Letting a baby cry themselves to sleep

Alexis - posted on 12/09/2010 ( 186 moms have responded )

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Do you think it's ok? I personally don't. A kid yes, but a baby no.

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Vicki-I have had practice, 4 babies, and learned from experience that I can't do everything at once. I have also learned that bed time is really the only time I have for me so yes I selfishly make my children self soothe so I get a break.

Self soothing isn't a matter of child rearing methods it's a fact of life and at some point it has to happen. I think we have all pretty much agreed that letting a baby cry for extended periods is unacceptable but not everyone wears their infant, breastfeeds, co-sleeps, and all that good stuff, some of us just don't do things that way. I have a house hold of 6, soon to be 7, and when the kids get home and I'm helping with homework the baby is in his playpen, sometimes throws a fit about it, he want to be on the floor so he can move around more, I have to cook too, and there's plenty more things that are done everyday that need to be done.

Minnie - posted on 12/15/2010

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The concept of 'self-soothing' as a method of child rearing is largely a western culture concept. We don't have people living on no sleep across the globe. I myself developed naturally into putting myself to sleep when I was ready. I can see my two year old doing that as well. I have always offered to nurse her off to sleep and more and more she's rolling away to go to sleep or just snuggling next to me. Sometimes she even tells me to go and she falls asleep alone. I never had to make it a point to make her fall asleep by herself. It's something that comes about naturally.



I suppose though, that many people have different expectations regarding time frame when this should happen. And maybe that's where people say "see? She's a difficult sleeper, because she has to nurse at two to fall asleep." But wait until she is three or four and has weaned by herself and is putting herself to sleep consistently. It's a gradual progression throughout childhood into adult hood. It doesn't have to slam bang happen at nine months or whatever arbitrary age one likes.

[deleted account]

I'm pretty sure its not jumping to conclusions but repeating factual research. I'll try and find the two books the psycholgist uses and check look up some names you can google, if you like. And no, that's the thing, dr's are not educated about sleep. Nor are they educated about nutrition which is the biggest joke to me. I believe they spend 1 hr on sleep (or is that nutrition - sorry can't remember, yeah, I'm making a good case for myself). And I didn't 'force them to self-soothe.' I look at it as I gave them an opportunity to learn to self-soothe which will, in the end, create greater confidence....which leads into...

Doreen - I too believe confidence is crucial and if emotionally and socially a child is healthy they have a better chance of succeeding in life and continuing to be happy people. I'm not into the rote ABCs learning or emphasizing the academic aspect of care with infant/tods or even preschoolers for that matter. I don't believe in "getting them ready for kindegarten." I do believe in supporting them emotionally 9and socially) as #1. Someone earlier said that CIO if done with a set plan and NOT leaving a child to cry fo 30 min or as poster above said an hour is cruel. I couldn't agree more. Basically I think we agree on the confidence aspect but approach it, in this instance differently.

and byw...my kids are never going to be the easy baby. just not their makeup, and has not been from day 1. Do they drive me crazy sometimes...you bet! but I love their bold, creative and yes, confident personalities and wouldn't change it at all.

Liz - thanks, how did you come about this belief?


and finally (sorry all over the map) I don't see it as forcing them to self-soothe but providing them with the opportunity to do so. they knew I was there (that's the whole point of not letting them cry endlessly) but to go in and do frequent 'checks' as needed thus reassuring them they are not alone.

Minnie - posted on 12/15/2010

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Vicki- that's just a very bold statement to say that if a baby isn't forced to self-soothe that they will have sleep problems. A bold statement especially from someone who is supposed to be educated about sleep (your doctors).



That's just like professionals saying that if you don't introduce solids by such and such an age that the child will be a difficult eater. Or if you don't initiate potty training by two that the child won't learn.



It's jumping to conclusions.

Johnny - posted on 12/15/2010

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I can't see myself ever choosing to sleep train, although I've learned that you should never say never. Like Nikki mentioned in her posts, until you walk in those shoes, it can be hard to see why people would choose something that makes you so uncomfortable. But a years worth of sleep deprivation could certainly change a person's mind.

Now CIO (I am using this term as opposed to a planned sleep training) I can not stand. Just leaving a baby to cry endlessly alone until it gives up or passes out or pukes and chokes is abhorrent to me. This morning at work, I had the pleasure of listening to one of my co-workers (male) describe to someone on the phone how his wife & him just left their 3 month old to cry, and I quote, "because we don't need to deal with that bullshit." Women couch it in nice terms that make it seem like a parenting choice. But when I see moms talking about leaving their kids to cry endlessly because they don't want to be manipulated by their 2 month old, I throw up in my mouth a little.

Doreen - posted on 12/14/2010

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Isn't it crazy that we treat babies different to people? My background too included that line "leave the baby to cry, it's good for their lungs". I guess what I am trying to say is that it is "bullocks" :) Really at the end of the day that baby is a person just like you - you just far more protected by experience than them. SO your reasoning is more logic and less hurtful. THEY on the other hand are completely vunerable and rely on YOU to reassure them of your love of their enviroment etc. SO if you like it or it is good for you when you shouting and crying cause you are either hurt or upset and you are ignored then I suppose I can understand why someone would leave their baby, but for the rest us it just makes you feel less supported and less loved. Babies are also people & share emotions just like you do. You more in powered as an adult to protect yourself with your experience and logic. So my take on this subject that I am passionate about is a baby that knows he is loved is confident and happy... and that baby becomes the "easy" baby. WE all want the easy baby. Reassurance of their environment is crucial for confidence. I had twins and tried never let them cry - I use to pick them up and walk with them until my arms wanted to fall off and made the biggest effort to say and remind them that I am there and it's ok. Everyone said I was spoiling the twins but you know looking at how confident and calm they are today (@ 10) I wouldn't do it different. Now that they are older it all depends on the situation - if I have done all I can and they just need to be then I let them.

Meghan - posted on 12/14/2010

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I love listening to my son cry!!! And now that he talks its awesome to hear him cry for me.

[deleted account]

Vicki-I totally agree with the fact that babies need to be able to self soothe and if its not kept up on they are harder to keep in a routine.

[deleted account]

@ Erin H - scary...did the dr give more info? like was the child left to cry so long s/he overheated to a feverish like point?

@ Lisa Moraeu - wow sarcasm. just passing on what the sleep psychologist said. and my own personal experience. I co-slept with my twins for the first few months and it was very difficult for me. I think if I had a singleton I would have do-slept for a much longer period of time and done lots of things differently. Glad you are sleeping well. And glad I did what I did. Still heartbreaking when my duaghter does cry (and no, I don't let her cry 30 min) but for us, with twins, that is what works.

Tah - posted on 12/14/2010

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i don't think it is okay for young babies, as the children are older i think it is more acceptable.

Stifler's - posted on 12/14/2010

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We have a drop in clinic, it's really good. They help with everyone like breastfeeding and stuff. I don't even remember asking anyone about how to make my baby sleep. I just fed him and an hour later gave him his dummy and patted him a bit and he went to sleep. Then he got difficult and I let him whinge until he was asleep. Doctors are free for people under 16 here too.

Erin - posted on 12/14/2010

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Yeah I get that Shauna. I was just using it as an example of why doctors should keep their opinions to themselves on stuff like this.

Our child health nurses don't do house calls. They are in community clinics or pharmacies, and are free.

Shauna - posted on 12/14/2010

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Erin- i wasnt saying i belive what my dr said was the right way. Just stating thats what was said when i went to his check up.

Minnie - posted on 12/14/2010

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Not normally. But homebirth midwives usually do. Most people don't have home births though...

[deleted account]

No, in Canada we take them to the doctor for regular check-ups where they do that stuff, Sarah. I think I got a phone call from a health nurse and I know that they do make house visits but I declined.

Sarah - posted on 12/14/2010

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You need to get some Health Visitors!!
Does no-one come round when baby is first born to weigh them and see how you're doing and stuff??

Minnie - posted on 12/14/2010

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My negative view of doctors began when my first was about 15 months and I learned exactly what cytotec was (that's what my OB induced me with) and the fact she didn't allow me informed consent at all. It's just been so many things one after another that now I don't trust them. I'm not a complacent patient, lol.

[deleted account]

I might be bias because of my own experience with shitty doctors regarding my personal health issues growing up, but I don't really trust doctors. I consider their advice as a recommendation but I don't just follow their advice blindly.....a lot of the time I'll do my own research to see if it coincides with what they've instructed. That being said, obviously there are many instances where I trust and take the word of the doctor.

Minnie - posted on 12/14/2010

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Oh, yes, I didn't think you were disagreeing with me, just passing it off as what happens happens. And I understand that.

Unfortunately, so many parents don't understand this and take the advice as medical truth or something. I used to with my first!

[deleted account]

I just meant that doctors are people too and they have opinions and just because they give those opinions doesn't mean they're medically relevant. Does that help. I'm totally agreeing with you! :)

[deleted account]

"Yeah, Dana, I know doctors are people and they have opinions...I just wish they would separate medicine from their personal bias."

I'm not sure if you misunderstood my comment? I COMPLETELY agree. Doctors, especially GPs, have no business giving advice about sleep training. They have no real insight and I'm guessing their "advice" is based on their personal opinion. Doctors just need to present FACTS. Unfortunately most can't without being bias.

Minnie - posted on 12/14/2010

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self-soothing is a skill they need to learn and actually can lose it if not kept up

So are you saying that if a person isn't left to 'self-soothe' as a baby that this person will never know how to put himself or herself to sleep? :/

Guess I'm going on 27 years of no sleep, thanks to my mom, who nursed/rocked/coslept with me.

Minnie - posted on 12/14/2010

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No health visitors here in the US. When my first was 7 months and had just gotten over a cold her pediatrician said to me "she's gotten used to you coming to her whenever she cries. You have to let her cry herself to sleep so she can learn to do it herself."



Yeah, Dana, I know doctors are people and they have opinions...I just wish they would separate medicine from their personal bias. LLL Leaders are trained to do this (I'm sure that not all do though) but at least it's part of their training. Do doctors ever learn this?

Erin - posted on 12/14/2010

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Exactly. Doctors have enough on their plate in dealing with illness and injury. It is really not surprising that they either don't have time to stay up-to-date on things like infant sleep patterns, or they simply don't care to.

Sarah - posted on 12/14/2010

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Yeah, same here. While my GP is great, I think a Health Visitor (or equivalent) is a much better person to go to for advice. Plus, it saves wasting time at the doctors and stuff, they've got enough to do! :)

Erin - posted on 12/14/2010

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We have child health nurses here Sarah. That is who I went to with questions regarding sleep, nutrition and development.

Sarah - posted on 12/14/2010

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Age definitely plays a big factor, there's no way in this world I would have left my teeny baby to cry.

You know, I was thinking about this when my youngest, who is 2 woke up crying at 5:30am this morning! I heard her crying and I went straight into her, she just wanted a cuddle, so she got her cuddle and then she lay down and went back to sleep and I went back to bed (to be woken up again half hour later by the other one! grrrr! lol)

I would have done exactly the same when she was 3 months, 6 months, 10 months.

The ONLY time I've let them WIO (Whinge it Out) is at bedtime when I KNOW they've been tired.

As for Doctors giving advice on such things, I wouldn't have asked my Doctor, I would have asked my Health Visitor. Do other places not have that sort of thing?

Erin - posted on 12/13/2010

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Shauna, that is another reason why doctors should stay out of parenting advice and strategies and stick to medicine. They are not experts in human development. Giving scientific facts like the doctor gave me is one thing. Advising you on how to get your son to sleep is something else entirely.

Erin - posted on 12/13/2010

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When my daughter had a febrile convulsion the other week, the doctor in the ED told me a similar sort of convulsion can be caused by extended periods of crying.

Leaving a baby to cry alone for 20-30 mins is a long ass time. Anything could happen in that time and you wouldn't even know. How many stories do we hear of babies being left to CIO and parents going in to a cot full of vomit? Too many to count. Obviously there are responsible ways to use CIO, but so many just take the concept and run with it. It is dangerous.

Shauna - posted on 12/13/2010

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I was at my sons 9 mo check up today. Dr asked if hes sleeping through the night. I said ehhhhh no not really he wants to sleep with us.... she said "b/c he knows you will bring him to bed if you puts on the sad face" you know what you have to do .... he can cry it out and learn to self soothe. He used to sleep through the night untill he discovered if he crys ill take him to bed with me. ..... Just what my dr told me.

[deleted account]

well...that took a loong time to read through and glad I did. the mom that wrote there is no research to show (sorry can't recall who wrote it but a ways back) that is exactly what I was told by:
1. my psychiatrist (yah, big surprise I see one) and
2. the psychologist I went to re: my babies sleeping (and she specializes only in children).

I am an early childhood educator also. so much of what I've done as a parent of twins has gone totally against me ECE philosophy and I had such a hard time coming to terms with that. My babies were (and still are) EXTREMELY active and were terrible sleepers. I was seriously dying and felt like every waking minute was crises mode. the psychologest was amazing and set a plan for each child that did help them learn to self-soothe. my son woke for a bottle (sometimes 2 oz sometimes 6) and didn't need it. I cut it by one oz each night and got to him before he woke. worked perfectly. my daughter would spit out her soother and couldn't get it back in. introduced small crocheted cloths that were breathable and scattered them in their cribs. they work amazingly (if they don't laugh at me at naptime and toss them all out of the crib like its party time). anyway, I also let them cry for a few minutes and let the time build. I'd go in and use a 'key phrase' (go schluffy in my case - yiddish for sleep) and leave. they always knew I was there yet were learning to self-soothe. there are negative sleep associations vs positive sleep associations (as the pschologist taught me). I had no idea how to break the negative ones I was doing and introduce the postiive. this woman saved my sanity!

so basically yes I think CIO is fine if done with some idea of how to do it. I think it's about 4 months when they say a baby is ready but not sure. I know it is definietly younger than 6 months (I think I did it at about 5.5). also, she said that self-soothing is a skill they need to learn and actually can lose it if not kept up. obviously no, if child teething, sick, dirty diaper take care of child.

so here I was as an early childhood educator thinking I knew it all and twins would be no problem for me. didn't factor in the sleep dep. I knew shit! and felt good about the fact that she said the methods are being and have been researched in a few countries and is based on scietific fact, cause it killed me doing it!

Erica - posted on 12/13/2010

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Well- to each parent their own ideals...everytime I checked on her she would stop crying instantly and smile at me, which just meant to me that she knew what she was doing- plus...she wasn't all out Screaming the whole time. It was off and on- and there were times that we would tell her that she was ok. There are just some articles out there that basically say babies are not smart enough. My child knew how to get me in her room- and she also knew that it was time for bed. We also had used the radio on low to keep her company once she quieted down. And the heart rhythm machine was great too. My husband also put his point in saying you know the difference between the crying lol - which for our baby was TOTALLY TRUE!

Minnie - posted on 12/13/2010

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It is, Nikki. She makes it into an adversarial parenting situation. As if the two week old is manipulating her. I don't think I'm a 'softy' it just makes sense to me to tend to my children. I nurse them off to sleep and under 6 months they're worn on my body pretty much 24/7. And sure, the research that shows that infants' brains can be damaged by crying longer than 10 minutes is for children under 6 months but I just don't see a point in letting my children cry themselves to sleep at older ages either.



My 26 month old nurses to sleep most of the time but I can see that little by little she is developing at her own pace and is growing out of the need to nurse to sleep. More and more often she is falling to sleep by herself. Sometimes she'll nurse and then roll away and I'll lie next to her while she falls asleep. Sometimes she'll tell me to go and so I do and she falls asleep alone. It doesn't always happen....maybe only 20% of the time, but I can see that I don't have to force her to learn to sleep by herself before she's ready. She'll get there.



And to let a 3-4 month old cry herself to sleep- aside from the fact that that sort of crying can damage developing neural pathways, it expends calories and if the baby is breastfed she likely needs to nurse.

Cassie - posted on 12/13/2010

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I just think, even if you can see her, that a 3-4 month old crying for 20 minutes is just too much. Just because you can see her doesn't mean she sees you (which I believe was the point for you). Basically, your little girl is crying out for you for up to 30 minutes with her cries being ignored (from her viewpoint). My daughter is 5 months old and I could never imagine watching her cry for that long without going to her....

Erica - posted on 12/13/2010

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Alright this is a touchy subject, but what my husband and I did was run in her room with every little cry she did...comforting her and making sure she was ok...But there came a day ...around 3-4 months, that she would scream bloody murder and as soon as we came into the room, she would smile- as in "HI I found out how to get you here!" So we had the crib in a special spot where we would be able to see her from the crack in the door....we would wait around 20-30 minutes and it would stop...and sometimes we went a little longer..but she got the point that when it's time for bed...it's time for bed. She surprised me by WANTING to be in her crib to take a nap and she was only 3-4 months...

Nikki - posted on 12/13/2010

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Lisa that is so sad, I don't understand how any mother could do that. I agree that the expectations of CIO for each mother are very different. For me, I am a softy but any crying without me being in contact with my baby is CIO. Therefore it's a difficult debate because not everyone is talking about the same thing.

Minnie - posted on 12/13/2010

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Yeah, it's definitely confused the conversation more than once. I hear CIO and I think the same as you, Erin. Others hear babe is over tired and refusing all other methods of inducing sleep so I will lie him down to wimper for a few minutes sporadically.

Erin - posted on 12/13/2010

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People's ambiguous definitions of CIO definitely make these discussions difficult. When I refer to CIO, I am talking about either structured 'sleep training' (baby will cry for x mins and I will not go in until that time is up or I'll ruin it) or just flat out neglectful abandonment (like Lisa's friend).

Babies make lots of noises, and a sleepy grumble is far different to CIO (IMO). But it does seem some include this in the category.

Shauna - posted on 12/13/2010

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yeah i think age is an important factor... i dont see a prob with letting my 9 mo old cry for 10-15 min if i know hes tired and needs to rest, b/c if he doesnt want in his crib he will just cry and the min i come in room to pick him up he will laugh and there are NO TEARS!!!!! ..... however a younger child i would never allow to be left crying. the are smart creatures we need to give them more credit.

Sherri - posted on 12/13/2010

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Ya for newborns no way they are way to new and way to young. At around 5-6mo's I would allow them to cry for 5-10mins if they didn't settle down by them I would go in and rub their faces and/or pick them up and comfort them before I tried to put them down again.

Krista - posted on 12/13/2010

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She let a two-week old cry alone for 20 minutes? Oh Lisa, that's absolutely horrible! The poor little mite! Babies that tiny are just creatures of pure instinct, and it breaks my heart to think of him crying like that for so long without anybody going to him.

Minnie - posted on 12/13/2010

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Yeah, as much as I am against CIO, a 'baby center' article isn't exactly good peer-reviewed journalism.



I used to be full-stop against CIO because I didn't differentiate other people's definitions of it. For me, I think of CIO as an infant wailing and wailing, gagging and vomiting in the dark. Or how my friend let her two week old sob for 20 minutes and then oh hahaha! "he cried so much he tired himself out and slept for four hours"- that is dangerous and uses up valuable calories in a baby so young. Lengthy periods of screaming indicate that the baby CAN NOT put himself to sleep yet.



But it seems like others include some wimpering periodically before bed as CIO as well. I don't have a problem with that. It just doesn't work with the way I choose to parent because I prefer to nurse my babies to sleep.



It just sits in my mind that when I hear CIO I think that people are letting their infants _scream_ themselves to sleep with no grace or understanding of their physical and emotional needs- because I know so many in my personal life who do this.

Krista - posted on 12/13/2010

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The problem is that when infants are left to cry themselves to sleep, they are forced to conclude that they are not lovable enough to engage their parents' desires to comfort them. If they actually stop crying, it is because they have abandoned all hope that help will come

I'm not quite sure I buy that. Ascribing motivations to the parent's behaviour would require a certain amount of empathetic thinking -- which infants are really not capable of at that age.

Nikki - posted on 12/13/2010

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It is not about spoiling the baby, it is about them learning to self soothe, which is an important life skill. A mother can tell if her child needs somthing or is just crying to get you there and get attention. By the time a child is 9 months old or so, they can manipoulate you and they KNOW it. There is no problem holding them until they go to sleep, if you have the time. but when you have children who are close in age, it is more time efficient to lay them down in bed and stay in the nursery the first few times. it isn't cruel or mean it is just a way to teach them it is okay to be alone sometimes.

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