Sleep Training

Katherine - posted on 02/09/2011 ( 7 moms have responded )




I am a member of the ‘cry-it-out’ generation. When my daughter, Kyra, was just a few days old, my mother suggested we leave her to cry for twenty minutes and she would sleep better. If she was still crying after twenty minutes, we could go in comfort her, and then start again. I sat in the next room crying as I heard my newborn crying. We did it twice, and I vowed never again.
Since then, Kyra has slept either in her cot next to our bed, or in our bed. She is either soothed to sleep, nursed to sleep, or if we’re out and about tends to fall asleep in the sling before being transferred to the cot next to our bed.

To me, the whole concept of crying it out is cruel. Yes, babies need to learn, but babies also need to be mothered.

I know that if I was hungry, cold, tired or just feeling the need for affection and human touch and I lay in my bed crying and my husband simply ignored me, our relationship would very quickly suffer. If he could leave me to cry, and tell me to ‘just go to sleep’, or tell me ‘you need to learn’, but withheld his affection from me, I would not feel that I was able to trust him.

How then, can I ask a baby who has no understanding of life away from my heartbeat, or of temperatures outside of my womb, to whom quiet darkness is new, strange noises are unsettling and being alone is unknown, to get over it and go to sleep?

In her book, What Mothers Do especially when it looks like nothing, Naomi Stadlen talks about the heightened distress that some mothers feel when they hear their babies cry at night. She finds it surprising to see how many of these mothers were given sleep training themselves as babies, and draws an interesting parallel between those who were subjected to sleep training, and have become distressed parents.

She goes on to suggest that it perhaps “reactivates their own early shock at being trained to sleep without their parents at night. They have not retained conscious memories of crying. But when these mothers turn to their parents for suggestions for getting their babies to sleep at night, they are startled to hear about how they themselves had been left to cry”.

This makes sense, in many ways – you just have to look at the effects of cry-it-out style sleep training to see it.

I have listened to so many mothers over the last ten months talk about sleep and how desperate they are for their little ones to sleep through the night, and I’ll admit, eight solid hours sounds blissful, but at what cost?

I love how Stadlen phrases her thoughts on the false picture so much literature portrays of what motherhood involves: “Too much literature today implies that being a mother is about changing a baby’s ‘inconvenient’ behaviour.” She specifically mentions Gina Ford, who offers to help parents listen to what their babies are really saying and suggests that mothers who follow Gina Ford’s books are “encouraged to attend to the book before their babies.”

So yes, babies do sleep better when they have been left to cry, but they do so out of sheer exhaustion, and out of a very early awareness that no matter how long they cry (even to the point of being sick) no one will attend them. They are alone for the night and must console themselves. In an adult we would expect this to lead to depression (which makes people sleep more too!) and in a child it can be called neglect, but in a baby it is okay?

I know that cry it out and sleep training are emotional and sensitive topics for many people, and I know that everyone has their own thoughts and ideas and will do behind closed doors whatever they feel they have to. But I also know that before we can continue blindly following the instructions of an old man (Truby King) who tried to teach us how we should mother our babies it is our responsibility as mothers to at least know the true consequences of our actions.

I strongly recommend that every mother make the time to read What Mothers Do especially when it looks like nothing. It is not a ‘how to’ guide, but presents motherhood in an amazing and refreshing light.


Krista - posted on 02/09/2011




I think there has to be a real differentiation made between the various forms of cry-it-out. Some mothers, yes, do leave their children to wail and shriek for up to hours at a time, and you will not find too many mothers here who disagree that this can be very emotionally damaging to the baby.

However, you also have mothers, like myself, who didn't leave the baby to fend for themselves, but also didn't go in RIGHT away when they were crying. Many mothers have used some variation of the Ferber method, allowing their babies to cry for a couple of minutes, just to see if they'd settle themselves, before going in and soothing them. (And they go in right away if the baby is obviously REALLY upset and shrieking.)

Now obviously, no form of cry-it-out, no matter how gentle, should be used on a newborn.

But for an older baby, I really don't see the harm in making them wait just a minute or two before going in, to see if they'll be able to conk out on their own.


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Vashti - posted on 02/09/2011




Just wanted to clarify, I am in no advocating any parent neglecting their child. I am assuming a mom would recognise their childs needs. I also believe that kids thrive on a routine. Yes I do know of some parents who can listen to their child cry for hours before making an attempt to check on them. My approach to this was, I put my son to bed, I leave the room, five mins later if he was still upset, i check in with him, reassure him that I am right outside, leave the room, five mins later I check on him again if he was still not settled, and that went on for 20 mins, at no time was he bawling uncontrollably. I think once he was reassured that I am nearby, he got more and more comfortable with the idea. I did the samething with the baby and he never cried for more than 5 mins at time before I checked on him, so parents use your better judgement when starting these sleep routines.

Vashti - posted on 02/09/2011




With my first son Kishan, I did what any new mom would do, rocked him to sleep, and I did that for 2 and half years, until we decided that we wanted a second child, and because of my history of high risk pregnancies, I knew that routine would have to be altered, it took a week for me to break the routine and three weeks to master it, you just have to stick to your guns. It was along the lines of the ferberizing method, I guess also called CIO? Anyways, once I got my emotions under control, and I knew that there was nothing unsafe in his room, he has had a story, he isn't hungry, he wasn't teething anymore...and it took about 20 mins the first time, then about 15 the next day, and everyday the time got to, he was saying good night mommy and to this day he is now 41/2 the routine has stuck. When Shiven, my second son came along, I did it right from the beginning, he is now 18 months and goes to sleep on his own. It takes about 7 mins for him to settle in and he is good to go, if he wakes up at night its usually because he needs a diaper change or a bottle. Greatest thing I ever did! So for all the moms debating the sleep training, just do it, you will find that they are better babies, once they see that they can push their limits, they will push you, just be consistent with what you are doing.

Jennifer - posted on 02/09/2011




i completely agree with the OP. i also was part of the "CIO generation." i did let my son CIO and it did work...until he started teething. i was extremely pressured by family to do it and i really regret doing it...especially because i now know that i did it the wrong way.

I really hate CIO...for all the reasons mentioned in the OP, but also because of how widely recommended it in these peer circles. I hate how often i hear moms advising someone on CoM to "be tough" and use "tough love" in regards to sleep training, and crying techniques. this advise is telling moms to disregard their motherly instinct. we need to trust that we have those instincts for a reason, not ignore them.

*edit to add* after my son cut his first tooth, i realized i would likely have to let him CIO again. not cool. so instead of putting him through that again, i embraced what everyone was telling me would spoil him (rocking him to sleep). once i embraced it, i was honestly waaaayyyy happier and less stressed out than when he was able to fall asleep on his own. i know that for some families, this just isn't an option, though. maybe i got less sleep than someone that used CIO, but it is all about ones attitude and outlook, i suppose.

Krista - posted on 02/09/2011




For me, a lot of it was just a natural progression of things. When your baby is first born, you don't know his different cries and what they mean. You're nervous with this tiny new person. We room-shared for the first two months, and I swear, if that kid so much as farted, I was right there, eyes bugged open, checking to make sure he was okay.

Once we started getting into a bit of a routine, and I started being able to better differentiate between his various types of cries, (and once I started to figure out what the hell I was doing as a new mom), I relaxed a little bit. I put him in a crib in his own room, and the transition went smoothly. And if I put him down and he started crying, I'd stop, wait and listen to see how urgent he sounded. Sometimes it was just that tired, "Ehhhhhh..." crying, in which case I'd leave him be for a few minutes, because I knew he was close to conking out. If it was a shriek of fury, well, then I'd go in.

I guess I just wish that it wasn't always presented as being a choice between NEVER letting your baby cry, and letting them wail inconsolably for hours on end. There's a LOT of middle ground there, and some of those options might work really, really well for some families, if they only knew about them.

User - posted on 02/09/2011




I love that book too. Part of bonding with your baby is becoming attuned to their needs, whether that be for food, a dry nappy or physical affection. Neither of my children were sleep trained, and they are both confident and independent children (too independent sometimes!)

Louise - posted on 02/09/2011




I agree with Krista I have never rushed into any of my three children and they have never had a sleep problem. I put all three of my babies in their own room from day one with a monitor next to my bed and it has not affected them one little bit. I have to say to all those mums who have their children in the bed very early on have a nightmare of a job getting them to settle in their own room until they are 6 or 7 years old.
It is every mothers decision to decide for themselves what they think is best for their child but in my experience a child that is left to self sooth is a more confident child in later years.

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