13 mo old who won't sleep. should I let her CIO?

Mary - posted on 01/25/2012 ( 7 moms have responded )




my 13mo old still wakes up 3 times a night. i nurse her to sleep and put her in a crib. my 3 yr old sleeps in the same room. when the baby screams to be picked up, the 3 year old wakes up and starts crying, too. just what i need at 2am! the baby wants to nurse back to sleep and drags it out sometimes up to an hour - longer than i can take in the middle of the night. both kids just transitioned to their own room after sleeping in our room/bed. sometimes both kids end up sleeping with us anyway, but i never sleep well with them in the bed. in fact, i hardly sleep at all because i'm so crowded and they thrash around constantly. so, what are your experiences with a 13 mo old sleeping patterns? i would prefer not to sleep train her with a cry it out method (the 3 year old would have to sleep with us for a little while). yet, i'm sooo sleep deprived that's its starting to sound like a good idea. and now that she's over a year i feel less guilty about letting her cry and figuring out how to sleep by herself. please share your experiences and ideas witholding judgment about sleeping choices.


Christina - posted on 02/09/2012




I will say 'no' with a lot of sympathy and a little hypocrisy, since I am in the same boat and have let my now 14m daughter cry sometimes (with me present and assuring her.) Whenever I start thinking 'she is old enough, she is addicted to nursing to sleep, she is a devil child' (the last one when I'm truly at the end of the rope!) I remind myself of two things:

1) Everything we do teaches our baby something. When she cries and I do not respond, she doesn't learn anything about sleep, she learns that I do not always respond when she cries. Sleep may come as a side effect, but so will this: when she is older and is in a scary situation, will she doubt that I will be responsive? Will she hide her sadness/confusion from me? Will she endure possible hardships such as abuse, bullying, rape without turnning to her mother for support? These are worst-case scenarios but I am a paranoid mother who endured those things without a peep to my un-trustworthy parents.

2) She has a father, who is usually getting more sleep than me. If I am at the end of my rope he can get his ass in gear and relieve me for a few hours, even if he has to stay up and read her books in the middle of the night while I get some sleep.

Not everyone has a partner to rely on at night, or a useless partner, or are desperate as I was (Nova woke every 1-2 hours until recently) and I like this Dr's alternative to cry-it-out. We are doing this now, but modified so that she can nurse every few hours if she wants (he says go 11-6 without a feed.) http://drjaygordon.com/attachment/sleepp...


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I second the suggestion of Dr. Jay Gordon's sleep solution. I used this method (with modifications) when my daughter turned two. I hate the idea of CIO, but I do think there is a major difference between your child crying on their own or in your arms. Stopping breastfeeding at night absolutely helped with sleep. It was hard and it took some time (as a matter of fact I held off with the last three hours of the night and only started tackling them now, six months later) but it was well worth it. Also, it kind of felt as if I was working WITH my daughter and not against her, if that makes any sense. Anyway, I wish you all the best - it sucks being tired!

Lori - posted on 02/25/2012




Mary - I agree, being so tired sucks. I have a 15 month old and a 3 1/2 year old. They sleep in a room together, but come to my bed often too (especially the 3 year old). My 15 month old wakes on a good night only twice and needs to be nursed back to sleep. Luckily my 3 year old mostly sleeps through her sisters waking and crying. On nights when the baby is teething or feeling sick she can be up every 30 min to 2 hours. I recently discovered my baby is allergic to dairy, and we've had less waking and crying during the night since I cut that out of both our diets. (She was vomiting randomly and we finally figured out it was dairy causing it - now I've also figured out it was causing congestion which I had thought she just kept catching mild colds.) Sorry... didn't mean to go on about dairy cause that's not my point....

My point is - you're not the only one going through this... and yes, it sucks not getting enough sleep. I just keep telling myself that my older daughter started sleeping much much better by 18 months so I'm hopeful that this one will start sleeping better soon too.

I've considered trying Dr. Jay Gordon's sleep solution. (christina posted a link above), but I haven't convinced myself to try it yet.

Mary - posted on 02/24/2012




Thanks for the info! I do generally agree that CIO is harsh and that my kids are such great girls because we're so attentive to them. I find that responding baby girl's nighttime needs is much more my style than letting her cry. Plus, I can't stand all the crying in the middle of the night. I'm just too tired to listen to screaming. So I usually pull my daughter into bed with me when she wakes up the first time at 11 or 12 pm.

Still there comes a point when I need to consider my own sanity. I have found that during naptime I can get my baby down to sleep by herself in her crib. (The alternative would be me laying down and napping with her every single time. Sometimes that's nice, but I do want to do other things during her naptime, too). At bedtime I try to put her down when she's sleepy but awake. I stay in the room with the baby and her sister until they're both asleep. It has involved minimal crying for the baby in her crib.

I still don't sleep much and I don't think the situation is really getting better right now. The baby wakes me up multiple time when she's sleeping with me and often keeps me awake by nursing for long periods of time. I can't usually fall asleep while she's attached. I'm very sleep deprived and have been for a long time. I try to suck it up and remember that it won't go on forever. It is a big sacrifice. I'm no matryr or worse off than most parents of young kids, but I just want to say that being so tired really sucks. We should acknowledge that.

Geralyn - posted on 02/21/2012




It does not sound like your 13 month old is ready to sleep on her own and throughout the night (without nursing). Is it possible that you can keep her in bed with you and have your 3 year old sleep in her own room? There is a lot of research against CIO. Just because she is just over 1 year does NOT mean that its less harmful now. I understand exhaustion. I have a 3 year old and an 18 month old - both cosleep with me, the 18 month old nurses/soothes sometimes for hours... She falls asleep more easily for hubby than me, so at least on the weekends, he may step in to help on occasion.

Katherine - posted on 02/15/2012




These are the dangers of CIO:

Letting babies "cry it out" is an idea that has been around since at least the 1880s when the field of medicine was in a hullaballoo about germs and transmitting infection and so took to the notion that babies should rarely be touched (see Blum, 2002, for a great review of this time period and attitudes towards childrearing).

In the 20th century, behaviorist John Watson (1928), interested in making psychology a hard science, took up the crusade against affection as president of the American Psychological Association. He applied the mechanistic paradigm of behaviorism to child rearing, warning about the dangers of too much mother love. The 20th century was the time when "men of science" were assumed to know better than mothers, grandmothers and families about how to raise a child. Too much kindness to a baby would result in a whiney, dependent, failed human being. Funny how "the experts" got away with this with no evidence to back it up! Instead there is evidence all around (then and now) showing the opposite to be true!

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A government pamphlet from the time recommended that "mothering meant holding the baby quietly, in tranquility-inducing positions" and that "the mother should stop immediately if her arms feel tired" because "the baby is never to inconvenience the adult." Babies older than six months "should be taught to sit silently in the crib; otherwise, he might need to be constantly watched and entertained by the mother, a serious waste of time." (See Blum, 2002.)

Don't these attitudes sound familiar? A parent reported to me recently that he was encouraged to let his baby cry herself to sleep so he "could get his life back."

With neuroscience, we can confirm what our ancestors took for granted---that letting babies get distressed is a practice that can damage children and their relational capacities in many ways for the long term. We know now that leaving babies to cry is a good way to make a less intelligent, less healthy but more anxious, uncooperative and alienated person who can pass the same or worse traits on to the next generation.

The discredited behaviorist view sees the baby as an interloper into the life of the parents, an intrusion who must be controlled by various means so the adults can live their lives without too much bother. Perhaps we can excuse this attitude and ignorance because at the time, extended families were being broken up and new parents had to figure out how to deal with babies on their own, an unnatural condition for humanity--we have heretofore raised children in extended families. The parents always shared care with multiple adult relatives.

According to a behaviorist view completely ignorant of human development, the child 'has to be taught to be independent.' We can confirm now that forcing "independence" on a baby leads to greater dependence. Instead, giving babies what they need leads to greater independence later. In anthropological reports of small-band hunter-gatherers, parents took care of every need of babies and young children. Toddlers felt confident enough (and so did their parents) to walk into the bush on their own (see Hunter-Gatherer Childhoods, edited by Hewlett & Lamb, 2005).

Ignorant behaviorists then and now encourage parents to condition the baby to expect needs NOT to be met on demand, whether feeding or comforting. It's assumed that the adults should 'be in charge' of the relationship. Certainly this might foster a child that doesn't ask for as much help and attention (withdrawing into depression and going into stasis or even wasting away) but it is more likely to foster a whiney, unhappy, aggressive and/or demanding child, one who has learned that one must scream to get needs met. A deep sense of insecurity is likely to stay with them the rest of life.

The fact is that caregivers who habitually respond to the needs of the baby before the baby gets distressed, preventing crying, are more likely to have children who are independent than the opposite (e.g., Stein & Newcomb, 1994). Soothing care is best from the outset. Once patterns get established, it's much harder to change them.

Rats are often used to study how mammalian brains work and many effects are similar in human brains. In studies of rats with high or low nurturing mothers, there is a critical period for turning on genes that control anxiety for the rest of life. If in the first 10 days of life you have low nurturing rat mother (the equivalent of the first 6 months of life in a human), the gene never gets turned on and the rat is anxious towards new situations for the rest of its life, unless drugs are administered to alleviate the anxiety. These researchers say that there are hundreds of genes affected by nurturance. Similar mechanisms are found in human brains--caregiver behavior matters for turning genes on and off. (Work of Michael Meaney and colleagues; e. g., Meaney, 2001).

We should understand the mother and child as a mutually responsive dyad. They are a symbiotic unit that make each other healthier and happier in mutual responsiveness. This expands to other caregivers too.

One strangely popular notion still around today is to let babies 'cry it out' when they are left alone, isolated in cribs or other devices. This comes from a misunderstanding of child and brain development.

Babies grow from being held. Their bodies get dysregulated when they are physically separated from caregivers. (See here for more.)

Babies indicate a need through gesture and eventually, if necessary, through crying. Just as adults reach for liquid when thirsty, children search for what they need in the moment. Just as adults become calm once the need is met, so do babies.

There are many longterm effects of undercare or need-neglect in babies (e.g., Bremmer et al, 1998; Blunt Bugental et al., 2003; Dawson et al., 2000; Heim et al 2003).

Secure attachment is related to responsive parenting, such as when babies wake up and cry at night.

What does 'crying it out' actually do to the baby and to the dyad?

Neurons die. When the baby is greatly distressed, the toxic hormone cortisol is released. It's a neuron killer Panksepp, 1998). A full-term baby (40-42 weeks), with only 25% of its brain developed, is undergoing rapid brain growth. The brain grows on average three times as large by the end of the first year (and head size growth in the first year is a sign of intelligence, e.g., Gale et al., 2006). Who knows what neurons are not being connected or being wiped out during times of extreme stress? What deficits might show up years later from such regular distressful experience? (See my addendum below.)

Disordered stress reactivity can be established as a pattern for life not only in the brain with the stress response system (Bremmer et al, 1998), but also in the body through the vagus nerve, a nerve that affects functioning in multiple systems (e.g., digestion). For example, prolonged distress in early life, resulting in a poorly functioning vagus nerve, is related disorders as irritable bowel syndrome (Stam et al, 1997). See more about how early stress is toxic for lifelong health from the recent Harvard report, The Foundations of Lifelong Health are Built in Early Childhood).

Self-regulation is undermined. The baby is absolutely dependent on caregivers for learning how to self-regulate. Responsive care---meeting the baby's needs before he gets distressed---tunes the body and brain up for calmness. When a baby gets scared and a parent holds and comforts him, the baby builds expectations for soothing, which get integrated into the ability to self comfort. Babies don't self-comfort in isolation. If they are left to cry alone, they learn to shut down in face of extensive distress--stop growing, stop feeling, stop trusting (Henry & Wang, 1998).

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