"Crying It Out": Acceptable -- or Abuse?

One of the most primitive, innate reactions any mom has is to comfort her crying child. But as we've talked about here before, many babies can tolerate -- and thrive -- with some crying, when their parents thoughtfully decide why and when that might be necessary.

That's why articles like this leave me mystified -- especially when they come from one of my shrink colleagues.  Her bottom line is that CIO is dangerous. She trots out all the old arguments, hailing the Dr. Sears "science" behind her claims, and providing one of the most common misinterpretations of infant research. She makes the mistake that clinical research findings about abused and maltreated babies -- babies who were pervasively denied their needs over the long-term -- should be applied to NORMAL babies in NORMAL families.

The fact is, there is no evidence whatsoever that occasional CIO in typically developing babies causes any damage. PERIOD.

More importantly, there IS evidence that severely sleep-deprived mothers are at much higher risk of developing an already common --and dangerous -- condition: postpartum depression. And PPD certainly CAN lead to long-term damage to both baby -- and the entire family. CIO is a method that, when implemented thoughtfully, can often lead to improved sleep (and health and happiness) for everyone.

Firebombs like those thrown in the Psychology Today article only make the burden heavier on moms. What a shame.

Aloha as always,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

PS: Wow, what a response! After commenting here, please also see the comments developing over at the Fussy Baby Site.

BabyGeek: Infant Sleep "Rules" Don't Work

I've been sleep deprived since April 2001, when our oldest was born. Since then, I've tried every "trick" in the parenting book. And nothing seems effective at "making" my

kids sleep better. They've all evolved into being better sleepers over time.

That's why I'm so interested in the line of research discussed in this study. Penn State scientists found -- despite common parenting advice -- that parents' EMOTIONAL response to their children at bedtime was much more successful than any specific behavioral "trick" in getting children to sleep.

As a shrink, I tell parents that babies absorb their emotional messages. Parents are often surprised when I tell them that even the youngest babies sense their emotions -- but it's true.

In the shrinking world, we've been struggling internally for years over the predominant theoretical orientation -- Behaviorism, and its spin-offs -- and the power it holds over the way we do our work. Those of us who work with very young children understand that simple behavioral and operant conditioning simply doesn't apply with the little ones. That's why "Ferberizing" and related approaches are often ineffective.  FIRST, babies need to feel emotionally (and physically) safe. Other learning can proceed from there. But sleep is an inherently scary proposition, and often triggers resistance and regression in children. It's a weird and scary thing to transition into a sleep state.

So the fundamental message of this research at Penn State is both obvious to me -- and very reassuring -- as an Early Childhood specialist. I'm eager to see what else they discover in this line of inquiry, and I'll be sure to share it with you.

Here's a link to some of my "getting to sleep" advice. What's yours?

 

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Sleep & Nap Issues: When Your Toddler Looks Tired -- But Won't Nap

It was 2 pm, and my toddler STILL hadn't gone down for her nap. Routines were followed, milk was drunk, and the house was quiet (no small feat around here, I assure you). She was rubbing her eyes, complaining -- but plowing ahead. Throwing her little arms in the air, she was chanting, "Up! Up!"

Some of you are pretty mellow about your toddler's nap schedule. But I'm the type who has to have "mellow" beaten into me with the stick of experience. "Toddlers are supposed to nap. Go to sleep, toddler of mine."

Not always that easy, is it? Turns out, none of my 4 babies ever read the Weissbluth or Ferber books, and they totally failed the "How Many Hours Per Day Babies Need To Sleep" test. They didn't follow those rules, and I was left fretting that something was wrong (and trying to soothe an overtired baby).

But guess what? I'm up at 3 am writing this post. Why? I can't sleep. I did my nighty-night routine, but my BabyShrink work beckoned me from bed. Your baby has important work to do, too. Sometimes, it's more important than sleep.

But what does a poor parent do with an obviously sleepy (but not napping) toddler?

Here on my 4th baby, I've discovered some important truths about nap schedules:

* The best-followed routine doesn't always work. Sometimes a nap simply isn't in the cards.

* Yes, an over-tired toddler sometimes means a cranky and difficult afternoon. But often, your toddler can rally and make the most out of the day.

* Toddlers are notoriously wacky about following nap schedules -- some more than others. Focus on nighttime sleep, and an earlier bedtime when there's no nap.

* Some parents attempt to hang on to that second nap for too long. If she used to be a good napper and now isn't, experiment with dropping the nap.

* Yes, I know: Sleep is important to a baby's brain. But as with food, parents need to focus on the overall amount, over time. A bad day ( or week) of sleep isn't going to do any lasting damage (except to us).

Now it's off to bed for me. If you're still awake, go and read more about your toddler's sleep challenges here.

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Sleep & Nap Issues: How To Cope While Sleep Training Your Baby

We're doing our own version of Sleep Training around here, since baby #4 has proven to be immensely resistant -- and LOUD -- in our efforts to help her sleep through even a decent portion of the night. Adorable as she is, she's the most rotten sleeper I've yet produced. Tough Love is in order. Sure, she sleeps OK in the stroller.

But Tough Love is rough on me -- and on the family. A fussing (or screaming) baby feels like a constant reminder of some kind of parental inadequacy, and is really grating on the nerves. Not to mention the fact that it often happens at ridiculous hours of the night when most other babies are surely sleeping soundly. And forget sleep for poor mom. I'm a zombie.

But persist I must. I won't give in to an 18-pound 8-month old, no matter how cute she is (in the daytime, at least). It will be worth it in the end.

Here are my tips for getting through this rough time, if you're going through Sleep Training:

Make sure you and your partner are on the same page. There's nothing worse than arguing about sleep training techniques at 2 am, standing outside the door of a screaming baby. Agree ahead of time -- or don't attempt it.

Prepare the older kids for nighttime noise. I tell my lightest sleeper that he may hear the baby fussing at night. "But you're a big boy and can roll over and go to sleep. Soon we'll all get better sleep."

Use a little reverse psychology on yourself. (You're so sleep deprived it just might work!) Instead of preparing for a night of sleep, prepare for a night of watching "guilty pleasure" TV, listening to great music from your (childless) past, or even folding laundry. Fooling yourself into thinking you don't really need to sleep somehow makes it less painful to be up at weird hours.

Take a deep breath, have a zen moment, do some mindfulness meditation, yoga, or pray -- pick your version of expressing gratitude and relaxation. Having a non-sleeping, screaming baby at 2 am is really hard. But in the scope of things, not really that big of a deal. A few moments recalling the years when we feared we couldn't get pregnant, or thinking of friends who have a baby who's quite ill, and others who have God forbid lost a child, and I'm ready to get through another tough night of sleep training. Having a healthy, happy, non-sleeping baby is a high-class problem we're blessed to have, quite honestly.

I've written other posts about getting through the sleep deprivation aspect of this, but let me also mention our friend caffeine here. Don't overdo it. At my peak, I have a mug of java in the morning, some iced tea at lunch, and another cup of coffee around 2. That's 3 servings a day. Any more and I get frazzled and nutty -- and no more awake than if I had stayed with the 3 servings. Studies say that some coffee is fine for most of us, but too much will definitely make you feel worse.

Sleep Training eventually works -- I'm writing this now as the baby sleeps nicely in her crib. Get through the rough nights and I promise things will improve!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Sleep & Nap Issues: A Noisy House = A Sleeping Baby?

When our first was born, I was determined to eliminate any possible source of noise inside (and outside) the house in hopes of bettering my baby's sleep. I neurotically tiptoed around, turned off the phones, waited on chores that made noise, and considered complaining to the County for allowing leaf-blowers in my neighborhood. Guess what? Nothing worked. The baby slept as she was going to sleep (not very well) no matter what. As I kept having babies, the ability to even try to maintain a quiet home was beaten out of me. It simply wasn't possible. And guess what? The babies still slept as they were going to sleep (still, mostly not very well). But slowly, it dawned on me that the normal, medium-noise level of the house not only didn't seem to worsen the baby's sleep...it improved it. Turns out, babies are used to a ton of noise in-utero. The mother's body -- and the typical household -- make it fairly raucous in there. So don't worry about a little noise -- in fact, noise machines, fans, and radios turned down low have all been found to encourage a good snooze.

I have found that a sudden CHANGE in the noise level of the house can disturb sleep; for instance, a generally noisy house turned quiet all of a sudden is just as likely to wake the baby as is the big roar of the garbage truck outside her window. But all in all, the baby will get used to the noise level in your house, and eventually allow you to sleep (a bit) too. So don't make yourself nuts trying to shush the other kids (and your entire neighborhood). Just breathe deeply, and try to grab a nap!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Sleep & Nap Issues: A Toddler's Sleep Dilemma Solved

Hi Dr. Heather, I have a sleep question regarding my 11-month-old. Since he was 5 months, he successfully fell asleep in his crib after our nightly routine, and woke 2 or fewer times to nurse. Similarly with naps. We do not use any type of music or white noise when putting him to sleep.

We have always had a music box in his crib. We usually turn this on when we put him in the crib for "safe keeping" while we wash our hands after a diaper change. We do not use it for sleep.

In the last 2 weeks or so, we have noticed he frequently uses the music box. Now when we put him down, he will get up less than a minute later and turn on the music box. Sometimes he will play with it for a few minutes (turning it off and on) - but eventually he will usually lay down and fall asleep. We have noticed him using it in the middle of the night as well - sometimes letting it play out then turning it back on again. (Usually this is after I have gone in due to his crying and put him back down again).

Putting him down for naps has been a struggle this past 6 weeks or so, and the last 2 weeks he has been playing with the music box during naps, sometimes falling asleep, sometimes crying after he is done playing and defiantly not going to fall asleep anytime soon. (about 60/40).

Okay, so all that to ask: Is this okay? I do not want my baby dependent on a lighted music box to fall asleep, and I do not want him playing in the middle of the night. But, if this is how he "self-soothes" . . . Will this become a dependency problem or will he grow to not need the music box? Should we let this continue as he chooses or should we turn off the music box or do we need to remove it from his crib? What do you think?

Thank You, Angie

Dear Angie,

Thanks for your question! You're not the only one to wonder about this; our 3rd baby used to do the same thing, with a very similar music box. We'd be asleep late at night, then all of a sudden we'd hear that familiar tune coming from his room. What the heck? We'd wonder. Our little guy was in there, happily rolling around, very pleased that he'd turned on the music all by himself.

At first we worried that we'd have to take out the music box, since we didn't want him to be up and playing, late at night. Then I realized...Hey, instead of crying for me at midnight, he's entertaining himself. This is a good thing, right? I left him alone in there and sure enough, he'd fall asleep on his own after awhile.

Because the overall drift of our parenting goals is to support them in being independent, as soon as they are ready. And babies and toddlers DO normally still frequently waken at night, it's just an issue for us when we have to get up too to help them get back to sleep. But if they're handling it on their own? That's a good thing. I also recall that the late-night-music-party was a short phase. The excitement ran out after awhile and then we were on to the next dilemma.

And now that your little guy is approaching toddlerhood, you're going to get a lot more testing along these lines. The nap issue is always going to be there, in one form or another, through toddlerhood. The music-box thing is only his first effort to avoid naps. Most toddlers go through phases where they're really good at napping, and then take a stab at trying to stay awake. Let your expectations be known, urge him to nap, but don't get too worked up about it. He'll make up for any lost sleep at night, or when he's done testing you with that particular phase.

But I also hear that you're concerned about being consistent as a parent, and not wanting to send him mixed messages. Listen: Don't worry. It sounds to me as if you're trying to be very consistent, and all you can really do is send a general message of what you expect from him. There is a lot of parenting advice out there that says you need to be consistent to a fault. I don't agree with that. These are people we're talking about! And rigidity is never a good approach in dealing with people, large or small. We have to be flexible as well as consistent, as our kids think up all sorts of new wrinkles to throw at us.

I, too, used to over-worry about the importance of being perfectly consistent, until my mentor suggested that I lighten up. "A habit isn't a habit until it IS a habit," she told me. In other words, you're trying to be consistent in order to instill a sense of structure, predictability, and behavioral expectations. But you can do that by being generally consistent; it doesn't have to be a 100% effort. I promise: You're allowed to be flexible -- I even strongly SUGGEST that you're flexible. It offers a good model to our kids that we can consider new situations and not be rigid about them. Consider every new situation afresh, THEN make your decision.

So next time you hear that familiar music drifting out of your son's room late at night, try to let the music calm YOU back to sleep too. Your baby is getting bigger, and soon he'll be getting into bis "big boy bed", and then you'll have reason to worry about new things...wandering in the night, monsters, and everything that goes along with THAT phase. So enjoy this time when he's still captive in his crib!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Sleep & Nap Issues: Got a New Baby? How to Manage The Sleep Deprivation

Boy, am I tired. You'd think I'd get used to the lack of sleep by now -- this is our fourth child, after all. But the crushing effects of sleep deprivation continue to be the hardest part of parenting, for me. I could change diapers and nurse and even chase toddlers all day long, if I could just GET SOME SLEEP. But this baby is just like her siblings, and she sleeps sporadically at best. At 4 months of age, she sometimes awakens once or twice at night -- but more often three or four times -- to nurse and be comforted. I've got 3 other kids, a day job, and you, dear reader, to keep me more than busy. I'm tired. IMG00341

When I had our first child, I had secret visions of the wonderful sleep-inducer that I'd be. "Babies need sleep, and so do parents. I'll get the baby to sleep." Somehow, I thought I could use my super-shrink powers to calm, soothe, or hypnotize her to sleep.

I was wrong. Our first didn't sleep reliably through the night until she was four. FOUR!

Since psych grad school, oddly, is completely unhelpful in the preparation for parenthood, I sought out and read every single "Baby Sleep" book out there. All the major titles. I tried everything, religiously. Didn't work.

And in the process, I got more and more sleep deprived myself.

There's not much recognition out there that parents' sleep deprivation often goes on for a really long time, and despite how difficult that is, it's actually quite normal and typical for a baby to be up a lot at night for several months, and even beyond. I was doing some research for this post and I found something really annoying -- most articles only address the FIRST MONTH of how to survive with a newborn. The implication is that things really improve in the sleep department after that first month of your baby's life. AS IF! In the first month, you're getting by on adrenaline, grandma's help, and that extra sympathy and interest everyone still has in the new baby. It actually gets WORSE after that first month; you lose most of those extra perks, the baby STILL doesn't sleep very well, and you're slowly but surely losing your mind from the accumulated lack of sleep.

And of course there ARE some babies who sleep beautifully from very early on. (But parents of THOSE babies aren't reading this post, are they?) It makes those of us with crummy sleepers feel there must be something wrong with my baby; or, there must be something wrong with my parenting. The urge to compare our babies to other babies is just too tempting. Not recommended, but hard to avoid.

When Your Baby Starts to Sleep Better...and then Regresses It's also easy to worry that "something is wrong" when your baby seems to be sleeping better....then all of a sudden is back to waking several times a night. Please know that regression is normal in many developmental areas, especially in early childhood. Sleep is no exception. My second-born slept a good NINE hour stretch from the age of 9 weeks until the age of five months. Then he started trying to roll over, and he roused himself several times a night with his new-found pursuit. After prematurely congratulating myself that we finally had a decent little sleeper, I just about lost it when he regressed back to waking several times each night again. Just as you get used to being up all night with a newborn, you also quickly get used to regular sleep again. And when your baby regresses and you have to go BACK AGAIN to being up and down all night, it somehow feels WORSE than when you were used to it before. "Of Course, MY Baby Sleeps Through the Night!" Another thing that happens is that we compare our experiences to other parents'. That's a mistake, because PARENTS LIE. Not all parents, but enough of them DO get caught up in the game of comparing kids that you end up getting some pretty skewed information. And for some reason, the misinformation also comes from other parenting "resources", which are often misleading. Even most pediatricians have little sympathy for our sleep deprivation. After all, most of these doctors take overnight call and had to be awake for their residency training for a couple of days at a time for years, so sleep deprivation is a relative term for them. And when your pediatrician says you can expect your baby to "sleep through the night" at 12 weeks of age, guess what she means? Sleeping a 6-hour stretch (sometimes, at least), is considered "normal". But in my book, that's not sleeping through the night, especially when most babies that age want to go down for the night at around 7 or 8 pm. By the time YOU get to bed, the nighttime rounds are just beginning.

The WORST advice you get is to "sleep when the baby sleeps". Well, DUH. But it's not that easy, is it? Babies' sleep cycles can sometimes be so unpredictable that they have their best stretch of sleep smack in the middle of the day, when you need to shop, cook, do stuff with your other kids, and otherwise live your life. Waking up every hour or two in the middle of the night is often more the reality for many young babies.

And I don't know about you, but it's impossible for me to sleep "on command". OK, baby's asleep now, ready, get set...SLEEP! It doesn't happen that way, does it? There are biochemical reasons for that. Once we're awake for far too long, or we're awakened one too many times at night, our bodies start to produce hormones to keep us awake. That's when you get that hyper, wired, "I-know-I-should-be-sleepy-but-I'm-wide-awake!" feeling at 3 am.

You might think that I'm going to give you some fabulous secrets for getting your baby to sleep. Sorry, folks -- sleep is one of the things you can't "make" your child do -- along with other bodily functions like eating and pooping. And if I had found the holy grail of making a baby sleep through the night, I would be a very rich Baby Shrink indeed. The truth is, nobody's done that. But I have come up with some tips, over the years, from both my experience as a shrink and as a mom, for how to SURVIVE the sleep deprivation that most of us experience with babies:

How to Survive Baby-Induced Sleep-Deprivation In order to be safe behind the wheel of a car and to keep your body (and mind) relatively healthy, you MUST get at least adequate sleep a couple of times a week. Consider this a Doctor's Order: GET HELP so that you can at least 1) sleep in at least 2 mornings a week, complete with eye shade and ear plugs so that you don't feel like you're "listening" for the baby, and 2) get at least a 90 minute break most afternoons when you can lie down and rest (and hopefully sleep). If you're a first-timer, it might not be easy to trust anybody to care for your Babe, even if you're eyes are crossing from lack of sleep. But you MUST force yourself allow a trusted person to help you. Not easy to arrange? I know. Essential for your health and well-being? YES.

Get some exercise -- preferably outside -- for at least a few minutes each day. I know it feels impossible when you're wiped out, but there really is a magical effect in taking even a few minutes' brisk walk. Getting outside in the sun will also help to re-set your circadian rhythms, which are being hammered by your 24/7 schedule. I promise, you'll feel better. You might also be able to sleep better when you get an opportunity later on.

Learn meditation and breathing techniques to calm the stress hormones that keep you awake when you should be sleeping. Any "mindfulness", prayer, yoga, or other meditative technique that focuses on breathing will work. If you feel hyper and over-tired, even TEN SECONDS of mindful breathing will help you slow down and feel better. But do strive for 15 minutes a day in order to get your stress hormones under control. This will help you to sleep better when you DO have a chance.

Don't obsess over how little sleep you're getting. Believe me, I've been there -- staring at the digital numbers on my bedside clock, getting madder by the minute about yet another night of lousy sleep, up and down with the baby. The less sleep you get, the more upset you become, and a vicious cycle begins. Don't obsess about it. Let it go. Tell yourself: Oh well, another late night. This is something I can look back on later in life and laugh about. I know I feel beyond exhausted right now, but this too will pass. And if you can't sleep, then read or watch TV. Just give yourself a break about it.

Don't compare the amount of sleep you're getting now to how much sleep you USED to get or need. I know you used to sleep in until noon, and you couldn't function with less than 8 hours before this, yadda yadda. But your body has changed -- you're a parent now, and things ARE different. Yes, your body needs sleep, but you're also pretty good at adapting to less sleep -- at least for the short term. It feels impossible to "roll with it", but that's what you've got to do.

Don't be afraid of the "Cry It Out" method for your baby -- once she's old enough. I think you can safely start that at about 9 months of age for most babies -- after they have sufficiently developed the memory skills to remember that you'll be coming back eventually, despite being left to cry (and sleep). Before then, you can (of course, with your pediatrician's blessing), allow baby to fuss, grunt and make noise before rushing to get her; many babies are NOISY sleepers (another reason for them to sleep in their own rooms), and don't actually need to be picked up. Try to learn the difference between "grunty-noisy-baby-sleep" noises and actual "come feed or comfort me" noises.

And finally, try to adopt a bit of a Zen attitude about all of this. Because your crushing sense of exhaustion will quickly dissipate one day, sooner or later, as your baby naturally develops a better capacity to sleep at night. Then you'll be on to the next parenting challenge. So pace yourself. Our oldest is almost 9 and I still almost cry in relief as I check in on her, in a deep sleep, late at night. How can they grow this fast? (Cue the music to "Sunrise, Sunset".) Is this the baby that so challenged my sense of order in the world, simply because she wasn't a great sleeper for the first few years of her life? And here she is, a beautiful, intelligent, happy third grader, reliably sleeping from 8 pm to 7 am every day. Development is a magical thing, people. We parents can only provide love, structure, safety, support and guidance to shape these fabulous creatures that are our children, while the amazing processes of "growing up" happen before our (sleep deprived) eyes. We can't "make" them sleep, but we can't "make" them roll over, sit, stand, speak, and run, either. So step back for a minute to bask in the miraculous glow of your child's growth and development. It's a beautiful thing! I hope this helped. And now, please excuse me while I try to get some sleep!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink Mom of Four, Parenting Expert

Here's another post on babies and the normal range of their sleep patterns.

Sleep & Nap Issues: Understanding Your Baby's Sleep And Wake Cycle: A Recipe For Sanity

Having a new baby throws all semblance of a household schedule into chaos. Your little interloper has demands around the clock, and as YOUR ability to sleep decreases, your feelings of insanity increase! Sleep deprivation is really one of the most difficult parts of being a new parent. You can't really blame the baby; he's obeying his internal needs and commands, which don't yet follow a nice, predictable pattern. Or do they? Believe it or not, you CAN make some sense of your baby's sleep/wake/activity cycle. Most babies generally cycle through the following phases:

1) Sleep 2) Hunger/awakening 3) Feeding 4) Alertness 5) Fussiness 6) Sleep

Very young babies may be in each phase for only a few minutes each, gradually lengthening the time spent in each phase as they get older. And of course there are variations on the above cycle; for instance, some babies like to feed again, for comfort, before they go to sleep. But most babies WILL have even some very basic, cyclical pattern that they follow around the clock, even from the earliest age. And as your baby gets older, his tendency to develop a more predictable pattern will become more obvious to you (as long as you look carefully for clues to his own unique cycle). Become a parental detective, and you'll learn a lot about your new little one.

It helps to know where your baby is in the cycle at any given time, so that you can know what to expect from him now, and in the near future. For instance, if your baby is at the tail end of a nap, it might not be a good idea to plunk him in his carseat for a long ride; he'll likely awaken with a powerful hunger, and you won't be able to feed him easily. It makes more sense to let him awaken and then feed him before you leave. Understanding where he is in the cycle also helps you know when you can expect to interact with him most productively (and have the most fun with him!) I know our new baby will awaken from her longest stretch of sleep in the morning, feeling good and ready to "play". I try to schedule my day so that I can linger with her while she coos and smiles at me from her favorite perch; the changing table, in the morning. We have fun, sweet little "conversations" that are both fun AND important to the development of her little brain. But at the tail end of her period of alertness always comes the fussiness, and I know we can wind down our playtime, as I start to rotate among her favorite soothing techniques. (At 7 weeks of age, it's anyone's guess what will soothe her at any particular moment; sometimes it's her Daddy's "Heismann Hold", sometimes it's her binky and bouncy seat, her swing, or a ride in the stroller).

Getting to know your child starts at even this very earliest of ages. You'll find, over time, that the general patterns you observe about her sleep/wake cycle eventually extend into her personality tendencies and temperament. This will help you over time to meet your child's unique parenting needs. Have fun -- and try to get some sleep!

Aloha, Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Sleep & Nap Issues: Will My Baby Ever Sleep Through The Night?

Oh, what Susanna would give... Susanna from I Find Myself a Mother wrote in with some poignant questions about her 7-month-old son, and his persistent LACK OF SLEEP. She read my article on The ABC's of Baby's Sleep, which resulted in an interesting back-and-forth with a reader on her site proposing, instead, the Attachment Parenting approach with her son. It didn't work for Susanna, and she was upset and confused about whether she was doing the right thing by her son, after attempting the "Cry It Out" (CIO) method. She wrote:

OH! NO! What have I done? We only did Scream It Out that one terrible night (usually it is Fuss It Out; and a few times of Cry It Out); but Did I scar my baby? We have friends and family that did various versions of CIO (the moronic –in my humble opinion–Babywise, the classic Ferber, and contemporary Weissbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) and they are thoughtful, enlightened, kind, rested people in good marriages with well-adjusted beautiful kids! Are they wrong? And all those books say that CIO will not hurt your baby, and that it will help in the long run because the baby won’t be sleep-deprived, and more able to engage with life! But by crying, do they mean screaming in terror for two hours??

Susanna's baby was born at 27 weeks' gestation, so he was quite premature. But she and her partner are exhausted, and fear they've scarred their baby for life. Here's my response to her:

Susanna -- your little guy is still so very young -- especially because of his super-preemie status -- that you can't really expect much from him yet, in terms of sleep. I know that developmentally you say he's on track in other areas, but that doesn't mean he's caught up in EVERY area. So you're still dealing with a very young baby, in terms of sleep expectations.

I have a major beef with so many of the "baby sleep" books, because they set us up to believe that an infant's inherent sleep patterns can truly be majorly altered by the external environment -- US. And that if the baby isn't sleeping like x, y and z by a certain age...well, that's our failure in parenting. THESE BOOKS ARE LARGELY BASED ON THE CLINICAL EXPERIENCE OF SLEEP-DYSFUNCTION SPECIALISTS, who mainly see very disturbed children and families...people with severe problems. Then their findings are extended into the "normal" population, in error. The other "faction" in the baby sleep department is the AP group, who don't take into account the needs of babies who have differing sensory needs (or parents who have a need for some sleep). ;}....just IMHO.

I really want you to get away from the notion that there is ONE RIGHT WAY to be doing this, lest you screw him up permanently. Rather, have a long-term vision of what your ultimate sleep goals are for him, and then take mini-steps in that general direction, WHEN YOU CAN. If backsliding occurs, so be it. Try to be as "zen" as possible about all of this. It will work itself out, and it will be a surprise to everyone involved how, and when it does. You cannot control much of this situation, beyond providing him with the "Good Enough" environment that you already are.

So that means all you can do is COPE, for the time being. I hope he's getting a bottle? So that someone else can feed him, and you get a break? Sit down with your partner and make a plan; a schedule. Who will take which nights. The other person is "off" on certain nights, and gets to sleep (with earplugs on!!), go out, whatever. Or perhaps one of you might take him the first 2-3 hour shift of the evening, and then switch. Whatever works for you both. And it also includes calling in extra help, even if it's paid help, even if that means just once a month, so the two of you can get out and just be together, without him, to recharge your batteries. He'll be just fine. And yes, it is my observation that preemies tend to be a bit hypersensitive to stimuli and have more difficulty with regulation. It's all about neurological development. "Regulation" is a very complicated, advanced process, and one that requires lots of time for higher-level systems to mature. So again, it's about providing that "Good Enough" environment so that his own miraculous internal development can take place at it's own pace. It is fascinating to watch over time. You might even look back at video of him (if you have it) from just a few weeks ago, and you'll see how much his movement and other developmental milestones have progressed, just naturally. The same will happen for sleep.

Keep giving him the message that nighttime is for sleep, but until he really gets that, all you can do is hang out with him as you are, at night. Don't keep looking at the clock, saying "Man, it's 10:30 pm already. He should be asleep! What are we doing wrong!" Just take a deep breath, get some extra support, trade off, and know that this to shall pass. (easy for me to say, i know, but i have been there, with all 3 kids.....!)

I hope Susanna will keep us posted. Does anyone else have suggestions for her? And don't forget to read this post on another baby's sleep (or lack thereof).

Sleep & Nap Issues: Tips For Helping Your Child Sleep Through The Night

Yesterday, I posted the first half of my conversation with Kelley, Mom to 13-month-old Ben. Ben was making his parents crazy from lack of sleep, and they were desperate enough to try anything.

I gave them some suggestions designed to send Ben a clear, consistent message about sleeping through the night, in his own crib. Read on to see what happened!

Dear Dr. Heather,

I am happy, so happy, to report that Ben is now sleeping in his crib and more often than not, sleeping through the night! We still stay in his room until he falls asleep, but he has accepted the crib and sleeping on his own. And once, he even fell asleep AFTER we left the room.

Thanks so much for your advice. Although he still cries almost every night, it's more of an "unwinding" cry, not a distressing cry that I associate with the "cry it out" method. Ben wakes up in a good mood because I think he's proud of himself for being such a big boy! My husband and I needed to get used to sharing a bed, but it didn't take long for us to feel like a married couple again.

We started by creating a game plan based on your suggestions. Our first goal was to get him to go to sleep in his current bed (mattress we placed on the floor of his room) without us snuggling him. To do that, we started by talking to him about going "night-night" by himself and how mommy and daddy loved him very much and how proud we were of him. Then after his bath, we made a production about saying "goodnight" and my husband left the room while I stayed and sat at the end of his bed. When he got up to come to me, I placed him back on his pillow and told him that I loved him and it was time to go "night- night."

It took about 45 minutes, but he finally realized that I wasn't going to snuggle him and he focused on getting comfortable and eventually fell asleep. In the beginning, he woke up a couple of times during the night and we had to snuggle him down once or twice. We did that for about a week and then we re-introduced him to his crib by putting him in during the day with some of his toys. That night, we did our same bedtime routine, made a production with kisses and good nights and then I put him in his crib and told him to go "night-night." Me or my husband leave the crib and lay down on the bed in his room. He still sits up and cries, but when we tell him to go "night-night" he immediately lays down and stops crying while he rolls around trying to get comfortable. We may do that a couple of times, but the key is that he knows that we aren't going to be picking him up. We will soon start leaving the room while he is still awake, but we are so happy with our situation now, that we will not force the issue.

Talking to him about exactly what we were going to do was probably the most important aspect of our plan (that, and following through with it).

I never would have thought that he would understand what I was saying to him. It's actually funny to watch him throw himself down in his crib when I tell him that it's time to go night-night. He understands right away. When he wakes up in the mornings, we rush in to get him and tell him that we are so proud of him for sleeping all by himself and how much we love him.

I swear it's changed our relationship because I'm communicating with him so much more than I did before you suggested it.

We're all happier now and better able to handle the stubborn, independent behaviors that he is starting to demonstrate. ;-)

He really seems happier than before. Thanks again for your guidance!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What has worked for you to get your baby to sleep through the night, in his or her own crib? Post a comment to share your ideas!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Sleep & Nap Issues: “My Baby Won’t Sleep in His Crib!”

 

BabyShrink reader Kelley is Ben's Mom. Kelley had a really rough time getting Ben to sleep in his crib, and sleep through the night. Kelley emailed me for suggestions, and we developed a plan to help take back the nights for herself and her hubby. Read our conversation below to see what happened! Dear Dr. Heather,

My 13-month-old little boy has had sleep difficulties since the day he was born despite us establishing a "bedtime  routine" (long walk outside and bath) very early on. Because we decided not to let him "cry it out," he has always had a sleeping crutch; first it was nursing, then bottles, then me or my husband. Only rarely has he slept through the night, and recently, he's been waking up every 2 hours. Our pediatrician cannot find any underlying health problems and is from the "crying it out" school, so she doesn't offer any other suggestions.

Ben is a very engaged, curious, FEISTY, smart little boy (purely unbiased description!). Did I mention feisty? He has not demonstrated any allergies or intolerance's to foods or milk. He doesn't appear sensitive to noises or smells. At daycare, they put him in a crib and rub his back while he falls asleep. At home, we had to put a mattress on the floor so that we can snuggle him to sleep and  be able to leave the room.

He has never slept in his crib.

He never goes down without a fight, at least with us. He is teething and we've given him Motrin right before bedtime in case that was the culprit. Since he's my first child, I really don't have anyone to compare him to. I thought that he'd be used to his bed and nap time routines by now and things would be easier. But, it hasn't. I don't regret not letting him cry it out, but I feel sometimes that he's having a harder time because he doesn't know how to sleep on his own.

My husband and I haven't shared a bed in a year and we're ready to reconnect before we start thinking about baby # 2!

Is this normal behavior for a 13 month old? We are all in desperate need of sleep. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Kelley Richmond, Virginia

Hi Kelley,

Thanks for your question. You must be exhausted!

It's very important that you found your son sleeps well at daycare. That tells us he is CAPABLE of doing it....he's just not WILLING! (at home, anyway.) So now, you have to decide...is it important to you to get him to be more independent in sleep? Is it important to you and your relationship with your husband to get some more time with him....and not always snuggling your son?

I am assuming your answers are "yes". It also appears to me, by what you have said, that there are not other issues keeping your son from sleeping better. (And of course double-check with the pediatrician, just to make sure I am not missing anything.)

So, this is about getting your son used to the idea of sleeping alone.

Start by talking with him about it. "You know, you are such a big boy, and you sleep so nicely at daycare, we are going to start sleeping better at home too. Mommy and Daddy and you all feel so much better when we sleep ALL NIGHT LONG, in our OWN BEDS. Won't that be great? Mommy will be SO HAPPY!" Mention it here and there throughout the day, and as you get ready for sleep.

Then, break the process down into several small steps, with the idea of slowly but surely physically moving away from him in bed, getting him used to sleeping without you.

Analyze the situation. First, perhaps you snuggle him to sleep, but when he is almost asleep, you slide down off the mattress, but still rub his back. Remind him "Don't worry, I am here. It's OK to go to sleep." Get him used to that; it may take one night, it may take 2 weeks. Then, pick the next step. It might be sitting on the floor next to the mattress while he falls asleep. Then when he is used to that, perhaps you sit by the door and talk with him while he falls asleep, all the while soothing him and congratulating him for being such a big boy and a GREAT SLEEPER, and HOW PLEASED YOU ARE that he is doing so well. Eventually you will move to having him PLAY in his crib, then put him in his crib when tired, talk to him about how great it will be to SLEEP in his crib, etc. Take small steps toward your ultimate goal.

Each step could take a day, a week, or more. But DON'T GIVE UP. He is likely to be the most resistant at first, when things start to change. But hang in there!

I know you don't want him to 'cry it out', but you CAN let him fuss a bit, at times. He of course will protest giving you up at night....but as he moves into becoming a bigger toddler, you are going to have to start getting him used to new limits anyway. Don't feel bad...believe me, when you get a taste of having your nights back for you and your hubby, you will be so glad!!! And a happy mommy (and daddy) mean a happier toddler.

Make sure you and hubby stick together on this...it is an important message to send to Ben...that Mommy and Daddy's relationship is of paramount importance in the house. Even more important than Ben's preferences, actually.

Because a strong parental relationship is ultimately super-important in the development of a confident and happy child. Better to have a little fussing from him, if it means YOU TWO get to re-connect, and strengthen that couple bond.

HAVE FUN and let me know how it goes!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Now, read on to see what happened after Kelly followed my advice...

Sleep & Nap Issues: My Baby Keeps Waking Up

Dear BabyShrink, My 8-month-old Lehua is going through a real burst right now, and among other things has just figured out how to get herself up to a sitting position. This is great, but it's really messing with her naps. Previously, she would fuss for 5 or 10 minutes, and then fall asleep. But now, she'll push herself up to sit and then seem to get "stuck" there. Fussing turns into sobbing and screaming, and she never gets to sleep. This morning she stayed like that the full hour until we went to get her. This afternoon she dozed off for about 20 minutes and then woke up very fussy but wouldn't go back down because of the sitting thing. What to do? My instinct is that she needs to learn how to do it herself and we should just tough it out a few days until she gets it. But I don't know. My mom disagrees of course.

Related question: what to do when she wakes up after only 20 minutes of a nap and is still fussy? Go and get her even though she hasn't gotten enough rest, or leave her in there fussing until she goes back to sleep? She is taking short naps lately and it is clear she's not rested. In my experience, it is just so much easier to create good habits than to break bad ones. I think our sleep situation is an example of this, because from the beginning I was super militant about laying down good nighttime habits -- never taking her out of her room once we put her down, keeping a regular bedtime, putting her down awake and letting her fall asleep on her own. The goal was for her to be independent in her sleep habits. But I think I dropped the ball on naptime -- I'd often let her sleep in the car, in my arms, or in the stroller. Anyway, I'm sure there are other reasons she has more trouble sleeping during the day, but I can't help believe that was a factor.

Still, it's good to be reminded of the need to be flexible and have a little "grace period" in times of upset. I'm kind of an uptight person, so when things are getting shook up, I tend to cling even harder to my routines and "good habits." I agree that, while moving in the direction of good habits, you still need to "go with the flow."

I guess the real answer here is what you’ve talked about before -- trusting your instincts about what your own baby needs. But it's hard when you're not sure what your instincts are telling you!

Ilima Maui, Hawaii

Dear Ilima,

Wow! I can really relate. Once you have the routine down pat, they go and change on you. I wish I had "the answer". But since this is sort of an unavoidable part of development, all I can do is give you some general information, and you can use your Mommy sense to see what might work for Lehua.

First, yes, sleep is super important. BUT, a few days' disruption does not make for a "bad habit". I know she's cranky, but your goal is to gently nudge her back in the direction of sleeping through. In the meantime, one of the things she's looking for is some comforting through all the wild and wacky changes she's experiencing. That's one of the reasons she is waking....to look for you. She is entering a phase where she will be more aware of you, and when you're gone. Separation anxiety will crop up during sleep, when she is away from you. That's part of it.

So: what to do when she awakens after 20 minutes, and you know she's still tired? There are not really a lot a great choices. I say, be guided by practicality. See how you're feeling that day, and see how she sounds. Is she just a little cranky? Then let her fuss a bit. Is she just way over the limit? Hold her awhile and see if she might go back down. If not....that's OK. Perhaps an earlier bedtime later that evening is called for. All is not lost. Pick her up and go on with your day, albeit with a cranky girl.

You will also be letting her know that flexibility and adaptation is one important way you will be helping her cope with difficult times. (Lots of my readers have asked about this, and it has been a discussion online here. Can you be flexible....and still have good limits? Yes. Absolutely. More on that topic soon.)

Also, she's not too young to start talking to her about what's going on. "Lehua, I know you know how to sleep nicely in your crib. You're tired! Mommy's tired! Let's sleep MORE today, ok? I know you'll feel so much better when you sleep. Mommy will be here when you wake up today. I know you miss me. You're safe, we're here." Just a short little pep-talk is enough. She may not understand 100% of your words, but she'll start to get the gist, over time. And it will condition you to start talking to her about these developmental challenges, and how you are going to help her get through them.

So much of young babies' sleep is constitution and temperament, not the environment. That's a concern I have with some of the popular baby sleep books; the shrinks who wrote them mostly dealt with really severe sleep problems in their practices, and developed their approaches based on those cases. The "run of the mill" cases like yours and mine would just never present to a sleep clinic at a major university. If we generalize to the normal, general public, you get worried and educated parents like you and me thinking that our kids are under-sleeping, developing bad habits, etc.

It doesn't take much to provide a generally "good enough" environment for sleep for your baby. Anything beyond that is likely to make you nuts, and waste your precious parental energy. And when baby #2 (or #4) comes along? Forget about it! You won't be able to control the environment very well at all. But those babies still tend to sleep fine. In our house, our third is the best sleeper of the group, and let me tell ya, this house is not a quiet, predictable place!

Your point about independence is well-taken, though, as that certainly is our ultimate goal in child-rearing. But there are developmental capacities that need to be considered. How much independence can be tolerated by the child at each particular age and stage? And how do we allow for the normal, needed regressions in independence that occur regularly? True independence comes out of a solid bedrock sense that one has a strong foundation, and that strong foundation can only be established though reliable dependence in early childhood. Your baby depends on and "borrows" your care, love and strength until those feelings become internalized. That's the beginning of true independence.

Good luck, and keep us posted!

Aloha,

Dr. Heather The BabyShrink

Sleep & Nap Issues: The ABCs of Baby Sleep

During the first six months of a baby’s life, when the child’s sleep schedule is virtually non-existent, parents are forced to test the limits of their own stamina. How long can you live without sleep? Do you have what it takes to survive? Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can remember and rely on to get you through the rough times. In fact, they’re as easy as to remember as your ABCs. A IS FOR AGE Expectations for your baby’s sleep depend in part on his age. A two-day-old will sleep very differently from a two-month-old, and again from a 10-month old or even two-year-old. Your strategies should vary accordingly (if you can keep your own eyes open long enough to think, which is no guarantee). As your baby goes through developmental shifts and changes, his sleep will likely be disrupted for a short while. Babies working hard on mastering grasping, vocalizing, sitting, or any other skill will likely have this “drive to succeed” break into their nighttime sleep. Reassure them that they can practice in the morning, and that it’s time for sleep. Keep these things in mind: (Baby Size “Small”, 16-20 weeks): Don’t count on much sleep, at least during the night. Baby’s rapidly developing brain needs a ton of rest, but this will occur in cycles throughout the day and night, and babies will often need to be fed every two hours or so. As she approaches 12 weeks, her sleep may consolidate considerably, and stretch for longer periods of time. But her memory has not developed to the point that she “counts on” a regular sleep routine as much as she will when she is older. Try to stick to the routine you had before baby was born, but make your bedtime earlier. For your own sanity, take “shifts” during the night with some caring and selfless person (who may or may not be the baby’s Dad, or your mother, or mother-in-law), or at least enough to let Mom get a four-hour stretch of sleep in (which has been shown to make you feel more rested than smaller chunks of rest). Moms, when it is your turn to sleep, really sleep! Use earplugs and an eyeshade, and trust the person you’ve left in charge of the baby. Otherwise, you’ll sleep with “one ear open” and not rest as soundly. Mom…you just need to get through this tough time…it WILL pass! Baby Size “Medium”, 5-9 months: Baby has developed enough cognitive abilities and trust in you that she can be taught how to fall asleep – and stay asleep through the night – in her own crib. Start with having baby play when awake and happy in her crib. Or, try placing her in her crib when she’s already asleep, so she can awaken there and get used to sleeping there. Experiment with the use of music, noise, or light machines; some babies love those. Talk to her about sleep, and what you need from her. She may not understand all your words, but she’ll start to get the message. Try this script, using a quiet, serious, but enthusiastic tone: “Baby, we’re all tired around here. Tonight is a great night for you to sleep for a long time in your crib. I’m going to nurse you, turn off the lights, sing a song, and then put you in your crib. I will be here to pat you on your side until you fall asleep. If you wake up, you are safe; you can look around for a while and then go back to sleep. And then in the morning, mommy and baby will feel SO GOOD!” It may take several (hundred?) times to repeat this each night, but you (both) will eventually get in the habit, and it will help. Don’t “push” too firmly until you feel that she has the emotional ability to withstand whatever degree of upset that being left alone to sleep will cause. Some babies will only put up a token protest; others will scream loud and long, but not really “mean it”; others will truly be terrified and need to be supported a bit longer before they can sleep for that long alone. You need to know your own baby, and start to trust your Mommy instincts.

Baby Size "Large", 9-12 Months: Now you really have an able little learner on your hands. You can feel assured that most babies will certainly be capable of “going along with the program” by this age. Just make sure YOU know “what the program” is, and be consistent about it. Fussing and crying, at this age, is usually normal and fine; talk with your pediatrician if you have concerns. B IS FOR BELLY Tummy troubles can spell sleep disaster for even the most prepared family. Babies have all sorts of tummy issues throughout their first years. When newborn, they are still adjusting to digestion, and they feel their digestive actions quite acutely. For breastfed newborns, moms can try adjusting their diets. Common causes of tummy troubles in infants include chocolate, dairy, and caffeine in mom’s diet. Check with your pediatrician, then try eliminating these foods from your diet, one at a time, for several days. Formula-fed babies can have trouble with dairy proteins, lactose, or soy. Ask your doctor about trying a new formula. For older babies on solids, think back to see if her sleep problems worsened after introducing a new food. By process of elimination, experiment to see if removing a particular food helps her digestion and sleep.

C IS FOR CONSTITUTION Constitutional factors are ingrained, probably genetically inherited characteristics, and they have a major impact on the way your baby sleeps. Some of these tendencies affect our personalities, emotions, and behaviors – even from day one. Your baby was born with a whole constellation of these tendencies, and your strategies for dealing with her will depend on those tendencies. For instance, we know that overall activity level is mostly inherited. Highly active babies tend to sleep less and need more interaction. They can’t yet move their bodies around much to burn off their energy, so they crave the mental stimulation of being awake. These babies don’t want to miss anything, and will probably end up being social and outgoing. But the price you pay is less sleep now, and maybe more fussiness. It’s difficult to tell if your baby is fussy because of constitutional personality factors, or if her tummy, or something else is bothering her. Careful observation of her daily reactions and behavior will help you decide what’s what. An active baby needs to have lots of interaction and “play” during the day. Give as much “tummy time” as she will tolerate, to work her little muscles. Engage her attention and go for the laughs; play “peek-a-boo” games, make funny noises, do silly things; whatever brings the laughs. This will both excite her and tire her out for better sleep later. DON’T play with an active baby at night, though; she is never too young to learn that nighttime is for sleep.

Other constitutional factors can interfere with sleep: Babies who are overly sensitive, perhaps to noise, light, skin sensations or body movements can have problems sleeping. Don’t assume your baby needs total quiet to sleep well. Some babies need “white noise” to sleep well; ask your doctor just how loud you can play “white noise”; babies are used to a great deal of noise in the womb and often sleep better with constant noise playing. Babies who are sensitive to the motion of their body often need to be swaddled, even late into their first year. There are new, larger-sized swaddling blankets that make this easy to do. Check out Dr. Harvey Karp’s “Happiest Baby on the Block” for great tips on swaddling and calming babies. (I really do suggest you look at the video rather than the book; it’s quite amazing!) Don’t feel bad about using a baby swing, if it works, at least for the first few months. Neurobiologists think that a swinging motion may actually be helpful in brain development. Although illness isn’t exactly constitutional, it’s worth mentioning. Even a little case of the sniffles can throw off a baby’s sleep. Just support him through his cold, make him as comfortable as possible, and get back with the program when he’s feeling better.

D IS FOR DAYTIME What does your baby do during the day? Until three months of age, there isn’t much you can do to influence this; babies will sleep where and when they want to. Until this age, they are more influenced by their internal needs and feelings, and less influenced by external stimulation. But after three months, you can try to limit naps and keep her awake more during the day. Keeping her active, interested, and engaged is the best way to wear her out for better sleep at night. Experiment with her nap times and overall amount of daytime sleep. If she naps three times a day, try two longer naps. Don’t let naps run too late into the afternoon. Or awaken her a few minutes early from her naps, to see if she “consolidates” her sleep better at night. But DON’T make the opposite mistake and eliminate naps; this creates an overtired baby, and an overtired baby will sleep LESS at night.

E IS FOR ENVIRONMENT The environment you provide for your sleeping baby can have a big impact on how well he sleeps. A very young baby (3-4 months) might do better in a swing or a bouncy seat. At that age, my babies tended to sleep better in a bouncy seat, not their cribs; I think the seat provided more cozy support, and having an elevated head helped to clear any possible nasal congestion, as well as being good for reflux or other tummy distress. I moved them from the bouncy into the crib anywhere from 3-5 months.

The right clothing for the right temperature is important too. Don’t make the common mistake of dressing the baby too warmly. It’s easy to assume babies get cold, but often they are too warm. Don’t judgetheir temperature by feeling their hands or legs, but rather their chest. This will give you a better sense of how to dress them for sleep. Dressing them lightly, but fully, for sleep is a good rule of thumb. Babies sleep better if the room is a little on the cool side; they sort of “hibernate” and get cozy for a nice rest. Some babies LOVE little sleep “bags”; my babies hated having their feet and legs restricted. Experiment, experiment, experiment.

Your baby’s sleep can be impacted by other environmental changes you may not have imagined:

~~sleeping in a different room than usual ~~seasonal daylight changes ~~different noise patterns in the house or neighborhood (when I was truly sleep-deprived, I actually thought it would be a reasonable thing to ask the neighbors to eliminate lawn-mowing during nap times!)

If you need to make a major change for a short while (say, a vacation), fall back on what works and plan to get back on track when you get back home. Nothing is permanent, and you can all get back to a good routine with a few nights of getting back in the habit. F IS FOR FUSSING I am not a believer in the “cry it out” method that many experts, and one of our own pediatricians, recommend. I cannot stomach the notion of plopping a baby down in bed and closing the door. That being said, however,a little fussing or crying is certainly fine for a baby to tolerate. Some babies “let off steam” from their days in this way. After all, they can’t exactly go for a brisk run to blow off their extra energy; crying is the only way to let it out sometimes, for some babies more than others.

So how do you decide how much crying is enough? First of all, it should be YOU who decides, not some “expert” who says five, or 15 minutes is OK. Some babies can be fine with crying up to an hour at a time; others fall apart after five minutes. You need to know and interpret your baby’s needs. And each of your babies may be different from its siblings. One of mine was a “fusser”. She fussed off and on, much of the day (and night), until she started talking. And she started talking early. This baby just needed to TALK! Once she could start jabbering, she had no need to fuss any longer. HER crying was not really “distress crying” (usually), but rather “talk crying”.

Once you sort out Baby’s sleep needs and habits through the first year, you have new sleep challenges awaiting you in the Toddler years. So pace yourselves, and go grab a nap!