Her Bad Mother

Monday, December 1, 2008


Stop me if you've heard this one before: I haven't slept in days.

Jasper is six months old. He doesn't so much sleep at night as he does snooze and hang out between bouts of crying for mommy. He invariably ends up in bed with me, which is in some ways great, because he is as soft and snuggly as a cashmere pillow stuffed with kittens and dusted with baby powder and fairy farts, but also, in some very important ways, not great, because he inevitably kicks me in the boobs a few dozen times. I don't sleep when he's tucked up against me. I haven't slept in days. Weeks even. I've lost track.

I have the dim sense that this is not quite right, that this is sub-optimal, that things really shouldn't be this way. Emilia slept in her crib, swaddle-free, through the night, from about five months of age (of course, she didn't sleep a wink during the day, but at least our nights were restful.) For the life of me, I have not been able to recall how or why she did this. I don't remember doing anything special. Except for, you know, a little bit of crying it out now and again.


It finally sunk in last night - late, late last night - that we had been willing to let Emilia cry, a bit, at bedtime or during night wakings. Not very much, and not for very long - you could hardly call it Ferberizing; more like Ferber lite - but on those occasions when it seemed that she needed to fuss herself down and when it was clear that her cries were fussy tired cries and not desperate needy cries, we'd let her cry it out for a minutes on her own. And it worked, and she was fine, and we all slept, and it was good.

But I can't bring myself to do it this time around, and I'm not even sure why. All of Jasper's cries sound desperate to me; every whimper out of his throat yanks at my heart and rakes across my nerves. His sobs and shouts and grumbles ring in my ears - he needs me! My baby NEEDS me! - and every moment of tears passes like an eternity. My heart lodges itself in my throat and my blood thrums in my ears and my whole body tenses. I cannot let him cry.

And sure enough, when I hold him, he stops, and herein lays the problem, I think: he does need me. He needs me in a way that my spirited, independent baby girl never did. She never cried to be held or to be snuggled: she cried (as she still does) to be free, to stand alone, to have her way. She cried in resistance to shutting her eyes against the fascinations of the day; she cried from the exhaustion of having rolled/crawled/climbed/raced her way through every moment of her wee existence. She cried and raged against boredom, against constraint; she cried with the fury and spirit of a tiny Beat poet, shouting her rhythms into the shadows and demanding that world give way to her presence. Jasper, on the other hand, only cries for boobies and hugs and - in the event of an epic shit - a clean diaper. Those, I can provide. And so I do.

So it is that I cannot let him cry. I cannot let him cry because I know that it is within my power to soothe his cries. I cannot let him cry because he cries for me. Such is the vanity of motherhood, that I am weakened by his need for me, that I am weakened by any such need, that the needing - the feeling that I am necessary, that I am fundamentally necessary, in any given moment, that I am the only being in this world that can provide the desired comfort - becomes the focal point of all my motivation: gratify his need (indeed, their need, for my daughter knows well that she can have me wrapped around her finger only by uttering the words I need you, Mommy.) So it is that his need, my need, our need for sleep become secondary to the need that is articulated - that he articulates - most forcefully: the immediate need for comfort, the need to be held, the need for a hush to be wrapped in love.

But love cannot sustain the sleep-deprived mother, and the sleep-deprived mother is an impaired mother and all the hugs in the world aren't going to help anyone if I'm passed out on the floor and the children have to crawl over my body and forage for sustenance.

So do I do this? Do I let him cry and hope that sleep comes and that my heart doesn't explode? Or do I forge ahead on the fuel of love and hugs?


Toronto-area peeps - if you're interested in joining me at a breastfeeding demonstration (to save breastfeeding clinics in Ontario) on Wednesday, let me know. Details are at this post; leave a comment or e-mail me if you wanna go. UPDATE: Mister Jasper is a very sick little baby, and I simply can't go to this. E-mail me if you want details, to attend yourself. (And? Anyone local who wants to go and do a brief story on it for BlogHers Act Canada? I would LOVE you. E-mail me.)

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Blogger María said...

I can't tell you what to do, and I'd never presume to try.

But I didn't let mine cry. I suffered and suffered until the need finally subsided. With a few occasions in which I put them down and let the room to where I couldn't hear them and I cried or I just thought or whatever just until I could calm myself.

I've never regretted it. :)

3:47 PM  
Blogger María said...

Oh, and this:

"But I can't bring myself to do it this time around, and I'm not even sure why. All of Jasper's cries sound desperate to me; every whimper out of his throat yanks at my heart and rakes across my nerves. His sobs and shouts and grumbles ring in my ears - he needs me! My baby NEEDS me! - and every moment of tears passes like an eternity. My heart lodges itself in my throat and my blood thrums in my ears and my whole body tenses. I cannot let him cry."

Perfect description of what it's like.

3:48 PM  
Blogger EliandMe said...

Wow. Are you me?

I won't let my baby boy cry it out, for those exact reasons. Although I have never articulated them quite as succintly as you just did. Even to myself.

18 months on, he is still in our bed. Kicking me in the head. I can pretty much sleep through it now. Although I still have crazy dreams about being kicked in the head.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Stac Cole said...

I may have missed this somewhere...but does he take a pacifier? Is there something, anything that you can use to help self soothe in place of YOU? I did let mine cry it out to a certain degree, but if he completely and utterly NEEDS you, then it won't work at 6 months old. He'll just scream. And scream. And more screaming. I think self-soothing is the answer. You need to find a self-soother.

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot help either. Both our kids' temperaments and our sleep habits meshed perfectly to allow co-sleeping, so that's what we did and are doing. Neither baby kept/keeps me awake, but we're not heavy sleepers and I have no fear of squishing them. Both slept/sleep soundly tucked into my armpit and I sleep fairly soundly and motionless, unless called upon for a boob, which happens every couple of hours but only for about 5 mins at a time.

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I honestly don't know but I've been and some days still am where you are. Sometimes he can cry a little and go back to sleep and sometimes he cries and cries and ravages his little throat because the cries go hoarse (because I'm exhausted and please maybe he will cry himself to sleep?). And then I go and get him and we snuggle and he sleeps and I do not. I honestly don't remember how we got through the days and nights where his need for me was constant but I'm here and can attest to the fact that while my mind may not be in its pre-baby form, I didn't lose it altogether. I know it feels awful - but thanks for putting it into words for the rest of us.

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Everyone is different, and I can't tell you what to do. I've been told myself that when the baby arrives, I'm to let it cry its fussy cries. I can't say I'll do that though...because he/she is still inside me and not crying.

I hope you figure it out though!

3:59 PM  
Blogger Ms. Moon said...

Of my four, there was only one I could ever let "cry it out." And that was out of final and complete desperation. She never slept over two hours at a stretch and I felt I was dying.
I think you have to do what your heart and soul AND body tell you to do.
Whatever that is.

4:03 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Stac Cole - he does take a pacifier, which works wonders, unless he's busy spitting it out or yanking it out. Then he cries. SIGH.

4:04 PM  
Blogger MARY G said...

I have felt exactly as you describe. As you describe so well that I am almost back there again.

But. Allow Grama an observation from long, long experience with her own and others' babes.

The longer you wait to let him learn to self soothe, the harder he will find the task and some kids don't learn for years and years and you end up with kids in the bed and an ear for the creaking door and it sure does destroy not only your sleep but your not sleeping as well.

I was taught that you need to be consistent in how you handle bed time and such. Again, experience leads me to think that this is not as true or as important as Dr Spock et al thought it was.

I sat by the prewarmed (important) crib and sang and touched, patted and rocked. It worked. Might not for you but it is worth a try.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

As a mother who dealt with the same problem for 8 months +, I'd say you need your sleep. He needs you, but he no longer needs you to physically comfort him every time he is upset. He NEEDS to learn how to comfort himself a bit. And that, I'm sure is what he and you both NEED more than anything. It's not an easy process. I'm very much against the whole cio thing. However, there are other ways that you can comfort him while letting him soothe himself.
I blogged about it, but basically we took a weekend (so that H could help too) and every time Peanut would scream that horrible scream, one of us would go up to her room and if there was no reason for her cry (shitty diaper, sick, etc) we would sit on the rocking chair beside her bed (no eye contact, no lights on), rock back and forth (this is mostly to soothe mommy or daddy), smile the most serene smile you can (so that it comes through in your voice) and say "Hush, hush" over and over again until she settled. This way, baby can see you, smell you, hear you. You are there to comfort him, but more than that, to actually help him comfort himself back to sleep. We worked in shifts, alternating. The first time was the worst with about an hour and a bit of crying, but it's NOT crying it out. It's not leaving your baby alone in the night to scream. It's being there for him.
Here's the thing, it WORKED. And it worked WELL. It took a few days, but by the end of the week, she was sleeping through the night (we actually figured out that she WAS hungry, so we started doing a sleep feeding right before we went to bed, around 11:30).
Good luck. I hope you guys find whatever works for you!

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you do is whatever works, whatever it takes so that you get some rest. Maybe he will cry it out and maybe he won't. My youngest cried until I picked her up; no matter how long I waited. No kid ever started college still sleeping with mom and dad. Do you have a bassinet or a cradle that you can put right next to the bed? You can touch him, but he can't kick you....

4:09 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

For the love of God, let him cry. Give it 10 minutes. Hell, give it 5 and see what happens. Give him the opportunity to learn how to soothe himself. He will never sleep on his own if you do not let him. Better yet, when he cries, go in and pat him on the back. Sing a song to him and let him calm himself. Try to develop a bedtime routine and stick with it, every single night. He will soon learn that after steps 1 and 2, he must do step 3, which is sleep. Just try it. Expect it to be hard, expect it not to work immediately, but if you stick with it, you will both learn. Good luck.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Just to be clear - he actually goes to sleep reasonably well - it's just that he wakes up and won't go back down. We have a very consistent bedtime routine and have few problems with the GETTING to sleep - it's the STAYING asleep that's a challenge.

4:19 PM  
Blogger ewe are here said...

Well, based on various friends' experiences, I'd say start letting him cry and settle himself. Start small, if you must, but start. Or you might still be doing this six months from now.

Or so my exhausted friends have told me....

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does your husband have better luck getting him back to sleep? This is kind of throw everything you can think of against the wall and see if it sticks kind of thing...babies and the ways to get them to sleep I mean. Not all babies can handle or respond to CIO. And while there are babies who do sleep well after whatever process or natural inclination - but it's not just weak willed moms that have difficult sleepers. I think you should trust your intincts...he has slept through the night before. You blogged about it. :) He will again. Or at least for long enough stretches for you to get by until he goes off to college.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Don Mills Diva said...

Oh Catherine - I can feel your exhaustion.

And I think you need to let him cry. You must sleep - you must be present for when your children really and truly need you.

I know it's hard, but you must sleep.

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you tried putting him in a crib or half crib or pack and play right next your side of the bed? I had a desperate cryer, and she wouldn't cry it out - she'd be hysterical for 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 hours - never just fall asleep. I'd get so overtired, I couldn't figure out (or remember) how to solve the problem/break the cycle - and everytime I'd tell my sister, she'd say, "have you tried using the little crib by your bed?" and every time I did, it was enough, and we all slept.

I hope you find something that helps.


4:40 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I have no advice-just lots of hugs!

4:44 PM  
Blogger Angella said...

We had to let our kids cry a bit to break their habit around 6 months of waking up at the same time every night.


You just do what works for you. Before you know it he'll be five and this will all be a (very) hazy memory...

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If he has a consistent bedtime routine that is working, you should try to create a consistent response. If that means going in, briefly comforting him and going back out, then that's what it is. One option is what we did initially for bedtime: the 'comfort til sleepy and put in crib' then when they mastered that, 'comfort til relaxed and put in crib' and then 'comfort briefly in crib (w/out taking out) and then just let them be. They could do it. They did. We slept for the first time in 9 mos.

I can tell you from my experience, though, that my (or my husband) going in just pissed our kids off royally. Yes, the crying was brutal and I cried right along with them . Both my kids were/are very physically needy, but it only lasted 3 nights (night 2 was the worst) and it HAD to be done. I waited til 9 mos w/my son and was about to have a nervous breakdown. With my daughter, I did it at 7. They are not scarred. I still have incredibly close relationships w/them - they know I am always here for them (they are 5 and 3 now).

I DO personally know someone who refused to let her kids self-soothe and they are a freaking NIGHTMARE at bedtime, middle of the night, etc and they are also 5 and 3. These kids dominate their parents at night and are behavioral probs during the day b/c they are so damn sleep-deprived. Just one extreme example.

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know this already, but you asked, so...

Any short-term "gain" you may experience from letting him cry is not worth the long-term harm it may do to a baby's developing brain and psyche.

My daughter was the same way. She's 2.5 and wakes up 1-3 times a night to nurse. We've done some half-hearted gentle night-weaning attempts, but nothing's ever stuck. When we stressed over her sleeping, we all suffered. But when we finally figured out how to roll with it (after maybe 8-10 months? I can't remember) everything was a million times better. Somehow I adapted to lack of sleep and just got better at night-nursing. So my advice is to keep muddling through it. It sucks, but this is a temporary situation. Eat well, rest when you can, and wait it out. One of two things will eventually happen: Either he'll get better at sleeping or you will get better at not sleeping.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Ursula said...

Oh, man. I don't know what to tell you, but I can commiserate some: my son is exactly the same. Has been since birth. He's now 16 months old and still won't sleep through the night. He freaks out and wails whenever he wakes up and I'm not there, and his Papa has no power to calm him. Only me. He needs MAMA.

Worse than that, every attempt to sleep-train him has backfired horribly. It has always resulted in a child who is more anxious and more clingy. He'll regress and become anxious whenever I have to go to work, he'll sleep fewer hours at a time during the night, refuse naps, or refuse all sleep unless he is being held. At this point, I give up. I can't bear to panic my kid and can't deal with getting even less rest. I'm sure it'll all come right someday...anyway, I hope so, for both me and for you, too!

5:03 PM  
Blogger Ursula said...

By the way, although I think CIO is a trick that can absolutely work for some kids--your daughter, for instance!--I do get a bit annoyed that so many of its advocates don't warn you that, in fact, it may make things ten times worse, may give your child panic attacks (yes! panic attacks in a baby! not fun!), and may result in serious trust issues between child and mother. I'm angry because nobody warned me about those possibilities, and it has taken weeks to repair the damage. Bottom line: if you do not feel right about CIO with Jasper, if his cries sound needy to you, if your heart says, "Hold him! Soothe him!" then follow your instincts. I didn't, and I seriously regretted it.

5:13 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Delurking to say that I have a terrible time trying to get my 6-month old daughter to sleep.

I feel like I'm, feeding, soothing, shushing, tap-danching, binky forcing, rocking, buying devices, doing nothing, everything but no reliable go-to-sleep pattern has worked. Or it works one night, but not the next.

Currently I'm trying buckling her in her car seat because a couple of nights ago she slept the whole night there! But the next night, no.

I'm inclined not to let them cry; but I'd sure be less stressed about it if I knew she'd start sleeping at x point in time, and not wake in perpetuuity.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Do you rock him to sleep? Maybe he once ge realizes that you havent vanished from the face of the earth when you leave the room he will be able to sooth himself back to sleep when he wakes at night. I am in no position to offer advice as mine still wakes at night and needs me to "way" with her atleast once a night.

What really caught my attention was when you said that you go to him because you feel needed when he cries for you. I feel the same way. If your baby/child is comforted and stops crying, its hard not to go to them. It is ingrained in us as mothers to comfort our children and to keep them from harm/pain. This is magnified in the night when everyone is so tired. I would do almost anything at 3 am to keep Julie from pitching a fit.

Hang in there, 17.5 more years and you can kick him out.
I am sooo kidding.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Cloud said...

My Pumpkin just wound herself up more and more if we tried to let her cry, so we never have. I think you have to decide whether you think it is likely to work for Jasper and let that guide whether it is something you should try. I don't think it works for all babies. If you decide to do it, I hear that actually reading the latest edition of Ferber's book is helpful. There is also a book called the Lull a Baby Sleep plan that looked like it might be helpful for babies younger than mine (I found it when Pumpkin was over a year old).

Pumpkin was up anywhere from 2-5 times a night when she was 6 months old. I remember that desperate feeling I had when I was so chronically sleep deprived. We used some of the "no cry sleep solution" ideas, and some of our own ideas and tried to improve things. I'm not sure if we ever made any difference on how well she slept.

What worked best for us was to accept that this was how our baby was, and figure out how to minimize its impact on our lives. We figured out a schedule so that both parents got the minimum sleep required to function. I need 4 hours uninterrupted. Hubby needs more total, but can handle more interruptions. So Hubby was on duty until 1 a.m. or so, and then I took over. And I went to bed really, really early. When Pumpkin was still taking a bottle, I pumped milk to give Hubby so that he could give her a bottle for one of her night feedings.

Hubby would also take her out for a long walk or something so I could get a decent nap at least once per weekend.

Now she only nurses (she is 20 months old), and doesn't get bottles at night. I still nurse, though- she has resisted nightweaning quite stubbornly, and I eventually decided it was more trouble than it was worth to keep trying. I do most of the night duty now, but she is usually only up once per night. If we're in a bad stretch, Hubby gets up with her on the weekends and lets me sleep in a bit, which helps.

I blogged about a lot of this- there is a sleep label on my blog which would get you to those posts.

Good luck, whatever you decide to do.

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember when Dawson was six months old (or maybe it was five months, I don't recall), he had this phase where he'd cry incessantly and I just didn't know what to do. I called my mother at midnight (because I was losing my mind!) and asked her what to do.

She told me to let him cry and that if I couldn't handle it, to go outside. She also said crying wouldn't hurt him and to just try it for ten minutes.

I did try it, and he did stop crying but the guilt nearly killed me. I picked him up immediately after that, and I still don't know if the crying it out thing works because I never tried it again after that. I was too nervous about it.

I think we all just do what we think is right.

I wish I had better advice. I also wish there was something I could do to help. How far a drive is Canada from Wisconsin? (wink wink)

5:41 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

Oh, Catherine. Your anguish shines through this. I'm so sorry.

I do think that you need to have a plan, though, and stick with it - because he's not the only one who needs you.

Many, many hugs -

5:49 PM  
Blogger Patti said...

Pacifier, good. Before bed cereal, good. Maybe another comfort thing, we used a silky (small blanket silk and flannel) I had to train my kids up on the comfort items by using them when we did rock or cuddle. They slept in a bed with pacifiers and several silkies scattered around so maybe in the night they would find them for comfort. Sometimes I would go in and give them the silky and rub their back or pat until they calmed a little but not pick them up. A little crying will not hurt, and see if with his comfort items he can make it, but the endless screaming helps nobody and you will kill yourself with guilt. Can you really wear him out before bed? Play a lot, make him run laps? (kidding, but only about the laps)

6:17 PM  
Blogger Lasha said...

It was so good to read this post and the comments, just to reinforce that there is no "magic solution."

My daughter is 20 months old and she starts in her crib but always moves to our bed part way through the night. Usually she goes right to sleep and we all sleep. But some nights she won't go back to sleep, or worse, she's starting to fight actually going to sleep despite a consistent routine (with me, anyway. It's better with her dad).

I just can't let her cry it out, although I have done what Michelle describes, letting her cry with me in the room. The whole "I'm here as long as you need me." But sometimes I just wonder, am I doing something wrong? It's good to see that we can only do the best we can.

6:27 PM  
Blogger Momo Fali said...

One of the benefits of having preemies is that the hospital is kind enough to put them on a schedule for you. Of course, that didn't stop me from spoiling my daughter and holding her constantly until she was well over a year old. My son didn't want to be held. Kids are just different. I hate to say this, but maybe you're right. Maybe he DOES need you.

7:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would have him checked for reflux. If he goes to sleep fine but wakes u until he is picked up it could be heartburn. My daughter's began at his age.

7:27 PM  
Blogger Hannah said...

I couldn't let my first cry; his cries were like your Jasper's. They were explicitly for me and the soothing he needed, and he slept in my bed until he was almost ten months old. Current baby (only six weeks older than Jasper) seems to need to cry it out occasionally, just like your little girl.

Every baby is different, and you need to respond accordingly. But don't doubt yourself if you feel that Jasper needs you more than Emilia did.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Honey, I hate to tell you this but my now 16 year and 11 month old did not sleep through the night (or generally sleep at all) until she was in 1st grade. Oh about 7. My dad makes fun of her now because all she wants to do is sleep. He would make comments to me like "how in the hell are you doing this, she never sleeps". My mom and dad did not watch her because SHE NEVER FREAKING SLEPT. And my 8 year old, refuses to go to bed. He told me yesterday I am not going to sleep because I DO NOT want to go to school. I told him mommy is old and needs her sleep (I am 37). With him I tried the crying until he slept and it never worked, he just worked himself up more. I would sleep in the chair to get him to sleep and not move.

Good Luck

8:22 PM  
Blogger Amelia Sprout said...

Leave him for a day or too, let the kinks be worked out by someone else. He shouldn't need to night nurse anymore.

Also, how have solids gone? I know they swear it won't help them sleep through the night, but I swear it helped us.

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Baby #1, Catcher.

We let him cry. I gave him boob. He slept the night. He'd whimper every now and then and the Chef & I would wake up and monitor but usually go back to tralala land.

Baby #2, Louisiana.

We do not let her cry for the same stated reasons by you. I don't know why, we both know better, but we pick her up every time. Biggie is now 13 months and if I leave a room she cries. If I am not in her direct line of sight she cries. If I close my freakin' eyes she cries. And it is totally ALL fake! Girl is a better actress than Meryl Streep.

But it's totally my fault. And someday she is going become a super famous actress and I am gonna be her momager!

Just like Mama Spears. But not as drunk. JK.

8:39 PM  
Blogger A Crafty Mom said...

I'm absolutely certain someone must have recommended this before in one of your previous posts, but have you read "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child"? My sister made me read her copy a couple weeks ago and it has changed our sleeping totally - for the better. Mine were hardly the same issues as yours, but reading the book was enlightening and hugely informative. Best sleep book I've read, and I have read them all.

In the end, you'll know what's best for him and your instincts will tell to do. I really, really hope you get some rest soon!

8:47 PM  
Blogger Christie D. said...

I don't know your whole situation, but the two thoughts that come to me are:
- Have him in a crib or moses basket right next to your bed.
- Stop drinking caffeinated drinks.

I realize this second one would be hard if you drink a lot of coffee/tea usually, but I think it might help him to sleep longer.

With my Baby 1 we did CIO around age 6 mos., and it worked as in the textbooks.

With Baby 2, I tried CIO, but we frequently stayed overnight with Gma and Gpa in those days, and he would cry in an unfamilar bed and then Gma and Gpa would go to him and/or make me feel bad so I would go to him. Then the next night we would go back home and I'd have to start over. After a few episodes like this, CIO obviously wasn't working due to the inconsistency, so I gave up and soothed him to sleep every night until age 2 or so (when he moved into his brother's bedroom). As a baby, his crib was in my bedroom, and when he woke up I would make soothing noises or take him into my bed (where he went back to sleep and didn't kick).

Fast forward to ages 13 and 9, and (disclaimer-- I am not claiming that this was caused by sleeping arrangements!) Son #1 (the CIO child) is more emotionally needy overall, but can go to sleep by himself with no problem. Son #2 (the soothed-every-night-by-Mommy-until-age-2 child) is very balanced and non-needy emotionally, and much stronger and more confident socially, however he has this very annoying aspect of hating to be alone, especially at night. For example, he won't sit alone downstairs doing his homework if the rest of us are upstairs, and almost cries if he has to go upstairs by himself at night to take a shower, when the rest of us are still downstairs. He has always shared a bedroom with his brother and hates going to bed before his brother. So, he is *really* secure socially, but insecure when by himself... you can't win! We can only do our best and I don't think there's a magic way to do it. They never turn out quite perfect in the end anyway... ;)

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hear your pain - I was pretty good with my first three and the last two I went all mushy - feeling like they really need me and I cannot for the life of me stand it if they cry. The older girls, well they are older,but the little ones are so cuddly and tiny....
I may have to let the baby cry one of these nights I am too tired :)

8:58 PM  
Blogger Baby in the City said...

Margot sometimes has a hard time soothing herself back to sleep. For us, keeping her from waking in the first place has been the only strategy. The way we do this is by dressing her warmer than we think is necessary without going overboard. Just a long sleeve onesie and a pair of socks under the fleecy sleeper does it.

I've also heard that babes that like gear: swings, music, lights, etc. do well with mobiles that are of the same ilk. If J starts out in the crib, maybe going in and turning on a mobile like this will work.?? Dunno, I've never tried that one myself, but heard it works.

9:01 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Amelia - oh, the solids. GAH. He does NOT like eating solid food. He loves his spoon - LOVES his spoon - and he likes the occasional teething biscuit (Farleys) but he hates anything mushy *on* a spoon. Loves that boob, though.

Yeah, the eating thing is a whole 'nother story. I expected that, his being a chunkster, he;d be all over the food. He's just not.

9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been there. OH, have I been there. Every 3 hours for 10 months. We ended up cosleeping, and I learned to sleep with him in my bed (to the point where I wasn't sleeping so well when he WASN'T there!). That would be my main suggestion - try to sleep with him there, if you can.

I was so frustrated until I changed my perspective. As you said, he needed me. (now, at 2 years old, he's still cuddly, still loves to hug me, and yes, still sometimes cries just for mummy).

Does he eat food yet? Try some very ripe avocado, banana, or well cooked sweet potatoes. Perhaps an extra full tummy will help?

(I never did let him cry. Either of them really, although my first did a bit more then my second)

9:39 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

My first two were the same way. My daughter (the first born) I could let cry it out. Didn't bother me that much because her cries were more pissed off than anything. My son? I couldn't bear to hear him cry. His cries were plaintiff, acusatory. How could you do this to me mom? I thought you loved me.

What did I do? I rocked him to sleep every night. Every night. Until he wanted to go read books with Dad and big sister. Then I was extraneous. He is actually a better sleeper than my daughter is though.

9:40 PM  
Blogger Superdumb Supervillain said...

My Jasper is 16 months old and the clingy, cuddly polar opposite of his big sister. I was going through the same things you mention until I forced him to sleep in his crib just after his first birthday. And I was still up several times a night nursing him until a week ago when we went out of town for three days for hubby's art opening and both kids were stuck at grandma's. She let him sleep with her but once we got home, he went back to his crib. And hasn't nursed. And has slept through the night (8-ish to 6am) for the past two days. Crossing my fingers that it isn't a fluke.

You'll know when you're ready. With me, it was open sores on the nipples. Shrieking in pain kind of ruined the whole cuddly nursing thing for me...

9:45 PM  
Blogger Candace April said...

Ok, I lied...I'll offer some thoughts.

This will pass. I swear. I had the high need baby of high needs babies. She still is high maintenance...but she sleeps and she's sweet and she's fun. So, eventually...he will sleep through the night.

Have you read No-Cry Sleep Solution?

Some things I've found:
* White noise is my friend.

* Sometimes when nothing works, a bunch of things together will work.

* Whatever works this week, may not work the next...but what did not work last week, may work now.

* Get some sleep, somehow...it is easier to think when you've slept.

* A baby crying in a loving caretaker's arms (even if it is not mama) is not CIO...get someone else to hold him, get some sleep, and then think it over when you are rested.

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just have to add one more comment. I did NOT harm my children (their brains, their psyche, their trust, etc.) by doing CIO. I would never, ever, ever do anything to harm my children intentionally. I researched it extensively. I used a combo of techniques (No Cry Sleep Solution, Weisbluth, Ferber). My children trust me. They did not have panic attacks. And they go to bed when it is time and they stay in bed at night. My husband and I are consistent, consistent, consistent.

Here are the things I thought about before I sleep trained:
1. How much more of my bitchiness our marriage could take. And my husband was a HUGE support in the middle of the night - taking all sorts of shifts, etc.
2. Getting into a car accident with my baby. There are tons of studies that say sleep deprivation is as if not more dangerous than driving drunk, because it is so wide-spread. There were times my eyes felt so blurred I knew I shouldn't be behind the wheel.
3. Losing patience with my toddler (when my second was born). I could see how frequently this was happening and I knew that it was exacerbated by my terrible sleep-deprivation.
4. PPD - I had it with my first, recognized it with my second and sleep was key for me in managing it.

So, its a balance, I know. But I just had to say that those of us who CIO aren't doing it to hurt our kids or because we're selfish. We're doing it because we want to be better parents, spouses, and healthy people. It is OK to take care of yourself as a parent and it is KEY to the health of your relationships with your children.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

Oh god. Munchkin has got up 14 of the last 17 nights, at least once, and usually for more than 20 minutes. I'm ready to die, myself, so I kinda feel what you're going through.

We did cio with her when she was about 4.5 months old: it worked, but I had that visceral reaction like you. What I did was, I hid in my basement, where I couldn't hear her. It totally worked.

You need to do what you need to do: everyone's advice is different because everyone's situation is different. But you do need to sleep. You really really do.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Julie Marsh said...

I've been infinitely more patient with Oliver where it comes to night wakings and 5am nursing marathons. Maybe it's a boy thing, maybe it's a "he's my last baby" thing.

My only input is to consider your well-being too. As you said, no point in responding to every need if it means that you end up unable to respond to anyone's needs, including your own.


10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're writing my story. I have a nearly 3 year old and a 7 month old and I don't freakin' sleep.

And yes, my older girl cried a bit here and there when it was necessary.

I can't, can't, can't seem to let the little one do that this time around. Maybe because she just learned how to say "MAMA!" And that's what she screams when she needs me. Which is always. AND ALWAYS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAMN NIGHT.

Oh, and the kicker? Found out I'm pregnant. Yesterday. Puts this one 16 months younger than my sleepless second. Surprise! I'm never f'ing going to sleep.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Sharon - I'm emphatically NOT anti-CIO; we did a version of it with Emilia. I just haven't been able to manage it with Jasper...

10:10 PM  
Blogger Sarah Y said...

oh, I'm so sorry. that's so hard. I think you do what works for your family unti it doesn't work anymore and then you do something else. I didn't want to do CIO but neither the baby nor I were getting sleep and it was awful so we had to do something!

We did the plan in the sleep lady's book. It's a gradual extinction method that a lot of people like who find Ferber too hard and the no cry sleep solution too pansy.

Good luck to you.

10:11 PM  
Blogger LawMommy said...

I have so much empathy for you right now, you have no idea. I don't think I slept more than 2 hours at a time for the first three years of my son's life. I love him, he loved to nurse, and I was unable to sleep through even the tiniest noises he made. There comes a point where sleep-deprivation will cause you to become insane. I mean that, quite literally, I became insane. (I believed that Gabe would not be able to breathe if he wasn't in the same room with me and I wasn't awake. I have a law degree and I'm not an idiot - I knew it was insane, I just...believed it.)

It is dangerous, to be that sleep deprived...

The only thing that helped me (aside from Xanax), was a white noise machine and turning off the baby monitor. And ear plugs. (With Husband's absolute promise that if the baby really needed me, he would wake me up. Which he did.)

10:14 PM  
Blogger SciFi Dad said...

Only you know your kid, so only you know the "right" answer.

We didn't let our daughter cry until about 6-7 months. She figured it out. Eventually.

I suspect our son will be more like yours, but for us it'll be his light-sleeping, already gets up at oh dark thirty sister that prompts the co-sleeping.

10:23 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well, as you have figured out...baby # 2 never does what baby #1 did. THAT would be too easy, right?

Also, without over generalizing too much...is there a connection between the girl's cry and the need to get it out so she can settle down and get some rest...and a woman's strength and resilience and a connection between a baby boy's cry that is desperate and pleading...and the men that grow up to be big babies the second they get the sniffles?
And I say this without judgement...as a mother with the youngest boy @ 4 yo who can make my heart flutter like nobody else...and gets his way more than any child should.

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, my. I'm so glad I'm not there anymore. My daughter and son sound just like yours. Except that I had my son first and had nothing to compare him to. The fights my husband and I had. I was determined to instill good sleep habits -- have our boy stay in his crib and sleep through the night -- and I was afraid that giving an inch would mean he'd take a mile. But I couldn't stand the wailing, which was heartrending and enduring. I read The Baby Book by Dr. Sears and was enraged by his theory that any properly attuned mother couldn't, wouldn't, shouldn't (and in fact didn't in her heart want to) ignore her baby's cries. I wanted to ignore them with almost all of my heart, except one niggling little fraction that would not be put to rest. To this day, I do not know whether and in what measure it might have been fear, guilt or love; I cannot unravel what I felt. I just know it was hell, and while my husband was happy to help by taking over the soothing when I was in despair, this often added to my frustration as I was I was certain that I would eventually have to deal with the bad habits he was fostering. His firm belief was that helping our boy through his needy infancy would be shortlived, and that we should do what it took to get him to sleep without crying.

As many of the mothers have posted, I don't think it's anyone's place to assert a "right way" to deal with it. One of the hardest things for me as a mother -- then and now -- is discerning my own inner wisdom on any given parenting issue, as distinct from the views of my spouse, my in-laws, doctors, the parenting literature, and even other moms. Perhaps if you can be as attentive and nurturing to your own responses when Jasper asserts his need for you, and imagine that there is a "right way" that will allow both of you to get sleep, you may find some compromise with him.

Way too vague to be helpful, I'm sure. I can say that -- Jasper not being MY boy -- I would let him cry it out. If my boy was difficult to put to bed at one and two, he's even harder now at five years old. My husband and I still argue about whether we caused his sleep neurosis, whether he's improved or not, and what methods we should adopt for dealing with his latest sleep avoidance strategy.

One of the family myths that has been passed down to me is of my father being fed up with my nighttime crying and demanding that my mother take me down to the basement in my basinet. She complied, and maintains that she does not know whether I cried or slept for most of the night because nothing could be heard above the cacophony of water heaters, boilers, pumps, etc., all rumbling away in the remote cellar. I am said never to have cried again in the night.

I hope you have a good sleep tonight, and remember -- you are HIS BAD mother too!

11:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think I did anything the same with any of my 3 kids. I walk or rock my youngest until he is just about asleep...something I never did with the others. I've had the same thoughts and feelings about his need for me that you're having, but have, at times, forced myself to allow him to fuss it out.

I say, let the fussing begin. It will be torturous at first, but you both will be better for it later. Good luck.

11:54 PM  
Blogger SM said...

My first child was Jasper. We tried the cry it out method twice when I felt like my sanity was at stake. It not only didn't work - it was horrible. My memory is that it went for an hour or more before we went in one time - I still feel guilt. She just needed us. There's a push and pull between Maryn and me, though. I've had a hard time adapting to that level of need at times. I've found myself fighting not to run or scream. The exhaustion. By nature, I'm kind of a loner. Sometimes the clinging is rough on me. But the more I pulled away, the tighter she held and the more panicked she became. My husband - who was getting some sleep at least - kept telling me that this time would be temporary, but the scars of refusing her would last a lifetime. I believed him. Thus we did the family bed and a number of other things to accommodate her, including letting her nurse as much as she needed (sometimes every half hour to an hour!) and use a binky. My husband helped a lot - mostly by talking me down. Conner, the second, didn't really care so much, but she sleeps with us, too. I'm very, very glad now that we did it the way we did. My one regret is that I had no support network and no idea that I could have asked people to help. I'm sure you know this, but if you have anyone around or can find anyone, let them help....

12:46 AM  
Blogger Lady M said...

How deeply I understand and feel for you. I'm writing with one hand as the other holds my own child, squirming drowsily. My older son needed his father; this one needs me. It's wonderful and loving, but also relentless! I'm lucky he usually sleeps better than this week.

12:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please, please let him cry it out. He needs good, restful, consolidated sleep more than he needs you. He just doesn't know how to fall back asleep - you have to teach him. When he wakes up at night, don't go in. In a few nights, he'll stop waking up. It doesn't take long, and the psychologists agree that there's no damage done.

Ever since I let my daughter cry it out, everything changed. It was the most excruciating thing I've ever done - I sobbed and pulled my hair out - but my husband kept reminding me, "Is there an alternative?" And there wasn't. Sacrificing my sanity and resenting my baby were not an alternative. So we did it. And now - bliss. I know that after 6 in the evening, the night is mine! I can get things done, and I can sleep! And now I love my daughter so much more intensely, because all of the negativity and resentment is gone.

Please do this. Please.

1:13 AM  
Blogger Mel said...

Okay, I've read all the comments so hopefully this will be as helpful as possible. I apologize if it's a novel.

I am a first-time mother to an almost one-year-old needy boy. He loved the boob too (I use the past tense because we recently weaned). When he was born, he had a 10-day stay in the NICU due to fluid in his lungs (even though he was term). I planned to breastfeed, and with some difficulty, we did. It was a rocky start. He had difficulty latching on at first, and he was always falling asleep. But we got used to it, and he started gaining weight. At about six weeks, he started waking up with bad gas at night -- before that, we'd had to wake him up to eat so he'd gain weight. So we started cosleeping. I learned to night-nurse on my side, and things went pretty well.

Around five months, I decided I wanted my bed back. I thought a month-long transition should do it, and started putting him in the crib at night. Sometimes he would fall asleep fine, and others it would take hours (sometimes up to 3) of nursing, rocking, singing, shushing to get him to sleep, only to have him wake up the second I placed him in the crib. I tried leaving him to cry only a few times, but he would get himself so worked up he would choke on tears and mucus and throw up. I had little help from my husband, who believed that my boobs were the answer to everything.

So I gave up and went back to just cosleeping. The baby would sleep for 9 or 10 hours at a time, with me nursing him back to sleep each time he woke up. I endured the boob-torture (he started pinching after awhile), and the kicks and pinching and nearly falling off the bed. He was sleep-deprived. He only took 20 to 30 minute naps during the day and usually only got 9 hours of sleep at night. I didn't know what to do, because his dad wouldn't let me put him to sleep between 7 and 8 PM like I heard was best, because he assumed the baby would wake up at 4 AM or earlier.

Around 8 1/2 months was when he started grabbing and pinching my nipples, whether they were clothed or not. He even started saying "mamamama" when he wanted to nurse... this one of two things we were sure he was communicating at the time. But shortly thereafter, I went back to work full-time, and I just didn't have the energy to try to wean him when I got home. I started putting him to sleep the way I did for naps: nurse him to sleep, wait until he was in a deep sleep, then leave. This resulted in me falling asleep a lot, and not getting very much done because of that.

I work in a daycare/preschool. At school, all the kids fall asleep so easily. Sometimes they need to be put onto their tummies and patted or rubbed on the back, but they all fall asleep on their own with relatively little fuss. I started trying that with my son. He slept so much better on his belly. I was able to get him to sleep without nursing him there at about 10 months.

We've been weaning very gradually over the past three months, and when all I had was the night nursings to go, I put him in the crib one night. He slept for 11 hours. He woke up twice and soothed himself back to sleep within 30 seconds each time. Now he does that every night. And he takes better naps, usually 1 or 2 during the day for a total of 2 to 3 hours.

His dad thinks it may be related to an understanding of object permanence. I think it's a combination of age/maturity, a bit of a routine, and keeping him warm. I feed him dinner, change his diaper, dress him in his pjs, read a story, give him warm milk, rock, sing, and put him in his crib with a fleece blanket and his duckie lovey, say goodnight and I love you, leave the room. If he's not asleep by the time I leave, he is within 3 minutes of me leaving. Dinner excluded, whole process takes less than half an hour.

It took a little crying to get here, but it's kinda Ferber Lite, like you described with Wonderbaby. But now I know he can put himself to sleep. And apparently what it took for us was giving him his own space again.

I hope this is not a phase.

Things that helped: nursing, pacifier, food (especially cereal or with cereal mixed in), warmth, tummy sleep/back patting. Caffeine, or lack thereof, had no effect (doesn't have an effect on me either).

Mine is also a big boy. Loved the boob. He did learn to love food too. Now if we're feeding him and we pause or he's feeding himself and he runs out, he makes needy noises until he gets more. :)

Also interesting to note: My sister has worked at a day care for 4 years. She says the boys always cry more and are more needy than the girls, especially in early infancy.

1:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After everything everyone has said, you have to think about the advice you've been given. You can take the parts that make sense to you and work for you (and for Jasper). Leave the rest. Only the two of you know what is right for you both.

Best of luck, and keep us posted.

1:25 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I'm new to your blog and just love it. This post reminded me of Eva Peron and her rallying cry of "Cry for me, Argentina." Call me weird, but there's something hilarious and dramatic about it...

4:00 AM  
Blogger Waffle said...

Ah, poor poor you. POOR YOU. No advice, because you'll do what you have to and what you're capable of and it will be the best thing for you and your wonderful boy. Just, tonnes of sympathy.

Both mine cried it out Big Time, but especially the eldest. I became the sleep nazi. I felt like I was being ripped in two but didn't give in in case that made it worse (which would have killed me - he had iron will). It sucks to the power of a million.

I wish I could come and make you a really good cup of coffee and send you off for a delicious daytime nap, you poor honey.

4:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't read all the other responses so I may repeating other people. You do have to do what works for you, and hardly anything works the same for two babies, but here are some suggestions:

1) Sit by the crib. Don't touch him, just sing quietly or read a book (Agatha Christie worked a treat on mine!) then if that soothes him, tape record it. Have it playing quietly, all night non-stop loop if you have too. Do you have a monitor where you can talk into it? Sing down that. Anything to wean him off being held.

2) Could you cut out a nap in the day? Look at your priorities, is a cranky baby in the daytime better or worse than not sleeping at night? Do you really need to feed him in the night or is he just using it as blackmail (I'm sure mine blackmailed me from about 3mths) Would he take water instead and then decide it wasn't worth waking up for?

Crying it out isn't the only option. Sometimes it's the best options but if you're hearts not in it he will know that and he will scream. Tricky little blighters babies!

Good luck :)

8:37 AM  
Blogger karengreeners said...

Well, bcause you asked... Of course you don't let him cry. You hold him, and soothe him, and hold him some more. Because you're his mama, and you're the only one that can do that. Pretty powerful, amazing stuff.
I know you're tired. Tired sucks. But he's really new to this big scary world, and when he's not so new anymore, he'll sleep. And then you will too.

8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like so many above, I have one of these babies. She's 6 months, falls asleep in the evening just fine but wakes up in the middle of the night, multiple times, and can't get back to sleep. Mostly I think it's due to her growing mobility (she's trying to crawl but uses her lips instead of her hands to lift herself in front and try to pull herself forward... not very effective) and the end of Daylight Savings time (which messed up her awareness of nighttime and daytime). She does eat some of the time when she wakes up but I suspect more to soothe herself than because she needs it.

Don't know what we'll do about it yet.

Also: eating. My child loves spoons. And cups. And bowls. Especially those her parents are eating out of. But she acts like anything that does not come out of me is completely disgusting and one can only accidentally not gag on it. But after three weeks of trying, she finally accidentally did not gag for a couple of spoonfuls two days in a row. And swallowed. And looked very surprised that that was a workable solution. But only when given watered-down mushed-up banana.

9:19 AM  
Blogger ALI said...

I have a baby similar to this-he needs to see me, not actually be held at all times. I had him sleeping in his crib, until he started getting up three times a night just so i would pick him up. soothe him back to sleep and put him back down. until he woke up again and couldn't find me. so now, he sleeps in my room in a pack-and-play right next to my side of the bed with a bottle on my nightstand that he can reach himself. and now we sleep all night. people are pressuring me to move him back to his crib-including my husband, but my huxband isn't the one getting up with him at night, and this works so screw it.

maybe though you could ferber lite him during daytime hours to nap in his bed, and gradually move to nighttime?

that is probably laughable if he doesn't nap, but i tried!

10:04 AM  
Blogger Aidan Elizabeth's Updates said...

Your description of what it is like to listen to your Jasper cry is so spot on. That's exactly how I feel everytime our two year old wakes up and cries for me. I finally did a modified CIO with her with a 20 minute time limit and I really try to listen and wait for a bit when she cries at night. There are still times I go in and sleep with her because it just feels right and like she needs it. There are other times when I let her fuss it out and she goes back to sleep.

I wonder, since your bedtime routine seems to work well, could you do a shortened version of it in the middle of the night? Maybe he'll figure, "Oh. This is happening, that means I have to go to sleep." Then you could gradually shorten the routine each time until he figures out that once he wakes up, he has to go back to sleep. I don't know. We used some stuff from the "No cry sleep solution" book; it had some good suggestions for gradually backing off.

It is hard, hard, hard. My daughter is much like a combination of your two - fiercely adventurous and independent during the day and then desperate for cuddles at night. It is almost like she sets aside all her feelings until nighttime so she can go full force into the world and then it all hits her at night. The thing I keep reminding myself is that it isn't necessarily bad for her to cry. Crying is a natural reaction when sad (over not getting one's way) or angry (over not getting what one wants). As a therapist, I spend much more time getting people to learn how to cry than I do getting them to learn how to stop crying. I use lots of empathy with Aidan, but also let her work it out sometimes. Maybe you could start practicing that with Jasper during the day when he cries to be picked up or carried. Lots of empathy and cooing, but not actually giving him what he wants.

Just thoughts. I hope something in there might help...

10:12 AM  
Blogger Avonlea said...

Sleep deprivation is so, so hard. Sometimes the only way I've made it has been because my husband and I have been able to let each other get naps on the weekend.

My son is 2 and a half. I know what you mean about his cries yanking at my heart and raking across my nerves. I still nurse him to sleep most nights, though sometimes his dad will rock him or just hold him and sing. Usually in the middle of the night, sometime between 11pm-2 or 3am, Little Bit wakes up, toddles into our room, and asks for nursing. I bring him into bed. My husband has been the one that our son keeps awake by kicking and wiggling, but DH has said that he loves to have our son snuggling with us, so we deal with the interrupted sleep for now.

Eventually, I will try to get him to stay in his own room all night. Maybe sleep on the floor in his room for a bit to transition him there.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Cait said...

I would let him cry it out. You can still go in, soothe, and then leave him- maybe with white noise, the radio, a mobile, whatever you think is best. Increase the amount of time until you go back in as you're ready. Yes, its horrible to listen to, absolutely. But it stops, he learns, it gets better.

Why would I do this?
-Because if you sleep, you will be a better mother to both Jasper & Emilia. You'll also able to function better and have more fun with them if you have energy.
-Because babies need sleep. Catnapping and disrupted sleep isn't good for him either. Some kids you have to teach how to sleep.

Take care! And keep giving love & hugs to him, of course!

12:16 PM  
Blogger chaipo said...

Delurking here --- I liked the book the no-cry sleep solution, it seemed to have lots of tricks to try for sleep problems. For K, we built a "nest" using positioners and blankets, which gave her the cozy feeling I think she was missing. The other thing I do when she wakes up at night is look at the clock -- I say I'm going to wait 10 minutes before going in and picking her up, and nine times out of ten she falls asleep before that 10 is through. The 10 rule also makes me feel a bit better about letting her cry a little bit because I know it's only a short time before I can pick her up.

Don't know if that helps, but hang in there!

12:18 PM  
Blogger Candace April said...

Here's a thought, not advice, more on point, I think, than my original comment with advice.

I have two kids. #1 was very high need. Every cry sounded urgent, and not just because she had a heart condition where I needed to keep her calm. She just NEEDED all the time. I wore her constantly--while eating, while cleaning. Even now that she has grown into a sweet, polite toddler who can play independently (and sleeps through the night now, so there is hope), she still NEEDS more time, attention, etc. than others seem to.

#2, my infant son, is just a cuddly, happy guy. I can actually put him down without him crying. He'll even stay there for a while, just hanging out. He fusses sometimes...if he's hungry, wet, tired, bored, etc. ... but mostly he just smiles or chills out.

I saw an article a few months ago about how some children are genetically predisposed to either being more or less influenced by your parenting. The type of child they described as being highly influenced by parenting sounds exactly like my daughter (#1).

I think that maybe as parents we sense this, and become more involved with our high needs children. That does not mean I ignore my easy going guy...I still wear him when we go out walking and we don't CIO because we don't believe in it but mostly because he barely cries anyway. He gets lots of love and attention, but there is just more time to relax and enjoy each other. I don't have to constantly be looking for ways to soothe and entertain him like I did with my girl.

I guess if he needed more attention, he'd let me know.

I adore and love them both, but they are just very, very different children.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off, GEEZ! this is so beautifully articulated. I really love the way you write, and the incredibly sensitive and nuanced expression you offer to what seems like such an old topic with the same ol' polarized views usually expressed. I was really moved by how you wrote about the differences in your feelings and interpretations of your two kids. And all this with NO SLEEP!?!?! You are gifted...

Also, I don't want to reiterate a bunch of great advice that's already been left, so I just want to put in another piece of the puzzle that I think is way too often neglected.

In addition to all children being different, and different temperaments matching different types of "sleep training" methods (or none at all), I strongly believe (and have some research to back it up) that kids at different AGES and STAGES respond differently to the SAME sleep training method (CIO vs pat/shush vs nothing at all).

And here's the punch line: 6 months is a GREAT stage, if you're going to try something different (like some mild form/variation of CIO). I'll just come out of the closet on this one and say that I'm a developmental psychologist, so I do have some training in the cognitive and emotional milestones that may be crucial when we're thinking about changing sleep habits at different ages. In contrast, 9 months is a TERRIBLE time to sleep train (as is 18-21 months). That's because kids acquire what's called "object permanence" (they get the idea, for the first time, that things that disappear from view are not gone forever) at 9 months, this also ushers in full-fledged separation distress (now out of sight isn't actually out of mind anymore -- if you think it's bad now, it's amazing how exponentially more intense separation anxiety and distress becomes at 8/9 months for the vast majority of kids). 18-21 months is a whole new ball game, with social referencing/intelligence, language and a whole host of other cognitive/emotional changes that suddenly come on line. Ugh. I didn't want to go on and on, but it's hard not to try to justify the claims. Anyway, here's my bottom line, from my perspective (and other developmentalists) some of the best ages to change sleep habits are:

6-7 months
12-16 months
22-26 months

ESPECIALLY if you have a sensitive child. Earlier isn't better, later isn't necessarily better either. There are just some sensitive periods when it might be a really good idea to avoid tackling sleep training when the child is already going through massive normative developmental changes.

And for the record, there is no empirical evidence, NONE, for this statement:" Any short-term "gain" you may experience from letting him cry is not worth the long-term harm it may do to a baby's developing brain and psyche." I know you're not anti-CIO, but I just had to put some people's mind at rest, that in terms of the science (and this doesn't speak to the emotional trauma of the mother, btw) there's no evidence whatsoever that controlled CIO does any emotional or cognitive damage to a child, nevermind neurological damage.

Also, I'm a mom of twin boys -- both were Ferberized at 6 months (I hit my wall at 4 months and slogged through hourly wakings until their precise 6 month birthday). For what it's worth, one boy learned to self-soothe in one night of mild fussing, the other took 2 weeks of nightly crying and I nearly lost the last semblance of sanity I had in the process. It sucked more than ANYTHING I have ever experienced in my life, that whole sleep-training process, but there is no doubt that we all needed the sleep to begin functioning as a happy family. And you just need to see these kids to realize how ridiculous it is to claim that they are "insecure" or "damaged" by that choice. Now me... well, clearly I still have my "unresolved issues" to deal with if I had to rant here for 10 pages...

1:39 PM  
Blogger Jenny Grace said...

I think 6 months is an okay age to let him fuss a little bit. If it breaks your heart you can always...not.

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read through most of the comments, and there's lots of advice here for you to ponder. The only thing I'll add is this: I believe that you will know what is the right thing to do - if you think the little guy really needs you, he does. If you think you're going to go crazy without more sleep, you're right. Don't use other peoples views (whether they've written books or not) to second guess yourself. When I start doing that to myself, I find I never get peace of mind at all, regardless of what's happening sleep-wise.

My one year old is mid-way between your two on the neediness scale, and we are comfortable co-sleepers at the moment. With my little guy, staying near him means he usually goes back to sleep before he completely wakes up at night, and so do I. I'm pretty tired sometimes but I know what I'm doing is right for us.

Sending good wishes.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Joyce said...

Are you sure he doesn't have reflux? I went thru the same screaming, "ppick-me-up-NOW-g-damnit!!" crying with my first. Turns out he had SEVERE reflux, which is probably why he stopped screaming as soon as he was pciked up and started again when he was put down...ugh! Just a suggestion. Hang in there!

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fer chrissakes, let him cry! The parents reading your blog and suggesting that you get used to being sleep deprived have children who are still very young. I let my son CIO and he's 12, in the gifted program at school, and gives me hugs all the time. We are very close. He's a good kid, he has NO MEMORY of anything before the age of 3 or 4, and he doesn't resent me for letting him cry for 15 minutes at 2 a.m. when he was 7 months old.

I believe that provided your son is well taken care of, healthy, and is not suffering from an illness (reflux, ear infection, etc.), then you have a choice: continue to be sleep deprived and miserable (because, face it, you are), or take necessary steps to teach your child how to sleep without you (and there's nothing wrong with learning to put yourself back to sleep) so that you can be fully present during the day and actually enjoy him. If you don't solve this problem, then you'll have nothing to say about his infancy except that you can't remember much of it because you were in a sleep-deprived haze. And that would be sad.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

As one formerly (and still sometimes) very sleep deprived mama, for God's sake, do yourselves both a favor - go out for dinner or a movie while someone else is there to hear him cry. By night three he will be happy and rested. You will be happy and rested.

Three days.

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautifully articulated post. You have stated precisely what I am still feeling on a regular basis. My brains have quit because I was/am so tired, but my babies need me. And for me, that was almost all that mattered. I did cry for sleep some nights (well, grumbled and bitched and snarked and moaned, really) but we made it through, and you will too, whatever you decide to do.

I will add that pre-teething (before the red cheeks, and snot & drool, and whining, etc) was a time that was particularly bad for night-waking for my three. A shot of pain killer (for me & the baby) helped a lot.

Good luck, and sweet dreams, short though they may be.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know nothing about anything (my childcare experience consists of an extended babysitting career), but do you think a white noise machine might help? If he keeps waking up and is a very light sleeper by nature, maybe this would help him stay zonked out?

(I say only from being a terrible sleeper from infancy, and this is what happens to work for me. Feel free to disregard entirely. You poor thing. Good luck.)

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you find out how to get more night-sleep, let us know -- I'm only on week 4 but can see us easily going down the same road...

Re: demonstration, please send details! I'd love to show my support for this, and can easily make it if I have the details. Thanks!

3:31 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

You're at exactly the same point I was when we decided to try "crying it out." Seven months of sleeping at 45 minutes stretches was killing all of us. Dos' cries were horrible to me, too, but we had to do something.

My suggestion: wait until he's well. (I understand he has a cold right now.) Then go into it determined, cold-hearted and with a good set of ear plugs. Nurse as usual, lay him down, put those earplugs in and sit crib side.

I leaned over a lot and patted Dos at first, but she started grabbing my neck and trying to climb out of the crib so I just sat as close as I could to her, humming sweetly and loudly. It took about a week before she started sleeping longer stretches. Hardest week of my life, but worth it.

Three months later, it's still not perfect, but she's sleeping six hour stretches now which is WAY better than before.

Oh, and I think she's a much happier baby now than before. I think she was sleep deprived, too!

I thought "crying it out" was baby torture until we actually tried it. We tried a LOT of other options first before CIO. This was just what worked for this particular baby this time.

Good luck! You're not a horrible mother!

4:00 PM  
Blogger Run ANC said...

OH man, this is hard.

You've pretty much described our situation, except G is 13 months now. We've gotten him to sleep with some consistency between 12:30 and 5am, but that's about it. Before 12:30, it's crying, screaming, finding soothers, shushing, patting, holding him down (gently) if necessary. But it is not sleep. At 5am, it is awake for the day. For. The . Day. It is killing me. I can survive on less sleep than other people, but this is not enough. It's not been enough for a 13 months.

Mr Earth is all for letting him cry, because it worked with the Boy. He cried for a few minutes and promptly fell asleep. G just works himself up into a frenzy until there is no hope for sleep.

Me, I feel like I can't let him cry because I KNOW him. You see, he's me. A night owl, who is only comfortable sleeping if he knows his people are near, awake, and there for him.

But it is killing me. Both solutions are equally difficult. I feel for you.

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am dealing with something kind of similar but not as bad. My son was a lot more independent and didn't need to be soothed all the time. My daughter wants to be held all of the time. I say that she just loves us, but it drives my husband, in particular, crazy! My uncle is a pediatrician, and over this thanksgiving he was telling me that I shouldn't be nursing her to sleep anymore (she is 5 months). He said to get her drowsy and lay her down swaddled, because swaddling still comforts her. I did that, and the first night she cried for 2 hours off and on. We went in and talked to her some, but we didn't pick her up. The second night she only cried for about 20 minutes. We are on the fourth day, and now she only cries about 5 minutes. It was hard for me, but I know that it is good for her to learn to sleep on her own.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Lydia said...

Good heavans, HBM, are you and me separated at birth? (Or rather, NOT separated) I am having the SAME issues and feeling the SAME way.
Thanks for writing it out in a way that helps me realize what I'm thinking/feeling.

4:38 PM  
Blogger Mandy said...

Well, it's not like I can give you advice. I'd just say follow your own instincts, and if they tell you to go to him, have him with you, and avoid crying, then that's what you should do. And stop feeling guilty over it.

The lack of sleep... yeah, that sucks. Some kids are just like that (say mine for example).

6:06 PM  
Blogger April said...

i can't tell you what you SHOULD do, but i can tell you what has worked for us. sort of.

my second child too is much more needy in the night-time sleeping department. he never slept in the bed with me, but always close and i would tend to him as soon as he cried. at 6 months he was still getting up every 2 hours throughout the night to nurse (and not napping during the day) - i was sleeping in his room and was an absolute walking zombie. not the best thing when you've got two under two to contend with all day (did i say two too many times???).

anybutt, finally at six months, hubby took over and let him CIO. (i hid on the other end of the house with LOTS of white noise) it took about 4 days and many hours of crying, but he finally started sleeping through the night. he's still NOT an amazing sleeper like my 2yo, but he's getting better. he cries at night about once a week now and rarely for more than ten minutes (he's 8mo now).

the cio saved my sanity. seriously. like i said, i'm not telling you what to do, bc it's a totally personal decision - but this is what worked for us.

best of luck :-)

7:15 PM  
Blogger April said...

two more things...

i just saw in the comments that he's not so into the solids... my 2nd wasn't at first either. it took a good two weeks before he started liking cereal. not sure how long you've been doing it, but i thought that was worth mentioning. also, he NEVER liked rice cereal - we ended up switching to oatmeal made with breastmilk.

ALSO - i second the white noise thing for him AND you. i have a mini clip-on fan in baby's room about three feet from the crib (facing away from it) and he sleeps SO much better when it's on.

ok, i know you're inundated, so i'll stop now :-)

7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christie D, my sister and I sound a lot like your kids, in that order, too. However, neither of us were CIO. We're just different.

I slept through the night at six weeks, I would put myself to bed, and I still sleep like a champion. My sister is five years younger than me, and she still doesn't sleep well. She slept all the way through the night for the first time at five years old. She's always needed someone there. If my mother couldn't be there when she fell asleep, she would beg me to sit with her, or she would crawl into bed with me. She's a few months shy of eighteen, and she still sleeps in my parents' bed if my dad is on a business trip. She also keeps her baby blanket in her pillow case, and she sleeps with her teddy bear, too. I think it's just different personalities.

Catherine, something that makes me smile that might help just a teeeeeny bit: I'm Katherine, my sister is Amelia, and when my mother was pregnant with me, she called me Jasper. Amelia was called Tonto until she was born.

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know what to tell you. I am in a similar situation and all I can say is hang in there. Things have to get better....right?

8:57 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Dear friend, I take it night by blessed night. Some nights I feel like an abject failure, others I feel delirious with can-do'ness. Seems like the best we can do is cling tight and try and stay in the game.

I saw you holding that sweet boy with the name I had reserved if Fin had been a boy, you love. You are doing it all as right as you can, which is perfect.


9:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi! two weeks ago my husband and i, after many many nights without sleep, made the decision to let our six month old CIO. it was the worst few days of my life. i felt like my heart was being ripped out nerve by nerve. it was awful. but we got through it. and our baby girl now sleeps!! we made a commitment before we started that if we were going to do it - we had to be consistent and persistent -- otherwise there would be no sense in putting our baby girl or ourselves through it. well, all in all it was one of the worst things i've ever done, but it actually worked out well for us. like someone already said - it's probably not for every mom or every baby.
needless to say, i feel your desire for sleep and wish you the best in getting at least a little bit of rest.

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first son cried to be loosed, my second cries to be held, even now, he is 4 and the older one is 5.5 and honestly, nothing has changed. I was sick for 3 or 4 days last week and when I emerged from the bed of illness, all he wanted to do was sit on me, hold me, wallow on me, be with me.....so I say, you will recover, seek help so you can get some sleep and hold that little guy!

10:50 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

coolteamblt - that *is* a little spirit lifter ;)

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry that I can't take the time tonight to read all of the posts above, but I did want to add a little thought... something that worked really well to help our daughter learn to self-soothe was her "lovey" or "comfort object" (whatever you want to call it!)

Hers is a stuffed cow that, starting at about 6 months, I laid it on the pillow with her while she was breastfeeding at bedtime and then I would put her into her bed with the cow. She loves that thing still (she's almost 3) and it is definitely still a help to her when she's calming down to go to sleep. Maybe having that with him might be something with your scent, and might help him stay a little calmer?

P.S. I never sleep when our girl is/was in our bed (except when she was tiny). Once she learned to kick, and spread-eagle herself to take up the most room possible, I knew she had to learn to stay in her own bed!!

12:11 AM  
Blogger Issa said...

I can't answer this for you, just like I can't answer how I let my tiny boy sleep with us, when I never, EVER let the girls.

All I know is you'll know when you can let him cry for a bit. But Catherine, you need some sleep. maybe, just maybe you could let your husband try it? Go to a movie, take a walk, sleep in the car for a while and see if your husband being there with Jasper crying makes a difference? Maybe you don't have to be the one to help him learn to self sooth to sleep.

I can't seem to figure it out myself, but this baby of mine is different. Maybe it's because he's a boy, maybe I'm different. No idea really. But I already find myself doing things with him that I never did before.

12:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't read all the comments, but I have to say that your post summed up my 9 month old son to a T. He sleeps wonderfully with either my husband or I, and will even go into the crib for awhile, but will not stay there the night. He wakes up and cries desperately, just like you say. I have no other children to compare him to, but every cell in my body says it's wrong to leave him there to whip himself into a frenzy. It's worse now that he can pull himself up because he stands in the crib, screaming, with this horrible look of terror and fear on his face. We've tried letting him cry and he just won't settle. It just gets worse. What we've been doing lately is starting him in his crib, then my husband sleeps on a mattress next to the crib, often with our son in his arms. At least he's getting used to his room, he's not nursing during the night anymore (which he will still do if he's next to me), and I'm getting more sleep than I have in a year.

I think what you say about your daughter and son, and this body of comments in general really highlights that there are a lot of individual differences in what babies need. And really, at 6 months, babies pretty much just have needs. Not all babies are "wired" the same. And if Jasper turns 10 years old and still can't sleep, it's just as likely because he's wired differently as it because you couldn't let him CIO. And your daughter might always sleep well because that's how she's made, not because you could let her cry. I think we need to trust ourselves as mothers to respond to our children and not worry as much about what other people think of our parenting.

Which doesn't really get you any more sleep. Could he sleep with your husband for awhile? Good luck to you.

11:59 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

OK, so I am NO expert...HOWEVER, I do have FOUR kids, all different, and I have done it all. SO, my question for you is this:

how does he go to sleep at night? I know he goes down well, but HOW? DO you nurse him to sleep? Does he fall asleep on his own?

12:04 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Laura - our night-time routine is pretty straighforward. Dinner (he isn't taking much solid food yet, but we try), bath, jammies, booby. He doesn't (ordinarily) fall asleep at the breast, and usually goes down in his crib drowsy but awake. We sometimes still swaddle him if he's flail-y; recent nights while he's been congested we've had to put him down in his swing, because being on his back is uncomfortable due to congestion.

12:42 PM  
Blogger litanyofbritt said...

my daughter was such an angel baby. my son would crawl back in through my c-section scar if he could. he is currently gasping and sobbing from the pack n play 3 feet away while i have the nerve to eat a tuna sandwich without him on my lap. child looses his mind if i am not holding him.
great. here come the dry heave of baby cry exhaustion.
good times.

p.s. if you learn how do un-co-sleep please share.

1:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say give it a shot!! Try and let him cry it out a little. My son had that same desperate cry and still does some times at night, but within a couple of minutes, he is out again.

I like the phrase,"...the need for a hush to be wrapped in love." That is sweet and beautiful.

And I'm a sappy turd.

2:49 PM  
Blogger zipbagofbones said...

I'm not sure that this helps, but you still write beautifully when you're exhausted.

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She cried. I cried. I covered my head with a pillow and sobbed. We lived in a half-built cabin without doors. There was nothing to block her desperate wailing from piercing my ears at night. Her dad had to physically restrain me from getting up and going to her.

It was hard. ReALLY Hard. But so is not sleeping. One day your body will just give out and you will finally sleep while he cries.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

OK, so I say, as much as possible, to let him fall asleep in the crib, on his own, a little drowsy after the big booby.

It has taken me to the FOURTH kid to not feel like my heart was being torn out when I heard my baby cry. But kids are like pancakes...you ruin the first one, and the rest get better.

Here is something I was told that helped me: while our babies DO need us, they also need us to TEACH them how to sleep. YOU need to sleep, and JASPER needs to sleep.It is your job as his mommy to help him.

I agree with anony way up above..this will NOT harm him in any way. It will not hurt HIM. It hurts YOU. I often wonder... perhaps we moms are the ones NEEDING in these situations.

All I can say is first night of crying lasted an hour.
Second night, 10 minutes.
Third night, no crying at all.

And this baby that NEVER slept is now 9 yrs old, and he is the first one down every night, at 7:30pm!!!!!!!!!!!

Let him cry. He needs to learn how to do this. And you will be there for him, for all of his needs, when he wakes up. And you will be rested.


5:44 PM  
Blogger Jessica B. Howell said...

I agree with so many comments here, but most importantly, please go with your gut.

Your mama instinct - whatever that is telling you - is right on. Now, that's not to say that it may not be hard (either way!).

Crying it out didn't work for my daughter, now 14 months. She would cry endlessly, crying herself into a hunger and exhaustion after hours of battling. But as she got older, she got better - day by day - and now she, too, goes to sleep on her own in her crib at 7:30 pm! (Of course, NAPS are NOT that simple.)

We gradually started putting her down in her crib when she was drowsy, and I can't remember what day it all fell together. It didn't continue that smoothly, and we still have hiccups - but if you do recognize your role as a parent to teach, and balance that with your role as nurturer, you will make the right decision at the right time.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Becky SIlke said...

I have a feeling you are doing the right thing, whatever you do, it is the right thing. Mothers just know how to do right by their babies. My son was more like your daughter, (thanks to hubby) we him cry a little and fuss alot. He just needed to work out his busy day and unwind by fussing before he fell asleep in his very own bed (crib). Now that he's 8, I can look at him and know I did what was right for him.

10:06 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

My solution to this - and so far it seems to be working - is the cosleeper. Pumpkinpie slept in the curve of my arm for a good six months, me not truly sleeping, and I remember feeling just DESPERATE. Even once in her own room, I often enough climbed into her crib with her or slept on a futon on the floor beside her. It sucked. What I'm loving with this new solution is that he is right beside me, but not in my bed exactly, so I sleep better, but when he fusses, I reach over and pat him, rest my warm hand on his belly, and that weight seems enough to settle him. It might work with Jasper, depending on how muhc ocntact he needs. That's all I can offer, because I could never stand to let my babies cry either, so I know well that feeling of being unable to let them be, no matter how much I might want to or think it's theoretically okay.

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've been having the exact same problem and I've discovered that my 6 mo. old sleeps more when he sleeps less during the day. That's not necessarily the right approach, but it seems to work for my guy. He was doing a lot of day sleep before and now we're having to transition him to different nap times. Good luck!

2:16 PM  
Blogger Amo said...

I experienced the EXACT SAME THING with my two sons. The first was Mr. Independent and there was NO cuddling, no swaddling, no hugs longer than a few seconds. My second son was Mr. Collic. (Shoot me.) All I could do was hold him. He cried and cried and cried for me and there was no 'cry it out little guy' like there had been with the first. None of that at all.

And you know what, at 5 and 2 1/2, they are the exact same way. "No Cuddles" and his brother "Snuggle Me Always" haven't had a change of heart yet!

Keep up the good work little mommy!

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm late because I'm depressed and sad and angsty and unemployed, and whatever. But I just wanted to say, my daughter responded to a "Ferber lite" thing at 4 months and has been a champion sleeper since then. She's 8 now, and for all of the other challenges and insanities she presents, she is a Great Sleeper.

My son... not so much. He is 4 years younger than Emily, and did not sleep through the night (I'm sorry if this is depressing, but hang in there) until he was 18 months old. We tried e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, and nothing worked. He just couldn't sleep, he needed to be held more and more and more... exhausting. So, soooooo frustrating. The thoughts that would go through my head... not pretty. Not good.

But finally, we hit a wall and stopped trying to get him to sleep. We worked out a schedule so that we knew which parent would get up on any given night, so that we could stop the half-asleep nonsensical arguing, and things went smoothly for a week or so. Just long enough, I think, for our son to figure out that we weren't trying to make him sleep anymore - so he, immediately, started sleeping through the night.

He remains more of a lovebug than his sister, and still comes to snuggle me more nights than not, but he walks himself there and I can walk him back to his own room if I don't feel like having quite that much company on any given night.

So. It gets better. One size does not fit all with kids. Fish in the sea, bull by the horns, whatever cliche works.

8:17 PM  
Blogger gwendomama said...

each child is different. hardest and most important lesson ever.

howabout hearing people say 'no baby ever died from crying' as i refused to let my 1st cry it out....and then with my 2nd, we went to an endocrinologist (for he was a mystery child) who said 'we have to do this cortisol test right now! if he has (insert potentially fatal illness) deficiency and he cries, he could die instantly!

needless to say, it took nearly 2 years before i could let #3 cry it out. that was 2 years without sleep.
i guess i am saying, if you have a non-sleeper, he's probably not going to change unless you really push the issue.
how many years would you like to be sleep-deprived?

2:34 PM  

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