Baby 2.0 and Mama 2.0 try to sleep

When embarking on Baby 2.0, CG and I had a bit of an overconfidence about us. We were deeply convinced that we would never make the same mistakes with our second child that we made with our first. After all, we were no longer green-behind-the-ears rookies. With our first try at baby-tending, there had been much serious study and, when that failed us, trial and error, and when THAT failed us, we threw up our hands and covered our heads till it got better on its own, resolving to do better, to BE better, next time.

Through it all, we felt we accrued some knowledge that would surely help us next time around. We had learned.

(Or so we thought.)

Last week found us back in the land of a non-sleeping baby. Specifically a 6 month-old who used to sleep really well, got a cold and didn't sleep, got better and still didn't sleep. It had been a couple of months of increasingly poor sleeping and I started to fall asleep sitting up. At the dinner table. During dessert. CHOCOLATE DESSERT.

We've been here before. The exact. same. thing. happened with Z when she was about the same age. We hoped it would get better on its own. It got worse. I took her to the doctor, sure that she must have an ear infection. Clean bill of health. I read the No Cry Sleep Solution book and applied its ideas. It got worse. We all were grumpy and miserable during the day, with Z yawning and pawing at her ears half an hour after waking up. So I read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby and we decided to let Z cry it out.

The day we started, we put her down awake for her naps and she fell asleep without a fuss, just like she normally did. We put her down awake for her bedtime and she fell asleep without a fuss, just like she normally did. Then the waking started. CG checked on her, assessing that she was dry, safe, not too hot/cold, not being eaten alive by rabid jaguars. Then he patted her back for a few minutes to calm her and left. And we all cried.

It took two nights. Two LONG nights. By the third night, Z was no longer waking up at night and was much happier during the day. We declared it a success. We wished we had done it sooner. I swore to friends that it was best decision we had ever made.

We also swore we would never let "the next baby" get to that point again.

And here we were, last week, facing yet another round of "crying it out" with E, the "next baby".

I fought CG on this for weeks. She'll go back to normal soon! Every once in a while she sleeps great! Clearly something is wrong on those nights when she cries and then stops as soon as I pick her up. SHEEEE NEEEEDDDSSSS MEEEEEEEE. MAMA BEAR RAAOOOAAARRRRRRR.

Finally, her naps dropped to 20 minutes or less, she was waking almost every hour, every night, calming only when held, eyes popping open the moment her head hit the crib mattress. It soon became obvious that I had somehow trained her only to sleep in my arms, in the rocking chair. I don't blame her for finding it a preferable arrangement. But I have to say, my sleep is in all our best interests and her preferred arrangement WAS NOT MINE. After a check up with the doctor- who said she was fine - CG finally impressed upon me that it was not going to get better on its own and I couldn't go on this way much longer. So I reluctantly agreed to a mild, checking-on-her-often version of crying it out.

And she stunned me by adjusting quickly. Just like with Z, it took two nights. The longest she cried was 15 minutes. The rest were all 5 minute cries that may have even been in her sleep. By the third night, we didn't even need to check on her at all. She was back on track.

Then, I made a big mistake: I Googled "effects of crying it out" and came up with this press release out of Harvard. (It turns out Mama 2.0 has the same darn bugs as Mama 1.0. Can some software engineer somewhere fix this Late Night Googling bug??) Since it's three years old, I'm sure you all have read about it already but it was new to me. The researchers (and all the secondary news sources) basically link "crying it out" with panic attacks and PTSD in later life. Besides the NO DUH headline about babies needing to be held and touched,- REALLY? CAN'T I JUST POKE HER WITH SHARP STICK?- they claim that unnecessary crying as an infant changes one's brain to be more sensitive to later trauma. HOO BOY. Who wants to define "unnecessary crying"?? Anyone talk to moms of colicky babies about this one?

Then I fell down this Google Hole and read more about crying-it-out than I ever thought possible.

Mama 3.0 better include some GOOD FIXES for Late Night Googling.

After all I've read, I'm still convinced we did the right thing for our whole family. We are more on the "independence" side of the parenting sleep continuum and I understand that to some people this seems harsh. But I firmly believe E knows she is loved and cared for. And now she can (once again) sleep well in her own bed.


Erica said...

I am a firm believer in the "whatever you need to do" school of sleep "training." Some babies respond well to the No Cry Solution, some respond to CIO and some don't respond to anything at all.

The bottom line is that it's in your child's best interest to get a good night's sleep on a consistent basis. It's also in your best interest to get a good night's sleep on a consistent basis. Whatever you need to do to ensure those two lines intersect is what you need to do.

We had to use CIO with Maddie, too, around that same age. It was hard, but it worked and she's still a great sleeper. And she knows she's loved and cared for and is one of the happiest kids I know. I call that a WIN regardless of studies that will say otherwise.

Also, I'm trying to remind myself daily that what worked(s) for Maddie probably won't work with the Little Man and not to get all upset and think that I don't know how to raise a son. Each kid is different and will respond differently, right?

Erica said...

Also, that's a long damn comment. Sorry about that.

desperate housewife said...

Arggh. Sleep stuff is TEH WORST part about parenting, hands down. Raise your hand if you'd rather give birth once a month for the rest of your life than deal with a non sleeping baby for a year straight. ME ME PICK ME.
Cry it out did jack shit for Eli. I mean, that kid would cry for an hour straight, would cry until he threw up, you name it. Not that it happened often. Once we realized that the magical "third night" had come and gone and he was still gag-crying for over a half hour, we were like, "eff this" and just decided to go night by night. If we had a sucky night, we had a sucky night, but there was no real training going on. I still feel guilty about the amount of crying we did allow to go on. (Eli, you can bill me later when you get PTSD or have recurrent panic attacks. Mama's sorry.) He's over two now, and you want to know the thing that FINALLY ending (for the vast majority of the time, anyways) his night wakings? Sharing a room with his sister. He just hates being alone to fall asleep. I wish we had never even given him his own stinking room.
Ah well. Live and learn.
SO glad the sleep training plan worked out ok for you guys! Your kids must be a little more reasonable than mah boy was!

Melanie said...

After 4 babies I still HATE to hear 'em cry. Ever. At all. Yikes, that's scary isn't it. I never could wrap by brain around it being OK for a baby to cry for what seemed like hours, really just minutes though. Read the same books you did and still came away thinking, ok, are Jeff and I on the same page, can the baby sleep for some period of time on his/her own, are we sleeping enough? When any of those questions were answered "no" then we readjusted and tried something different - for each kid, as each required their own specific tweaking! Who knew this parenting gig would essentially require us to do so much, think so deeply, feel so fully, and on so little sleep:)

Hillary said...

Well, I hate to be all "what everyone else said," but ... yeah. Every kid is different and none of those books has the perfect solution. The Boy always has been a pretty good sleeper, but we did have to do a bit of cry-it-out with him.

And as for those studies: I am a reporter and know, first-hand, that statistics can be manipulated to support or deny just about any argument. Reporters and researchers do try to be objective, but ultimately, we're human and have our own theories and biases -- and then there are the flaws in a study and the need for a catchy headline and a million and one other reasons why you can't always trust the science.

Existential Waitress said...

This is one of the most frustrating aspects of parenthood. I still struggle with my daughter's sleep issues and she's 4now! I too was shocked at how diffent my children were as infants - I thought baby number 2 would be a breeze b/c I had just been down that road (my kids are 2 years apart to almost the day) and I thought I had all the answers to sleep, weaning, etc. I couldn't have been more wrong! I remember devouring The No Cry Sleep Solution out of desperation, and it didn't work at all for my second born - she just would not sleep without mommy.

I believe in going with your gut, and only you know what's best for your baby. It's difficult when you're sleep-deprived, but you're a good mom and you're doing an awesome job. I hope you get some much needed sleep soon.

Kathi McCracken Dente said...

Congratulations! A good nights sleep is a very, very good thing. I am a firm believer in sleep training. I support you 100%. Both my girls needed some training. M went from a terrible sleeper to a great one thanks to it. I am hoping T will follow in her sister's footsteps. And with the amount of crying E did (15 min) I doubt that is in the ballpark of what that Harvard study is looking at. You did good! Now stop googling! ;)

Marianne said...

But my parents used CIO with me, and I don't have panic attacks, etc. However, I am a VERY good sleeper.

Marie Green said...

So I've also read the study, and then read somewhere (a link someone posted on facebook, I think) that Dr. Ferber retracted his "methods" and stated that he would never have tried his "sleep training" on his own kids.

Ok, asshat, then pull your stupid books from the shelf and stop making money with your stupid "methods".

That same article also stated that "crying it out" would "very soon" be considered child abuse.

I was elated. Because I totally agree.

However, I don't think what you did can be defined as "crying it out" in the true sense of the word (so therefore, also not abuse). Many times, that phrase refers directly to Dr. Ferber's method (or the one laid out in that gawd-awful book Babywise) of, at no later than 6 weeks of age, forcing a baby to "self soothe".

What I hate about those books is that NO ONE feels ok about letting a NEWBORN baby cry and cry. Mom has a physiological reaction- increased heart rate, milk lets down, mental stress, etc. However, parents read what the "experts" say, and stop listening to themselves and their baby, and now have the voice of the "expert" in their brain. They loose the ability to make a good decision for their family, b/c of the "expert advice".

Again, I really don't think helping an older baby learn that "milk station is closed for the evening, see you in the morning!" falls under this definition. And I don't think what you did was abuse. Your baby was telling you she couldn't sleep well anymore, and you helped her fix it.

In our house, we call what you did "night weaning", meaning we'll check on you and love you up, but then it's SLEEP TIME.

I'm so glad that she's sleeping better! Hurray for you all!

Sarah said...

OOOhh, so glad you posted this! I, too, am a victim of obsessive, late-night Googling. The Smartest Man Alive swears he's going to take away my Internet!

But, anyways, before I had Little Man I read a book called The Science of Parenting, which basically said the same thing as the Harvard press release. So, I was very relunctant to do the cry-it out approach.

However, our pediatrician insisted it would cause no harm. But, of course, I wanted to research it further because the medical article she gave me was not enough to assuage my fears.

What the articles do not tell you is that these studies are focusing on babies who are NEGLECTED and endure repeated, hours-long type crying; that can have a damaging effect on a baby's brain.

So never fear, Z & E will be emotionally healthy children.

Miyoko said...

U are fine. Two nights of sleep training is nothing. I haaaate sleep training but sometimes they just get their rhythms messed up. P took just a couple of nights of veeery mild sleep training to teach her she could soothe herself just fine and that she had sleep skills she wasn't aware of. I don't know if we ever full in let her cry it out but I do remember doing the go in pat her back a lot.

we haven't done any sleep training yet with I because our house layout has all the bedrooms so close that we'd all be crying it out together. Let's hope i. Gives up the waking once per night after this round of teething is over and done.

Belinda said...

I have not read the.study, but from what Marie Green wrote it sounds (1) laughable and (2) borderline unethical. J, you're right that babies need touch and warmth and physical contact (remember the wire monkeys versus the fuzzy-covered monkeys?)- but that is OVER TIME. Children, especially infants this small who do not yet form clear memories, learn from PATTERNS of behavior, not from single incidents (unless of course there is an unusually traumatic incident). I remember your saying that you have been going to her because you want her to know that her cries mean something, that they are important- and until now-ish, she has had needs through the night, correct? She has NEEDED to be nursed, or changed, or whatever (help me out here, my cats are self-sustaining unless the food bowl goes empty). But now she is able to get through the night without NEEDING anything. She is now crying to tell you what she WANTS- she WANTS to be held, she doesn't NEED to be held. Unfortunately for you, her "want" cry is going to sound just like her "need" cry- although my hunch is that if she truly needed something (e.g. she was sick) you would hear a difference in her cry.Besides just being that type of hyperaware person, moms are kind of pre-programmed to hear very subtle differences in their children's cries, and babies will make different cries based on what's wrong (or not!)

So this was actually your and CG's first go at teaching E that you don't always get something just because you want it. Think of how many times you have given that message to Z, and while you may have then endured a temper tantrum she came out no worse for the wear, right? That's kind of what is happening here- E knows that you will respond to her NEEDS because you always have and you still do. In a way, she is having the 6 month (OMG! 6 months??) old equivalent of a "tantrum," trying to get your attention back. When you said that you have "trained" her, you said it perfectly. ALL you are doing is untraining her, nothing more. And certainly nothing like what that guy from Harvard did! Just shows you how crazy some of those doctors can be...

Michelle said...

Someone should do a study on what all these studies and googling do to moms. It would probably conclude that it makes them insane with unnecessary worry. I would know being one of those mothers.
I did not employ CIO until Peanut was older than 6 months. She's fine. I think you are fine to do it for E now.
I agree with, Hillary. You can make stats and numbers add up to whatever you want them to say. And Sarah's right. There is a world of difference between a kid who goes through sleep training two nights and a kid who is repeatedly neglected for hours and hours, day after day.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Bless you all for your support!

marianne- You are a longitudinal study in and of yourself!

Marie Green- Once again, you sum it up so well! I agree with you about letting NEWBORN babies cry unattended. That makes no sense to me (and breaks my heart, honestly). What we did with E (and with Z) was NOT THAT.

Belinda- Try as I might, I didn't find the original source article. It appears to have been a "multidisciplinary" paper comparing the child rearing practices of American mothers and Gusii mothers in Kenya. No scientific experiments per se.

Oh , and determining NEEDS vs. WANTS with older babies is VERY HARD. Especially when you HAVEN'T BEEN SLEEPING.

belinda said...


Oh, that's lovely. Write books and makw bold statements and recommendations that get mothers who are already worried about doing best by their children riled up into a frantic, twitchy ball of anxiety AND DON'T BASE IT ON ANY SCIENCE.

Good job.


What an ass.

Good Enough Mom said...

Like all parents, we went through this, too. Our first son was colicky for the first 3 mos, but eventually learned to sleep, but it got really disrupted when he started crawling (which is how it goes--developmental milestone = sleep disruption). We hanged in there for a LONG time, until he would be up in the middle-of-the-night for up to THREE HOURS at a stretch. We couldn't take it. With our doc's blessing, we decided the best thing for everyone (especially this exhausted child) was to let him cry. We stupidly did this on the night before my birthday, and the little guy cried for, I swear, 4 hours straight! Screaming! My NAME! His dad's name! Our cat's name! That was torture like nothing else. (I totally burst into tears when I saw him the next morning, feeling I had broken something inside of him...) But, the next night, he cried for 20 minutes, and slept all night. We have periodically revisited sleep training after colds, travel, etc, but it never got that bad again...phew.

And baby #2, it turned out, loves to sleep (until 4am anyhow). We were much quicker with crying it out...and less guilty, since it seemed better to do it before his sleep got really messed up. And I told myself that it was OK, and he wouldn't remember anyhow.

Then, at about 10 mos, the morning after I had let him cry himself to sleep, he woke up and said to me these heartbreaking words:
"Night-night: Cry and cry and cry..." Oh, boy.

(he was an early talker.)
(now he sleeps great.)
(I don't think either child will have PTSD!!)

Amie said...

I think you should do whatever works for your family. What bugs me is that people think because my baby doesn't sleep well by herself, that I am doing something wrong rather than considering that every kid is different. I have tried EVERYTHING and CIO, especially the kind where you check in, makes my daughter so upset that she stops breathing and is in a state of panic and when I finally get her to sleep she cries ALL NIGHT in her sleep. It is horrible. I wish I could put her down and she would cry for a while and go to sleep but she just does not do that. I know it shouldn't bother me what other people think, but it does.

I've also tried the No Cry Sleep Solution which does the exact opposite for us than it is supposed to do. I think time will be our tincture in this case. And that sucks but it is just how it is.

I really do think that all kids are different when it comes to sleep. Which makes sense because all adults I know are different too. I had a boss who could sit under her desk and take a nap and another who needed ambien every night to sleep. My husband needs to listen to music to fall asleep but then sleeps like a dead horse but I can fall asleep on a dime yet wake up easliy throughout the night. Why should babies be any different?

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