Is it OK to let a baby cry herself back to sleep?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  May 27, 2009 12:00 AM

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Hi Barbara,

My husband and I disagree on how to handle our daughter, 13 months, when she refuses to go to bed. I rock her, sing to her, read to her, talk to her, and hope to god that she falls asleep in my arms, and stays asleep after I put her down. He does the same. BUT - if she doesn't stay asleep, I say we need to let her cry it out for a few minutes. He says there's absolutely no reason to make her cry herself to sleep. I work full time, as does hubby, and we do not have two hours each night to put her to bed. Yes, that's how long it takes! Where do we draw the line when it comes to letting her cry it out?
From: TooTired, Lowell

Dear TooTired,

The idea of letting a child cry him/herself to sleep (commonly known as Ferberizing after Richard Ferber, the internationally-recognized, Boston-based pediatrician/sleep specialist) is a bit of a misnomer. Here are his own words, from an interview I had with him in 2006:

`` "The baby falls asleep with one set of conditions, being rocked in daddy's arms, and then the parents sneak him into the crib and leave the room. When the youngster wakes up [in the natural course of a sleep pattern], everything feels wrong: `Where am I? What happened?' " Instead of falling back to sleep, the baby is jarred into a more fully awake state. ``Now the parents have to re - create the conditions, and a cycle begins out of the best of intentions."

"The remedy, he says, ``is for a child to learn to fall asleep under the same conditions that will exist when he wakes up."

"Yes, in the course of changing conditions, a baby will likely cry. The revised edition [``Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems" (Fireside)] recommends allowing for shorter crying periods, three minutes instead of five on the first night, 5 instead of 10 on the second night, and 10 instead of 15 on the third.'"

With this in mind, the trick is to put her down in the crib BEFORE she falls asleep in your arms, so that when she wakes up, she isn't surprised to be in the crib. When she cries, go back in but DON"T pick her up. Rub her back and murmur sweet nothings, "You can go back to sleep all by yourself, I know you can. I'll stay here with you until you do."

Do that for a few nights. Then move your chair a few inches from the crib, rub her back once or twice and just whisper to her. Eventually, you will be able to move the chair farther and farther away, all the way to the doorway and then the hall, and then you will be able to call to her from your bed: "Honey, you're OK. You can go back to sleep."

Yes, this is time-consuming in the beginning. Maybe it will even take two hours. Don't do it unless you both agree to it and you have the resolve to follow through. Here's the good news: It will break the cycle.

A variation is to leave the room before she falls back to sleep. She will be angry and she will cry. Stay three to five minutes, as Ferber suggests above. When you go back in, repeat the action, telling her you know she can go back to sleep. Rub her back again, and then leave again. Repeat.

For Ferber, getting a child to sleep, or back to sleep, is all about timing -- is the child tired enough to sleep at the designated bedtime? -- and scheduling -- how many naps has he had? Looking at that almost always turns up a solution that typically involves some tweaking parents simply hadn't considered. Parents who consult him -- he's available at Children's Hospital, but be warned, it can take three or four months to get an appointment -- are almost always thrilled with his results.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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30 comments so far...
  1. This method (described by Barbara) worked very well for us when our daughter was about 12 months old. We started with very short periods (2-3 minutes), and she got the hang of it quickly. We never had to let her cry for long -- within the first few days she started falling asleep after about 5 minutes. I think we were lucky on that front, but we were also really consistent about not picking her up, etc. Use your best judgment for how long you let her cry -- if 3 minutes is too rough on you, just do 1.5 or 2 minutes to start. If she's just whimpering and not really crying, let it go a little longer.

    Be warned that you may have to do it more than once. We had to re-do the whole process at 19 months. It was definitely harder this time (she'd wake up in the middle of the night also), but again, we mostly stayed consistent (this is harder when they're talking a little and crying for "mommy!" and "daddy!") and by 20 months it was back to normal. Now (22 months) we put her in bed while she's awake, and she's asleep (without crying) within 15 minutes and sleeps all night. Good luck.

    Posted by DT May 27, 09 09:36 AM
  1. Too tired, I did the exact same thing with my son until he was about 10 months old. I would hold him and rock him until he was asleep and hope he would stay asleep when I put him down. The older he got the more he would wake up when putting him into his crib so finally I had to put a stop to that. Like Barbara said, the first couple nights were the toughest but it only took 4 nights of letting him cry it out before it worked. The longest it took was 10 minutes. This will feel like an eternity while the crying is going on but in the end it's the best for everyone and what's 10 minutes in the big picture. My son will be 15 months next week and he actually likes going to bed now. He is familiar with the routine and knows exactly what to expect. On occasion when he's not exactly ready to go to bed, (he wants to play more) he will cry until I leave the room but by the time I get to the bottom of the stairs he's done crying and laying down. The hardest thing is actually leaving the room while they are crying but by staying it's just prolonging the inevitable.
    Give it a try and good luck!

    Posted by bgcomreader May 27, 09 10:23 AM
  1. My kids are 18 and 21 now and we used the Ferber method way back when. It was hard at first, but worked with both of them within 5 nights. They were younger than one year old and occasionally had a difficult to fall asleep night, but who doesn't. We also learned when they got older, to stop naps when they weren't tired enough to fall asleep at night pretty quickly.

    Posted by JB May 27, 09 01:44 PM
  1. What about night-time wake ups? My daughter is 13 months and still waking up once a night. We're still giving her milk and that gets her back to sleep (usually), but soon this needs to stop. To add an extra twist, we have big brother, a light sleeper, in the bedroom next to hers. So, I'm afraid to let her cry too long during the night (she usually wakes up around 2 or 3), fearing she'll wake him, too and then everyone will be up.

    Posted by farawayreader May 27, 09 02:37 PM
  1. We solve this problem by having the baby sleep in our bed. I rock him to sleep. I put him down on the bed. He stays asleep. If he begins to wake up, I rub his back or lie him on top of me while half asleep. He goes back to sleep. So do I.

    I really wonder if a lot of these sleep problems are just because babies are sleeping in different rooms and different beds from parents.

    Posted by LM May 27, 09 02:39 PM
  1. faraway reader - has your daughter ever slept through the night or are these wake ups new? My son has slept through the night since 3 months but on the few occasions that he has woken up during the night it's been because of a cold, ear infection or teething. I try to wait it out at least 10 minutes before going in. Usually he falls back to sleep within that time on his own.
    Maybe you could try to let her cry it out for a while and if your son wakes up go in and sooth him in order to give your daughter a chance to sooth herself back to sleep.

    Posted by bgcomreader May 27, 09 02:55 PM
  1. LM,
    You are going to have your kids in your bed as teenagers based on what you say. Children need to have there own room or space to develop. Why would any family or person for that matter recommend having their kids sleep in there bed. That is one way to limit the number of kids you are going to have!

    Posted by CR May 27, 09 03:04 PM
  1. I find that parents too often feel the only choice is to do what they are doing or let their baby cry-it-out and there is a lot in between! A step in the right direction is to stop the rocking and allow her to fall asleep not moving in your arms, perhaps or with you in the room. The issue is you have to recreate that rocking over and over, so the first step to break the sleep association is simply stop doing it. But, you also don't have to let her cry herself to sleep, alone, either.

    However, some protesting is probably going to happen. Ferber equates this to you sleeping with a pillow. If you woke up and your pillow was gone, wouldn't you wake up to look for it? Sometimes we become our children's "pillow", but we can all learn a new way to sleep with practice. I might cry too if I had to learn how to sleep without a pillow :) but within a few days, I'd get used to it and so will she. You wouldn't let her out of her carseat if she were crying while you were driving would you? They complain. It happens. It doesn't mean you don't do what's best for the family, especially them. Those are precious 2 hours she's losing every night! I've been there, too! I built a whole website about it: http://www.picknicksbrain.com and I'm sure a lot of my articles would help!

    Good luck to you!

    Posted by Nicole May 27, 09 03:17 PM
  1. When my son was 9 months old, I began putting him in his crib while he was still awake, with the door closed and no night light. He is now a well-adjusted 8-year-old who has never had a problem when he wakes in the middle of the night. Even as a toddler, he would simply lie back down and go back to sleep because he knew where he was. Give your children confidence in themselves and they won't be so frightened to be alone.

    Posted by Angela G May 27, 09 03:19 PM
  1. I have 3 children who are now 5,4, and 2.5. I read about Dr. Ferbers method when my oldest was about 1 yr and we needed to transition to a newborn in the house. The system works and works even better if you start from the beginning. Finally, with the third...we got it right! She is a dream at bedtime/naptimes. She has always been put down while awake and falls asleep quickly without drama.

    Please note that their is much negative chatter about Dr. Ferber's method; primarily by those who have not actually read his writings completely. If one only reads the tag line that parents should let their children cry until they fall asleep - you will get it wrong. Also, his book has a ton of great information on newborn, infant, toddler, etc. sleep patterns.

    Posted by Michelle May 27, 09 03:19 PM
  1. A quote from above: "if three minutes is too much for you...."

    If three minutes is too much for you, you need to learn some patience. You're supposed to be the grown-up in the house, not the impatient child. And please remember - whatever you do, the child will not remember any of it, so you are not doing any harm in any case. You can get the pain over with quickly, or you can extend it as long as you want. Better to face it and get it over with. Don't worry - you child may not love you when they grow up, but it won't be because of the time you let him/her cry themselves to sleep.

    Posted by MarkB May 27, 09 03:52 PM
  1. One note of experience: You often hear the parents like 1, 2, and 3 above who talk about the fact that their child only cried for 10 minutes or Feber worked in four nights. That was not our experience. We used the method and it did work, but the first few nights, our daughter (around 6 months at the time) cried for HOURS. That was even with us going in to rub her back (but not take her out of the crib). In the end, she is a great sleeper at 18 months and she doesn't seem to hold a grudge against us! Still, I feel like the parents who had an "easy" time of it are only giving one perspective on the experience.

    Posted by RM May 27, 09 03:52 PM
  1. As someone who lives above people who have adopted the strategy of letting the baby cry itself to sleep...let me assure you that NO IT IS NOT OK.

    Posted by n.h. May 27, 09 04:29 PM
  1. #4: It is a habit that she is waking up now b/c you are still giving her milk. You should nix the milk so that she doesn't wake up expecting that she is going to get some.

    We always had the 10 minute rule. If they were still crying after 10 minutes, then we would go in, but 8 out of 10 times they would be back asleep in under 10 minutes. I had my daughter (2nd child) sleeping through the night (8+ hours) at a week old b/c frankly I flipped her and put her on her stomach b/c she HATED (and I mean HATED) being on her back. Of course I wound up keeping her in our room longer than I did my son (16 weeks vs. 12 weeks). I am not recommending that someone tries that if they aren't comfortable with it, but for us that was a trick for her and she still is to this day a stomach sleeper at almost 4 and sleeps 12-13 hours a night.

    Posted by mae May 27, 09 04:30 PM
  1. I have 4 y.o. triplets who sleep soundly through the night. We used this method via another book entitled, "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child". We began this method as they each reached 10 lbs or more. Our pediatrician indicated that they could begin to sleep for longer stretches at the 10 lb mark. They were sleeping 12 hrs./night in no time - each of them - 3 different kids under one method.

    I agree wholeheartedly that allowing your child to securely fall asleep on their own gives them a sense of self-assurance and security that carries through their entire lives. It's invaluable. Next to giving love and food, positive sleep habits is one of the most important things that you can give your child.

    It certainly isn't a "once and done". We've had interruptions over the years, wich I learned through the sleep book are normal and often times associated with milestones or significant periods of growth and development in your child. You also have interruptions to sleep patterns associated with illness, teething, etc. We just go back to the same method each time - tried and true.

    I am a better Mom to my kids if I am rested - I get rest when they rest. They are more responsive and calm if they are rested. It is a win-win situation.

    Posted by Triplet Mom May 27, 09 04:37 PM
  1. There is an even better book than Ferber, it's Dr Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I was confused and stressed by Ferber, and Weissbluth was simple and extremely effective. I just had to post to highly recommend it! It changed our lives dramatically and wonderfully.

    Posted by cathy May 27, 09 04:41 PM
  1. Ferber works for some but not others. If LM doesn't mind sleeping with her children it's not for anyone to judge. Neither are we to judge RM for her child crying for hours to "Ferberize".
    Too Tired is not having a good experience with her sleep situation and wants a change. She is asking for advice not LM. She sounds like she wants to use the Ferber method but needs to convince her husband that this is the best method for establishing a sleep pattern in her child. Some people have a very strong emotional response to their child crying. Maybe her husband is experiencing this. It may be hard for you to convince him if so. Maybe it would be best if he goes away for teh weekend while you give it a try.
    My first child would sleep in a crib when he was ready. It turned out to be at 6 month. My second child will cry all night in a crib and happily sleeps with me. It doesn't bother me. It shouldn't bother you.

    Posted by Co-sleeper May 27, 09 04:52 PM
  1. LM & Co-sleeper, I'm with you. My daughter slept with us, either in her crib or in our bed, and it was a wonderful family-bonding way to end/start the day. When she got old enough she moved into her own room. We'd read her a bedtime story and she'd nod off. She would sometimes wake up looking for us, but by then she was old enough to understand the situation and calmed down quickly. Personally, I feel that Ferberizing can harden a child's heart, but that's just me. Regardless, I'm very happy that we handled things the way we did, very much enjoyed that time in our lives, and more than pleased with the results.

    Posted by Slash May 27, 09 05:29 PM
  1. A friend and her husband thought it was a good idea to have their first child sleep with them...the family bed idea. By the time they no longer thought it was a good idea the child had adapted to the idea wholeheartedly. It took an intervention with two friends to help this mom break her child of climbing out of his crib where he wouldn't sleep even for naps. No it did not take minutes but hours of crying with an adult, not mom, going in to quietly put the child back in the crib before he finally fell asleep. It took several days to break him into the concept of sleeping in his crib, but he adjusted, and is now a fine young man. Start with the child in the bed, not your bed, and it will be much easier to get them to seep.

    Posted by A former interventionist May 27, 09 05:34 PM
  1. If Ferber is too much for the LW (or her husband) then another approach is Elizabeth Pantley's "No Cry Sleep Solution." I never had the heart to let any of my kids cry it out, even for a few minutes, so this method worked for me when co-sleeping was no longer a workable solution for us. It does take longer, but is a very gentle approach and gives very detailed, practical advice for things like how to "break the seal" for a baby who falls asleep nursing, how to get a child to sleep when other siblings are up and about, etc.

    FWIW I've read quite a bit of the revised Ferber book and find that it sits well even with me, a die-hard attachment parenter. The first book had a more extreme tone and the techniques were abused by parents for decades who didn't actually read the book , contributing to the distaste many of us developed for "Ferberizing." There are parts of Weissbluth's book that literally make me sick to my stomach. Different approaches for different families I guess.

    To #4, try switching the milk for water and you may find that your baby decides that waking up for water is hardly worth the effort. We did this when night weaning and fortunately, it worked pretty quickly with just a few nights of protest.

    MarkB, read some recent research on extreme CIO and the stress it puts a child under. They may not "remember" being abandoned by their parents in the middle of the night and left to scream in terror for minutes (or hours) at a stretch but it sure can contribute to problems later on. Just because a child doesn't remember doesn't mean there is no harm.

    And CR...co-sleeping is the biological norm for humans. Putting your infant to sleep in a separate space and in a separate room is a bizarre luxury invented in the Western world in the last century. Co-sleeping babies certainly do not become co-sleeping older children or teens. They move on to their own sleep space at a more age-appropriate time than infancy. It doesn't work for everyone, but don't look down on those who treasure the time, bonding, attachment and peaceful sleep that co-sleeping provides. If co-sleeping were effective birth control the human race would have died out millenia ago (and I wouldn't have 4 kids).

    Posted by Jen May 27, 09 05:58 PM
  1. Co-sleeping Mama here and it makes for a good nights sleep for all. My daughters are 6 and 8 and they are in their own beds now.

    To each his own, however, CR keep the ignorance to yourself! Seriously, are you saying the only sex you have is in your own bed at night only? ;-) B O R I N G...

    Posted by just me May 27, 09 08:18 PM
  1. We began using the Ferber method when our son was about 6 months old. (We had already stopped feeding him in the middle of the night, but I really needed to stop spending time rocking him back to sleep at 3 a.m.!) The first night was definitely not fun: He cried for about 50 minutes. After the third night, however, he fell asleep pretty quickly, and soon was falling asleep after a minute or less of crying. He also was sleeping through the night very shortly after we started sleep training, and put himself to sleep at naptime, too.

    A few months later, we had to start the process over again after a combination of vacation/cold/teething had him standing up in his crib and crying. It took me several long nights to realize that we had undone the earlier training, and that he wasn't in pain. After an evening using Ferber's method, when he cried for close to an hour, our son became a total pro at sleeping: The second night, he stopped crying after 1 minute. In all, we probably had 7 or 8 nights of sitting uncomfortably by the baby monitor listening to him cry for between 10 minutes and an hour. Uncomfortable for us, yes, but worth it!

    He's now 12 months old and reaches for his crib and even waves bye-bye when put down for a nap or at bedtime! He doesn't cry at all, and seems very comfortable putting himself to sleep. Except for a few times when his nose has been runny, we haven't had to go into his room in the middle of the night in several months. He sleeps from 7:00 to 5:30 or 6:00. (We'd love to have him sleep until 6:30 if we could, but that's another matter.)

    Posted by G's Dad May 27, 09 10:06 PM
  1. Ah, infant sleep. I am a researcher for a living, and I STILL think I have done more research in the past 2 years on infant sleep than anything else. Thanks to those who are refusing to be doctrinaire on the co-sleeping issue. I am always skeptical of the argument that it's important because it's "natural" or, as one poster says, a "biological norm." The notion of reading to babies and young toddlers is also a Western invention of the last century, and I don't hear anyone suggesting that's a reason to stop. Co-sleeping after 6 mos old meant my daughter would wake me up to nurse every hour; a 2-week trial effort to stop night-nursing meant hours of nighttime howling. Nope. Not when I'm working even part-time. We don't live in the jungle anymore. We need to make aaccommodations to the lives we lead. Humans' most outstanding trait as a species is our adaptability. The practices of hunter-gatherer tribes are suited to their circumstances, we need to do the same.
    Enough philosophizing; here's our experience. 1. Staying in and rubbing her back didn't work for the same reason co-sleeping didn't work: when we were in the room, she couldn't understand why we weren't giving her what she wanted. We needed to leave then come back to soothe briefly. Repeatedly, at the beginning. She still resists bed sometimes, but at almost 2 yrs needs only 1-2 return visits. 2. Stay out at least 3 minutes. For whatever reason less didn't work.Watch the clock, otherwise you'll go back in too soon. Time slows down when your kid is crying. 3. Try leaving the door open so your daughter can hear you doing dishes or whatever around the house. Worked for us, for whatever reason! Still not an A+ sleeper, but we can live with this

    Posted by pragmatist May 28, 09 10:27 AM
  1. 3 minutes is a LONG time to listen to your kid cry for some people especially when you're just starting this process. It's not about patience, it's about doing what isn't going to have you freaking out and in tears yourself. The process will take a little longer if you go in earlier, but it'll work. Mark B -- go troll somewhere else.

    And #12 -- the reason I described my "easy" experience is because that's the experience I had. I DID say that I figured we had gotten pretty lucky, but I can't comment on having a bad experience with it since I didn't have one. That's why people like you need to comment also to round out the picture. But there's no need to diss anyone for not having had a horrible time to write about.

    Posted by DT May 28, 09 11:13 AM
  1. Well I have read all yalls stories, and I am working on the method of letting my son cry himself to sleep. He is now 9 months and still breast-feeding him at nap time and before he goes to sleep. He wakes up constantly throughout the night, not just to eat, but he just moves so much that my husband has to sleep in the living room couch. So I really hope this method works for us, he just fell asleep right now after an HOUR and a HALF!!! Of course I went in and checked up on him every 10 to 15 min and just lay him back down, cause he would stand up and cry. I know it seems soooo cruel to do to him, but my husband shouldn't have to sleep on the couch. I just hope that when he wakes up he could put himself back to sleep. Wish me luck!

    Posted by Monica May 28, 09 10:37 PM
  1. Please don't let your child cry like this. Try reading the groundbreaking book "The Happiest Baby on the Block" by Dr. Karp. You will be amazed at the results.

    Posted by Dharmaja June 3, 09 01:49 AM
  1. I think if the baby cry, he must need something or be somewhere not very comfortable. Though we can't know everything he is thinking, we can do our best to help.

    Posted by greenpower June 11, 09 11:03 PM
  1. Um...Just my oppinion. Why not just do whatever works for you! My daughter is 12 months old, I did the rocking thing and prayed to anyone who would listen she wouldn't wake up. A few hours later she would wake up and want to sleep in the bed (a terrible habit her Daddy allowed). I didn't like it but it felt good to feel my daughter close me me and snuggle. BUT..It can not continue forever. So i just started putting her in her crib. She would whine and whimper for a few minutes but never sream to where she was blue in the face. I think It's all about Trust. So whatever method you use, it should work for you. Good Luck to all!!

    Posted by Down to Earth Mom December 13, 11 11:31 PM
  1. What has happened to common sense? Sorry, but wimpy parents raise wimpy children and from the remarks above I now understand what has happened to our kids.

    I would much rather loose sleep during my child's independent sleep stage, then loose sleep due to an irrational, anal and self indulgent belief that I must find a way to make life perfect at all times for my perfect child. That is not only delusional, but a perspective that will inhibit healthy growth for both the parent and the child, IMHO

    Posted by nm February 3, 12 10:53 PM
  1. Sleeping with your kids is just weird, this is the reason our kids today are not independent and suffer from having helicopter parents.

    Posted by Old School February 3, 12 11:06 PM
 
30 comments so far...
  1. This method (described by Barbara) worked very well for us when our daughter was about 12 months old. We started with very short periods (2-3 minutes), and she got the hang of it quickly. We never had to let her cry for long -- within the first few days she started falling asleep after about 5 minutes. I think we were lucky on that front, but we were also really consistent about not picking her up, etc. Use your best judgment for how long you let her cry -- if 3 minutes is too rough on you, just do 1.5 or 2 minutes to start. If she's just whimpering and not really crying, let it go a little longer.

    Be warned that you may have to do it more than once. We had to re-do the whole process at 19 months. It was definitely harder this time (she'd wake up in the middle of the night also), but again, we mostly stayed consistent (this is harder when they're talking a little and crying for "mommy!" and "daddy!") and by 20 months it was back to normal. Now (22 months) we put her in bed while she's awake, and she's asleep (without crying) within 15 minutes and sleeps all night. Good luck.

    Posted by DT May 27, 09 09:36 AM
  1. Too tired, I did the exact same thing with my son until he was about 10 months old. I would hold him and rock him until he was asleep and hope he would stay asleep when I put him down. The older he got the more he would wake up when putting him into his crib so finally I had to put a stop to that. Like Barbara said, the first couple nights were the toughest but it only took 4 nights of letting him cry it out before it worked. The longest it took was 10 minutes. This will feel like an eternity while the crying is going on but in the end it's the best for everyone and what's 10 minutes in the big picture. My son will be 15 months next week and he actually likes going to bed now. He is familiar with the routine and knows exactly what to expect. On occasion when he's not exactly ready to go to bed, (he wants to play more) he will cry until I leave the room but by the time I get to the bottom of the stairs he's done crying and laying down. The hardest thing is actually leaving the room while they are crying but by staying it's just prolonging the inevitable.
    Give it a try and good luck!

    Posted by bgcomreader May 27, 09 10:23 AM
  1. My kids are 18 and 21 now and we used the Ferber method way back when. It was hard at first, but worked with both of them within 5 nights. They were younger than one year old and occasionally had a difficult to fall asleep night, but who doesn't. We also learned when they got older, to stop naps when they weren't tired enough to fall asleep at night pretty quickly.

    Posted by JB May 27, 09 01:44 PM
  1. What about night-time wake ups? My daughter is 13 months and still waking up once a night. We're still giving her milk and that gets her back to sleep (usually), but soon this needs to stop. To add an extra twist, we have big brother, a light sleeper, in the bedroom next to hers. So, I'm afraid to let her cry too long during the night (she usually wakes up around 2 or 3), fearing she'll wake him, too and then everyone will be up.

    Posted by farawayreader May 27, 09 02:37 PM
  1. We solve this problem by having the baby sleep in our bed. I rock him to sleep. I put him down on the bed. He stays asleep. If he begins to wake up, I rub his back or lie him on top of me while half asleep. He goes back to sleep. So do I.

    I really wonder if a lot of these sleep problems are just because babies are sleeping in different rooms and different beds from parents.

    Posted by LM May 27, 09 02:39 PM
  1. faraway reader - has your daughter ever slept through the night or are these wake ups new? My son has slept through the night since 3 months but on the few occasions that he has woken up during the night it's been because of a cold, ear infection or teething. I try to wait it out at least 10 minutes before going in. Usually he falls back to sleep within that time on his own.
    Maybe you could try to let her cry it out for a while and if your son wakes up go in and sooth him in order to give your daughter a chance to sooth herself back to sleep.

    Posted by bgcomreader May 27, 09 02:55 PM
  1. LM,
    You are going to have your kids in your bed as teenagers based on what you say. Children need to have there own room or space to develop. Why would any family or person for that matter recommend having their kids sleep in there bed. That is one way to limit the number of kids you are going to have!

    Posted by CR May 27, 09 03:04 PM
  1. I find that parents too often feel the only choice is to do what they are doing or let their baby cry-it-out and there is a lot in between! A step in the right direction is to stop the rocking and allow her to fall asleep not moving in your arms, perhaps or with you in the room. The issue is you have to recreate that rocking over and over, so the first step to break the sleep association is simply stop doing it. But, you also don't have to let her cry herself to sleep, alone, either.

    However, some protesting is probably going to happen. Ferber equates this to you sleeping with a pillow. If you woke up and your pillow was gone, wouldn't you wake up to look for it? Sometimes we become our children's "pillow", but we can all learn a new way to sleep with practice. I might cry too if I had to learn how to sleep without a pillow :) but within a few days, I'd get used to it and so will she. You wouldn't let her out of her carseat if she were crying while you were driving would you? They complain. It happens. It doesn't mean you don't do what's best for the family, especially them. Those are precious 2 hours she's losing every night! I've been there, too! I built a whole website about it: http://www.picknicksbrain.com and I'm sure a lot of my articles would help!

    Good luck to you!

    Posted by Nicole May 27, 09 03:17 PM
  1. When my son was 9 months old, I began putting him in his crib while he was still awake, with the door closed and no night light. He is now a well-adjusted 8-year-old who has never had a problem when he wakes in the middle of the night. Even as a toddler, he would simply lie back down and go back to sleep because he knew where he was. Give your children confidence in themselves and they won't be so frightened to be alone.

    Posted by Angela G May 27, 09 03:19 PM
  1. I have 3 children who are now 5,4, and 2.5. I read about Dr. Ferbers method when my oldest was about 1 yr and we needed to transition to a newborn in the house. The system works and works even better if you start from the beginning. Finally, with the third...we got it right! She is a dream at bedtime/naptimes. She has always been put down while awake and falls asleep quickly without drama.

    Please note that their is much negative chatter about Dr. Ferber's method; primarily by those who have not actually read his writings completely. If one only reads the tag line that parents should let their children cry until they fall asleep - you will get it wrong. Also, his book has a ton of great information on newborn, infant, toddler, etc. sleep patterns.

    Posted by Michelle May 27, 09 03:19 PM
  1. A quote from above: "if three minutes is too much for you...."

    If three minutes is too much for you, you need to learn some patience. You're supposed to be the grown-up in the house, not the impatient child. And please remember - whatever you do, the child will not remember any of it, so you are not doing any harm in any case. You can get the pain over with quickly, or you can extend it as long as you want. Better to face it and get it over with. Don't worry - you child may not love you when they grow up, but it won't be because of the time you let him/her cry themselves to sleep.

    Posted by MarkB May 27, 09 03:52 PM
  1. One note of experience: You often hear the parents like 1, 2, and 3 above who talk about the fact that their child only cried for 10 minutes or Feber worked in four nights. That was not our experience. We used the method and it did work, but the first few nights, our daughter (around 6 months at the time) cried for HOURS. That was even with us going in to rub her back (but not take her out of the crib). In the end, she is a great sleeper at 18 months and she doesn't seem to hold a grudge against us! Still, I feel like the parents who had an "easy" time of it are only giving one perspective on the experience.

    Posted by RM May 27, 09 03:52 PM
  1. As someone who lives above people who have adopted the strategy of letting the baby cry itself to sleep...let me assure you that NO IT IS NOT OK.

    Posted by n.h. May 27, 09 04:29 PM
  1. #4: It is a habit that she is waking up now b/c you are still giving her milk. You should nix the milk so that she doesn't wake up expecting that she is going to get some.

    We always had the 10 minute rule. If they were still crying after 10 minutes, then we would go in, but 8 out of 10 times they would be back asleep in under 10 minutes. I had my daughter (2nd child) sleeping through the night (8+ hours) at a week old b/c frankly I flipped her and put her on her stomach b/c she HATED (and I mean HATED) being on her back. Of course I wound up keeping her in our room longer than I did my son (16 weeks vs. 12 weeks). I am not recommending that someone tries that if they aren't comfortable with it, but for us that was a trick for her and she still is to this day a stomach sleeper at almost 4 and sleeps 12-13 hours a night.

    Posted by mae May 27, 09 04:30 PM
  1. I have 4 y.o. triplets who sleep soundly through the night. We used this method via another book entitled, "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child". We began this method as they each reached 10 lbs or more. Our pediatrician indicated that they could begin to sleep for longer stretches at the 10 lb mark. They were sleeping 12 hrs./night in no time - each of them - 3 different kids under one method.

    I agree wholeheartedly that allowing your child to securely fall asleep on their own gives them a sense of self-assurance and security that carries through their entire lives. It's invaluable. Next to giving love and food, positive sleep habits is one of the most important things that you can give your child.

    It certainly isn't a "once and done". We've had interruptions over the years, wich I learned through the sleep book are normal and often times associated with milestones or significant periods of growth and development in your child. You also have interruptions to sleep patterns associated with illness, teething, etc. We just go back to the same method each time - tried and true.

    I am a better Mom to my kids if I am rested - I get rest when they rest. They are more responsive and calm if they are rested. It is a win-win situation.

    Posted by Triplet Mom May 27, 09 04:37 PM
  1. There is an even better book than Ferber, it's Dr Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I was confused and stressed by Ferber, and Weissbluth was simple and extremely effective. I just had to post to highly recommend it! It changed our lives dramatically and wonderfully.

    Posted by cathy May 27, 09 04:41 PM
  1. Ferber works for some but not others. If LM doesn't mind sleeping with her children it's not for anyone to judge. Neither are we to judge RM for her child crying for hours to "Ferberize".
    Too Tired is not having a good experience with her sleep situation and wants a change. She is asking for advice not LM. She sounds like she wants to use the Ferber method but needs to convince her husband that this is the best method for establishing a sleep pattern in her child. Some people have a very strong emotional response to their child crying. Maybe her husband is experiencing this. It may be hard for you to convince him if so. Maybe it would be best if he goes away for teh weekend while you give it a try.
    My first child would sleep in a crib when he was ready. It turned out to be at 6 month. My second child will cry all night in a crib and happily sleeps with me. It doesn't bother me. It shouldn't bother you.

    Posted by Co-sleeper May 27, 09 04:52 PM
  1. LM & Co-sleeper, I'm with you. My daughter slept with us, either in her crib or in our bed, and it was a wonderful family-bonding way to end/start the day. When she got old enough she moved into her own room. We'd read her a bedtime story and she'd nod off. She would sometimes wake up looking for us, but by then she was old enough to understand the situation and calmed down quickly. Personally, I feel that Ferberizing can harden a child's heart, but that's just me. Regardless, I'm very happy that we handled things the way we did, very much enjoyed that time in our lives, and more than pleased with the results.

    Posted by Slash May 27, 09 05:29 PM
  1. A friend and her husband thought it was a good idea to have their first child sleep with them...the family bed idea. By the time they no longer thought it was a good idea the child had adapted to the idea wholeheartedly. It took an intervention with two friends to help this mom break her child of climbing out of his crib where he wouldn't sleep even for naps. No it did not take minutes but hours of crying with an adult, not mom, going in to quietly put the child back in the crib before he finally fell asleep. It took several days to break him into the concept of sleeping in his crib, but he adjusted, and is now a fine young man. Start with the child in the bed, not your bed, and it will be much easier to get them to seep.

    Posted by A former interventionist May 27, 09 05:34 PM
  1. If Ferber is too much for the LW (or her husband) then another approach is Elizabeth Pantley's "No Cry Sleep Solution." I never had the heart to let any of my kids cry it out, even for a few minutes, so this method worked for me when co-sleeping was no longer a workable solution for us. It does take longer, but is a very gentle approach and gives very detailed, practical advice for things like how to "break the seal" for a baby who falls asleep nursing, how to get a child to sleep when other siblings are up and about, etc.

    FWIW I've read quite a bit of the revised Ferber book and find that it sits well even with me, a die-hard attachment parenter. The first book had a more extreme tone and the techniques were abused by parents for decades who didn't actually read the book , contributing to the distaste many of us developed for "Ferberizing." There are parts of Weissbluth's book that literally make me sick to my stomach. Different approaches for different families I guess.

    To #4, try switching the milk for water and you may find that your baby decides that waking up for water is hardly worth the effort. We did this when night weaning and fortunately, it worked pretty quickly with just a few nights of protest.

    MarkB, read some recent research on extreme CIO and the stress it puts a child under. They may not "remember" being abandoned by their parents in the middle of the night and left to scream in terror for minutes (or hours) at a stretch but it sure can contribute to problems later on. Just because a child doesn't remember doesn't mean there is no harm.

    And CR...co-sleeping is the biological norm for humans. Putting your infant to sleep in a separate space and in a separate room is a bizarre luxury invented in the Western world in the last century. Co-sleeping babies certainly do not become co-sleeping older children or teens. They move on to their own sleep space at a more age-appropriate time than infancy. It doesn't work for everyone, but don't look down on those who treasure the time, bonding, attachment and peaceful sleep that co-sleeping provides. If co-sleeping were effective birth control the human race would have died out millenia ago (and I wouldn't have 4 kids).

    Posted by Jen May 27, 09 05:58 PM
  1. Co-sleeping Mama here and it makes for a good nights sleep for all. My daughters are 6 and 8 and they are in their own beds now.

    To each his own, however, CR keep the ignorance to yourself! Seriously, are you saying the only sex you have is in your own bed at night only? ;-) B O R I N G...

    Posted by just me May 27, 09 08:18 PM
  1. We began using the Ferber method when our son was about 6 months old. (We had already stopped feeding him in the middle of the night, but I really needed to stop spending time rocking him back to sleep at 3 a.m.!) The first night was definitely not fun: He cried for about 50 minutes. After the third night, however, he fell asleep pretty quickly, and soon was falling asleep after a minute or less of crying. He also was sleeping through the night very shortly after we started sleep training, and put himself to sleep at naptime, too.

    A few months later, we had to start the process over again after a combination of vacation/cold/teething had him standing up in his crib and crying. It took me several long nights to realize that we had undone the earlier training, and that he wasn't in pain. After an evening using Ferber's method, when he cried for close to an hour, our son became a total pro at sleeping: The second night, he stopped crying after 1 minute. In all, we probably had 7 or 8 nights of sitting uncomfortably by the baby monitor listening to him cry for between 10 minutes and an hour. Uncomfortable for us, yes, but worth it!

    He's now 12 months old and reaches for his crib and even waves bye-bye when put down for a nap or at bedtime! He doesn't cry at all, and seems very comfortable putting himself to sleep. Except for a few times when his nose has been runny, we haven't had to go into his room in the middle of the night in several months. He sleeps from 7:00 to 5:30 or 6:00. (We'd love to have him sleep until 6:30 if we could, but that's another matter.)

    Posted by G's Dad May 27, 09 10:06 PM
  1. Ah, infant sleep. I am a researcher for a living, and I STILL think I have done more research in the past 2 years on infant sleep than anything else. Thanks to those who are refusing to be doctrinaire on the co-sleeping issue. I am always skeptical of the argument that it's important because it's "natural" or, as one poster says, a "biological norm." The notion of reading to babies and young toddlers is also a Western invention of the last century, and I don't hear anyone suggesting that's a reason to stop. Co-sleeping after 6 mos old meant my daughter would wake me up to nurse every hour; a 2-week trial effort to stop night-nursing meant hours of nighttime howling. Nope. Not when I'm working even part-time. We don't live in the jungle anymore. We need to make aaccommodations to the lives we lead. Humans' most outstanding trait as a species is our adaptability. The practices of hunter-gatherer tribes are suited to their circumstances, we need to do the same.
    Enough philosophizing; here's our experience. 1. Staying in and rubbing her back didn't work for the same reason co-sleeping didn't work: when we were in the room, she couldn't understand why we weren't giving her what she wanted. We needed to leave then come back to soothe briefly. Repeatedly, at the beginning. She still resists bed sometimes, but at almost 2 yrs needs only 1-2 return visits. 2. Stay out at least 3 minutes. For whatever reason less didn't work.Watch the clock, otherwise you'll go back in too soon. Time slows down when your kid is crying. 3. Try leaving the door open so your daughter can hear you doing dishes or whatever around the house. Worked for us, for whatever reason! Still not an A+ sleeper, but we can live with this

    Posted by pragmatist May 28, 09 10:27 AM
  1. 3 minutes is a LONG time to listen to your kid cry for some people especially when you're just starting this process. It's not about patience, it's about doing what isn't going to have you freaking out and in tears yourself. The process will take a little longer if you go in earlier, but it'll work. Mark B -- go troll somewhere else.

    And #12 -- the reason I described my "easy" experience is because that's the experience I had. I DID say that I figured we had gotten pretty lucky, but I can't comment on having a bad experience with it since I didn't have one. That's why people like you need to comment also to round out the picture. But there's no need to diss anyone for not having had a horrible time to write about.

    Posted by DT May 28, 09 11:13 AM
  1. Well I have read all yalls stories, and I am working on the method of letting my son cry himself to sleep. He is now 9 months and still breast-feeding him at nap time and before he goes to sleep. He wakes up constantly throughout the night, not just to eat, but he just moves so much that my husband has to sleep in the living room couch. So I really hope this method works for us, he just fell asleep right now after an HOUR and a HALF!!! Of course I went in and checked up on him every 10 to 15 min and just lay him back down, cause he would stand up and cry. I know it seems soooo cruel to do to him, but my husband shouldn't have to sleep on the couch. I just hope that when he wakes up he could put himself back to sleep. Wish me luck!

    Posted by Monica May 28, 09 10:37 PM
  1. Please don't let your child cry like this. Try reading the groundbreaking book "The Happiest Baby on the Block" by Dr. Karp. You will be amazed at the results.

    Posted by Dharmaja June 3, 09 01:49 AM
  1. I think if the baby cry, he must need something or be somewhere not very comfortable. Though we can't know everything he is thinking, we can do our best to help.

    Posted by greenpower June 11, 09 11:03 PM
  1. Um...Just my oppinion. Why not just do whatever works for you! My daughter is 12 months old, I did the rocking thing and prayed to anyone who would listen she wouldn't wake up. A few hours later she would wake up and want to sleep in the bed (a terrible habit her Daddy allowed). I didn't like it but it felt good to feel my daughter close me me and snuggle. BUT..It can not continue forever. So i just started putting her in her crib. She would whine and whimper for a few minutes but never sream to where she was blue in the face. I think It's all about Trust. So whatever method you use, it should work for you. Good Luck to all!!

    Posted by Down to Earth Mom December 13, 11 11:31 PM
  1. What has happened to common sense? Sorry, but wimpy parents raise wimpy children and from the remarks above I now understand what has happened to our kids.

    I would much rather loose sleep during my child's independent sleep stage, then loose sleep due to an irrational, anal and self indulgent belief that I must find a way to make life perfect at all times for my perfect child. That is not only delusional, but a perspective that will inhibit healthy growth for both the parent and the child, IMHO

    Posted by nm February 3, 12 10:53 PM
  1. Sleeping with your kids is just weird, this is the reason our kids today are not independent and suffer from having helicopter parents.

    Posted by Old School February 3, 12 11:06 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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