The Gift of Sleep: Our Story of Respectful Sleep Learning.

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11-2013 Update: I have recently changed the name of this process and this port to sleep ‘learning’. I received some very negative responses and personal attacks for writing this story but received MORE responses of appreciation as well as sleep learning stories so I have decided to keep this up here. If you would like to read more of these positive responses, please check out this follow-up post.

My two-year-old son sleeps 11-13 hours straight through the night.

You must be thinking that I have an easy baby; I DO NOT! My son is actually quite challenging. This took work, lots and lots and lots of work.

Rewind a year and a half to when my son would wake me every hour to nurse. That’s right, EVERY SINGLE HOUR I would nurse him to sleep for 20 minutes, take 20 minutes to settle myself back to sleep, and then wake up 20 minutes later to do it again. He was never well-rested and felt miserable during the day. I was never well-rested and felt completely and utterly miserable during the day to the point where I battled crippling postpartum depression. We reached a point where we realized that we had created these bad sleep habits and we needed to change before we all fell apart. After many no-cry solutions and failed co-sleeping attempts, after tons of much rocking and shushing this is where we landed! I want to share my story of giving our family the gift of sleep.

Preparation: At four months we had 2 pediatricians and my own naturopath tell us to give some light sleep training a try. We did extensive research and gave the matter a LOT of thought before finally deciding to give it one month; if it didn’t work we’d try something else. First, we talked to our son about the change and made his sleep space really nice and peaceful. My husband and I sat and wrote down a plan based on the books Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Our overall plan was to listen to him and learn how to discern sleepy cries from sad or hurting cries. His best interest was always in our minds so we would ask ourselves: “Will it serve him if we go in or if we stay out.” Here is a really great post on how to prepare for such a change.

Application: The first night was hard, he cried for about an hour as we went in at 3-5 minute intervals. He woke often. I cried too. I nursed him no more than every 3 hours and my husband went in when it was not time to nurse. Each time he woke he cried for another 30 minutes.

The second night he cried for 30 minutes and we went in at 5-10 minute intervals. He woke 3 times that night. Each time I nursed him and put him to sleep awake and he cries for 30 minutes, my husband went in at 5-10 minute intervals and reassured him.

The third night he cried for 15 minutes and then slept for 5 hours before waking to nurse. After being nursed he cried for 15 minutes and then slept for another 7 hours!!!! (Side note: I did not sleep straight through because I was used to nursing him frequently and was VERY sore. I did not pump but slept with ice cold wash clothes.)

He continued this pattern for a few weeks and then he reverted back to waking 3 times a night. He went to bed at 6, woke around 11-12 to nurse and then again at 4 and woke for the day at 7.

At 6 months we changed this. I wasn’t sleeping well with the midnight and 4 AM feeding and was beginning to really struggle with postpartum depression (read my story here). So we started doing a “dream feed” him at 10:30 and he slept until 4. When he woke my husband went in and soothed him and he cried for 30 minutes. The next day we did the same and this time, or any time after, he did not wake at 4 to feed again. One main reason why we knew it was okay to cut this 4 AM feeding was because when I would nurse him then, he wouldn’t even drink the milk that I let down. So he’d go back to sleep and I would have to stay up and pump.

At 10 months I was feeling like waking him to fed him was doing him a disservice. He ate plenty of solids during the day and did not seem to need that feeding. One night we experimented and did not wake him and he never woke us either! He slept from 6pm-6am at this point. YAY!

At 11 months he started waking at 5am which was really to early for us, so we made another change. It took us a little while but we realized that we was an 11 hour sleeper most of the time (about 1/3 of the time he sleeps 12 hours and sometimes we even get a 13 hour night!) So we put him down at 7 and after a week of a very tired baby, he started sleeping until 6 again.

NOW, we are at a point where he goes to bed between 7:30-8 and wakes between 6:30-7:30. (Though from time to time when sick, teething or some other random reason he has a hard time napping so this will change a bit.) He will still wake at night (or talk or fuss in his sleep) but now he has the confidence to go back to sleep without our reassurance so we don’t even go in unless his cries say he is hurting or scared. He falls asleep without crying about 50% of the time and will fall asleep within 5 minutes (usually under a minute). About 25 % of the time we sense that he NEEDS our presence to fall asleep so we stay and rub his back. The rest of the time he just WANTS to stay up to play and our presence is actually distracting him, so he will cry when we leave and settle down to sleep on his own (usually when we have guests or family over).

Night is for sleep in our house. It’s very important to let Mommy (and daddy) sleep because I struggle with insomnia and am a very, very light sleeper. I also am NOT a good mother if I am severely sleep deprived. It wasn’t until after this process that I realized that my son is a light sleeper too. He wakes a lot from little sounds and now he is able to drift back to sleep easier knowing that he has learned this skill.

Helping my son learn to fall asleep was one of the best things we have done for him and for us thus far. It was very hard emotionally during this process because I had been taught to fear my sons voice and had to learn to let that go and actually listen to what he was saying. We did not CIO, we listened and respected his cries; every night before I leave I tell him that “I am always listening and will be here if you really need me.” This isn’t a science or a set method, this is simply our realization that our son cries before going to sleep sometimes and that our instincts will guide us on how to support him.

Want to read more stories about sleep learning?

Mama Eve on Sleep – “I was so wrapped up in making sure I comforted my children, and let them know I was there for them, and “helping” them go to sleep that I never realized I was in the way of letting them sleep on their own.”

Science of Mom on Sleep – “At this point, I finally had to admit that my presence wasn’t helping Baby C in her struggle to fall asleep. This is a very difficult thing for a new mother to do. For the first time, I had to accept that I couldn’t buffer her from every struggle in life. She needed a little space to learn to sleep on her own.”

Holistic Squid on Sleep – “Admittedly, in the beginning I missed staying in my own bed through endless nights of nursing. But by only nine weeks, my daughter had begun to sleep from 10pm until 7am, and naps nearly always occurred like clockwork. At bed times my Contented Little Baby would lay down awake and drift off to sleep with a smile.”

Eileen Henry on Sleep – “The second thing I recommend is to try to distinguish between struggle and suffering in the child’s cries. Since struggle is inherent in all development, we can be confident that our child can develop a healthy relationship with struggle by allowing them to have their struggles. If at any time you hear what sounds like suffering, by all means go in and offer soothing and comfort to your child. We will always respond to suffering, but we can do so without “rescuing” or “fixing” the child’s sleep.”

Thank you for reading our story and I hope that it is helpful for you. I tried to be brief so please comment if you have any questions. If you would like to fix any sleep issues you may have and found this helpful, I offer sleep learning coaching. Please read more about this here. 

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54 thoughts on “The Gift of Sleep: Our Story of Respectful Sleep Learning.

  1. Thank you for sharing your journey. This is such a hot topic and it can be hard to open up to others about it, I find. I did not sleep train my first daughter until she was over 3 years old because of all the worry of trauma I would do to her. Now I realize what a disservice I did by sticking a boob in her mouth every time she cried rather than listening to her and helping her to learn to sleep. Now with our second daughter, I am doing things differently, but old habits die hard! I really like how you laid out what you did with your son at what age. Though I know our journey will be unique, it’s helpful to see the guide-posts of others who’ve travelled ahead. :)

    • Thank you for reading my story. It is true that your story will be unique to your family. Ive had a few people ask how we have dealt with sleep and I always like to keep it simple because it will be different for everyone. Good luck in your sleep journey with your daughter; I would love to hear your story when she is older. :)

  2. My son is 17 months old. I follow his sleep rhythm and he is becoming a better sleeper all on his own; I don’t interfere or do any type of “sleep training.”

    1-3 months he slept 5pm-5pm, he would wake up at 10pm, 2am, 3am, 4am and 5am to nurse.

    4-10 months he slept 6pm-5:30pm, he would wake up every hour to hour and a half to nurse.

    10-15 months he slept 6pm-5:30pm, he would wake up at 9pm, 12am, 2am, 4am and 5am he would nurse till 5:30am and wake up

    16-now all of the sudden he became a better sleeper. Note: day light savings. Goes to bed at 8pm wakes up 1am, 4am, and 6:30am and nurses till he wakes up. Several days he even slept through the night! Then his cuspids started to come in and he started to wake up more frequently.

    It almost seems to me that infants go through so many “painful” developmental stages (GERD, maturing of digestive tract, teething etc…)during their first 1 – 1 1/2 that some babies just want/need pain relief. I think (based on what I read) that the pain is relieved through suckling on the breast. I say that because my son would only really nurse well once or twice per night (10 – 15 minutes) the rest of the time he would suckle for 5-10 seconds and fall back asleep. This suggests that he is suckling not because he is hungry, but because he needs comfort. Furthermore, since he sleeps some nights better than other nights this suggests that he only needs comfort when he wakes up frequently. I also notices that some of these nights were related to his teething and colds. The nights during which he mostly sleeps he must have felt content because he did not wake up.

    In short, my experience has been that my son woke up/wakes up for a reason. Sometimes it’s impossible to tell what that reason is but I noticed he became a better sleeper without me having to “sleep train” him. It will be interesting to see if he’ll finally start sleeping consistently through the night without my interference to “sleep train” him.

    As a side note, before I got pregnant and til my son turned 12 months, I had no clue what “Attachment Parenting” was. I read a bunch of breastfeeding books and basically, followed my instincts for the first year. Then I saw a magazine cover with a toddler nursing is when I learned about AP. I feel relieved that I finally found a style of parenting that was more in line with what I have been doing.

    • Vickie,
      Thank you for sharing your story. It’s great that you found something that worked for your family. I think there are so many parenting styles and philosophies out there so that we can all take what we need from them. I’d love to hear about how his sleep develops in time.
      Sydney

  3. I would like to know your thoughts on SIDS (babies who are subjected to controlled crying are more likely to die from SIDS due to elevated heart rate, temperature and stress)??? What are your thoughts on babies who cry for more then 5 min have the same cortisol levels then that of a baby in pain? Or that babies who are cc have lower brain responses and are more likely to have attachment issues? I find it strange that you didn’t look into this training? That is not Something that strikes me as an educated decision…why should anyone take advice off of someone who didn’t look at the side effects? And please tell me how you respect an infant who is crying for you? Just to be held and near your breast (his greatest source of comfort by the 1 hour feedings). That’s not respectful. Did it occur to you that perhaps your child had a birth injury like mine did? She fed every hr too and I have 4 other children to look after. Instead of control crying I looked into more respectful ways to help her and our chiro found out she had tore a muscle in delivery and fed because it helped sooth her pain. I had a normal, natural birth too. Birth injuries are so common and it’s sad to see so many babies ignored or cc to get them to sleep. There are much gentler ways to assist a baby to sleep as well…pinky McKay and Elizabeth Pantleys spring to mind…no crying involved. Imagine that!

    • I’m sorry that you disagree with my methods. I won’t get into the science of sleep training but will leave you with this post from Science of Mom: “In a study published in the journal Pediatrics this week [1], an Australian research group found no evidence of harm in kids that were sleep-trained, 5 years after the fact.”

      We actually did try all other methods you listed. As for the crying? He actually cried far less after he was sleeping well. He was happy during the day instead of wailing in exhaustion. So I’m sure that he went through a period of being stressed from the change, but seeing his overall happiness increase dramatically affirmed my instincts for his sleep needs.

      It seems as though sleep deprivation didn’t affect you the way it affected me. I was suffering from a pretty serious case of Postpartum Depression which most definitely had an impact on my son. Having depression really does cause damage to the bond between mother and child (as it did) and now that I am healthy and well-rested I enjoy spending time with my child instead of feeling resentment. This is the take away I give you: if it works for your family, great. If it’s not working, it has to change.

      • Kudos to you for your respectful replies to those who are disagreeing with you. I am reading your story after 10.5 months of difficult sleep, and PPD, so I am inspired to move ahead with slowly allowing my son to learn to fall asleep more on his own. It’s all a dance….thanks!

        • Thank you Jamie,

          How are you handling the lack of sleep and PPD? I hope that you have a support network to help you cope. I really do wish that for you. Do what your instincts tell you and try not to listen to naysayers. One day your son will sleep and so will you. I wish you the best of luck in your upcoming ‘dance.’
          :)Sydney

      • Hi Sydney I’m not criticising your parenting, I think it sounds like you’ve been fairly responsive to your babies cries and that real CIO advocates wouldn’t be responding as you’ve described. I do however think you should read that research before you quote it.
        Here are a couple of well thought out responses to that research that to me show that research was utter bunk:
        http://www.phdinparenting.com/2012/09/18/the-infant-sleep-and-cry-it-out-study-that-proved-nothing/#.UFpdy41lTEV
        http://www.evolutionaryparenting.com/a-not-so-blind-review-of-the-recent-cio-research/

        • Thank you for finding these! As I have said before, I appreciate when others can point out any errors I have made as I am after all learning this as I go and sharing my journey on this blog. Yes, that is the difference between CIO and this, in what most people use as a definition. The fact that we saw positive results in a matter of 3 days showed us that our instincts were correct. I think this is not a method for all children as all children are different. This is just the story of what worked for us. Perhaps in the future I may write about the science of sleep training though this is not a priority as this post is not meant to convince anyone of this method; its just to share my experience with moms who have also made this choice and are looking for support.

      • You have no idea how happy I am to read this. I did sleep training with my son. He began sleeping like a champ. He would wake up elated every.single.morning. I felt fantastic! But then I read these articles about CIO. It began to stress me out, and I was so angry at myself for not having researched this more. I worried whether I damaged my little guy. THANK YOU for posting this.

      • Jez, do you have something constructive to write or ask? All I see is someone who is here to judge harshly and destructively.

    • As a licensed practicing PA I’d love to see these reference you pulled your information from. After months of classes, then residency, and now practicing I’ve yet to hear any of the points you bring up, from Pediatricians, OB/GYNs, NICU nurses, or even a lactation consultant. many parents raise their children in different manners, and for the most part we all came out just fine. Have you asked your mother the questions you posted to the author of this blog, have you compared you up bring to that which you espouse in your own family or attack others for? I wonder which side of the pacifier/no pacifier argument you fall on and if you attack your opponents there as well?

      As for your child’s injury, I find is semi amusing you didn’t perform the same level of “educated decision” you are requiring from the author with your chiro or that you took an infant to one. There is Journal upon journal demonstrating no benefit beyond and often time less benefit from chiro than the simple placebo effect. While some insurance and some providers will recommend or cover chiro, it’s always under “alternative med” and is general used for pain management cases that are refractory to other methods or for financial or insurance reasons can not be obtained by the patient. Your chiro has no more experience, training or licensure to diagnosis an injury and give you pediatric advice for your child’s care then your hair dresser does. In some states that type of behavior is illegal.

      I’ve followed children from 2wk check up to 1yr (before they moved) and some from the delivery I conducted until 6mths. Where the parent chose to follow a specific routine, or let their child cry their heart out, or something in between they all came out fine. As our Pediatrics professor (and practicing pediatrician with 3 kids) told us back in school.. “As long as the diaper is dry and the child has been fed, there are not limit to the number of doors you can place between you and a screaming infant.” What’s important is to be a responsible adult, care and look after your child, give it love and a chance to grow.

      • Hi MH,

        Thank you for your perspective from the medical field. I’m not sure if that commenter will respond as they wrote that anonymously without leaving an email. I have a feeling that they are just experiencing their own frustration and confusion and its coming out on my blog post. This subject raises many emotions for people.

        I have also seen many pieces of information that debunk all of their points. It was actually three different pediatricians and my personal doctor to recommend sleep training for my PPD. At first I didn’t listen and after much thought and research decided to give it a try. I am grateful for people such as yourself that understand the needs of the family and can support the many different parenting methods that we as parents make.

        Thank you,
        Sydney

        • I am neither frustrated or confused. I am honestly curious as to how why you did not research this and what led to your choice. You say you looked into other methods but began this at 4 months? At a mental development leap too (babies have a mdl at 4 months and need more feeding to help the brain keep up with the activity). And you don’t reference these other methods that you tried.
          I don’t think youre a bad parent…far from it. But I do think it is reckless to give advice without referencing your research and giving other methods. I say this because babies who are forced to sleep through the night can become dehydrated (breasmtmilk is digested in 4 hours) and fail to thrive. I’d hate to see some impressionable new mother also probably suffering from pnd take your advice without knowing the problems that can occur. While it worked for your family it may be extremely detrimental to another.

      • Jez,

        I am going to politely ask you to refrain from commenting on my blog unless you have any constructive questions. Its one thing to respectfully disagree and inquire with open curiosity, and this is not what i see happening here. You don’t have to agree with this process but I (and many other mother) really do. This is not about a selfish wish to get what I want, this is about cultivating a healthy FAMILY life.

        Your comments are starting to make me angry but it’s reminding me why I started blogging in the first place. I am leaving them on here because I think it’s ALSO important for mothers to see the kind of negative reaction they will get from making this choice. Yes, moms, there are people who think this about you. Don’t pay any attention because YOU know what is best in your heart and will do what you feel works for your family. While some may not trust that you have a loving bond with your child I do and have your back.

        Sydney

    • Emily,

      Thank you for saying so. I try and keep my site a place where all parenting methods and opinions are respected. We all do things differently and supporting one another as parents can be very helpful for us and even or little ones. Raising children is hard work isn’t it. :)

  4. Thanks for sharing your story on this controversial topic- I agree wholeheartedly, my son was sleep-trained at 4ish months and it made such a huge difference in his demeanor during the day- he was so much happier, and napped so much better! (my non-scientific opinion is that if true damage was done, he wouldn’t be smiling more, ya know?), and my second-born has been a dream sleeper since the beginning- pulling 8 hrs at 3 wks old with no effort on my part. But future children will be taught to sleep, and our family will be happier for the effort. Thanks for being brave and taking the flak that will come for sharing your story!

    • Tonni,

      Thank you for your response. Yes, as you can see I am getting some flak but I think it’s making me braver. :) Isn’t it interesting that your 2 children were so different in terms of sleep? I have heard of this before. Every child is so different which is why it’s good to look at all of the options. I look forward to hearing about your future children’s sleep stories. :)

      Sydney

  5. Sleep Training was an integral piece of my recovery from PPD. I too had horrible insomnia and was completely incapable of falling back asleep after my son woke me during the night. My life and family was falling apart due to the insanity brought on by self deprivation. I was so out of it that I didn’t feel comfortable driving for fear of harming myself and my passengers. We were ALL better off after the family started sleeping through the night.

    • PPD can really make the entire family suffer. I wish that were talked about more openly by mothers so thank you for sharing that part of your life. I think some people can just function really well on low sleep and I wish I was one of them. Then when there are mothers like you and I, sleep becomes the thing we need more than anything else in the world, doesn’t it. (Did YOU choose to nap instead of eat, shower etc? I did!) I am glad that you were able to restore the health of yourself and your family.
      Sydney

  6. Hello

    I’m just hoping you could clarify the age of your child in your blog. You say he is one year old and then invite us to rewind a year and a half! Knowing the age of your son when you first embarked on this process would be helpful for readers.

    Thanks

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you for pointing that out! I updated it to include that we started this process at 4 months. He’s now 20 1/2 months. I have actually been working on this post for about 6 months as this topic is really challenging to write about and helpful commenters like yourself only make my writing better. :)
      Sydney

  7. Thank you for this. I have 2 kids who are not good sleepers. My 4 yo is now sleeping most nights but is waking at 530am. My 14 month old still wakes between 3-5 times a night and will become hysterical if my husband goes in to comfort her. She only settles if I nurse her. It has all been rough on me and something has to change. I think we will try something like you did and hope that I can stand strong and get some sleep eventually!

    • Jp,

      I wonder if there are mothers out there that have gone through this process with an older child? I would love to be able to find someone with that same experience to help you. One of the reasons we chose to do this at 4 months is that they go through intense periods of separation anxiety at different times of their development. I felt that starting early would make it easier on everyone which it seemed to. I’ll keep an eye out for anyone in my mom community that has a similar situation so I can connect you, if that is something you would like. I wish you the best of luck so that you may get the sleep you need.
      Sydney

      • Hi there, a friend directed me to this post as just a week ago I started a new settling process with my 8 month old who was down to two 20-45 minute naps per day (and that was ittttt) and waking countless times overnight. I feel really happy for you that you have found something that works for your family! Completely agree that SLEEP is a major factor in your emotions and how you feel during the day as well as your ability to cope and parent. I’d say it’s the number one most important factor in a happy family – that everyone is getting enough sleep! I really respect the way you have replied to your commenters – I am so impressed, it is something I have not seen many times on blogs. I am replying here though because I also have a three year old and wanted to comment to the mum above who has a four yo waking early. We too have had various periods of this, but I have found now that she is of an age to understand some “rules”. Consistency has been the key – if she wakes and it is still dark she has to go back to sleep (or at the very least stay in bed and read a book or play quietly). Eventually after much coaxing and hopping in and out of her bed, she has got the message and understands that that’s that! I don’t know if that is much help, but I have found that consistency with anything over time has been able to assist her to change certain undesired behaviours. Also checking for things like being too cold, or going to bed too early the night before can help too. Happy to brainstorm more if I can help in any way! I too have two kids who are completely different in the sleep department!

    • I highly recommend Elizabeth Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution. It worked very much for us, with very few tears. And my daughter was the worst of the bad sleepers!

  8. This sounds quite familiar. Quite. Familiar. I could have written it (but you are far more eloquent) We still “work the program” as we call it at 15 months, putting her down in her own space, after a certain bedtime routine, at a certain time with black out curtains and white noise and occasionally if we try to push our luck and keep her out past her bedtime it takes her a few minutes to “work it out” but for 99% of the time she is quiet as a bug when we lay her down. We still might wake up a couple of times with some extra cuddles and rocking when she is teething/sick/traveling but with “the program” we have any issues usually work themselves out within a few days.

    Another part of the equation for us was the routine. Not just at bedtime (which is VERY important) but also daytime routine. Getting outdoors, lots of stimulation, rolling around in the grass (still not walking yet) and keeping food at set mealtimes and snack times. Believe me, I never set out to be the “nope we can’t play, its during nap time” or “no eating in the car” sort of parent. I fully expected to be a baby wearing, extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby led weaning mama. But any sort of “preset” philosophy I had just didn’t jive with the baby I was given. At 7 months of not sleeping longer than 2 hours (once…I remember it) and depression setting in, my self esteem falling, my marriage suffering and wondering if I should be a mother at all, we listened to our baby, developed our own “program” and have a baby who wakes up happy (literally, I can hear her laughing and talking…adorbs) is well adjusted, super cuddly and sleeps 12-13 hours at night and takes a 3 hour nap every day. Yup. Every day.

    I’ve also become healthier, dropped a great deal of my “yay we got out of the house and made it to Starbucks reward scone” weight and absolutely love being a mom.

    So to each their own. Everyone’s situation is different. If this was 1920 and we all lived next door to our Moms, Aunties, Cousins, sisters, nieces and truly had a real life mothering community to show us how to breast feed, discipline, sleep, cook, clean and raise children maybe we’d make different parenting choices. There are no prizes given out to “best Mom”, we are all just sisters in motherhood who are all doing our best. So good for you. Keep it up. Your child is lucky to have you for a Mom!

    • Hello Hannah’s Mom,
      Very great comment! Yep! Sounds just the same as our house now. I agree that having a healthy routine during the day as well as LOTS of outside active time really helps with sleep. I can always tell if mine has not had enough ‘mommy’ time too as he will fuss more before sleep (which is one of the times we stay with him of course). If they are all full of play and love they might just sing themselves to sleep and wake laughing, ready for the day again.
      I agree with you about community! That was the second huge change we made for our family, moving to be near a community that supports one another (read about it here). It’s so hard being a parent and the thing we need most is lots and lots of support even though we all may be so very different. Again, thank you for your lovely comment.
      Sydney

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. Researching and learning as much as possible regarding this was the best service I could provide for my baby. He is an excellent sleeper and I feel his health and demeanor have a lot to do with it. There were a few rough nights and depending on what life throws his way we adapt from time to time but overall he sleeps through the night, takes great naps and is so much fun to be around. At 11 months, I even think he knows the importance of his sleep. He has so much confidence knowing we are here and he is not alone. I see some negative comments, but this strategy provides him indepence and confidence knowing you are always there but he is capable of sleeping on his own. He doesn’t ever seem to wake frightened from little or even big noises. He knows we got it covered and he sleeps blissfully. I can’t imagine a better gift to give someone (I am the worst sleeper on the planet, so I am quite jealous). Thanks again.

  10. I just wanted to say how well I think you are responding to the less than respectful comments by some people on your post. It’s one of those topics which can firmly set people into a particular camp. It does amuse me though that some of the fiercest defenders of ‘respectful’ parenting don’t seem to extend that respectful attitude to other adults.

    We didn’t sleep train, but we didn’t deliberately not sleep train. We ended up doing a long nursing period and bed sharing (much to my surprise, as I thought both those things were nuts before I had a baby). We just went instinctively with what felt right at the time. It wasn’t easy though and now my three-year-old is in her own bed and sleeping through the night 80 percent of the time, I am certainly feeling healthier for it.

    The thing I believe very strongly though across all elements of parenting is that what is best for any individual child is very wrapped up in what is best for the family as a whole. For me your post is a great illustration of that.

    • Hi Lynne,

      “The thing I believe very strongly though across all elements of parenting is that what is best for any individual child is very wrapped up in what is best for the family as a whole. For me your post is a great illustration of that”

      I agree. Very well put.

  11. This is CIO, there are many mothers and advocates who deem it necessary. If this was your family choice it was your family choice. I wish someone had recommended Elizabeth Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution to you, which I feel goes much better with RIE principles, not as quick a fix (it took us 8 weeks). I agree sleep is important, I agree that not all babies are good sleepers (mine was much like yours) but to essentially force your child to comfort themselves at such a young age I wish perhaps you had considered other alternatives. And while we are all muddling through and I wouldn’t ever deem you a “bad mother” by any stretch, you cannot label this as a NON-CIO post, because it very much is one.

    • HI Nicole,

      CIO is defines by most groups as letting your baby cry through the night without any intervention. We did not do this. If you read my post again you will see how, even now, we still go in and soothe him and even rock him to sleep sometimes. This is ‘respectful’ because we are in tune with what he needs and listen during all hours of the night and always ask how to best help him. Crying is communication and my realization that he ‘communicates’ a lot and loudly saved my parenting (and life!). He’s very jabbery and giggly too so everything about his personality is very spirited.

      As for Elizabeth Pantly, we tried this. I think this is a great option for parents to try. We also tried co-sleeping which wasn’t for us and I also think that is a great option for parents to try. This is what worked for us and the fact that after he started sleeping he didn’t scream all day long anymore, but played happily was evident that we did exactly the right thing.

      Sydney

  12. Thanks for sharing your story, Sydney! Here’s mine.

    When Lila was first born we tried to do co-sleeping. Soon into it, it became clear this wasn’t for us. My husband resorted to sleeping in the guest room and Lila was up every few hours. So we made the decision to move her to her crib at one month. She immediately slept better, but I still had a terrible time getting her down for naps etc. So in desperation I went to my doctor because I thought she had reflux or something.

    The doctor’s advice? “Let her cry.” I wasn’t sure what to think after reading forums online where mothers said anyone who let’s their baby cry is doing irreparable damage, but I felt in my gut this is what we should do.

    Turns out a little crying before bed is exactly what she needed. She cried (fussed really) for ten minutes and was out. And slept for 11 hours. And has slept 11 hours or more every night since. Naps are a breeze now too. She will fuss for 5-10 minutes prior to 1-2 naps a day. Otherwise she goes down without a sound. It’s her “normal.”

    She’s an incredibly independent baby and if I try to rock her or go in to soothe her, she just gets angrier. She really wants to be left alone to work it out.

    Everyone marvels over what a happy baby she is. She is content to play on her own for an hour or more. She never cries other than before sleeping. And greets us with giant smiles when she wakes up. Even more important … I am well-rested and able to enjoy motherhood!

    There is no one-size fits all approach to motherhood and I wish others wouldn’t be so quick to condemn something that may not work for their baby, but does for anothers.

    • Hi Liz!

      Thank you for sharing your story. Isn’t it nice that when we follow our instincts they are often correct. I think what is confusing for some is that some children just come into the world fiercely independent and it’s the hardest thing as mothers to have to learn to step back so soon, especially when they are your first.

      “There is no one-size fits all approach to motherhood and I wish others wouldn’t be so quick to condemn something that may not work for their baby, but does for another’s.” I completely agree.

      :)Sydney

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  15. We didn’t sleep train at all with #1, but she always gave me 3 or 4 hours stretches, and was amenable to night weaning a bit after a year, and slept through the night in her own room by 18 months. The second I can’t quite remember. He worked it out by around the same age, but was sleeping in his own room sooner than that. I did scheduled feedings at night, and daddy soothing at an earlier age, because he wanted to nurse more frequently and it wore me out. I really think every kid is their own little enigma. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for your parenting choices. Kids mostly turn out how they will, no matter what we do, all we can do is help everyone stay sane and happy in the interim.

    • Courtney,

      Thank you for sharing your story and for your kind comment. You’re right, what we all need most if just to help and be helped while we all stand up to the challenging and rewarding task of raising our children.

      Sydney

    • Courtney,

      Thank you. This quote is great: “I really think every kid is their own little enigma.” Very well said and very true. All we can do is our best everyday and just enjoy the ride, right!

      Sydney

  16. Pingback: Co-sleeping is Amazing…But It’s Not For Us. | Learning Motherhood

  17. I’m trying to work out a strategy for my 14 month old daughter. She usually goes to bed after a short bedtime routine where I sing to her a lay her in bed. She is usually drowsy but still awake, but sometimes she will be awake enough to wave goodbye and other times asleep before I finish singing. The problem is we have sleep regressions every few weeks and I end up rocking her to sleep. If she wakes in the night, and will be resettled by being picked up then I do that, if not I take her to bed with me. At the moment – I can’t even get her into her cot. Even if I wait until she’s asleep she feels me try to put her down and will start crying. She falls asleep as soon as I pick her up. I feel it is my fault and she’s probably overtired and she’s also on the cusp of walking. Every other regression has just passed in time, I could wait, but I feel that I need a consistent strategy that will allow her to fall asleep in her own bed and for me to resettle her there if needed. What I’m having trouble deciding is how to approach it. Do I stay till she falls asleep, or leave the room. When I go back in, how do I comfort her – do I pick her up or sit with her? How long should I stay? A minute or longer? what do I say to her? I know these a very personal decisions and depend a lot on the child but any insight would be appreciated.

    • HI Lousie,

      I would love to post your comment anonymously on my FB page to gather responses for you. Each child is so different and there may be many helpful tips for you. My son has gone through regressions like this and we have just had to figure out what he needs at each moment. For him we always try to leave while he is awake because it scares him if he wakes to find us gone. We very specifically tell my son that we will come back in x minutes (5 or 10) and then follow through. He usually falls asleep before then. I think communication is the key and say as much as you need. If he’s really struggling we will even say “I know you want us to stay with you and we will as long as it seems helpful for you.” Usually its not because he keeps himself awake so we then explain in detail “It seems that my presence is distracting you, so I’m going to go out and be really close and listen. If you still need help after x minutes I will come back in.” So far that has worked for him. May I post this for you?

  18. Thank you for posting this! I’ve been there. Every step on the way. And we tried EVERYTHING (including a sleeping program that was conducted by the Department of Pediatrics of a renowned University and countless self-hep books like the No Cry Solution). 3 times I was so close to a nervous breakdown due to sleep deprivation and feelings of guilt and doubt and despair that my parents begged me to take care of myself for a change because they were so worried about me. We took a similar approach with cutting down on night feeds, and then at the age of 12 months we basically did the same like you did. It was such a hard time for me but it really helped. We’ve had setbacks with teething and colds but there are nights where he sleeps 10 hours now and and other nights he wakes once or twice. I don’t think anybody can understand what severe sleep deprivation can do to your body and soul (and relationships) who hasn’t been there.

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