I think it would
have been better for me, and my first child, if I had read the book sooner!
I do not remember the book's author, but if you look for this exact title
you will be ok.  There are imitations out there with similar titles so be
careful.

There was an absolutely hilarious 20/20 segment about this book and how the
method works.  Anyone have a tape?

_______________________________________________________________________________

I have two children, a four-year-old and a one-year-old, and I will say
from the start that I fall into the "let them cry" camp.  But, I've
thought a lot about it, and so I'll tell you my conclusions, as well as
a summary of how the strategy has worked with my two very different kids.

I agree that crying in the middle of the night is "baby trying to
manipulate parents."  But, then, so is crying during the day for food,
attention, or whatever.  And, so is a toddler having a tantrum.  It's up
to the parents to decide what needs are valid.  In my experience, babies
and children who cry during the night really do believe that they need
parents for comfort.  But, on the other hand, I as a parent really need
sleep, and while I'm prepared to be short on sleep for some fraction of
a year for a new baby, I'm not willing to have that go on for several years.
While I am a little afraid that letting the baby cry will somehow weaken
the trust s/he has that parents will meet all needs, I am comforted by the
fact that I can't see any difference between children whose parents get up
for them every night until age 3 and children who are forced to sleep
through the night at 6 months.

So, there's my theory.  But, I think you were really asking for details
about its application.  When my daughter was 4 months, her pediatrician
(bless him) asked if she was sleeping through the night, and when we
replied ruefully that she wasn't, he told us that she was definitely big
enough to sleep all night and we could feel good about ignoring her.  So,
we tried it out.  As it turns out, she was very pliable.  The first night
she cried maybe 20 minutes, and by the fourth night she had stopped
waking us up.  I thought I had child-rearing totally figured out, and I'm
afraid I may have said a few very unsympathetic things to parents who told
me that their three-year-olds still got up every night.  We went through
another round of getting up at night when she had moved from her crib to 
a bed, around two years old.  That was more painful to ignore.  She banged
on our door for a half hour crying "Mommy, Daddy!"  We called to her to
go to bed, but to no avail, and eventually we heard her say to herself,
"Mommy's at work," which almost broke my heart.  But, still, it didn't last 
many nights, and after that the threat of locking our door was usually 
enough to keep her in bed.  My son was a different story, and I have to 
say that if he had been my first I might have decided that sleeping 
through the night was not worth the effort.  When he was 5 or 6 months 
old, we stopped feeding him at night.  When he cried, we would get up and 
pat him back to sleep.  The theory was that when he realized he wasn't 
going to get any food, he'd stop waking up.  Perhaps that would work with 
some children, but not with this one.  We were regularly up once or twice
a night with him.  This went on for several months, and finally we 
decided to put an end to it by letting him cry.  But, it turns out that 
he's much more stubborn than his sister was.  It was at least three weeks 
of an hour or two of crying before he slept through the night.  We have 
a small two-bedroom apartment, so we were awake the whole time, and I was 
a walking zombie during the day.  Thank heavens his sister, who shared a 
room with him, sleeps like a log.  If he had woken her up regularly, we 
would never have been able to let him cry.  But, finally he stopped, and 
now we usually get a full night of sleep.  As an added bonus, now he often 
plays happily in his crib when he wakes up, rather than immediately crying 
for us.  Since he wakes up around dawn, we're quite happy to be allowed 
to sleep later.

Good luck with your decision on how to handle this behavior.  It will be 
the first of many hard decisions, as parenting seems to change  from being 
physical to being mental as the kids get older.  Now that it's over, I'm
glad we stuck to the sleeping policy, but I have to say that when I was in 
the middle of it and not sure it would ever end, I had many doubts.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Our child cried for us at night, especially when being put to sleep.  We
tried a modified form of cry therapy, letting him cry for two
minutes, then four minutes, but never more than six.  It took a few
nights to work, but did.  We decided never to do the full 15 or 30 minute
depravation. That kind of trauma cannot be adaptive for infants. 
I believe it is the psychologist Kohut who emphasized that children must
learn to have trust in the world, trust that their lacks and anxieties
will find a caring other, to develop a sense of empathy. Ask yourselves
what it is a child learns when he or she discovers their parents will not
arrive when they cry for half an hour - "responsibility for their own
sleeping" or lost hope.  I've read that in orphanages without
care-givers children don't cry at all after a few months. 

________________________________________________________________________________ 

If you want to get a good idea of this "debate", go check out the newsgroup
misc.kids where a flamefest is currently underway.  Look for any threads
with either "sleep" or "Ferber" in the topic.

Having said that, my "counsel" to you is to ignore your pediatrician.
Pediatricians are trained to look for, diagnose, and then treat disease.
They do this very well (most of the time).  They have very little to no
training in nutrition, particularly in breastfeeding.  They also have very
little to no training in psychology.  [I recently met a young woman at a La
Leche League meeting who was a pediatric resident.  Why was she there?  To
educate herself on breastfeeding.  Basically, the only two things she
learned as a medical student and as a resident were, 1) the slogan "Breast
is best", and 2) if a mother is having trouble breastfeeding, send her to a
lactation consultant.  I was ecstatic to see that she was taking the
responsibility upon herself to learn these very important things, I just
wonder about all the pediatricians who never did this and think they can
solve every problem by "supplementing"]

My 14 1/2 month old son wakes up, on average, once per night to nurse.  We
have his crib in a "side-car" arrangement next to our bed and he spends
half the night there, the other half between me and my partner.  At 9
months he was waking probably 2 or 3 times,  I can't really remember
because I usually sleep through feedings.

Your daughter may very well *need* to nurse:  1) Breastmilk is very light
and digested quickly, that's why the baby's body absorbs most of it's
nutrients and passes very little stool.  Even though you are probably
giving your daughter solids, the "grazing mode" of eating still applies at
her age; 2) Your breastmilk contains precious anti-bodies which help her
fight off any diseases that you've both been exposed to.  Her extra feeding
makes sure that she doesn't go for too long without these anti-bodies that
keep her healthy; 3) she may be *thirsty* especially in this summer heat
we've been having.  I've noticed that my son has gotten up a few times
these past few weeks wanting "wa-wa".  Breastmilk is better than water
though when it comes to dehydration (I can refer you to studies) because it
also has a perfect balance of electrolytes (pedialyte is a poor imitation).

>Ideally,  I would like to maximize my sleep without ignoring legitimate
>infant needs in the process

Very wise.  That's the perfect attitude to have.

>Right now I almost find the disease easier to deal with than the cure.

So here's my question.  Is there really a "problem" here?  Do you have a
"disease" that needs a "cure" or are those your pedy's words?  Are you
exhausted during the day?  Does sleepiness impair your ability to function?
Do you resent your daughter for waking you up and are you therefore not as
good a parent during the day as you could be?  If yes, then you need to
find a solution.  If no, if this one waking is just a slight inconvenience,
then you don't need a solution.

In my opinion, there is a difference between a) letting a child cry for an
indefinate period of time, b) "controlled crying", also known as "sleep
training", where the child cries for five, then ten minutes at a time and
c) letting a child cry while a parent is holding them in his/her arms.  If
I had a child that was waking 9 or 10 times a night and could only fall
back asleep by nursing, I might be willing to try c), but I am very much
opposed to a) and b).  I did a) once out of desparation when my son was a
newborn and will *never* do it again.   I  disagree with b) because I have
a dog whom I spent a lot of time training.  I would not use this type of
"training" technique with her, let alone my child.  My child is doing very
well learning to transition himself back to sleep without my help and he's
doing it because he trusts that I will always be there for him, not because
I left him alone to fend for himself.  If you want me to I'll go into
further details but this post is getting pretty long as is.

Most parents who let their kids cry do so because they are out of ideas.  I
don't blame them; but I would much rather brainstorm alternatives with you
than to see you resort to some tired old advice some doctor who didn't know
any better gave you.  For starters, read either the chapter called
"Nighttime Parenting" in William and Martha Sears' _The Baby Book_ or their
book by the same name.  You'll find these in Cody's.  Also, Penelope Leach
(who's training is in psychology and child development) does a very good
job in one of her books of explaining why a baby is incapable of the
logical thinking required to  "manipulate" it's parents by crying.

________________________________________________________________________________

In response to: The "letting them cry it out" in the middle of the night debate

This doesn't really answer the technical question about what one should do,
but about a month ago, East Bay Express did an interview with UC's own Prof.
George Lakoff about his new book. ( Moral politics : what conservatives know
that liberals don't.  Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1996., UCB
Moffitt   HN90.M6 L35 1996) The letting-them- cry- it-out debate came up in
the interview. He claimed that there was a connection between  how you
handle the middle-of-the-night crying and your political leanings. So
liberals, who lean towards a "nurturing" view point, will pick the crying
child up. Conservatives, who tend towards the survival-of-the-fittest
approach, will let the child cry it out. Lakoff goes on then about how
important the metaphor of the family is in American politics and how one's
understanding of the family plays out in liberal and conservative approaches
(each tangent having its own possible pathological extremes).  I've probably
mangled his argument, but I found the interview interesting and if I had
time (not possible with a two year old and a more than full time job!) I'd
read the book. I also tried to let my son cry it out, but I wasn't that
successful. We slept many a nights on the couch together. He sometimes now
will still wake up and call for me. It seems to happen more when there's
been a change in the routine.

________________________________________________________________________________

Another contribution to the letting it cry debate:

This is a really interesting discussion!  One viewpoint I have found
missing:  who says it is good for the child to wake up in the night?
Comparing my first (not sleep trained until 18 mos thanks to Penelope Leach
who I do like otherwise though contrary to what she says a baby can easily
survive on breast milk alone way past twenty pounds) child's experience
with my that of my second (sleep trained using Ferber's "Solve Your Child's
Sleep Problems" early on) I would say that the second definitely benefited
from learning how to sleep well.  Of course there were and are occasions
when they wake up and need mom and I generally enjoy that.  Also, as they
got older I just put a futon in my room and if they really needed parental
company they could come in quietly and crawl in anytime (my husband claims
he can't sleep with more than 2 people in the bed).

I also agree that each child and family is unique, and would not judge
anyone else's decisions about what to do.  But sleeping well through the
night has to be a comfortable experience for most kids, just like it is for
parents -- it is not just a matter of what is convenient for us, or what
makes us feel nuturing and needed, or even what the child's supposed motive
is.  Good nights make for good days...
____________________________________________________________________________
Finally, a question to which I think I have an answer! Linda Daetwyler writes:

>I have a 9-month old baby who still wakes up crying around 2 a.m. wanting 
>either attention, or to nurse.  Our pediatrician tells us that 
>she is probably not hungry but just wants the attention and that this is 
>a habit we should not encourage....

We had this problem with both our children. We solved it with the second one
with the help of a book by Richard Ferber, "Solve your child's sleep
problems" (New York : Simon and Schuster, c1985). Ferber is a doctor
specializing in children's sleep problems and his advice is both humane and
sound.

I would advise reading the whole book (and showing it to your pediatrician,
who sounds like an insensitive lout to me), but if you want to cut to the
chase: Ferber recommends a training process that takes about two weeks.
First, develop a bedtime routine and follow it with religious precision.
Then make a practice of responding when the child cries, but every night
take longer to respond. And when you do respond, just come in, speak
soothingly, tuck in, stroke--don't get all involved. The whole response
shouldn't take more than a few minutes. And the length of time the child has
to cry to get the response starts short but lengthens for each response and
each night: the first night, start at about a minute and gradually increase
to about fifteen minutes; the next night, start at about three minutes and
increase to about fifteen; and so on. Fifteen minutes is a rough maximum
allowing for parental endurance, reasonable effort on the kid's part, and
the possibility of a real problem.

Behaviorists may be nodding their heads by now. To put a cognitive
construction on it: you are telling the child by your actions that (1) it's
bedtime (that's what the ritual routine is for); (2) I will not forsake you,
I'll come when you call; and (3) you still have to go to sleep, and that's
YOUR job, kid. 

No one is born knowing how to go to sleep; we have to learn it, and we have
to learn it for ourselves. Ferber's approach minimizes the pain of the
learning process; it doesn't subvert it, as constant picking-up would, and
it doesn't torture parents and child, as "cry it out" does. And it worked
like a charm with our second child; I wish we'd known about it with the
first, it would have saved us all some grief. It's well known to at least
some pediatricians: when I told our pediatrician about it she said, "Oh, you
Ferberized him!"

I have to add these disclaimers: the approach works less well the older the
child gets; it broke when we took a long car trip and messed up all the
routines (although our son retained the basic falling-asleep skills he'd
learned); and the problem still tends to recur in a different guise--both of
our kids went through a stage in their post-toddler pre-school years of
crawling into bed with us in the middle of the night. We didn't make a big
issue of that, and it went away.
______________________________________________________________________

I'm glad we're having this "letting them cry it out" debate.  It's
interesting to me ... most of the people who've recommended I let my
daughter "cry it out" are not parents (with one significant exception).
Most of the parents I've talked with, some with confidence and some with
something resembling shame, "admit" they cannot just let their child cry
and cry.  There is such a strong voice in this culture which says "let 'em
cry, show 'em the rules" that one is almost ashamed not to follow it.
There is also the related question of whether the baby sleeps in a crib, or
in the parent's bed ... another issue around which people have strong
feelings.  (Most babies, it would seem, want to sleep in bed with the
parents.  Many parents, however, would like some space in the 24 hour day
which is theirs alone and, due to the work schedule, that is usually during
sleep.)

I remember my mom telling me that when *I* was a baby, the rage was all to
put  very young infants on a strict feeding schedule, and not let even very
young babies nurse or have a bottle in between feedings.  The theory was
that the mother (not the baby) knew whether or not the baby was hungry or
thirsty.  Mom said she tried it for a few days and decided it was
ridiculous,  she didn't care what the books said, she was going to listen
to her baby.  She wouldn't have let my sister and I eat on demand, with no
mealtime schedules, when we were older, but as infants, yes.  To me, the
sleeping thing seems similar.  In fact, my pediatrician tells me that about
50% of their patients report that their baby sleeps in the parents bed, but
that there is "underreporting," it is probably more like 75%.

I think there are all these books and doctors out there putting out the
"formal knowledge" and then there's what parents actually do.  Sometimes
the two match up and sometimes not.  My daughter (now 13 months) is quite
adamant about wanting to sleep in bed with me.  I'd rather she slept in her
own crib.  I have tried EVERYTHING ... music, walking, rocking, stories,
routine, special toys, everything.  She just wants me.  (We've even spent
parts of nights sleeping in an armchair together, just so I could then put
her back in her crib and tell myself yes, she was sleeping in her crib.)
The doctor finally said he thinks I should just let her sleep with me.
She's adopted; I'm her second home; she's been through a lot of changes and
the doctor feels ... and I agree ... that she simply needs to know for sure
that I'm there.  BTW, she's still not sleeping through the night, but she
does better in my bed than in her crib ... some nights she sleeps through,
or if she does wake up it's only once, and only for a few minutes, not two
or three times (for 30 to 60 minutes EACH TIME) like she did when she was
in her crib.

What is the point of all of this?  That each family, and each child, is
different.  My child, because of her history, has some of the needs which
other people's kids have during an illness, or after a move or trauma.
She'll outgrow it.  Linda, only you know the needs of your own child and
your own family.  Someone mentioned breastfeeding and that babies who are
breastfed might need to nurse more often.  Sophie, I think, asked what the
impact really is on YOU.  Only you know these things.  I do happen to agree
with Brian that (below) that letting a child cry for more than 10 minutes
or so can be  really traumatizing.  That's my feeling.  Some "experts"
would agree with me, some would not.  But I know that it is traumatizing to
ME.  I am constitutionally incapable of just letting my child cry and cry
for hours ... and with this child it would take hours, of that I'm sure.
I know that the modified "sleep training" of letting them cry for 2, 4, 10
minutes won't work for my daughter. I've tried it. She accomodates to many
things and goes along with many of my plans and wishes even if she does not
initially like all of them. She is generally, in fact, quite an amenable
and cheerful little person, willing to compromise and optimistic in nature.
But on this one subject she is adamant and, as mentioned, the doctor has
told me to just let her sleep with me for now.

Sometimes, by listening to others and seeing which viewpoint "resonates"
for us, we can pick out which approach is right *for our own family.*  Each
child and family is unique, and you *are* the expert for your family!

FYI, sometimes homeopathic remedies can be used to help calm a baby and
help them get back to sleep ...  you could try seeing a homeopathic
practitioner about getting a remedy to help baby sleep through.

Good luck.

P.S.  One more thing about the "letting them cry it out" debate ... my
daughter used to *hate* her car seat and cry every single time we went
anywhere.  I felt badly for her ... the doctor thought maybe going
backwards in the infant seat made her mildly naseous, although who knows
... but I was completely clear that she had to stay in her car seat for her
own protection.  Once we were lost on the Pennsylvania turnpike and she
screamed, full force and with great conviction about the trauma of my not
picking her up, for well over an hour.  I spoke to her and patted her, but
of course didn't pick her up because I really knew it was best for her to
stay in the car seat. (She has since, by the way, outgrown her dislike of
the car seat.)  Well, I suppose if someone is equally convinced that it is
best for their child to not be picked up or fed during the night, then
letting them cry is definitely the way to go.  But to me, not responding to
a baby's night waking is nowhere near as compelling as not responding to
their need to get out of the car seat.
_______________________________________________________________________

The following are some thoughts I've had about this issue...
I remember that at about the time I was contemplating how to deal
with my 6 month old waking up constantly during the night I read
a blurb somewhere about how the Yanomamo have completely different
sleep patterns from us - they tend to sleep for 4 hours at a time
around the clock.  That tidbit was a strong reminder to me that
our sleep patterns are as much a part of our culture as our biology.
It also was a strong reminder to me that humans are _quite_
adaptable.

I think most parents' primary concern about dealing with their childs
sleeping patterns is harming their child.  I imagine the concern
to be that they would traumatize or injure their child psychologically
by not doing anything at all or by trying to force something on their
child.  As a psychotherapist, I know that psychological trauma other
than major events (rape, earthquake etc) doesn't always happen the
way we think.  For a child to be traumatized by sleep training (or
lack of sleep training or sleeping in the parental bed) a whole
cluster of components needs to be in place.  The components have
to do with consistent parenting, appropriate physical affection
and the parents ability to convey to the child that the world is
a safe place.  This last is the probably the most powerful and the
one we have least control over because it is largely determined by
the parent's own frame of reference and internal state of mind.

Sometimes I watch myself and other parents channel their anxiety about
parenting through "things" like this.  For example, when I was pregnant
I kept obsessing over baby equipment until I realized that I was sort
of anxious and on some level tried to allay this anxiety by getting the
"right" equipment - I was unsure that I had the "right equipment" inside
myself to be a good parent.

Anyway, I finally decided that my child needed to learn to sleep.  I think she
was waking up a lot because she was pulling up to stand and kept pulling
herself up in her sleep and because she was teething and a bunch of other
stuff.  BUT, I had to go back to work and was getting really edgy from
own sleep being disrupted (I guess I'm not as adaptable).  So my husband
and I embarked on a Ferber inspired program.  Unfortunately, it took
4 weeks (!!) and it was really hard to persist when my daughter was
being persistent.  We did and she sleeps very well and we sleep well
and I feel good that she now has good habits which should benefit her
for the rest of her life.  

Parenting is hard because it makes you really question yourself, your
choices and because there are no real concrete ways to deal with your
child's development.  But I truly believe that "good enough" parenting
is better than good enough (I can cite all the psycho-babble theory
and practice to back that up) and the little injuries we inflict on
our child through ignorance or whatever actually help our children to
become resiliant and resourceful human beings.
______________________________________________________________________________

To add to the bedtime trauma discussion, I've done both. With my older son I 
tried the crying out routine and it worked. With my daughter, I tried by 
obnoxious downstairs neighbors kept it from working -- they would call to 
harass us at night, bang on the ceilings, etc., even though we tried to 
explain it would just last a short time and tried to schedule the process 
during their vacations away from home. Anyway, the banging, etc, woke my son 
and scared both children, so I just brought my daughter into bed with me (I 
never did this with my son). Luckily, she's a very still sleeper, but she 
would wake up every 3 hours or so for a bottle. After a short time, I told 
her she couldn't have the bottle until it was light out -- a concept she 
finally grasped. At least I got sleep until about 6:00 or so, but it was 
still a problem. Then, she couldn't go to sleep without me, a process which 
took about an hour. I would put her in her bed, but then see her about 4:00 
when she crawled in with me. Then another wake-up when it was "light out" 
for her bottle.
Anyway, about a month ago (after a year of nighttime suffering!) she said 
she wanted to go to her bed. My husband took her, gave her a bottle, then 
left. When she was finished the bottle, my husband went in to refill it, 
then left. She put the bottle on her bedside table without drinking it and 
went to sleep. We brought the bottle in our room for the morning -- we 
didn't want her to get used to sipping milk all night again. She came in 
when it was light. I was shocked that night, and have been every night 
since, because she has continued this pattern! She now goes to sleep more 
easily than my son.
This probably provides little comfort -- the process was a long one. But it 
does point out to me that the process of going to sleep is developmental and 
different for each child. My approach when faced with my pediatrician's 
advice on similar topics is to evaluate which is harder for me to live with 
 -- e.g., crying at night for at least a week or sleeping with the baby for 
about a year. With my son, his crying patterns, and his sleeping style (he's 
a kicker), the scale tipped one was. For my daughter, it tipped the other. 
And don't worry: your daughter will most likely sleep through the night, be 
out of diapers, and even eat vegetables by the time she's 30.
_______________________________________________________________________________


From: Martha

I have a three month old baby and the first two months were very hard. I was going through the samething you are going through right now. I think that the best remedy for this is to let the baby cry it out. As long as the baby is clean, well fed, and you can tell that he is not sick, listening to him/her cry becomes less painful. My doctor suggested to start by letting him cry for twenty minutes at the most. But you will be amazed after you see that it will only take a few times before he learns how to fall asleep on his own. He needs to learn how to do this because all he knows now is to fall asleep while you breastfeed. I do not know if you have introduced a bottle or if your baby does not take it. But it would be a good idea to do it if you can so that you can get some rest while your husband helps you feed the baby. Well, I hope this helps. Good luck!


From: Anita

I hope I'm not about to start some sort of big argument here, but I had to respond to the post about letting a child "cry it out". In my opinion, a 3 month old baby is much too young for this technique. Most of the current books on helping a child sleep through the night don't recommend letting a child cry it out before they're 6 months old. There are gentler methods you can use with younger babies... like having Daddy get up with them and try to get them back to sleep without nursing (which gradually teaches them not to be hungry at that time, and they stop waking up).

We successfully "Ferberized" our daughter at 7 months, so I'm not completely against crying it out, but I do think you need to wait until the child is developmentally ready for it.


From: Margy

I have three children. They were born in 1972, 1975, and 1976. I never let them cry themselves to sleep. I nursed them, cuddled them, had them sleep in my bed with me and my husband. There were many nights when there were 5 of us in the bed (that it was king sized helped but on vacations we sometimes all slept in a regular double bed). They all eventually learned to sleep thru the night and wanted to sleep in their own beds (except when there were bad dreams or we were particularly stressed for any reason). Now that they are 25, 23, and 22 I can tell you that the time I spent sleeping with my kids seems like it lasted a minute and it was a minute I wouldn't trade for anything. Parenthood goes on for rest the of your life and when all is said and done each stage lasts a pretty brief time and each stage can be terrible and wonderful at the same time. margy


From: Christenson

I was also uncomfortable with the cry it out method, but by around 9 months was desperate for more sleep. After reading up some on babies' sleep issues and thinking about my son's patterns, I realized that some of our sleep problems were really just bad habits. The first thing I attempted was to get Quinlan to sleep for his naps without him falling asleep at the breast. I still breastfeed him before his nap, but I put him into his crib before he falls asleep. For maybe a day or two he cried a little bit, but being reasonably secure in the facts that he was full, had a clean, dry diaper and had just had some close snuggling and breastfeeding, I let him cry himself to sleep. I was amazed at how fast this new routine was not only OK, but expected. He has rarely fallen asleep at the breast since; he usually pulls off, and that's my cue that he wants to get into his crib. I didn't even attempt any nighttime changes until this was firmly in place - a month or more. I discovered that this newfound ability to be able to go to sleep on his own naturally reduced nighttime wakings somewhat. I was more comfortable attempting this during the day, as at night things seem more dramatic and prolonged crying is more disruptful. During the day, if the crying is more than you can bear, step outside for a few minutes and take a deep breath! I would usually not let crying go on for more than 15 minutes or so, depending on if it seemed to be gradually lessening or not. Once I was ready to tackle nights, the only really big change I made was to not go right in if I heard some low level whimpering or crying. If he wants me, he has to really be serious. I find that he decides it's not worth it and just goes back to sleep many times. Quinlan is now almost 16 months and he usually needs to nurse once in a 11 - 12 hour sleeping period. Sometimes he sleeps straight through. I'm convinced that when he insists on having me come in at night that he's really hungry (he doesn't always eat well during the day.)


Please post anonymously

With my first baby I thought I was being a wonderful mom because I jumped at the first sign that my baby wasn't pleased - didn't even wait for a full cry. Same with my second. But by the time #3 came around, I had learned of the importance about having babies go to sleep on their own. I can't help but noticed these parents write in to say how they nurse the baby to sleep. That's the start of a bad habit. A year of that and your baby can develope teeth decay problems (but that's an issue outside of the sleep issue). All I can say is: BE STRONG- MOMS! You do want to wait until at least 5 months when you're baby is old enough to move by himself and move his blanket. At three months old a baby could be crying 'cause he wants to sleep on his belly and you have to get up and move him.( To let a baby cry it out and 'fix it' himself would be cruel because he CAN'T.) At the young age he is still dependent on you to make things better by changing his environment. By waiting a couple months he'll be able to do himself. So jump for him until about five months. However, after that infant stage, you really do need to let him learn to go to sleep on his own. And that means at the start of the night ,too. Don't get in the habit of having him learn to fall asleep by suckling. It's a learning experience for both you and him, just like riding a bike, it doesn't happen immediately, but if you keep trying, it happens. Be in the room for your baby, even stroke your baby, but DO NOT MANIPULATE his environment (his crib). He must make the decision as to where he's going to bundle his blanket, shove his teddy bear and so on. His random movements are not all that random. He is making decisions and fixing his problem himself. Let him do it - and he will do it. The term 'let him cry it out' is a misnomer it should really be "letting him work it out". As parents our job is to teach our children to grow and be independent , productive adults. This is just step one on a long , long road to independence. Unfortunately, the bike analogy isn't all that appropriate. Because when you learn to ride a bike, you know it forever. However, when it comes to learning to fall asleep, the skill may be learned and then quickly forgotten when a sickness occurs, or if nightmares begin or if there's a major change it the baby's environment that he can't change and so on.... Anyway, good luck, I'm glad I'm out of that stage. Now, if anyone could help me with pre-pubescent snottiness ......


From: Peggy

I never could do the "crying it out" thing-- I tried it a few times, and maybe it sortakinda started to work, but it broke my hard and seemed very unnatural to put such a tiny person through such a traumatic thing. It struck me that when my baby was as "old" as 9 months old, he had only just then been OUTSIDE the womb as long as he had been INSIDE! So, it seemed very unnatural to me that a baby would be comfortable being left in a strange room far away from his mom and I felt cruel making him cry and "just get used to it". I ended up opting for sleeping with the baby. This gave me more sleep in the way that whenever I heard my son cry, I didn't have to stumble out of bed and go to the next room-- I could just put my arm out, feel my baby, cover him up if he was cold, take the covers off if he was sweating; and very easily I would know whether he was ok or not, without having to fully wake up or even open my eyes; thus, I could get back to sleep more easily.

To help me get more sleep, we went to formula and oatmeal at bedtime when he was about 6 months to fill him up with food that lasted longer, which would carry him longer through the night before waking (or staying awake) because of hunger. Hopefully you have a partner that you can wake and get to take the baby in the middle of the night to feed her. If you are both working, then the baby night duty should be shared so that you can function more optimally (ie, get more sleep). If you do not have a partner, I feel all the more for you. I believe my son slept better when he was in my bed with me; if he started to wake, feeling me right next to him was enough comfort that he could (often) fall back asleep on his own. I take great pride and joy in the fact that my son, now 2 and a half, is very well adjusted, secure, and has been able to, over time and on his own, decide that he can venture farther and farther away from me and he's ok. It all works out, but it is (in my opinion) all based on trust and total security in the early months and couple years of life. I sleep much better now, but I realize that's about 2 years down the road for you.

Most important, you have to do what you feel is the best thing for you and your baby. Don't do what others say (Ferber, Sears, anyone) unless it rings true with you. Mothers know best, and mothers know their own child best too. Don't ever forget that. I've found that my only regrets have been the times I didn't trust my own instincts.

Hang in there. It gets easier, and you'll get more and more sleep as time goes on.


From: Craig

We've got an 20 month old boy. Never tried the Ferber method. Basically, every evening we read him a few stories, give him an evening snack and bottle, and then he falls asleep in arms of the person who gave him the bottle and we put him in bed. He's had this routine since he was about 6 months.

He also slept through the night until recently when a change in daycare upset him, so he now wakes up briefly around 3AM.

The major downside is that he really wants an adult around when he goes to sleep. So if he's having trouble falling asleep (upset stomache, whatever) you can end up spending an hour sitting with him until he nods off.

No claims this works for anyone but us.


From: Jannette

When my son was about 5/6 months old, I bought the Ferber book. I wanted to try it out during the day, because my son had never slept for more than 15 minutes at the time (power naps) and I was exhausted. I tried to let him cry it out. After 5 minutes, he stopped, but when I peeked, he was laying on the bed with his eyes and mouth open, gasping for air. I thought he had choked, and when I picked him up, I promised myself (and him) that I would never do it again. For some baby's and parents, crying it out might work, but it did not do it for us. For the longest time, or so it seemed, my son would sleep next to me so he could nurse throughout the night. This was fine with me, I knew it would not last forever. Sometimes I could not even remember when or how many times he had nursed, because he would help himself. When he was about 8/9 months old, I stared trying something different, because I really did not want him to nurse al night. I would nurse him in the living room, and than lay with him on the bed (with his blanky in between us) until he fell asleep. The one thing that helped though was that he had a blanky and a pacifier. I got him used to a blanky by taking it with us every day since he was born. I wanted him to have something to soothe himself if he needed it. After about 2 weeks, I would lay with him until he was almost asleep. After a few more weeks, I would put him in my bed, and walk away. The funny thing is that he never cried, because I did it all gradually. I weaned him very slowly from his night nursings too. When he was a little over 1, he started sleeping through the night, and up until he was about 22 months, he would nurse only at 6 am in the morning, which was fine to me. I am glad that I never let him cry it out. My son is almost three now, and he is the best sleeper, and has slept through the night ever since. I never have to lay with him until he falls asleep, and he never wakes up but for a few seconds to find his blanky. I can put him down in (my bed, but I do not mind that) bed and walk away, and he will fall asleep on his own. So, eventually, they will adjust on their own. I do think that having a blanky, or some kind of "lovey" will help them feel secure. Try picking something soft and start carrying it around and put it against your baby's face when you are nursing, and just pack it wherever you go. I know it sounds silly, but it helped for me. Keep up the work, letting your baby crying it out only works when you are 100% percent behind it. If you have your doubts about the method, it won't work. But I feel that this is true for everything. You have to want to do it. Good luck.


From: Anita

Since I wrote the note where I mentioned ferberizing my then 7.5 month old, I'll try to answer the question in the most recent newsletter. All of what I say is completely my own opinion and what worked for our family... I don't want to sound like I know what's best for everyone :-). Basically, my husband and I got to the stage where we couldn't take the sleeplessness any more. I also had read Ferber, Sears, etc. (actually, a really good one is Weissbluth "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child," which stresses the real need for a child to learn how to sleep in order to be well-rested enough during the day to play and learn.) Not only were we (the parents) exhausted; our daughter was, too. She was frequently crabby in the evenings. It was hard, emotionally. You have to be committed to it because the worst thing to do is to let your baby cry for 1/2 hr. or whatever and then give in and nurse her... the baby just learns to cry longer. It's best if your partner (assuming you have one) is also very committed to the plan. That said, after you've done it one night it gets much easier... you see that your kid does fall asleep, and that they're not mad at you or traumatized the next morning. My statement that it's ok for babies over 6 months but not under is based on what Ferber writes and on what my pediatrician says.

One side note: in my mothers' group of 5 moms, we all ended up ferberizing. Most held out longer than I did, but the babies' lack of sleeping all lasted longer than their parents' patience with it. (The oldest was 12 months when they did it.) I would be interested to know if there are many babies/toddlers who sleep through the night who have never had to cry it out.

In theory, I liked Sears' ideas and the family bed, but our daughter never slept well in our bed. (And I never slept well when she was there).

Anyway, this has gotten long. What my advice boils down to is to follow your heart and your gut. If you really want to ferberize, it will work. If you're not ready to do it yet (or ever), don't.


From: Lee

I once made an attempt to use the Ferber method with my son; I was a total failure. I just couldn't stand it. He would get hysterical and throw himself at the side of his crib (it has been awhile, but I think he was 8 or 9 months old). I do know people for whom this has worked; not all methods will work for all parents or all children. Someone asked if a child will eventually adjust to a new sleep schedule on his own; the answer is yes, but it may take a while! I ended up moving my son into my bed, where he stayed until he was 3. He often slept through the night by the time he was 12 months old, but didn't do it regularly until he was 2 1/2. Fortunately for me, when he did wake up it was just to make sure all was well with his world and he usually went back to sleep fairly quickly after a snuggle. I now have a 4-month-old daughter, and hope that she will learn by example (they will share a room in a few more months); if she doesn't, I expect I'll just wait it out again.


From: Sophie

Q: ... to put it another way, has anyone noticed that a baby will eventually adjust to different sleeping patterns on his/her own without using some "cry it out" variation?

The answer to this question is a resounding yes. I have two sons, ages 3yrs 3mos and 6mos. The older one woke frequently during the night as a baby, the younger has been a great sleeper from the beginning waking only once a night. The older one both "slept thru the night" on his own as well as made the transition into his own bed completely on his own. He has also been the best sleeper at his daycare (part time), only recently beginning to give up his long nap. We have a family bed with the crib in the side-car attachment. The baby sleeps between us most of the time, as did his older brother until he got into the "mine" phase at which point he moved himself to the crib. The most difficult period with the older one I found was between 5 and 9 months. This is because he was teething up a storm, waking frequently, and I was starting to quesiton whether or not to try the Sears' hold-them-while-they're-crying approach. Learning to sleep thru nursing saved my sanity during those months. After that he gradually cut down his wakings and woke only once during the night before "sleeping thru" completely at 20mos. By that time I was so good at sleeping thru his wakings myself that we didn't notice at first! We got bunk beds on his 3rd birthday and that's where he sleeps now. So, just a first hand account to show that you don't *have* to "teach" a child to sleep.


From: Mary

I struggled a lot with this. We tried the crying it out routine several times and it never worked. It led quickly to hysteria and vomiting. This was when Claire was about 8 or 10 months old. We went for over two hours sometimes trying this method to no avail. When I would go in to comfort her (not pick her up, etc.), I would reach over to rub her back and she would climb up my arm to be held (think of how it would look if you tried to help a cat out of the water and you have a good idea of how Claire and I looked). It seemed cruel and fruitless, so we just decided to do whatever worked for us. Sometimes I think with some kids in some situations you just have to let go of all the books. She wasn't nursing anymore, but wanted a bottle. I diluted the milk more and more (I was worried about tooth decay) until she was drinking mostly water. Some nights she woke up once or twice (sometimes several times when teething or sick), sometimes not at all. She would often come to bed with us which was fine. The interruption to our sleep was brief. By the time she was two, we decided to take the bottle away and she learned to fall asleep with a pacifier in our bed after one of us read to her. She's nearing 2 1/2 and if she wakes up in the night, she just finds her pacifier and goes back to sleep. It didn't happen over night, but she did find her own rhythm. She needed a certain kind of comfort and when she got it, it was fine. I would have loved it had she responded to the Ferber method, but she didn't. I wish I hadn't made myself as crazy over this as I did!


From: Natalia

My daughter is 5 years old now, and there were more then just few times, when we had to change her regime and schedule. What we realized, that the age when you do these changes is important. The things that didn't work during the first year, worked nicely when she was older (like potty training). My daughter was not a good sleeper, when she was a baby. Waked up every two hours and I nursed her to sleep. Then she began to sleep longer, but still waked up sometimes during night for nursing. We tried many times to change this habbit without much success. We let her cry, we sang to her, we walked with her ... She fell asleep for some time, but then waked up again. And everything from the beginning. Every time we could tolerate only two or three nights without sleep, and always came back to nursing. Now I think that she was really hungry. She was tiny and active, and I think couldn't eat enough food during day to sleep through the whole night. When she was around 12 months old we tried again, and suddenly it worked. And without big effort from our side. I don't want to tell, that you have to wait so long until the baby will sleep the whole night. Some children are ready, when they are 2 or 3 months old. So it is worth to try. But if the baby constantly resists, may be you try it later. I think it much easier to change the habbit, when the child is ready, and you don't have to struggle with nature.

By the way, my daughter wakes up sometimes even now: to go to the bathroom, or she can loose her cover, or she has a cold ..., hundreds of reasons. But now she can handle most of them by herself and go to sleep without wakening up us. I think eventully all children learn how to sleep through night, it just happens for some children later, than for others.


From: Jeanne

I am glad when Ferber and other methods work for some parents, but I feel strongly that every momma and daddy have to find their own way with each child. I read all the books that talked about getting baby to sleep through the night. Some, like "What To Expect The First Year," claimed that babies who don't learn to sleep through the night will have sleep disorders later. (Oh posh) I agonized over the whole matter and kept thinking I was doing something wrong by nursing my baby to sleep every night and going to her when she woke up.

Finally, as the years went by I realized that I had to do what I could do and what was right for me. I stopped taking the books so seriously. I was inspired by an article in an issue of Mothering magazine a few years back. It was titled "The Truth about Nightwaking." It mentions, among other things, that "sleeping through the night" officially means 5 straight hours of sleep for a baby. It made me feel much better. I will try to dig it out if anyone is interested. Anyway, here is what worked for me.

1- Nursing to sleep the first year or so.

2- Putting baby in a crib next to our bed. This was what I called "Alternative Family Bed." I am a light sleeper and little kicks from a child in bed wake me up all night. I wanted her to be near us, however.

3- When she woke up when she was very little, I would nurse her back to sleep or rock her back to sleep. By the time I realized that I was getting a bit too tired to do this, about 7 months, she started standing in her crib during the night and crying. I could not get her to lie down again and I could not stand the crying. Patting her on the back did not work.

4- After several months, we lowered the crib rail on my side of the bed. Then if she woke up I would hoist her into bed with us and she would go to sleep nursing or with a cuddle. This would happen later and later in the night, about 4:00 a.m. or so, so I could get a few more winks in before I had to get up. I wish I had done this earlier instead of getting up to rock her back to sleep.

5- After she started walking at 13 months and then running, she slept better and more consistently all night long. Later, when she started climbing and becoming more active, she slept even better, like a log in fact, for 8 to 9 hours.

6- Around her 2nd birthday, we switched to a toddler bed next to our bed. She goes to sleep holding my hand or reading a book while Momma reads her own book. I am getting through many novels now this way. Sometimes I get up and do things after she goes to sleep. Other nights I just go down when she does and I get better rest.

7- Now that she is in Pre-school, she is so worn out at the end of the day that she flops in bed and is out like a light. She is also becoming more independent and is starting to ask us to get out of the bedroom so that she can go to sleep by herself (Yahoo!)

I have to mention that I had a lot of support from my husband through all this and I was able to get by with less sleep in the early days. It might not work so well the next time around for me or for other people who really can't handle less sleep.

Hope this helps.


From: John

Two posts that mentioned "Ferberizing" make me wonder if people are confusing Dr. Ferber's method with letting the baby "cry it out." The two have almost nothing in common. Letting them cry it out is simple, and cruelly difficult, or maybe just cruel. Ferber's method has two parts, cognitive and behavioral:

The cognitive part is, no one is born knowing how to fall asleep. A baby's problem is that she wakes up during the night, as everyone does to some degree, and doesn't know how to fall asleep again. She has to learn how, and it's not easy.

The behavioral part is, help your baby learn this difficult lesson in a way that keeps the challenge manageable for both you and the baby: with repetition and reassurance. Establish a rock-solid bedtime routine; this will cue your baby that it's time to fall asleep. When he wakes, don't make him cry all that long--just a few minutes the first night, then longer on each successive night, up to a MAXIMUM of fifteen or twenty minutes. (Note the difference here between letting them cry it out.) Every few minutes, or every fifteen minutes, go in and speak soothingly; reassure the baby that you haven't disappeared. The baby will learn, by experience, that he has not been abandoned, that you WILL respond eventually, but that it's generally less trouble to just--voila!--fall asleep.

It's also important that baby learn that the kitchen is closed for the night. I noticed that both the mothers who wrote in the last issue nurse their babies to sleep. I know that comes naturally, but really--if you were a baby, and the only way you went to sleep was nursing--would you ever learn another way? And if every time you woke up in the night you got to nurse--wouldn't you wake up all night long? Our first child did, until we caught on. Babies know a good deal when they see one.


From: Jann

When we asked our pediatrician about sleeping through the night with my son who was 4 months old at the time and waking every 1-3 hours a night to feed, she said that by 4-6 months the babies have the stomach capacity to last through the night without feeding, but the whole family would have to be ready to "sleep train". That readiness came for us when he was 6 months old and I was feeling near 80 yrs old from lack of energy and sleep. We bought a book recommended to us by a friend called "Helping Your Child Sleep Through the Night" by Joanne Cuthbertson & Susie Schevill (from the Bay Area). It is a kinder gentler version of Ferber and what I liked most about it is that they break down sleep problems by age groups and developmental groups so that you can really pinpoint the solution. They also give step by step instructions which help to reduce the likelihood of an argument at 3am as to what to do now. And truth be told it was really my husband who did the training. I had to wear ear-plugs the first few nights because I could not stand even 2 minutes of crying (the most he cried was 35 minutes). It worked after about a week of decreasing frequency and duration of crying and we've all been a lot more rested ever since.

A friend of mine did not want to try crying it out at all. Her baby slept fine until age 7 months and then she woke up every 2-3 hours for feeding. After 6 months of lack of sleep she discovered that when she put her baby on the futon on the floor to sleep, she began to sleep through the night again. Her theory was that the crib was too confining for her 13-month old who rolled around a lot.

It helped me to think that I was giving my son the means for independence. And I have to say that he did seem happier when he was sleeping through the night! I hope you find something in all these responses that helps! Good luck!


From: Andrea

i always had problems from the beginning, getting my son (now 7) to sleep through the night. I can't tell you how little sleep i got the first several years. i tried the feber crying method at different points in time, and read everything from feber to sears i finally found a book i really like, partly because it includes older children and not just infants. it is called "Helping Your Child win Sleep Battles" (or something like that) it has ideas for different ages and the tone doesn't make you feel that you are remiss as a parent if you are having this problem. I hope you are able to work this problem out earlier than i did. Good luck and sweet dreams!


From: Laura

It's important to remember that it is very beneficial for babies (not just parents) to learn to sleep through; they are happier, learn better, get along better with friends, etc. And to remember that in nature babies grew up in families with LOTS of little ones and didn't receive nearly the attention and worry that we give them now, and they had to cry sometimes.

And it's important to note that doing some crying for four or five days, like for a total of 90 minutes or something, is not forever. Careful and loving structure is something kids can understand more easily than the random and frantic struggling we do when we can't figure out what to do Try reading a lot, even with a 5-month-old, then singing; then try visiting at scheduled intervals, 5 minutes, then 10, etc., (maybe singing BRIEFLY each time you go in), maybe play a favorite tape, whatever, and do it at exactly the same time each night -- in other words, yes, highly modified Ferber. Whenever we've continued to nurse or bottle-feed our kids to sleep, that has been the only way they can stay asleep (same thing as any tool, like the carseat, that isn't under their control, vs. their thumb), which means a cycle we can't break all night long.

All the same, I wouldn't ferberize intensely until a kid is at least 6, maybe even 8 months old.


From: Melinda

I "ferberized" my daughter at 9 months. She was a big baby & I was sure she didn't need a middle of the night feeding anymore & my pediatrician agreed. The first night she cried for 1 1/2 hours. It was really miserable, I sat in the living room watching TV & drinking a glass of wine & kept telling myself that I was doing the best thing for both of us. The worst part of this method for me was that each time I went in & patted her & then left again she would start crying *louder* -- she'd get really mad & wake herself up even more. She was fine the next morning, though (babies don't hold a grudge). The next night she cried for 45 minutes, the third night for about 5 minutes, and she'd slept thru the night ever since. She is now a happy, confident 8-year-old.


As the mother of a six month old, I'll be very interested in hearing what others have to say. So far, I'm a big fan of sleeping with the baby. We've been three-in-a-bed since she was born and I am the only mother I know who feels well rested almost all the time (and I've always needed more sleep than most people!). Here's what we do: We get her ready for bed around 8 pm. She falls asleep around 8:30 pm in our arms or in her bouncy seat - wherever she happens to be. Then, when we're ready for bed (which is not long after than), my husband and I take turns getting ready for bed, shuffling her between us if she's fallen asleep in our arms, and then climb into bed. Occasionally, but not usually, there are tears if she's woken up in Daddy's arms - nighttime seems to be a very specific "I need Mommy" time. Generally, she a very happy girl who almost never cries. Does your daughter need to go into a crib at 7:30? Could she just fall asleep on a mat on the floor, or in a reclining seat, somewhere in the midst of your activities? Then, when you're ready, you could scoop her up and into bed you go. Does she need to fall asleep at 7:30 at all? Could she sleep in later, get more or longer naps, etc.?

I've heard the dire warnings as well as the gentle concern that we'll never get her out of our bed. I've also noticed that the American parenting culture is obsessed with sleep. I think it's because we try to push our children into sleeping independently too fast. I've also noticed that whether a family has always shared a bed or always slept in seperate rooms, the children almost universally want be in bed with mom and dad. I think that's just the way children are. Heck, that's the way most people are - we prefer to snuggle at night. Best wishes to you.


Each child is so different what works for one may not be the best for another....so I think that consistancy is probably most important in whatever you choose to do. What worked with our, now almost 10 year old son, was to let him cry it out. I followed the books....started putting him in his crib for naps, put him in his crib and I stayed in the room and played, talked, etc....then put him in for bed time. He usually went to sleep but it was the middle of the night screaming that was really hard. I went in every 5 miinutes (to the second....I watched the clock) and said "Mommy's here, it's OK, I love you...go to sleep now", very sweetly and left. I didn't touch him. It was absolutely heart wrenching, but eventually he'd go to sleep. 20 minutes of crying like that was like an eternity to me. It took maybe a week or so till he was sleeping through the night in his crib. We started earlier though, i think around 6 months. The fact that your baby was with a foster parent as an infant before coming to you would likely make a difference in her emotional comfort level, but I think if she sees that you are always there the next time she wakes up (ie: in the morning) she'll start feeling safer and also be able to comfort herself to sleep. I hope this is helpful to you. Good luck.

PS My 2nd son, now 5 1/2, slept in his crib soundly with no fuss from the get go, but later on, 2-3 yrs, started waking up and coming into our bed some nights. Go figure!.


I just wanted to add my two cents to say that I think you are doing the right thing by letting her learn to sleep on her own, and 2-3 minutes of crying will not harm her in any way. You might get people telling you that you have to sleep with her, but you need to be able to function in your life too in order to be a good mommy. Since you said she is still stressed in the morning, and that taking her to bed with you then seems to really help her feel better during the day, my suggestion, for what its worth, would be to continue to do that, and then at night, continue to reassure her that everything is all right by calling out to her. We had the same problem with my son, and I agonized as you are, but I really found that doing a consistent bed time routine, giving him lots of love and cuddles before putting him down, and being very calm and reassuring when I went in and patted him (at certain minute intervals) or called out to him helped. I would get the Ferber book--even though you might not follow the routine, it really made me much more confident just understanding sleep cycles, etc. Its quite good on that. Also, could the baby be picking up your anxiety? That might be some of why she's crying. Finally, since she's fairly recently adopted, she might just need some extra love and cuddles to help her feel secure. I wouldn't beat yourself up over this--keep to what seems to be a loving and compassionate routine, and remember that a few minutes of crying every night is not remembered and not harmful and very normal. Good luck.
A number of people have already written to encourage you to go ahead and go to sleep with your child. I wanted to add a couple of thoughts along similar lines, but first, I want to acknowledge that you said very clearly that it's not possible for you to do that. I'm imagining it's already overwhelming to become a parent and deal with everything new and old on your plate, most especially as a single parent. I'm wondering whether there's a way for you to reach out to family and friends for support at this time so that you can follow your own instincts to meet your child's needs. Perhaps friends, even neighbors, could help a bit with household chores, shopping, calls, whatever it is that may keep you working past your daughter's bedtime?

By way of further encouragement for this path, it seems important to have the perspective that your daughter may very well not need to have you stay in the room for very long. Over time (a week? a month? two months?), if she senses that you are attentive to her needs and she feels more secure, she will sleep more deeply and will stop waking up every time you walk out (this is from my personal experience with my son). So this may be just a transitional period, one that in my heart is well worth going to lots and lots of trouble for.

I read an article someone wrote in the NY Times a while back about Dr. Ferber, and in it Ferber himself says that when parents tell him they've let their children cry for long periods of time, he thinks that's cruel! He no longer objects to the family bed -- he believes different ways work for different families. This seems important to keep in mind, especially if you feel pressure to NOT sleep with your child based on people saying it's bad for the child or for you. What is important is to listen to what this particular child is needing -- a child that is happy in a crib can sleep in a crib, but a child who is not may need something different.

Crying is truly wonderful, and it's great to support children in staying freely connected to their feelings and expressing them fully. However, two distinctions seem important here. First: crying alone versus crying with supportive company. As an adult, I like to cry alone sometimes, but still I often prefer a loving presence with me! I don't understand why we think children should learn to sooth themselves so early when most of us, reared this way, are so unable to do so without numbing ourselves. My partner and I totally try to encourage our son to express his feelings fully, to cry things out, etc., but not alone when so young.

Second: there's a difference between crying because our needs are not getting met and we're trying to communicate our needs, and crying to release feelings. My 2-year old falls and cries from pain or surprise, and the tears release the pain (he talks about it that way). But a child crying at bedtime, in my opinion, is expressing real needs: perhaps for physical and emotional connection, safety, trust, and confidence that her or his needs matter and will be attended to. That they eventually stop crying does not mean that they learned to sooth themselves -- it may only mean that they have given up on getting their needs met. Children are resilient and may thrive despite this giving up, but it seems to me that it creates much pain and mistrust.

Trying to meet children's needs is different from supplying their every wish. It's about doing your best to figure out what your child's needs are versus her or his desires, and focusing your attention and resources on trying to meet those needs as much as possible.

I know this topic is so controversial and want to state clearly that I do believe that every parent needs to consider not only the child's but also her and his own needs. So despite my strong convictions, I know that family bed is not for everyone. I've read over time many posts here that support letting the child cry to sleep (with various methods), and this time wanted to say my piece.

Good luck to you and everyone else struggling with this issue.


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