Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Four Lies Sleep Trainers Tell You (And One Truth They Won't!)

I'm writing this for the mama at the end of her rope that has started letting her baby co-sleep (or is contemplating it) and is scared to death that she is doing her child a great disservice. I'm writing this for the mama who is so exhausted every night that she cries just thinking about the sun going down and another night of a crying baby. I'm writing this for the mama who is sitting in a group of other mamas whose babies are all now sleeping through the night (or are all only getting up twice a night at most) while your six (or eight) (or ten) (or eighteen) month old baby is still up five to seven times a night and you almost burst into tears wondering what you are doing wrong. (The answer is NOTHING.) I am writing this for the mama who planned to sleep train and now doesn't think it's the right thing to do. I am writing this for the mama who is thinking she doesn't have the strength to go on, but also doesn't know what she wants to do. In short, I'm writing this for the mama I was this time last year.

I need to come clean. When my son was a newborn I never questioned if I would sleep train, I only wanted to know when to start. Most of the sleep training sites I devoured on-line or read in person told me to start sleep training at the four month mark or "when my baby no longer actually needed me in the middle of the night and was waking up out of habit rather than necessity." I was assured by my reading that there would come a time when he "didn't need me" and was waking up for "attention." He just turned 20 months old and I am still waiting for that time. So, if you are reading this and you have sleep trained your baby or toddler and you think it was what you had to do and it was necessary for your family, I will not argue with you. I don't live in your house; you're the mama and I'll believe that you did (and do) what your family needs you to do and that you did it with love and respect for all your family's needs.
For those who are conflicted like I was, I offer this.

Lie #1: If you start co-sleeping with your child/rocking/nursing your child to sleep, your child will NEVER learn to sleep on his/her own.

Never is a very long time and like most "never" statements, this one is not true. How many adults fall asleep being rocked? How many still co-sleep with their parents? Not everyone was sleep trained, so obviously the child does decide to sleep on his/her own eventually. It is true that time does seem to drag on forever when you have an infant, but believe it or not, these first few years really do only last for a few years (no matter what our sleep deprived sense of time makes it feel like). It can feel like you either have to sleep train right away or you will be doing whatever you are doing "forever," but there are other options.

You will not be parenting your child to sleep forever. My great-aunt co-slept with her adopted daughter from the time she was six months old until she was five years old. Then, one day, her daughter decided she wanted to sleep in her own room and never slept in her mom's room again. This story is about a two year old who decided she was ready. Not sure you can wait until your child is between two and five? You can always sleep train when your baby is older (either a toddler or a kid old enough to reason why sleeping in their own room all night is a good thing) if that feels better to you.

Lie #2 Your child does not need to wake up after the age of four months. It is normal for the your baby to sleep through the night by then.

Just because your baby is physically capable of going without food for longer periods at four months doesn't mean that they are physically ready or emotionally capable to sleep through the night. Several doctors and anthropologists agree that many young humans are not designed to sleep through the night until the age of three or four. Even if it is your doctor telling you that your child is ready to sleep through the night keep in mind two things. (1) Your doctor sees your child for twenty minutes every one to two months while you see him/her every day and (2) doctors often only see night waking from a nutritional point of view. Your child will no longer be at risk for going into a low blood sugar coma if he/she sleeps 12 hours a night. That is hardly the same thing as your child being completely ready. Think of it this way, as an adult, you are physically capable of running a marathon, but without being physically, emotionally, and nutritionally ready, you might not be so great at it. Even with someone there to train you step by step, if you are not mentally and emotionally ready for that marathon, it will be a hundred times harder.

Another thing to think about is how much contact you have with your baby during the day. Breastfeeding hormones and milk levels are regulated by how much physical contact you have with your baby. His or her night waking and co-sleeping which is murder on your energy level at work, might be a key factor in how capable you will be at maintaining a good milk supply.

Lie #3: Sleep is a skill that you must teach your child.

That line haunted me as I struggled with a son who just could not sleep for long stretches because of problems with reflux and food allergies. I was terrified that I was failing to do my job as a mother and teach him sleep, but just think about how silly that sounds. For those who have suffered insomnia, did any amount of "training" teach you to sleep even when you were highly motivated to sleep by your own insomnia? Sleep is what Peggy O'Mara calls "an instinct," just like you don't teach your child to laugh or cry, you cannot teach them to sleep.

You can teach good sleep habits and associations, but you can't force your baby (or yourself) to sleep. You can train your baby not to call for you in the middle of the night, and that might mean you get more sleep, but that does not necessarily mean that your baby will be getting more sleep. He or she might just not bother trying to get your help. (It's this idea that has kept me from sleep training my son thus far. I value that he knows I listen to him when he calls for me and I respect that he calls me only when he needs me.)

Lie #4: If your baby doesn't learn to sleep through the night now, he or she will have sleep problems when they are older and those can be detrimental.

This is another lie that kept me at the edge of breaking into tears at any moment. What I didn't know then, but I do know now is that there is absolutely no correlation between an individual's sleep patterns as a baby or even a toddler and those of when they are an older child or an adult. Babies and toddlers are evolutionarily designed to sleep differently. Again, good sleep habits are wonderful to reinforce from the beginning and do have an effect on how an older child sleeps. If you teach your child that sleep is a fun, relaxing thing, than they will be more willing to go to sleep when older. If you teach then that sleep is a scary and lonely thing, I think that association probably does travel with them as well.

The Truth: You can survive this and so can your child. This will end one day and it will get better.

You are stronger than you think you are. Ask for help when you need it, but inside you is a survivor. Your body and your mind is more resourceful than you can ever imagine and you are not alone. I know it feels like it will never end and I know you feel like you cannot go on. I have shed your tears and I have said those words. You can get through this; if I can anyone can!

Here is what has inspired me. It's from The Tao of Motherhood by Vimala McClure:

Everything which endures can
only do so because Eternal
Consciousness gives it a sentience.

A mother who gives herself
completely to her infant meets
herself in the dark and finds

In the hours between midnight
and dawn, she crosses the
threshold of self-concern and
discovers a Self that has no limits.
A wise mother meets this
Presence with humility and steps
through time into selflessness.

Infants know when their mothers
have done this, and they
become peaceful.

Who, then, is the doer? Is it the
infant who brings its mother
through the veil of self-concern
into limitlessness? Is it the
mother, who chooses to hold
sacred her infant's needs and
surrender herself? Or is it the
One, which weaves them both
through a spiraling path
toward wholeness?

You can sit and meditate while
your baby cries himself to sleep.
Or you can go to him and share
his tears, and find your Self.


Rachael said... [Reply to comment]

The comparison between an adult running and marathon and an infant not physically needed to eat during the middle of the night was great. It makes so much sense. Thank you for sharing all that you have learned in the past 20 months. *This too shall pass* the mantra of a Mama :o)

Christina said... [Reply to comment]

Wonderfully put! Thanks for posting this....I am so sharing!!

Mindful Life Shop said... [Reply to comment]

I am nodding, nodding, nodding along. My son also suffers from food sensitivities and his sleep is sooooo sporadic when he gets the things he is sensitive to. At 31 months, he still only sleeps through the night *most* of the time. In fact, his disturbed sleep is one of our first clues when, say, the Almond milk has a soy contamination. Ignoring him crying and sending him back to his bed would teach him to suffer by himself instead of giving us this clue!

Another one that makes me smile is the "four months" myth. My MIL thoroughly believes that babies sleep through the night at 9 lbs. That seemed to be some magic number in her world, although she tells how she didn't get a full night's sleep until her boys were in their teens. And, if babies can be born at 9 lbs, how would it be ok for them to sleep all night long?

There are so many sleep myths out there, and I think they are offered up to give us some type of hope. Instead, I think a lot of people take them as a criticism that they are not good parents, or their baby isn't doing the right thing and sleeping all night long.

Mina said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this!

wifemomandmore said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks for the link to my co-sleeping post! I COMPLETELY agree with all of this. Obviously, from my experience, I wholeheartedly agree. My little girl was ready to move on without us doing anything to "train" her.

Julia @ A Little Bit of All of It

I Thought I Knew Mama said... [Reply to comment]

This is such wonderful advice!

19304584-5b0f-11e0-993c-000bcdca4d7a said... [Reply to comment]

This article is me and my 5.5 month old son... I am so tired and deprived of time for me... but not only does the information here make so much sense.... the poem at the end made me tear up. I love my son to pieces and it made me feel like I was doing everything just right :)

D said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for posting this! I recently moved my son into a cosleeper in our room from a basinett (in our room), and he usually spends at least a couple of hours a night actually in bed with us. Even though I believe this is the right thing for us, I still have all of these ideas that maybe I am doing it wrong floating around in my head. This was a great conformation that I am doing the right thing.

Kari said... [Reply to comment]

I agree with all. My son, 31 months now, decided around 21 months that he was done with being rocked/nursed to sleep and was ready to go to bed (in his own bed, by himself) with not much more than a pre-bed story and me or my husband to hold his hand for a minute or so... and now he falls asleep on his own, he sleeps great all night and has had no issues since then. It will happen, it can happen and it does happen when they are ready. I promise!!! *p.s. not one minute spent on sleep training or Cry it out techniques with us.

nicolacoulter said... [Reply to comment]

I am so grateful I came across this today. My daughter is 9.5 months old and lately I have been feeling pressure to let her cry herself to sleep. It is not something I want to do and it goes against every mothering instinct I have - but everyone keeps telling me to stop nursing her to sleep, stop bringing her into bed with me, just stop stop stop doing everything that feels completely natural to me. I have that book, "The Tao of Motherhood" as well and I've always thought of that quote when debating whether or not to sleep train my baby. Sometimes I lean in favour of letting her cry - but then I remember that doing so is the absolute complete opposite of every value I have set for myself as her mother. It's an amazing coincidence that I came across your post today - I'm getting teary thinking about how strange it is actually, especially since you referenced that quote - because now I KNOW that I need to follow my gut and never, ever let my child cry herself to sleep. Thank you so much.

Tracey and Neil said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for reminding me that by nursing to sleep and co-sleeping with our 20 month old that I have not failed her, in fact quite the opposite. In my circle of friends and family I sometimes feel that following my instinct and listening to and following my Daughter's cues makes me the minority. You helped me feel like I am not so alone.
Thank you xx

Kimberly said... [Reply to comment]

I really needed to read this today! I have an older toddler and an infant, both of whom wake often at night and lately it has really been wearing me thin and in the most desperate, tired moments I've considered sleep training. This post reaffirmed my own belief system and is a great reminder that I can (and will!) make it through this. It's only temporary and they'll only be little for so long. I want to snuggle and love them as much as possible while they are still so little. Thank you!!

Cassandra said... [Reply to comment]

I keep wondering if my baby is just so much easier than other babies. She's bottlefed (not by choice) but it's breastmilk only. If she doesn't pass out on her own in the evening, I just shut the lights off and rock her to sleep. I then carry her to bed in a cradle position and lie down on my side with her still in my arms. There she sleeps for 10-12 hours. She stirs in her sleep and sucks her thumb to signal she's hungry, which if I ignore she will eventually wake up screaming. Bottle goes in mouth and I lightly snooze until she's done, where I remove it and go back to sleep. Breastfeeding would only mean a shift in position.

Although you say the 4 month mark isn't an excuse to force babies to sleep through the night, I disagree about your reasoning. Babies wake up because they're hungry. Breastmilk is digested in about two hours. Forcing a child to sleep through hunger will eventually change their metabolism and they will sleep longer as a means to conserve calories. My mom loves telling people that I slept through the night at one month old, but she doesn't mention how she had an undiagnosed yeast infection that made breastfeeding painful and she limited how much I was getting before stopping altogether at 3 months. She also says how much I loved my pacifier! This began what turned into a life long cascade of bad nutritional decisions that eventually led to my extremely poor health when I'm barely into my 20s.

Around the age children begin eating large quantities of solids is around the age they start having undisturbed sleep. The demands of their growing bodies are no longer met purely by breastmilk and the digestive tract is capable of handling a bigger burden. Sleep patterns change to allow the body longer, deeper states of sleep for restoration. Forcing a child to sleep through the night isn't just about emotional and mental development, it's about nutrtion and making sure a baby's body continues to get everything it needs.

Jeanette said... [Reply to comment]

I feel like sharing, as a mom who tried and failed at sleep training my first child, and gave up on that and coslept with him for 5 years, that it does get better, and the first few years are gone in the blink of an eye and you can barely remember them a few years down the road. My oldest is now 8.5 years old, and falls asleep on his own in his own room each night, but he is still an anxious person and has trouble staying in bed some nights. Younger son, who was never sleep trained even one night of his life, coslept for almost 5 years too, sleeps like a dream. Both kids are capable of sleeping on their own in their own rooms, and I fully believe all the hype about babies needing to be trained to sleep are lies. I can also tell from my two children that people sleep differently based on personality alone, and you can't alter somebody's personality, so do yourselves both a favor and quit trying! An anxious child will get over the anxiety much better when you take things at his or her own pace. As an adult who suffered with anxiety all of my life, including sleep problems as a child, I know this as fact. Take the time to really know your child.

StrongMamaof5 said... [Reply to comment]

Thank thank you for writing this, I have been struggling and struggling with my 19 month old who co sleeps with me but seems to wake every hour lately. It helps to know there is others out there, that I am not alone and that I am doing what is best for my baby even when everyone else tells me I am crazy.

NatX said... [Reply to comment]

wonderful ;) have shared xx

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@Cassandra While I respect that is your point of view. It is not true for every mother, as a mother to a son whose digestive system was literally not mature enough to digest solid food until he was over a year old, I have to say that your nutritional argument does not hold true for every baby. Feeding some babies solids results in less sleep, not more. With all due respect.

Mandi S. said... [Reply to comment]

Exactly! I couldn't have said this better myself...and wow, that poem was exactly what I needed to hear today. Both my boys have been tag teaming me with wakefulness and mama needed a little enlightenment. I just ordered the Tao of Motherhood :)

Thanks so much for sharing!

Devany said... [Reply to comment]

Beautiful and perfectly written.

Cassandra said... [Reply to comment]

@Shawna I said about the same time, not every time. Developmental stages occur together for reasons. The body is in sync. When something throws that off, everything else can go wonky with it. In no way did I say feeding a baby solid food would make the baby sleep through the night. That's the kind of crap sleep trainers say.

Juliet said... [Reply to comment]

Out of laziness, I've coslept with all three of my kids, now aged 12, 9, and almost 3. The youngest still sometimes climbs into bed with us for a snuggle and reasurance. I never listened to the "experts" in this field, as they don't know my children or their behavior. And, yes, I also nursed all 3 of them past their 2nd birthday, never did I want to mess with formula bottles (but was given bad advise with my first, and she had formula and nursing for about 8 months, until she was 1, when we started milk in her diet.)
We counted the night time snuggles as bonus, because both my husband and I knew there would be a time we would be told no more hugs.. And unfortunatly, that time has arrived with our oldest.:(

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@Cassandra I'm so sorry if I seemed like I accused you of thinking too broadly. I just meant to share that my timeline with my son was a little different!

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

Wow! Thanks everyone! I'm so glad I could help a little. There are a lot more of us out there then I thought there was!

Anne Payne said... [Reply to comment]

Excellent article! You make some fine points, and they are clearly from experience. We co-slept with our two youngest children for 5 yrs and wouldn't trade that time for anything. It really does go by so fast. Now they are teenagers! I think sleep training is like saying you can put a breast baby on a schedule...NOT if you want what's best for your baby :)

Janine said... [Reply to comment]

I hope lots of people read this. I can't imagine not co-sleeping, not being right there to reassure my son when he wakes up. Sometimes he will half wake up, look at me and smile, then go back to sleep on his own. I hate to think how he'd feel waking up alone in a crib.

freesamplequeen said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you so much for the encouragement. I am surrounded by parents/friends who believe in sleep training and I often feel embarrassed, when asked how my little one is sleeping, to answer truthfully that she wakes at least once, sometimes 2-3 times a night at 13 months. Being outside the box already with the fact that we still breastfeed and intentd to continue, I feel a lot of scrutiny when these topics arise. She goes about 8 hours before waking the first time, and when she does so we pull her out of her crib/room and bring her to our room to finish the night out in a pack and play by the bed, and I feel like this is what works for us right now... I absolutely despise the idea of forcing her to cry it out, or having to listen to her call out and not answer as I do during the day. I really needed to hear that other people have gone through and are going through this and that it is OK. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

Deb said... [Reply to comment]

I wish there was a way to make new mothers understand this without making them go through it. I was so worried about cosleeping with my first child, but it felt right for us, so we did it. And it was fine. He sleeps in his own bed and has for over two years (he's almost five), and I wouldn't give up those two-and-a-half years I had to snuggle him at night for all of the money in the world. It's much easier to let my worries go with my daughter, because I know my son is just fine, and he and I are closer for the experience.

Rustie said... [Reply to comment]

My daughter is 5.5, and after co-sleeping with us for 2.5 years (we tried the crib; it was too much work to get her to sleep in it), now sleeps all night in her bed, no problem, unless she is sick. I believe that nursing her to sleep and co-sleeping taught her GREAT sleeping skills - no pacing around at night, no crying.

When my son was born last year, we didn't even bother putting up the crib. He's 13 months, and he wakes several times a night to nurse some nights - teething, colds, whatever. Other nights he'll practically sleep through. But it's a rare night indeed that I have to get up. And I only have to think of my daughter, sleeping soundly in the next room, to remember that these days are fleeting, although they can seem long at the time.

emma wallace said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you, thank you for writing this! My 6-month-old cosleeps (when he sleeps!) and I keep hearing those "my 2-month-old sleeps through the night" stories which only compound my exhaustion. Your article was just what I needed to read.

Marion said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks for this. I have a 21 month old who still wakes a lot at night. It does get tiring, especially when it can take so long to get her to sleep in the first place. Something worth mentioning is that cosleeping does not necessarily mean that Mum has to take responsibility for it. We are hoping to move towards Daddy helping our daughter to get to sleep at night because it has become overwhelming to me. Bedsharing, cosleeping and breastfeeding does not mean there is only one way. Everyone in the family needs to be okay with the arrangements. That is requiring some flexibility and some changes. However, crying it out and detached sleep training is not an option for us.

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]


Renee :) said... [Reply to comment]
This comment has been removed by the author.
Renee :) said... [Reply to comment]

My daughter is now 2 1/2 and sleeps well (most of the time!), but it took a long time before that happened. I got lots of sleep training advice from well-meaning professionals which resulted in me crying as much as or more than) my daughter while I tried to be 'strong'. After two nights I gave up, went back to breastfeeding her to sleep, and was much happier for it.

Eventually she did learn to go to sleep by herself, and the only conscious sleep-training decision I made was to stop her pre-bed breastfeed at about 15 months. She was ready to learn to sleep without it by then, and I never had to leave her to cry.

It's great when people speak up about these issues as those of us feeling guilty and helpless know that we are not alone!

Thanks Shawna :)

allyson desart said... [Reply to comment]

thank you thank you thank you

Tiregirl said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for posting this. I still co-sleep with my 7 month old and I keep thinking that I am doing something wrong. That we need to try to get her to sleep in her own room or do something else so that she sleeps through the night. In the morning I am going to show this blog to my husband, so he knows that we are not alone.

I love the poem though it brought tears to my eyes. :)

Thank you again!

Jolinar of Malkshur said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for posting this. I coslept with both of my older kids and am actually doing so again now after a brief pause while my youngest got big enough for me to be comfortable letting them sleep with me and her. I never considered sleep training any of my three. My first didn't sleep any real extended amount of time until he was over a year old. Both of my girls started sleeping 5 hours straight at a month old. However, my 17 month old still wakes at night from time to time, when she's sick or hitting a growth spurt (I think). Surprise surprise, my older two, who weren't sleep trained, are completely able to go to sleep all by themselves.

My 17 month old still nurses to sleep most nights, but she's recently started going to sleep without even that aid occasionally. I'm sure she'll be doing that more and more often as she gets older, but we're going to be nursing as long as she needs it. In the mean time, I'm going to enjoy the closeness and cuddles that I wouldn't otherwise get with my extremely busy toddler.

Rene M said... [Reply to comment]

I am one of those mamas you wrote this for, and I thank you for giving us a voice.

Co-sleeping has been my savior since day one, but the end of my struggle with my daughter's sleeping "issues" came several months ago, when I surrendered and accepted the way things were. I decided to shift my thinking and cherish the extra bonding time I was getting with her every night.

Now she is two years old and finally starting to show signs of wanting to sleep for longer stretches (if not through the night, just yet).

Thank you also for sharing Vimala McClure's poem. It touched me so deeply it brought tears to my eyes.

Sarah said... [Reply to comment]

I had heard so many of those sleep-training lies that I did that to my first two kids. It was awful. It didn't work for them. Every night there were tears. I learned later it was because of belly aches from multiple food intolerances, but at the time I only knew that what was supposed to help them sleep, didn't work. My third wanted to sleep on her own thankfully. And I've finally gotten smart with my fourth and let him cosleep. He's 15 months now and still wakes every night. He struggles with food intolerances too, and depending on how he is feeling it can be anywhere from every hour all night long to ever 3 hours. Last night was his best night yet, we got one 6 hour stretch!! It is hard sometimes, but I'm so glad I've made the decision to not let him cry. And I do cherish those moments of snuggle time. He won't be this little for much longer, and I will so miss it.

Heather said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you so much for this! I have 4 kids ranging in age from 10 months to 8 years. My oldest daughter slept through the night from 4 months, through no specific action on our part, she just decided one night to do it and she has done it ever since. She is a super deep sleeper to this day, it's virtually impossible to wake her up at night. We thought we were doing something wrong when our 2 boys came along and ended up co-sleeping until around age 2, and my older boy still needed to be rocked to sleep until almost age 3. Now we have another baby that doesn't like to sleep all night, even though she did go through a few months where she did it. We cosleep some nights and other nights I get up and put her back to bed several times. The part that really spoke to me was Lie #1. Even though I have done this 4 times it somehow never occurred to me that yes, I'm dealing with the baby now but guess what, my other 3 kids go to bed and sleep all night and they have for a long time now! So I will be treasuring my nights with my baby because I know she won't be a baby for long and she won't need the comfort that only I can give her. I'm headed to bed now, I'll see her in a couple of hours ;)

Suz said... [Reply to comment]

What a lovely article! We co-slept with our three sons for about three years each - they are now 27, 24 and almost 21 years; each healthy and independent. Co-sleeping kept us close when I was working fulltime (when the eldest was 5-24 months), and kept me sane when they were still nursing at night. I'm convinced that it also saved one son's life when we observed his rapid breathing during the night and took him to the hospital when he had pneumonia. @Cassandra and Shawna - our experience was that each boy started solids on his own schedule, the eldest at about 6 months, the second not until 18 months (offered often before then) and the third at just over 4 months. They breastfed for about 40 months, 33 months and 38 months, respectively.

Melissa said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for this post. I needed to read this!! I wish I knew people like you in my everyday life. My daughter is 27 months and still wakes every 1-3hrs, and frequently nurses through much of her sleep. We also cosleep and I get alot of slack for all this. I stand strong against others opinions for the health and well being of her but it is a breath of fresh air to read this post. You are an awesome person!!!!

The Modern Aboriginal Mama said... [Reply to comment]

I loved this! The analogy between sleeping through the night and a marathon was just wonderful; I'm going to use it in the future when I am met with the co-sleeping critics.

When you're *that* exhausted and fed up, it can feel like forever. Even one night of a good, solid sleep for yourself can help put that into perspective.

This is where a good night babysitter comes in. Sometimes, it's just gotta be done!


Danielle said... [Reply to comment]

This is just what I needed to hear tonight! Thank you!

Vanessa said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for this! My son is 10.5 months old and is up 4-5 times a night and today I have truly felt exhausted all day. I like other posters needed this message! Some nights we co sleep with hubby, other nights we sleep head to head on the couch. He rarely sleeps in the crib for more then an hour or two and doesn't usually go back to sleep on his own. Thank you for the support and encouragement!

Mummy in said... [Reply to comment]

what a great post! thanks for this info - I'll be sharing this!

I'm lucky that BiP is an awesome sleeper - never had an issue - amazing how many people tried to make out that it was bad that she was up once in the night at 9 months when I had no issue with it! She was sleeping 6-4am then back down until 6:30 ... couldn't ask for anything more at that age ... some people forget that babies are people, just tiny people. They have rhythms we need to respect - you can't force them to sleep. Ever.

Really enjoying your blog!

Beckytwogirls said... [Reply to comment]

Great post! I have 3 kids - 6, 3 and 9 months. I think it's important to say to new moms too that not every kid is the same. My oldest was terrible, middle is a great sleeper and now I'm back to the bad sleeping. I think the good sleepers are more rare than let on to be. They grow out of it. Hang in there! (said with zombie eyes)

Jennifer said... [Reply to comment]

Beautifully written! I could never have written it better myself. I would have loved to come across this a few months ago when I was really stressing about the sleep situation. My son will be 12 months in 2 weeks and we still co-sleep. I could never let him cry-it-out or do some other awful sleep training. It just never seemed natural to me. Motherhood is about sacrifices and selflessness and anyone who isn't ready to put their baby first 100% probably should not be having babies. Motherhood is tough but so worth it!

Deepa said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you so much for writing this. It's always so nice to hear that I am not the only one with a baby who isn't sleeping in her crib. The sleep deprivation has driven me to tears so many times, and I really hate the idea of letting her cry herself to sleep.

I know deep down that we can get through this because my daughter is a lovely, well-adjusted child, who isn't a picky eater, an excellent traveller, experiences no separation anxiety, laughs, sings, plays and brings joy wherever she goes.

Thank you again for writing this!

thatgirl said... [Reply to comment]

As someone who did some gentle sleep training with my son as a toddler, I agree with this 100%. There's no magical age after which if your baby isn't sleeping well, they're going to have a lifetime of sleep problems. There *is* a magical age where it's much, much easier to help your toddler or preschooler get "over the hump" towards sleeping independently. And that magical age is different for each child, your doctor can't tell you what it is, only YOU know your child well enough to know what's going to work for them.

Miss said... [Reply to comment]

Brilliant post, I have fought against my husband who wanted to use cry to sleep methods on our baby - I told him he could sleep alone on the sofa then! Now at 2 years 3 months my daughter goes to her own bed by choice and sleeps well without crying in the night (illness not included) and is such a happy child. She has a bed in our parental bedroom too having been nursed to sleep and co-sleeping since birth.

Other mothers I know talk of how guilty they feel all the time as a mum, and about their sleep "training" and the behavioural problems their children have. I never have any guilt

bel said... [Reply to comment]

This is wonderful! It gives me hope and inspiration in a world where mothers are surrounded by naysayers who think if you aren't following the "books" or "experts" that you are doing things wrong. It is so important to follow your heart and do what you feel is right and what works best for you and your little one. Thanks for writing this!

Katherine said... [Reply to comment]

What drives me most crazy is other mothers who think I must've done something wrong because my kids don't sleep. That I'm somehow flawed as a mother because they are waking at night. After 2 kids and talking with many, many mothers, I've decided that some babies are just better sleepers than others, no matter what parents do. Out of desperation, we've tried CIO with both our boys and they still didn't sleep through the night! We've given up, shrugged our shoulders and decided this too shall pass and we will sleep again someday, only to then be awoken when they're trying to sneak out at 16.

Sharon said... [Reply to comment]

@Mindful Life Shop

I follow the Blood Type Diet for myself because I have many food sensitivities. I've had great results from it including better sleep. Might want to try it for your child. I have a baby and I'm feeding her according to her blood type when she starts solids. There is a great book called Eat Right For Your Baby.

Anna said... [Reply to comment]

Thanks for this! I'm THAT mama! 5-8 wake up calls, a screaming baby for months on end. Even though I already KNEW how to sleep train. I'd done it with my daughter at 12 months. Obviously, she had been ready. Obviously, my son was not. He has only recently started to sleep through most nights at the age of almost 4. In his own bed, in his own room. Before that he was with me for at least part of the night almost every night. It was tiring at times and frustrating, but we got through it. And my book that included information on sleep training (recommending doing it between 6-12 months) DID state that it does not always work.

Ellen said... [Reply to comment]

Mamas worried about the length of co-sleeping: my son slept with me until he was four months old. I didn't want to move him out, but he seemed more comfy in his crib. His transition was super easy, and he sleeps wonderfully (16 mos old now). I firmly believe part of his good sleep came from starting out with us. Sleep was never an issue--we always did what he needed, when he needed it and he responded with relaxation and comfort. If he needs us, he knows we'll come. That initial investment has paid HUGE dividends.

Chris said... [Reply to comment]

I have two kids and they are as different as night and day :) My oldest couldn't wait to get out of our room and slept in her own room by 10 weeks or so. Still woke up to nurse during the night, but didn't want to be in bed with us. My second is 3 and still sleeps with us. Occasionally will start off in his bed, but is soon in our bed. Sometimes he nurses frequently during the night, sometimes it's only once. I do treasure every moment in the quiet of the night with him because he doesn't stop during the day. Shawna- GREAT article and I love the poem!!

Nora said... [Reply to comment]

Great article, I have a different scenario where my daughter (now 3 1/2) didn't sleep through the night until a around the year mark, not nursing a lot through the night, but towards end waking up once just and nursed but wouldn't/ couldn't go back to sleep without crying --in our arms as we walked her. I was so against the cry it out method yet she still cried in our arms as nothing seemed to work (didn't want to nurse; wouldn't calm down in our bed to co-sleep etc..)It's all a blur but i think it was around the 1 year mark where she either stopped waking up or stopped crying in the middle of the night. she's a VERY strong willed girl and sleeping with us wasn't what she wnated (still doesn't want it, which maks me so sad when i want her to share the bed with me!!) yet, my twin bnoys (now 14 months)on the other hand, never cried it out yet slept through the nigth at aound teh 5 month mark. we always put them to bed around 7pm and the hours they slept just continued to naturally stretch out from 2am. 3am until until they slept until 5:30am; which later on turned into 6am. i was skeptical of 'sleep trianing' as I always thought it couldn't be done without the child crying it out, but it did happen for our boys. we just always respnded to their needs in teh middle of the night whether I nursed them or my husband gave them pumped milk in a bottle. And now becase they have one another in the room they go to sleep in their cribs talking and laughng and just settle down to sleep--NO TEARS, it is a blessing! so i really think it depends on the child...some just naturally are ready to sleep through and some jsut aren't ready.

Lisa said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for writing this! We co-sleep most of the time and our 4-month-old daughter is exclusively breastfed. She sleeps 3-4hrs at a time (max), and it's hard not to feel like I'm doing something wrong.

Even though my instincts tell me everything's fine, friends and family keep giving us advice to fix this "problem" the point where I'm tempted to lie and say she's sleeping through the night even when she's not. Her pediatrician has been saying she could start solids to help her sleep longer, and at her 4mo visit yesterday, he told me we shouldn't wait any longer because "she should be sleeping through the night by now." I disagree...she needs a lot of nurturing, loves to be held close, and I think emotionally she still needs that comfort at night.

Your post helped confirm my instincts - and for a first-time mom who questions everything, I can't thank you enough!!!

Helen said... [Reply to comment]

Wow.. This is me.. My son is know 22mos old... My poor daughter. I had improved.

Meegs said... [Reply to comment]

This is such a wonderful article. My daughter is almost 14 months now and we've definitely had our sleep ups and downs. The past few nights have been rough, so this came at the perfect time for me. Thank you!

Meegs said... [Reply to comment]

Ps. Hope you don't mind that I shared this post on my blog. Just love it so much!

Imogen said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you so much for this. My 6 month old hasn't slept for longer than an hour for three months so i really needed to read this. xo

Amelia said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you so so so much for this. It helps to know that we're no the only ones going through this. My daughter's second birthday is only 5 weeks away and a "good night" is her waking up only 4 times. Now that she is talking more, she is telling me that she is hungry in the night. Last night we gave her a yogurt at around 2am and she slept for 3 hours before waking up screaming for mama milk. I keep telling my boyfriend that she won't want us in the night forever, but he's not convinced. I'm sending him a link to this page. thank you again :)

elissa said... [Reply to comment]

I work as a Sleep Educator and while and I agree with what is said on some level, on another I disagree. I really don’t care for sleep trainers because they seem to take everything to the extreme. “Every baby should be doing this or that.” This kind of statements leads parents down a very sad path. However so do the statements that say sleep is an instinct for everyone. This is simply not true. Sleep is a skill and just like all skills it’s easier for some than it is for others. While I want to make many more comments, I will only make one other. How do you feel when you are sleep deprived? Why is it such a stretch for us to think that our babies can’t feel the same way? Sleep deprivation is so much more concerning for our children than it is for us because they are developing at such a rapid rate. Sleep is a crucial factor to their mental, emotional and physical growth. Okay, I fibbed, just one more thing. You have more alternatives than cry-it-out or survive and you should trust your instinct as a parent – if something does not feel right for your family, it’s probably not a right fit for you!

katef said... [Reply to comment]

Fabulous post! Even after four children I still find myself falling victim to some of these lies... especially in the middle of the night! Sharing this everywhere, more people need to read this!

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@elissaMy son has never seemed "sleep deprived" no matter how often he got up. It seemed natural for him and still does. I can understand what you are saying about trusting your gut if something isn't working (that's why I said at the beginning that you do what your family needs you to do and I respect you for that.) I would argue that sleep is not really a skill, but getting yourself in the right mindset for sleep certainly is and that is what I meant by creating good sleep habits and associations. Thank you for reading and respectfully disagreeing! I'm sorry I didn't see this sooner!

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@katef I'm glad I could be of help!

jhon said... [Reply to comment]

Happy to see your blog as it is just what I’ve looking for and excited to read all the posts. I am looking forward to another great article from you. decking contractor

Wishful-Parent said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you so much for writing this article. My dear daughter is almost 10 months old and her pediatrician advised me to sleep train her - cry it out for as long as it takes (even an hour he says). After three nights of crying it out (even with timed checks), my daughter is still not sleeping by herself. Actually, I think she is more traumatized from the training since she clings more to me now.

I was born and raised in the eastern hemisphere and I don't remember parents talking about sleep training so imagine my surprise when I was told about sleep training. My mother is adamant that my daughter will fall asleep on her own when she's ready and I believe her now.

Ashley said... [Reply to comment]

You have stated strong points here. However, if you are struggling with sleep training, you should probably talk to your child's doctor.

BrownEyedGirl said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you! This was so up lifting to read, especially Lie #3. My baby only wakes up one or two times a night, but I have felt like it was my job to teach her to sleep on her own. That I was supposed to let her cry so that she could learn, but all along I knew something did not feel right about that method. I just needed to hear it from someone else, that comforting my child at night is NOT something that is going to cause me endless years of sleep turmoil. Everything you've said makes so much sense to me, and it has given me back the confidence I needed. Thanks again.

Sarah W said... [Reply to comment]

I realize I'm a bit late here, but I am SO glad I found this! I have been struggling with the idea of sleep training my 14 month old daughter for quite some time. I never could do CIO, but have tried the "gentler" methods, with little or no improvement. I just can't listen to my baby cry. I am of the opinion that she wouldn't understand why I tend to her needs when she cries during the day, but not at night.
I do tend to get very irritable with my daughter due to sleep deprivation, but I also think I put too high expectations on not only her, but also myself. I feel like I am doing something wrong because my daughter doesn't sleep through the night, and she doesn't eat well. I somehow equate this with being a bad/failing parent, when probably, in all actuality, something entirely different is going on. Perhaps she has an allergy (she will be tested soon because of a possible egg allergy), maybe she just wants time with Mommy (she is very busy during the day), or maybe she's genuinely hungry (see last two possibilities.. lol). Who knows. All I know is that I am not comfortable letting her cry while we can't clearly communicate with one another. Maybe when she's talking more, she will tell me she's just pissed :) Until then, I think I need to stop revolving my life around her sleep, just relax and enjoy her toddling years!

Travellerwannabe said... [Reply to comment]

this is great! I feel guilty every time i nurse my son to sleep, he's not even 5 months old but i'm being told that he should be able to fall asleep by himself. He's a good night sleeper but does not fall asleep by himself and it just doesn't make sense to me that if I don't make him do that now that he'll never figure it out..

Lydia Barger said... [Reply to comment]

This was very encouraging! As a new mom I struggled have struggled almost every night getting our high needs daughter to sleep. One night I accidentally fell asleep cuddling her to get her to sleep before I laid her in her own and we both slept so much better together. I've learned its better to listen to my baby and my heart than the well meaning " experts".
I do have a question for all the moms- how do you know when your baby is ready to sleep on their own? What are the signs? Are there things you need to do to test it?

CassLangley said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you! You wrote this awhile ago, I know, but I'm sitting here with my 11 month old son whom I've been struggling with getting in his crib. He is a great baby, but has never been one I could get to sleep on his own. The only reason I was trying was that I'm preg with #2 and due early may. I'm going to give him a little more time and try again in a bit. I don't care what people say, no matter how much time I wait he is not going to calm down from his break downs he has when I put him in the crib. I know my child well enough for that. It isn't hurting me to have him with me for now, so I'm just going to embrace the cuddles.

kates said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you so much for this post...I just spent over an hour getting my beautiful 22 month old daughter asleep AGAIN!! I came downstairs and cried feeling desperately sad that I have failed to give my daughter the tools she needs for sleep. i thought I will look again for training methods and think about starting something that in my heart I feel is wrong for us...when I came across your post and now I can breath/relax and get on with enjoying my little clever funny amazing daughter! THANK YOU!!

divinewithwine said... [Reply to comment]

We have coslept with all our kids. Our 8 and 5 year olds now sleep in their own room, falling asleep with no help or difficulty. Our 21 month old is still in our bed. I've never been crazy sleep deprived and I feel like that is all due to cosleeping (which we never planned on doing, I just couldn't put our first in a room by himself). I love how you can help your baby when they are semi awake by nursing or comforting them, instead of waiting until they cry and are you up. Most of all ii treasure this short time of snuggling with my babies. Are there times when I wish other people could easily get my baby to sleep or that I'd have my own bed, yes, but those times don't outnumber the ones where I will miss these snugly nights together.

Cerys Byrne said... [Reply to comment]

I co-slept with my 3rd as I'd decided before he was born that he would sleep wherever resulted in me getting the most sleep. He started going to sleep in his own bed around 2 or 3 but would end every night in our bed, at around 6 he would regularly sleep full nights in his own bed but then we moved to France and he started coming in again. He's now 9 and only comes into our bed when he's had a bad dream (perhaps a couple of times a month). I'm really pleased that he knows that we're there for him if he needs us any time of the day or night and I know the day will soon come when I won't wake up with hair in my face or toes up my nose.

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

My 17 year old had a bad dream last night and was frightened, kept imagining noises in her room and was couldn't go back to sleep. She came and woke me up and I told her to climb in next to her dad and I (lucky for the king bed). I hope my children will always know they can call on us when they need us, no matter what age they are. And I think that foundation has been set down in babyhood. She hasn't needed to come into our bed for more than a decade but I am glad she still felt able to come in last night when she was spooked. All our kids coslept with us (and then with each other) and are now healthy secure children. And I have had very, very few sleepless nights in parenthood. there is nothing more scrumptious than that baby snuggled next to you. Why would you deny yourself and the baby that experience?

Zehra said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you thats an awesome zen advise for all mothers, individually at this stage for me, i really not feel like separating my 9 mnth baby but so exhausted as much as i enjoy that. needed this reading, great job, thanks :)

Rusti said... [Reply to comment]

I love this, and couldn't agree more. You worded that so skillfully, and well. THANK YOU. just shared it to my FB - hopefully it will help others who are struggling. (We still co-sleep with our {almost} 4yr old and our {almost} 7mos old - in separate beds currently though - but we're all getting sleep, so we're happy!) :)

Gina Ayala said... [Reply to comment]

I needed this. Thank you so much :)

Gina Ayala said... [Reply to comment]

I needed this. Thank you so much :)

Emily green said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you so much i have a very strong willed hyper 9 month old who has never slept wellor through the night will not self soothe and has just hit 24 pound so rocking to sleep causes alot of back ache i was in two minds what to do and after tryin to sleep train i was in as many tears as my son since reading this i feel refreshed its not his fault he needs myself and my partner he just needs lots of love and cuddles i think he will be cuddling in bed with us tonite have a merry Christmas all :)

mphansalker said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for the great post! I completely agree that sleep is not something that can be taught. I have been working on a post on sleep training of my own and I will refer to your post in it.

Alainarae said... [Reply to comment]

I Just stumbled upon this while I sat and thought about whether I would go in and relieve my crying 10 month old like I do every night, or if I would finally bite the bullet and let him cry it out... I've tried it a little here and there. Since he is my 3rd baby, and the first one to give me so much sleep trouble, I've been a little confused. But I know it won't last forever. I think I'll go in and snuggle up right now:)

New Mama Jo said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you, thank you, thank you! This was JUST what I needed to hear. It's so nice to know someone gets what you're going through, that you're not alone in your doubts and fears as a mommy. And to be encouraged to follow your instincts and trust your baby. I needed this today!

Upesa olyi said... [Reply to comment]

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mar said... [Reply to comment]

thanks for this. i have been in tears for the past three weeks with my first, sweet, spirited daughter who just can't sleep. she is almost 4 months and most days i don't think i can make it. thank you for this beautiful post. it calmed my heart.

simone said... [Reply to comment]

Going into being a mum i believed that kids could be text book cases. Now I don't at all. I was prepared to co-sleep, carry my baby around and do pretty much anything this woman who wanted to nurture had to do. I begot myself an independent little man. There was no "sleep training", he pretty much went from regular feeds through the night slowly to wanting none. He would not co-sleep. His wake ups now are purely tummy pains, pooey diaper, re-arrangement or a song / low talk and a stroked face. I only ever dare pick him up if he is really screaming... or he will wake up and get very very distressed. So I just started to listen. Some cries are cries where he needs me, others are simply noises, sometimes in his sleep. If I mis-interpreted a cry and went to him I actually made it much worse for him and he would get so worked up I would literally have to walk out and let him scream in his cot alone... for the cries in my arms, or if I was in the room were far worse. Funnily enough a really solid; nap, food, milk routine through the day - predictable and really guarded and respected by me helped him sleep fairly well through the night. (well sleep as in not get up for a feed - he still wakes and makes noises now and then). Perhaps he needed that security.

Someone else mentioned and now you that they don't really learn how to properly sleep from about 2 and sometimes - often - even later. Yip, believe that. My babe might "sleep" but rarely is there a night where he does not wake with a bit of chatter, grunts ect... and I am lucky. I just wanted to make sure that this was spoken too. Sometimes your baby needs a routine, and at times left alone. It depends on who your little person is, and what it is that they need in order to get some sleep. My guy needs to be left - or he feels he must communicate something, loudly... in turn he gets worked up and gets so frustrated with this crazy world that nothing will sooth him. Obey instincts, and realize that there is no such thing as a text book baby.

beauty said... [Reply to comment]

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Introduced me to Dr okun of helped me cast a very
Strong spell that helped change his parents mind and i noticed also that my
man love for me has greatly increased. We are happily married now with
kids. People with similar problems can contact the spell caster on he is great and passionate

Randi DeBey said... [Reply to comment]

I read this now 19 months after my daughter was born. Sleep training has never even crossed my mind but I have heard about it from other moms and decided to research it out of curiosity. I'd like to give you my experience, which is at the opposite end of the spectrum.
I breastfeed for the first six months of her life, and for those first six months, she woke up three or for times through the night. However, although I went back to working mornings when she was four months old, I did not at all mind getting up at all hours of the night. I cherished the time we spent snuggling and bonding. And the nice thing was, as soon as she finished eating, she went right back to sleep. Unfortunately, because I was working, my milk supply slowly trickled to nothing, and when she was six months old we switched to formula because she was CONSTANTLY hungry. About that time her wakings decreased to only once, maybe twice a night. And by the time she was ten months old, she was sleeping the whole night. I did rock her to sleep every night, but even that has ended as of a few months ago. Now, if I try to rock her, she wants to sit up and "chat" (as well as a nineteen-month-old can), and so I lay her in her bed, and tuck her in with her stuffed toys. Some nights she even "reads" by nightlight. I'm sure a lot of moms are jealous, but I miss cuddling my "baby" so much that I tear up thinking about it. Enjoy the nights you get to spend holding them and having "conversations" in infant babble, because they grow up so quickly, and before you know it, they'll be too "cool" to share a bed with their mom.

wayne joy said... [Reply to comment]

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jose patrich said... [Reply to comment]

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jose patrich said... [Reply to comment]

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vivian maze said... [Reply to comment]

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moore Alice said... [Reply to comment]

I and my husband have been having a lot of problem living together, he will always not make me happy because he have fallen in love with another lady outside our relationship, i tried my best to make sure that my husband leave this woman but the more i talk to him the more he makes me feel sad, so my marriage is now leading to divorce because he no longer gives me attention. so with all this pain and agony, i decided to contact this spell caster to see if things can work out between me and my husband again. the spell caster told me what i will do to get my husband back, so he told me that he was going to make all things normal back. he did the spell on my husband and after 2 days my husband changed completely he even apologize with the way he treated me that he was not him self, i really thank this priest his name is Dr ogala he have bring back my husband back to me i want you all to contact him who are having any problem related to marriage issue and relationship problem he will solve it for you. his email

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