Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child: Living the Dream...

Those of you who read my "highly subjective diatribe against Dr. Sears" many moons ago might be surprised to learn that for the last four months we've been pretty much co-sleeping with the new Baby. (although, I will add that my rant was not against the actual practices of attachment parenting so much as the way in which ideological perspective is masked as the "natural" and therefore "morally correct" way to parent. And "don't we have enough to guilt-trip ourselves with, already?" etc., etc..)

From the moment he was born, Baby Boy proved himself to be mellow, smiling, and (treasured above all) a champion sleeper. I have smugly taken credit for this latter quality, making sure this time to not make any of the same mistakes I am pretty sure we committed with Big Brother. For instance, we put him down in the crib awake, and he nestles his head into his carefully selected "lovey" (a fleece blanket) and drifts off unassisted. We are attentive to his need to nap, and never let him stay awake for more than 2 hours. We lay him to sleep before he becomes worked up and tired, and he dutifully smiles up from his swaddle before taking that nap. We have avoided all motion assisted devices to aid sleep such as swings and car-rides, lest we have a complete motion junkie on our hands

(in other words, not as we were: boing-boinging the living daylights out of a bouncy seat as our swaddled First Born drifted off very, very much assisted, only to wake up and protest when we stopped).

When I started bring him into bed with me after that first nightly feeding, it felt completely right. It was a La Leche League success story in the making. He got to feed on demand from about midnight til 6am, and I only had to wake partially to gently bring him to my welcoming bosom. I was positively smug about the fact that I was the mother of a newborn and "No. I'm not sleep deprived actually...Thank You. I feel great" He was sleeping for a good portion of the night in his crib, so we did not need to worry on that score, obviously. Eventually we'd transition him in there once he was waking less in the night. For now we were enjoying the intimacy of the family bed, and my guilt pangs over being away all day were assuaged. Maybe that Sears was on to something....

Needless to say, it hasn't lasted. Nope. For the last few nights, while Baby Boy has been as good as ever about putting himself to sleep and taking naps, the night times are now much less than lovely. Now he is awakening at least every hour; and though not completely waking up he is twitching and kicking like a crazy thing. All the old tricks--swaddling, pacifier, boob in face--are beginning to come up short. It's like being in bed with a small grunting, flailing monkey. Who scratches his face and mummy's boob. So no one is getting any sleep. Not me. Not Daddy. Not him. And we're all pretty foul the next day as a result.

So co-sleeping is not working. Time to put him back in his crib. He likes his crib. He's a self soother. No problem.

Think again.... Even more crying and protest than in our bed. Of course.

If you've been reading this blog for a while or know me, you'll know that I am fundamentally cynical about the plethora of publications put out by "experts" on parenting, pregnancy, and all that other "helpful" information we use to mindfuck ourselves with. I'm definitively of the "whatever works" school of thought when it comes to parenting, as are most of you, I know. However, experience with our first son who was colicky and then deeply sleep-deprived for the first 5 months of his life has made Sleep Nazis out of his father and me. And I've got an extremely dog-eared copy of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child to prove it.

I know from our experiences with Big Boy that while listening to your child cry is extremely difficult, this is quickly outweighed when you reap the benefits of a well-rested child and well-rested parents. The transformation of our son was so dramatic that it made stalwart believers of us. And now, 4 years later, even if my son fights us tooth and nail about teeth-cleaning and eating his broccoli, he does go to bed at a reasonable time and can put himself to sleep quite happily. (Pre-Weissbluth, he was either in our arms or being bounced, and pretty much miserable all the time. He slept for half hour increments, and it was deadly. Post-Weissbluth he slept for 12-14 hours a night and took several 2-3 hour naps a day. He was transformed literally overnight into Sunshine Boy)

Last night I fell back into that old and familiar ritual of gripping my dog-eared copy of Weissbluth, and reading passages over and over again as our Baby began to cry on his first waking (one hour after being fed). Reassuring myself that by letting our Baby cry instead of going to him each time he awakes we are Doing The Right Thing. That he needs to learn to sleep through arousals, and to unlearn that Mummy's obliging boob will be there each time he wakes. That this is for his own good.

I keep telling and telling and telling myself this, as I fight back tears of exhaustion and guilt. I keep telling and telling and telling myself this as I lay in my own bed and cover my head with the covers to muffle the cries. I keep telling and telling and telling myself this while each one of those cries tightens my chest even more. But in the end, all I can say is "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry" and join in his tears.....


So. Uhm. That's where I'm at right now. Sleep deprived and writing posts with overwrought endings as a direct result (I would revise to tone it down, but who has the energy?). The fact of the matter is that our mellow boy surprised us last night with just how much stamina he had for wailing--on and off for one hour at one stage. And this pretty much punctuated the whole night. It was awful. Please, if you have any similar stories or words of wisdom, do share. I could use a boost. I need the village.

(But if you are angling to reprimand me or call me names, please would you mind waiting until the Baby's sleeping through the night. I'm too exhausted to debate anyone right now...)

(not that I don't respect people if they have differing opinions on this...)

(agh. never mind)


Miscellaneous-Mum said...

Oh, goodness me! No judgement from me at all!!

Hey, you know me, I'm going through similar stuff at the moment. It's all you can do from going insane, so you try to make changes.

Good luck with it all. I've borrowed every single sleep book from my library and read them all and feel no better about my situation. Even my local nurse has told me "fix the problem now before you have a car accident from sleep deprivation". wow.

Devra said...

Instead of focus being on the guilt, keep repeating to yourself that if everyone in the family gets sleep, everyone will benefit. The angst over the sleep issue is short lived in comparison to a lifelong sleep problem developing later. You are doing a great job, the whole world turns upside down when you add another kid. I remember thinking "What did we just do? Why did we do THAT?!" In a few weeks, months or whenever, you will find your groove and you'll once again be dressed and ready to do something before it is bedtime again!
Aviva and I have a goal to absolve guilt...One mommy at at time. Today it was you!

bubandpie said...

Okay, here's the thing - the transformation into Sunshine Boy actually took quite a bit longer than you are remembering. I have a very clear recollection of exactly how it went with the Bub (crying for a few nights, followed by Miraculous Transformation of the Entire Family). I also have a notebook in which I wrote down exactly how many night wakings there were each night until he was nine months old - and that notebook tells a more complicated story. It still worked - Bub became a great sleeper - but it was three steps forward, two steps back, and some hideous nights in between.

But then - ahhhh, the happiness.

(Now if somebody could just tell the Pie to stop waking at 5:30 am!)

BTW? This post? Hilarious. You can wield a mean italic, lady.

Dysd. Housewife said...

First off, congratulate yourself on being a great mom. I have had four babies, so I will tell you what I know. Babies gain a sense of "fear" as they get older and when they wake up in a seperate room, and it is silent, it scares them. Co-sleeping newborns are used to hearing sounds like breathing, snoring, sleeping. (I co-slept with two of mine, only I used a pack & play bassinette right up next to the bed) Anyway, they are used to SOUND. I know you said you didn't want to use artificial methods, but I am assuming you meant methods that required YOU to operate it LOL. So with that in mind, I HIGHLY recommend a sound machine. They do make them specifically for babies, with sounds of heartbeats, gentle waves, whatever. But if you're broke like the rest of us, I would recommend one of these homedic doohickeys:


I have this exact one, and although it IS a form of pacification, it puts babies and kids to sleep like a rock. They are soothed by the sounds if they wake up, and you get to sleep! :) For 29 bucks, it's worth a try eh?

cinnamon gurl said...

Ohhh... hugs!!!

So we haven't done CIO - yet, you never know - but I have friends who made it work and got some good advice (IMHO) from a public health nurse.

I can't remember how old your baby boy is, but the nurse recommended not doing it under 6 months. Could it be a growth spurt? (I've been told they happen around 3,6,and 12 weeks, and again at 6 months.

And she advised not letting them cry longer than two hours. If they do, stop and try again in a month. AND if you don't see a marked improvement in three nights, stop and try again in a month.

We've had lots of nights with the waking every hour or two... they seem to come and go. But they are phases, usually teething or some other thing at work, and they end. I often wonder if we chose the correct course of action, but the decisions felt right at the time.

The kicker is we can never really know for sure what's luck, what's good decisions, what's unique to the child...

I was just talking with a couple of other cosleepers this morning, and I think the thing may be that nothing works 100% of the time. Even if you have the most perfect sleeper ever and you never had to even make decisions like this because the kid just sleeps like a dream, they occasionally get sick, have bad nights, whatever. (And I have a friend with one of those perfect sleepers, so I've heard).

We're having sleep issues with bedtime in my house at the moment... it's all so hard... especially with the exhaustion. So I have no judgment on others' decisions... all in the name of survival, I think. I hope you find something that works soon!

cinnamon gurl said...

Ooh, the other comments are much better than mine. Never mind...

DD said...

Since every villiage needs an idiot, here I am!

I don't remember when we went through this with X, but we did. I don't remember how long it took, but it took. And that's the beauty of it. Right now, it will make you ache inside and out, but in a few months, and then a few years? You will have two very happily sleeping children and two happily sleeping parents.

Mimi said...

Gah! We went through this with Miss Baby, too. Great co-sleeping as a newborn ... but then there came a point where it was just not working for any of us any more, and off she went into the crib. I guess it all fell apart when she was about 4 months old. She started waking up a lot and being really angry and we were all pooped. We did the 'baby whisperer' program for daytime naps, and that worked a lot better during the day than at night.

We ultimately went CIO at night. My experience was much teh same as Bub and Pie's -- feels great in retrospect, but my very detailed diaries of sleep/cry ratios show that it worked great ... then didn't work great ... then worked great. We still have occasional setbacks but she's 9 months old now and sleeps from 7:30-7:30, with no wakeups and no crying.

I'll tell you this: when she wasn't sleeping and my options were to be in there soothing her and quite literally hating her, or to be hiding in the basement and checking her every 15 minutes? I'll take the hiding. She was crying in any case--and it's hard to be attached when you are so sleep-deprived and deafened and resentful and angry.

We just don't get angry like that anymore now that Miss Baby has become responsible for (and capable of) putting herself to sleep.

The sling has been retired.

Woman with kids said...

"This too shall pass." Repeat until both boys are 18. At least, that's my plan...

slouching mom said...

Let's see. Growth spurts accounted at least three times for 3-4 nights of Ben screaming without stopping, without sleeping. The first was around 2-3 months, the second 5-6 months, the third 8-9 months. An undiagnosed ear infection also mucked with his sleep a couple of times.

We did end up using Ferber with Ben at 10 months. He slept and napped wonderfully after that.

Jack did very well with a sound machine, as one commenter suggested. We still use it; he finds it soothing even at five. We also had a Fisher Price aquarium that hung in his crib when he was 3-7 months. He loved that.

Beyond that, I got nothin'. But sympathy and empathy.

Virtualsprite said...

No judgement here, either. I'm of the opinion that we all do what we have to do. And, yes... repeating "This too shall pass" does help - even if you don't believe it right away.

karrie said...

This parenting gig is all about survival. Anyone who makes you guilty for not following their rules can suck it.

I've been through the wringer with my 2.5 yo son, so no judgment from me.

Hope he settles down and you're able to get some rest.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

I have nothing for you but empathy. I've been there; am there in fact. Do whatcha gotta do. I am jealous of all those who were brave enough to put down two king mattress on their floor and call it the family bedroom. I'm also jealous of those whose kids love their crib and go to sleep peacefully. We are somewhere, messily, in the middle of these extremes. And, whenever I say, 'hey, it is working', all hell breaks loose and we're back to square one.

metro mama said...

Hang in there - soon you'll both be sleeping (and making love!) and it will all be worth it.

metro mama said...

Hang in there - soon you'll both be sleeping (and making love!) and it will all be worth it.

anna said...

The late (I think) great Magda Gerber once said something the to the effect of: All babies are born with the capacity to put themselves to sleep but by six months, many of them need all sorts of boing-boinging to get to sleep. She may not have used the phrase, boing-boinging, but I'm sure she would have if she read this blog.

Anyway, I've aways thought she made a great point. By making ourselves an essential part of a child's going-to-sleep routine, we are depriving them of one of the very few things they can actually do on their own.

Lia said...

Oh so with you on this - I mishandled the sleep issue for a 1.5 years - we finally resorted to the controlled crying method, with occasional lapses and it mostly works. Keep telling him why you are doing this and what you expect of him and no guilt baby!

Elizabeth said...

You have to do what is best for you and your family! I'd like to second the suggestion to put something in his room that makes noise, even just a fan. You are doing the right thing, please try not to feel guilty! And if you ever need a break, SERIOUSLY, I would be happy to take your boys so you can catch up on sleep or whatever. Do not hesitate to call!

Danielle Meehan said...

Alright what worked for us? A routine that involved the aquarium soother and the local jazz station playing all night. What didn't? Co sleeping next to my son the wolverine. I'm an advocate of CIO while you hide somewhere out of hearing range for periods of time. I used our front porch as well as a loud television on occasion.
I think the truth of it all is that as soon as you figure them out, they'll change. This too will pass. Good luck

Mrs. Chicky said...

I knew I loved you for a reason.

Chicky was exactly how you described your first boy as being. I can't imagine going through that a second time. I wish I had advice for you, except the old stand-by - He'll get over this. In the meantime, bounce that little one 'round the room while singing Proud Mary if that's what gets you through.

Karen said...

good sleep is worth is...hang in there. It can take some time for them to learn to sleep through those mini wake-ups. The book is good, you are good, the baby is good...sleep will be good soon.

ED said...

My daughter is a year old and we're going through CIO for the second time and it's horrible horrible horrible. It's effective, I know it's kinder in the end to do something that ultimately lets all of us sleep better, but my GOD is it miserable until it takes.

We tried everything I could think of before we went to CIO. When she was a newborn I put her down sleepy but not asleep - her eyes would pop open and she'd be wide awake. Soothing her to sleep every few hours was a joke - whatever I did or didn't do, she'd be up for 6-8 hours straight.

Before we started CIO I believed all the hype that says it works in a smooth progression over a few days, and then my kid would be all fixed! Forever! Yay! That was SO not our experience. I'm actually really relieved to hear my experience hasn't been unique. If you read the sleep books, it all sounds so straightforward, I kind of thought it was just me.

I'm so sorry you and your family are going through this. Good luck!

flutter said...


Oh honey....I'm so sorry.

debbie said...

all I got you can have. which is just that my only son was a lot like your first; colicky waking nightmares, etc. sleep nazi I am officially, as a result.

and I support your entire range of emotional reactions wholeheartedly, and wish I could say more to help. but I think you're doing exactly what you have to to get through the rough patch.

you'll feel the same once you've finally begun sleeping more.

fuck giving out hugs, I'm handing out big, fresh-from-the-oven cookies. here's two dozen to get you started. (I wish.)

Country Mouse said...

No judgments at all regardless of what you decide (as you may have guessed from my blog title), but I do think holding off a few more months on letting him cry (and meantime doing whatever it takes for you all to get some rest, even if it leads to "bad habits" you'll have to wean him from later) might be beneficial. I've talked to many, many mothers who found that their infants' sleep habits went to hell at four months; I think it's a developmental thing. They all seem to straighten back out in a few weeks, and that's one reason I think it might work better if you wait another couple of months to try this method with Baby Boy.

For the record, when I did reach the point of letting Acorn cry some, I had a personal limit of 15 minutes. If he was awake after 15 minutes, but settling down, I'd keep listening until he fell asleep; but if he wasn't settling down after 15 minutes, I felt it was time to change tactics.

Jozet said...

Well, I am useless to you.

First child: bounced her, rocked her, co-slept for way too long, and vowed never to do it again.

Second child: great sleeper for 9 months and I broke my arm patting myself on the back for getting it right. Then month 10 happened. The child is 5 and still wanders into our room once every week.

This child: good sleeper, yes put him down while he was sleepy but still awake, yes let him fuss a bit, yes lay off the motion tools. He's a great day-napper; horrible at night. Right now (7 months) he's too intrested in everything else to eat during the day, so we have all night breastaurant open. THEN two weeks ago, I decided enough was enough and so I let him howl it out only to find out four days later that he was coming down with croup and a double ear infection and I felt like the worst mommy in the whole world when he finally started smiling again after some amoxicillin and tylenol. Poor little guy was in pain and I was leaving him alone to cry...ugh...I suck.

But I'm so, so tired.

Who is the patron saint of sleepless mothers? I need to go say a rosary or something. I have no idea what I'm doing anymore. I have no advice. Only a cup of decaf to hand you.

Jozet said...

BTW, we're co-sleeping, too. I've been brainwashed not by Sears, but by Dr. James McKenna.


However, I do ease the kicking, flailing child into the co-sleeper throughout the night. I get all freaked-out about SIDS so I like the baby in the room for the first year. Or at least 6 months. However, not necessarily kicking me in the ribs all night. Gol...I need to get to sleep.

Mad Hatter said...

Best with this. I had a fabulous early sleeper and in retrospect that screwed our whole family completely. The few times I tried CIO, she had that same kind of stamina combined with a freakish panic. I just couldn't do it in the end and we have ended up in a not too bad place even if naps still are a bitch.

God speed with whatever works for you. I know Weissbluth has been a friend to many. May he once-again restore peace in your household.

Kelly said...

I don't think I can offer any advice besides what you already know, but I will offer my reassurance that IT WILL GET BETTER. he might just be having a growth spurt or some other thing that is making him restless but he will settle down.

*hugs* to you, mama. you're awesome and so are your babies.

cinnamon gurl said...

Ok, is it all worth it just to see "all night breasteraunt" in typeface?

Love it, Jozet.

ozma said...


I never did get this thing figured out. Of course, I imagine that the chance to experiment on a SECOND one would prove that all I need is more practice!

If I can just have a second one. Why, this time...I won't [fill in the blank since every single thing I've done has been totally against reason and my 3 yr. old stayed up until 2 a.m. the other night, egad! Although this has never happened before, I must say in my defense.]

In other words, Joy, I am totally on your side and impressed that you went through the pain of what you did. If I want to review the many mistakes that led us to our current sleep disaster I will say that they were probably (1) Not sticking with it and (2) Once we'd kinda resolved the problem, backsliding. Constant vigilance may be the name of the game.

It will get better. It will resolve. As for the babies, it seems they have no idea what's going on in their little undeveloped brains and crying is always major distress, but sometimes they actually are not suffering they are often just telling you their preferences in the only way they know how. And what they want may not always be good for them. Crying at that age is not always that different than your 5 year old yelling that he wants candy for dinner. Babies are not all that future oriented--that's the parent's job (Said from someone who pretty much always gives in every single time because I can't stand the crying).

Co-sleeping for life

AKA Dr. Sears would love us

AKA we only live like this because we are wimps and also because believe it or not, in my family all the children slept with my parents past the age of five. And we're neurotic as hell.

toyfoto said...

We tried co-sleeping early on and we just woke each other up. She slept much better in her own crib. But she also woke up every two hours to nurse until she was 11 months old. We finally put her in her own room and she started sleeping through.

I think that you try different things and you'll find what's best for you. Experts sheksperts.

megachick said...

oh, good luck. i'm definitely in the whatever works camp, which is why i highly recommend sedatives.

this post actually made me think about a tantrum my 5 year old had last night and how we have stopped letting her cry things out, instead stepping in to try to force her to stop crying by means of punishment. what the? sometimes, you just need to cry.

anyway, what i want to know: is the baby's nighttime wakefullness disturbing the big boy? about to be facing this verrrry soon.

Sarah said...

ooooh boy have I been there. My daughter slept on me and nursed many times a night until she was 1 and I was determined for her to get some quality sleep. (oh and me too...). I would sit outside of her room and quietly cry into a glass of wine while she cried too. You know, while it felt like hell for a few nights, she has slept through the night ever since unless she is really sick.

could your babe be teething or growth spurting?

The only real hope I can offer is that they can only hold out for so long...in the meantime, I hope you can catch a nap.

mamatulip said...

I can relate in more ways than one. We vowed not to make the same mistakes with Oliver, yet he was a screamer (we later discovered he was lactose intolerant) and he wound up in bed with us -- er, me (Dave slept on the couch) for seven months. Now, I have to admit that before I had Oliver I was not a fan of co-sleeping. In fact, I was quite against it. But when you find yourself in a situation where your sleep is sorely compromised you must do whatever possible to keep your child(ren) happy and quiet so that you can get some mutherfuckin' sleep.

So hang in there...and now that you know my name, feel free to email me ANY TIME. You're up at 4am wondering if you're a lunatic? Email me...and I'll confirm that for you. ;)

Kelly said...

I'm a wee bit late with the comfort, but seriously, anyone who read my blog from the birth of my second daughter up until her first birthday know just how friggin' much I posted about sleep deprivation: how utterly soul-sucking it was, and how it seemed I barely survived.

You have my deepest sympathies, for real. It is damn near impossible to eat breakfast, much less be an effective parent and worker, when you get 2 broken hours of sleep at night.

And these comments? You're right. Such a wonderful community of women and men, who really got your back.

sheri said...

i'm too tired to say anything but thank you for this post. dealing with no sleep too. ack!

thank you for reminding me it's normal (although fucked!) to go through this stuff. good luck.

Tracy said...

My husband is now sleeping on the couch because my 4-month old requires half our queen size bed with all his flailing during the night. I keep going back and forth between my Sears, Weisbluth, and Pantley books trying to figure out how we're going to get him out of our bed and into his crib and all get some more sleep.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I just found your blog this evening and love it!

I normally wouldn't leave a comment, but this post made me want to mention a possibility. Could your baby have acid reflux? If you've not thought about this and want to learn more about reflux in infants, infantrefluxdisease.com is a great place to go. I live there as my son has a nasty case of it. It's an overwhelming site, but clicking on site map will cut out all the bullshit on the main page.

I'm probably wrong, but I read a lot of message boards on sleep issues with reflux kids, so it came to mind quickly.

Best of luck, I have that book too but it doesn't do shit for a kid with reflux.


Elizabeth said...

Wow! I LOVE this blog with all the comments. I finally feel like I am NOT alone. As I am writing this, my beautiful 4-month old baby girl, Zofia, whom I put down for her Weissbluth nap at 1 pm sharp, is now softly crying in her crib after her 45-minute transistional wakeup, as her evil mother (who feels like a very neglectful mother when I let her cry through these transitions) posts a blog comment. Thank you, thank you to all of you for making me laugh and feel like I am not alone. I am living in SLovakia with my husband who is teaching here for a year. I had Zofia, my first and only baby here (post-communist hell?), had a ROUGH delivery, lost tons of blood, couldn't nurse because I was so sick and exhausted, etc. I have been feeling so alone here with the language barrier and just not knowing if I am doing the right things for Zo. So, if anyone out there with new babies wants to have an e-pal who is lonley and needs to comiserate, I would be SOOOOO grateful.

Sleepless in Toronto said...

I found your blog while doing a google search for sleep tips. I'm a desperate, sleep-deprived mum too. One of my twin boys (formerly a good sleeper) has been keeping the whole house up for months. At 9 months old, I guess it's time to help him learn to "self soothe". Please let me know if you had success with your son! catherinehewlett at mac dot come

Anonymous said...

Glad to read your post. I am trying to find my way through the sleep deprived fog too.

I am going to find Healthy Sleep Habits tomorrow.

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