the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Healthy sleep habits, grumpy baby

If Jon and I decide to try and have another child there are so many things that I will do differently. At the top of that list is WILL NOT INTRODUCE GUMMY BEARS INTO THE DIET. For the last month we have heard nothing but Leta’s plaintive gummy bear song, a mournful yearning for her favorite food that we now deny her because she refuses to eat anything else. “Gubby bers?” she’ll ask while nodding her head furiously perhaps thinking that the rhythmic motion of her head will hypnotize me and bend me to her will. And when I say no, not until you eat something else, something containing actual nutritional content, she’ll ask again only this time emphasizing each syllable slowly in case I didn’t understand. “Guuuub-byyyy berrrrrs?” It always sounds like, “What part of gummy bears don’t you understand, Earthling?”

There is one thing, however, that I hope I get right the second time around as well as I did with Leta, and when I talk about this I’m going to be walking barefoot into an area littered with land mines. Leta sleeps 12 hours a night and takes a two hour nap every day. She has been sleeping this well since she was six months old. Occasionally she’ll have a bad nap or wake up early (see: tin foil solution) but for the most part her sleeping schedule has been a stabilizing constant in our lives. Whenever anyone accuses Leta of being grumpy because she’s tired I want to stand up for her and set them straight: do not give fatigue credit for her grumpiness, she is grumpy despite her well-restedness. That is determination.

It wasn’t easy getting her to sleep this well, and what we had to go through to get her to this point is one of the many factors that led me to check myself into a mental hospital. But what we did worked and it was the only thing that would work for her. I never discussed in detail the 15 days of hell that we had to endure to get Leta to sleep more than two hours at a time because at that period in her life I was in a very bad, very dark place and I knew that I would be judged if I talked about it. Since this seems to be the week to answer frequently asked questions I thought I would go ahead and talk about it especially since I now have distance from it and I am no longer emotional about it.

When I sat down to write this, however, I realized that I had forgotten some of the specifics of what we went through. That is part of the self-preservation of parenthood, the fuzziness of memory that makes it possible to move forward. So I went back into my email archives and found an email I had written to a another new mother while we were going through Leta’s sleep training. She had written asking for help in getting her six-month-old to sleep at night. This is an excerpt from that email:


Getting Leta to sleep through the night was what sent me over the edge. I was coping somewhat before we decided to take away her pacifier, but after those two grueling weeks I lost it. My first piece of advice: be prepared for some trauma, on your part.

I have read and re-read all the sleep books. All of them. This book and this book are the ones I finally decided to use. At Leta’s four-month check-up her doctor asked me if she was still getting up twice a night, and I was like, OF COURSE she is, doesn’t every four-month-old get up twice a night? But in Leta’s case it was twice and sometimes three times and sometimes six or seven times because of that damn pacifier. Her pediatrician told me that she was old enough to go a whole 12 hours at night without feeding. I thought he was insane.

Leta could only fall asleep with the pacifier, and if she woke up and it wasn’t in her mouth she couldn’t go back to sleep, and then sometimes when I put it back into her mouth she was awake enough already that the only way she would go back to sleep was if I breastfed her. And it just got worse and worse and there were a couple weeks there when I was feeding her four and five times a night, and then she wouldn’t eat the next day. It was totally fucked up, and I knew I had to do something because I was going crazy.

So I finished reading the Ferber book, and I decided one Sunday afternoon that we were going to start that night. If I even thought about the pain that we were going to go through I knew I wouldn’t do it, so I turned to Jon and said THAT’S IT. No more pacifier. Except, it wasn’t just the pacifier. We took away her pacifier and we reduced the night feeding and we sleep trained her ALL AT THE SAME TIME. They were all the same problem essentially.

So we took away the pacifier and I gradually reduced the night feedings, letting her eat for only a couple minutes each side when she woke up in the night. Every single time we put her down for a nap or for bedtime she screamed. And screamed. And screamed. The books say that it should all be over with in a few days. But those books? They lie.

We decided that at night she had to sleep at least six hours before I would go in and feed her, and then the feeding would be really short. And then after that feeding she wouldn’t get another one for at least four hours. So she would wake up after two hours of being down at night and we let her scream. And she screamed and screamed and screamed and we didn’t go back in. And then she would scream two hours after that and I wouldn’t go back in because it had only been a total of four hours since her bedtime. That happened probably five days in a row, and then she eventually started sleeping eight and nine hours without waking up, and when she did wake up I would feed her for two minutes and put her right back down. The eight-nine hours slowly became 10-12 hours, and it was finally over.

The only way we could do it was to let her scream. We couldn’t go back in. We tried going back in several times to soothe her and it only made things worse. So much worse. So we set goals. First it was six hours, then it was eight hours, and then it was 10. It worked. I wasn’t going to cut out all night feedings for Leta until six months, but she started sleeping 12 hours in a row by herself. I think she figured out that she was only going to get two minutes of boob and it wasn’t worth it anyway.


Can you see the land mines?

Here’s the thing: it worked for us. It might not work for someone else. I have always been of the opinion that you have to do what works for you in order to survive, that there is no one right way. This is how we survived, and now for twenty months we have had night after night of uninterrupted sleep.

How does your child sleep? What worked for you?

  • Teachbroeck

    2006/03/31 at 9:51 am

    My daughter was sleeping all night by 4 weeks. (ALL LUCK no parenting skill involved) Then she lapsed at about 6 months. I did something similar, but I started sitting on the floor…then by the doorway…the out of sight. I wanted her to know I was there, but it was not time to get up. Seems so easy looking back, but I remember silently sobbing with my hand through the crib spindles rubbing her back… sobbing on the floor outside her room fighting the urge to scoop her up. Within a week the pattern seemed to work. As she got older if she did cry in the night I would rub her back but not pick her up. So many of my friends have “family beds” …it just didn’t work for me. Even now she is 6 and the few times I have let her in my bed (sick, bad dreams) she always finds her way back to her bed. The downside of this is she NEVER falls asleep unless in a bed. Not in the car ((even when I got her up at 4:30 am to go to travel 10 hours to St. Louis…even in front of a movie if I am sick or she has a sleep over) Rereading this post I feel like I sound COLD…I feel like I have to prove how much I love my daughter and nurture her on many levels….and give in to her other ways …but it’s what worked…and I am sure my next baby won’t sleep for years and everything I said will backfire!

  • Thérèse

    2006/03/31 at 9:50 am

    You know… you do what you have to do.

    I don’t see anything wrong with what you did. Stressful for you, yes, but wrong? Not even a little.

    Thanks for being so candid, Heather. It helps others in similar situations when you are, especially given that you have such a widespread audience.

  • Teachbroeck

    2006/03/31 at 9:50 am

    My daughter was sleeping all night by 4 weeks. (ALL LUCK no parenting skill involved) Then she lapsed at about 6 months. I did something similar, but I started sitting on the floor…then by the doorway…the out of sight. I wanted her to know I was there, but it was not time to get up. Seems so easy looking back, but I remember silently sobbing with my hand through the crib spindles rubbing her back… sobbing on the floor outside her room fighting the urge to scoop her up. Within a week the pattern seemed to work. As she got older if she did cry in the night I would rub her back but not pick her up. So many of my friends have “family beds” …it just didn’t work for me. Even now she is 6 and the few times I have let her in my bed (sick, bad dreams) she always finds her way back to her bed. The downside of this is she NEVER falls asleep unless in a bed. Not in the car ((even when I got her up at 4:30 am to go to travel 10 hours to St. Louis…even in front of a movie if I am sick or she has a sleep over) Rereading this post I feel like I sound COLD…I feel like I have to prove how much I love my daughter and nurture her on many levels….and give in to her other ways …but it’s what worked…and I am sure my next baby won’t sleep for years and everything I said will backfire!

  • sleepy

    2006/03/31 at 9:48 am

    Our first is almost 12 months and we’re getting up 1-2x/night. I’ve read, reread the Healthy Sleep Habits book and agree with most everything (except his writing style leaves something to be desired for tired parents). She goes down early and awake, but still wakes up sometimes 11ish and 4ish, sometimes only 2ish. We feel like we’ve tried everything to lose the middle of night wake up – but we’ve only lasted 4 nights. So, thanks for your words as it encourages us to keep trying, be patient and wait her out.

  • BigA

    2006/03/31 at 9:49 am

    Oh yeah – and we never gave either of them pacifiers ever. Not sure why we were lucky enough to get away with it but we did. We paid for it in other ways but I think in the long run it avoided all kinds of other battles.

  • BigA

    2006/03/31 at 9:45 am

    Bed times always non-negotaible. No drinks of water read me a book etc. Just worked for ours.

  • Mrs. Ricardo

    2006/03/31 at 9:46 am

    We did essentially the same thing with both our kids. It worked for us too. I agree with the not going in an out bit. It does make it worse for everyone. It took a little longer to accomplish with our first, our daughter but with our son it was even easier. Both kiddos went from co-sleeping and eating at the all-night Deli (i.e. Me – Mom) to sleeping peacefully in their crib. Our Daughter is 3.5 and STILL takes a 2-hour nap. How great is that?! Bedtime is 7pm and wakeup is 7am, like clockwork.

    Thanks for braving the landmines, yet again. The world needs honest people like you.

  • Vera

    2006/03/31 at 9:42 am

    I overheard a conversation recently where somebody said they knew somebody who just lets their baby scream. Both people involved in the conversation were completely appalled. But I was thinking “What if it works? It might work.” Since I don’t even have my own children, of course I was too chicken to say anything.

    I’m glad you decided to do what works for you AND to not be a chicken and share it with us.

  • Jewels

    2006/03/31 at 9:44 am

    I wish I had done this with my middle child. With my first, I hovered over her constantly. I was only 20 and I was clueless. So I just didn’t sleep a lot. But she did. My middle one wanted to visit all night. I really thought I was going to lose my mind. However, when my third child came along, I took to the let him scream theory; primarily because I was just flat worn out by that time. It is SO hard not to get up for a screaming baby. However, between 4-6 months, they don’t need to eat that often, especially at night. So yeah, letting them scream totally works. I just wish I had known this with the first two. It took about 2 weeks but then he slept a good 8-9 hours.

  • Heather

    2006/03/31 at 9:36 am

    Thanks for always being so candid with your life. Please don’t change that because you’re afraid of the land mines.

  • marian

    2006/03/31 at 9:40 am

    We used the Ferber program after seven months of nursing every hour or two all night long. It was AGONY. But, it worked. It took about 5 nights, if I recall, most of which I spent weeping on the living room floor as I listened to my son scream.

    Then, when he’d go through a growth spurt, or a teething bout, we’d have to start from scratch it seemed, but it wouldn’t take as long. He never was a good sleeper, and truth be told he was up at least once a night til he was two, but that was a VAST improvement. That I could live with…

    He’s always been a good pooper though, and a good eater. So I figure every kid has something.

  • bonkersmomof4

    2006/03/31 at 11:08 am

    I think the overriding fact here is that every child is different, as is every parent. So what works for you might not work for me, but what used to work for me might not work for me anymore either. Kudos to all the loving parents who take the time to do what they think is best for their families!

    I ferberized my first two kids, it was great with the first one, the second one still has night terrors and such. The third and fourth, I got soft. They have slept with me a lot and it took longer to get them to sleep well, but they are both well adjusted and sleep all night now, so it worked! My experience says you have to do what you and your child can live with. Best wishes to you Heather as you continue to do the best you can.

  • TxSkatemom

    2006/03/31 at 11:08 am

    The Ferber book saved my life. My 10 yo wouldn’t sleep unless someone was holding him and he ate every hour on the hour. He was also dreadfully stubborn. But we used the strategies in the book to “fix” him and from the beginning with my 5 yo. There are many times that he plays in his room after I put him down, but when he’s sleepy, he climbs into his bed on his own — in the mornings we find puzzles, lego creations, who knows what else. He knows once i say goodnight, I will not come back in until morning.

    It means so much to our marriage to have time for each other after the kids are in bed instead of fighting with them to get them there.

  • Cloudy

    2006/03/31 at 11:06 am

    Thank you for sharing this. We are trying to have kids & the whole sleep issue scares the crap out of me. I actually feel better about the whole thing after reading that.

  • Mimimom

    2006/03/31 at 11:00 am

    One little tip about the gummy bears – they make VITAMIN gummies! yes, that’s right, all the fun of a gummy bear and all the nutrition of a children’s vitamin – it’s a sneaky thing to do to your kid, but hey, it’ll help them in the long run.
    As far as the sleeping goes, my hat’s off to you – I really think you did the right thing with the Ferberizing – I wish I had been better about doing that with my daughter. I DID do it with my son (11 months) and he has been sleeping for 12 hours/night since he was 12 weeks old. He’s had a couple of relapses, but a little Ferber nudge and he’s right as rain again. It’s one of those “this is probably going to hurt me (the parent) more than it’s going to hurt you (baby)” things . . .at least that’s what I told myself as I clutched my pillow in the wee hours . ..

  • Jordan

    2006/03/31 at 11:05 am

    I appreciate the fact that you share as much as you do about being a mom. Your honesty is refreshing, especially when I see my friends enveloped in the pre-pregnancy parenting-will-be-bliss fiction. Everybody is different and I can totally see how you would feel apprehensive about sharing your experiences with the world the way that you do on this site. Your candor is the reason I read your site and the reason I keep coming back. Thanks!

  • AnneMG

    2006/03/31 at 11:05 am

    Who knows how it happened. One of em is 6 years old, and still sometimes gets up once. He never cried though, he would just get up and play. Or climb in our bed. I did the semi-co-sleeping thing with him, with the bassinet right next to my bed, so that could be why he does it. (Purely out of laziness… who wants to actually get out of bed to breastfeed?) My 2 yo… well, she has slept through the night, at least 10-11 hrs, since she was 5 weeks old. I don’t claim any credit for it.

  • Niki

    2006/03/31 at 11:03 am

    We used healthy sleep habits, too. I’ve got TWINS, so it was imperative. At three months old, unless my hubby took a shift, we would have had NO sleep, and so we decided to try letting them cry, but using judgment about going in to comfort one of them, since they sleep together. Even now, at 14 months they take two naps and sleep 11 hours straight at night.

    What really worked for me was regulating their naps and feedings, getting them on the same routine, so that I wasn’t constantly half-naked. When I was able to synchronize their naps, it was HEAVEN. Imagine being able to put my boobs away. By six months we stopped BF, but I don’t think I’d have lasted another week if we hadn’t done the “SCHEDULE”. Now, even my husband lives by it – and he’s the most time unconcious person I know.

  • Mack'sMom

    2006/03/31 at 10:58 am

    First I have to discuss the first topic at hand…GUMMIE BEAR

    Oh My God, my child may not be OCD after all!!! I love that I can read your blog and find that my child may be normal after all…otherwise Leta and my daughter are just one in the same!

    Gummie Bears….are Fishies in our house. We used to have Nemo fruit snacks, hence the name. My husband used to give her 5 packs at a time b/c it made her so happy and content. I fought him on it b/c there was no way she needs 5 of anything!!

    Then one fine day it happened… Blue Play-Dough looking pooh! No More Fishies! She screams and throws endless fits over the fishes….but we are TRYING to play as if we’re all out. It works less than half the time….but it’s a start. I’m trying to have my husband only use them as reward for good behavior…but it’s still not working- with him!

    When you find the alternative, please be sure to post it!!!

  • ginger incognito

    2006/03/31 at 10:55 am

    What’s all the worry about? How some people are going to view you? Pishaw. Leta sleeps through the night and takes a good, long, refreshing nap. Unless you chained her to the bed and refused to feed her until she stared sleeping through the night, dang it . . . But you didn’t. You did what worked for your family, for your child. Thankfully, our little diva decided to sleep through the night on her own at three months. I wish all parents were as lucky.

  • hardtoimagine

    2006/03/31 at 10:53 am

    I wish I had the patience, or maybe courage, to do what you did with Leta. At about 7 months, we did the cry it out technique at bedtime because I was tired of all the nursing and rocking and such to get him in bed every night. After a couple of weeks he started to go to bed easily, with no crying. At about 8 months, he finally started sleeping through the night occasionally. Now, at 9 months, he usually sleeps from 8:00 until 4 or 5:00 when he wakes for a bottle. Without the bottle, the sceaming starts. With a bottle, he goes right back to sleep for a couple of hours. It works for us…for now.

  • AndreaBT

    2006/03/31 at 10:53 am

    The most important thing is what you said at the end, Heather: you do what works for you, and what works for you might not work for someone else.

    We are cosleepers. Again, I concur, it’s not for everyone. But it’s how I got the most sleep. What we have mostly done, and what we are doing with our youngest (almost 16 months), is to set up the crib next to our bed with one side removed, like a toddler bed, but with the open side against our bed. I nurse her to sleep (yep, works for us!), and then lay her down in her bed. If she’s not teething, she can easily go four, maybe even five hours before waking up. Then when she does wake up again, I bring her into our bed and nurse her back to sleep. She does sometimes wake up again, but I barely notice, just latch her on and go back to sleep.

  • Nat W.

    2006/03/31 at 10:52 am

    I don’t think I understand why I’m still alive to write this–I didn’t sleep through the night until I was 13 months. My sister slept the whole night the first night home from the hospital.

  • K.

    2006/03/31 at 10:52 am

    I did basically the same as you except I waited (insanely) until 10 months. By then she was able to put the binky back in herself and she still gets it at nap and bedtime. I’d do it again in a heartbeat except I would do it earlier. You have to do what works for your child whether others agree with it or not!

  • Modern Day Hermit

    2006/03/31 at 10:52 am

    I am going to use this method on my son, who is 6 months old. He’s making his poor mother nuts, as he wakes up 4 times a night. First after 4-5 hours then every two hours until 5-6 am. It’s lunacy.

  • lemoose

    2006/03/31 at 10:52 am

    With our oldest daughter, it was really easy, she was already doing about 8 hours a night on her own, and once we moved her to her own room and started sleep training her (i.e. training her to go to sleep on her own by crying it out), she took to it pretty well in a couple of days.

    When we moved her to a toddler bed to make room for the new baby, she did well for the first month, and then completely regressed. One night our heater went out, so we let he sleep with us, and it was all down hill from there. It took us two months to get her back to a normal sleeping schedule, and it involved a lot of stuff you see on SuperNanny, et al.

    We also just got through sleep training our second child a couple of months ago. She was different in that she was a lot like Leta, she woke every two hours. Sleep training with her was also harder, in that her crib was in our bedroom. She has her good nights and bad nights still, but overall the results have been good, if she wakes up at all, it’s only once, and usually before we are asleep. In another few months we’re probably going to move her in with her sister.

    I can totally understand sleep training sending you over the edge, it’s one of the most stressful things you have to go through as a parent. That’s why it always makes me laugh when people think babies bring couples closer together. If you have a strong relationship they do, but if you have a weak relationship, I think the tension and stress would only make it worse.

  • jdillisch

    2006/03/31 at 10:51 am

    This is a topic is my life right now. For the first time, my 10 month old son just slept for FIVE DAYS IN A ROW ALL NIGHT LONG. I am so happy, I don’t know what to do with myself. I want to tell everyone I meet, “Hey…you see this kid? He sleeps like a normal person! Isn’t that great? Isn’t it?” (thanks Heather for giving me the opportunity!).

    It took me months to get him down to just eating once a night (only after four in the morning…if he woke up any earlier, I would wait it out…that sucked). I was torn about stopping the night feeding because my son is underweight, and I figured that he could use all the calories he could get. But now it seems like he’s phasing out the feeding, which works for me.

    With our next child, I would like to get the night feedings out of the routine as soon as possible. I have found that its not how many total hours you sleep at night, its how many hours in a row that really makes the difference.

  • Regan

    2006/03/31 at 10:47 am

    I hate CIO. I hate the term. I wish I could erase it from our collective consciousness. We all do things to help our children learn to sleep. It’s a continuum, not a switch. My eldest daughter (now 4) slept with us until 18 months when I had completely had it. I didn’t want to night-nurse anymore. I wanted time with my husband. We explained our intentions and then dug in. While there were some tears, I still don’t consider it CIO. I know others would, and that’s why I just can’t stand the term. Bung it in a bin liner with “attachment parenting” and just call the whole thing “parenting” and let us all get on with it.

    Getting her to sleep through the night wasn’t hard, it wasn’t painful. At 18 months she wasn’t a tiny vulnerable baby feeling pain or abandonment, she was a pissed off toddler. Realizing this set me free. We used what our favourite British expert calls the “rapid return” method. She’d get out of bed, we’d put her back into it. We were boring and sleepy with very little conversation. Within two days she realized it wasn’t worth trying to get out of bed.

    We will use the same method with our new baby who is now 8 months. She still sleeps with us and nurses on demand. This ensures I get maximum sleepage as I can doze through her nursing. Soon (much sooner than 18 months) we will start the rapid return method. We don’t intend for her to cry a lot, but every time she falls asleep we will put her in her cot. This “no-cry” method (total misnomer, as whimpering noises are interpreted by some as settling and others as crying) takes longer, but should be gentler on all of us.

  • Lisa

    2006/03/31 at 10:51 am

    We are dealing with this RIGHT now & I seriously am ready for the mental ward. It is JUST draining me so much.

    This is my FOURTH child so I SHOULD know what to do right!?!? My first slept through around 2 months & we’ve NEVER had issues with him at all in the sleep department (he’s 7 now). He was on formula. My second was more fussy & she was BF but we did manage to get her to sleep through at 4 months & haven’t had any sleep issues with her. She’s 4. My 3rd just turned 2 like Leta. He was/is my dream baby! He was also BF his first full year & he sleeps 12 hrs at night & after 3 hours of napping I usually have to wake him up! He’s a thumbsucker too which helps cause he can sooth himself back to sleep. I’m ready for him to give that habit up now that he is 2, but if it means sleep, well let him suck away!

    Now, my 4th has just been putting me through the ringer. He is almost 5 mos, is BF & sleeps for CRAP. I don’t know what to do with him. I’ve tried CIO but maybe I don’t let him cry enough? I thought 20 mins was long enough for the little guy. For awhile he was doing pretty good with sleeping from 7/8ish until 2/3 & then up at 5/6. I dealt with that. These days it’s down at 7 or so, up every 3 hours later.

    I’m at the end of my rope here! And he doesn’t nap so good during the day either. He doesn’t take a pacifier. The other problem is he shares a room w/ the 2yr old. So letting him CIO too long I’m afraid he’ll wake up his brother & who the hell wants to deal with TWO kids in the middle of the night?? I did put 2 yo in w/ 7 yo for 2 nights to try to let #4 CIO longer. But I only did it those 2 nights. Then what happened was 2 yo was getting up earlier & I didn’t care for that either!

    I’m in a losing situation here & not sure WHAT to do. We are leaving for the IL’s for the weekend & so I’ll just have to get up w/ the baby so the rest of the household can sleep. Maybe next week we try the CIO once again & just let him cry longer?? SUcks.


  • Elisette

    2006/03/31 at 10:46 am

    We did something very similar. Not as intense as the repeat wakings, but the kid cried himself to sleep for four months. But we couldn’t go in, the crying got worse, and calming down was impossible. Now he sleeps 10.5 -11 hrs a night, but hardly at all at daycare.

  • SilverPoet

    2006/03/31 at 10:45 am

    I don’t understand why letting a child CIO would be a landmine. My daughter is just over two months. I was lucky, in that I got a natural sleeper. I also, in a backwards way, was lucky I was seperated from her for the first 24 hours and couldn’t take her home for 48. She slept in her crib, alone, from the get-go. She’s also been sleeping 6 hours or more a night since about three wks. I have to say, I don’t feel like a bad parent for walking and not running when she cries at night as is. It’s went from a sad cry to an angry cry, and I take my time when it’s an angry one. I think you have to do what works for you, that’s why you’re the parent and they’re the child. Thanks for putting a smile on this girl new to SAHM world, Dooce. 🙂

  • goodapple

    2006/03/31 at 10:46 am

    What worked for me: co-sleeping.

    I loved Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and loved it because it seemed to fit with my son. The information about brain activity and how to recognize the optimal nap time was a life saver.

    I think because I co-slept for over a year, I didn’t really notice a lack of sleep. I’m pregnant now and will likely co-sleep again if it works for baby number two. I agree with just about every other commenter here that you do what works for you and your child.

  • PinkPoppies

    2006/03/31 at 10:45 am

    Before I had my child, my best friend gave me three pieces of advice: keep them warm, keep them fed, and keep them on schedule. We always followed the same routine for bed time: bath, book, and breast, starting at 6:45 p.m. If we didn’t start at that time, it was next to impossible to get a decent night’s sleep. Family and friends would beg us to stay at gatherings and we would refuse, knowing what would happen if we upset the routine.

    Our child slept through the night at five weeks, and I breastfed on demand, although the little sucker set a regualr schedule during the day pretty quickly. When teething and growth spurts set in, and there was howling, we always followed the same routine. There would be ten minutes of crying, followed by a quick duck in and a pat, and then we’d leave again, but each interval would be longer: start with ten, then fifteen, then 20 etc. I don’t think we ever got past a 20 minute interval before peace reigned, and he’d sleep through. SAt the most, we would have one upset night about once every three months.

    The only time I didn’t follow my rule was when I noticed a different sound to the cry. My baby was nine months old, and it was the weirdest wailing. I stayed with him and about an hour after, he developed a raging fever.

    Today my child is almost seven and is the soundest sleeper. We kept him in a crib until he was three, and we insisted on daily naps until he was 4. It never ceases to amaze me that we always always second guess what we do as parents. I say don’t knock it until you try it. I know I couldn’t be a good parent if I didn’t have enough sleep. It’s not like you were hanging her out the window ala Michael Jackson.

    You want to try landmines? Try walking in a busy city with your very active toddler child in a harness — I am not interested in repeating the abuse I heard, but let’s say I am glad I did it, instead of losing him to a truck!

  • omar

    2006/03/31 at 10:40 am

    Dr. Weissbluth is my hero, I recently posted about him on my site. (is HTML allowed in comments? i guess I’ll find out)

    We read the same books when my son was in the 6-month old range. My kid sleeps great at night, but doesn’t nap. Our Dr. suggested these books, though he warned us that Ferber takes a “hard line” when it comes to allowing them to cry, and we weren’t as thrilled about that – at least, not at first. Ferber’s book also seemed to have a lot more information about older kids, which wasn’t yet as helpful.

    Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child has been a great help with understanding my kid’s sleep habits. He still isn’t a GREAT napper, but he naps way more than he did, and is much more pleasant in the evenings.

  • jes

    2006/03/31 at 10:44 am

    I don’t see the landmines.

    Perhaps it’s because I don’t have children. Or pets. Just a husband.

    And he gets all the boob he wants.

  • statia

    2006/03/31 at 10:40 am

    You know, I don’t have kids yet, so I can’t say with certainty what I’d ultimately end up doing. When I first heard about the ferber method, it just sounded so cruel. I mean, letting your child scream like that. But that’s just me. But the more I thought about it, the more it makes sense. I mean, like you said, what works for some, might not work for others. I don’t really view it as cruel. I mean, hell, technically I do the same thing with puppies. I give them a week to be sleeping through the night. I might be a tough whore, but I’m a tough whore who’s sleeping through the night.

    So in the end, I can see myself getting on board with the ferber method.

  • Erika

    2006/03/31 at 10:41 am

    I have three, but I only had to do it with one. Yep Ferbered the middle child. Did it for my sanity. And would do it again.

  • Lily

    2006/03/31 at 10:34 am

    What worked? Honestly… co-sleeping. It had it’s variations – it wasn’t all night every night. I would nurse him to sleep and then move him to his crib. If he woke during the night, I brought him to my bed and slept while he nursed back to sleep.

    It wasn’t always perfect, but I too was perched atop the fence of “mentally stable” and “crazy” and as of that point un-medicated.

    Sleep was one of the necessary requirements that kept the few threads of sanity I had – so whatever it took to get The Sleep is what I was doing. And I had two middle fingers for anyone (ANYONE – MIL) who had anything to say about it.

    As he got older I was thrilled to find that once he went to bed for the night, that was it until morning. And it’s that way still today (he’s 7).

    I have no idea if that had anything to do with me or not – who cares? I’m getting sleep!

  • Bellychaser

    2006/03/31 at 10:34 am

    Holly Crap Heather, you just stuck the internet equivalent of a ‘kick me’ sign on your own back. You are a brave woman.

    Under normal circumstances, i would never, ever, let my kids CIO but as someone who also had severe PPD, I wish I could have seen past my attachment parenting ideals enough to realize that it probably would have been the right thing to do at the time. I do not believe that sleep training is a good parenting choice for all the usual reasons but all of that goes out the window when you need to do everything possible to preserve the little bit of sanity you have left. Good for you for recognizing that. I wish I had.

  • kat

    2006/03/31 at 10:33 am

    Oh – When my daughter was nine months old and she still wasn’t sleeping through the night, I let her scream. She screamed and screamed and screamed. It took three days. I shared this with no one.

    Good for you, for telling the world.

  • bored_in_kansas

    2006/03/31 at 10:32 am

    Okay…you may not read this but if you do here is what i have to say.

    I have no children, but I learned this from my mother. When my brother was a baby she was young like 26 years old or something ( i don’t know she’s ancient to me now LOL), and well he was colicy. She just about went out of her mind, because he would cry and cry and cry. She finally just left him in his crib shut his door, went to the bathroom and shut that door, and cried with him.

    The point of my story here is: My mother states that just to let them cry and scream themselves to sleep. They have to learn that they can not be the boss of you. She had a daycare for 23 years. And let me tell you even though I do not have children I went insane, when it was nap time with those babies that were screaming their heads off. Because they were in the room next to mine.

    So what you did is what my mom recommends. Just let them cry they will eventually tire out and realize it’s not worth their energy and go to sleep.

    Take care!

  • AnitaBonita

    2006/03/31 at 10:31 am

    We used Pantley’s No Cry Sleep Solution. It has mostly worked. We went from waking up every hour to sleeping 11 hours in just a few days.

    Of course, then came teething and colds, etc. etc. and we’ve had to go back to the process using the No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers.

    The whole cry it out thing is a landmine.

    However, my new belief is that sleeping is a born trait; either they sleep well or they don’t. And then parents have to decide how to handle the situation if they don’t sleep well.

    We opted for the No Cry Method. Good friends have opted for the CIO method. We all have healthy children.

  • rch7279

    2006/03/31 at 10:31 am

    My now 14 month old son sleeps 12-14 hours a night with usually 3 hours of napping during the day. I know that I am extremely lucky. I had the same pacifier problem that you did in the beginning. When Ashton (my son) was 4 months old he started rolling over really really well. There was no way to keep him sleeping on his back, he could amost sit up on his own and any attempt to get him sleeping on his back he would just roll over in a few minutes. Once he started this and sleeping on his stomach often he slept through the night from about 6 months on.

    Part of me wishes that I did take away his pacifier then and tough it through the rough nights. He has gotten old enough now that he doesn’t at all need it but instead is emotionally attached to them. I need to get him off of that but I feel so bad doing it. He loves them.

    Every baby is different, I can’t complain about Ashton’s habbits.

    The one and only baby book that I live by – my baby bible is called “The Happiest Baby on the Block”. The techniques in this got him to sleep withing 3 minutes until he was old enough to fall asleep on his own. I would recommend it to anyone.

  • ChrisBL

    2006/03/31 at 10:30 am

    My son is 1 year old and has been sleeping through the night since he was 9 weeks. I read the Weissbluth book, too, but was very lucky not to have to get to the “cry it out” stage. But from the time he was a few weeks old, I followed to the minute Weissbluth’s advice of getting the baby to sleep after he had been awake for two hours — and getting the baby to bed on time. He just seemed to progress naturally from there; as his alert time got longer, so did his naps. (And when he hit that stage of getting up in the middle of the night at about 4-5 months, we worked to soothe him back to sleep instead of feeding him.) Now he sleeps 11 hours overnight with two two-hour naps. We have worked very hard to respect his bedtime, and it has paid off.

  • letajoy

    2006/03/31 at 10:30 am

    I read one sleep book and it made me feel like the worst mother on the face of the planet, so I said the hell with sleep books, we’ll just do what works for us. We were sooooooooo lucky. Our daughter slept what I considered “through the night” for an infant at 2 weeks. She would usually get up about 4 or 5 am, nurse and go back to sleep for a few more hours. We had bad nights where she was up every few hours, or wouldn’t go back to sleep. But for the most part I nursed her to sleep and later on one of us rocked her to sleep. The negative was, she didn’t take a daytime nap until she was 6 months old. She would only nap in the swing or if I was holding her.

    This worked until she was about 1. Then she started staying up later and later, and one of us was up until about 10 or 11 with her. That summer I was working part-time and decided when I was done working we would sleep train. But my husband and I were worn out, so we decided to go ahead and give it a try. She was 13 months old. The first night she cried about 5 minutes, the second night about 3 minutes, the third night 2 minutes. By the fifth night she wasn’t making a whimper. We were so prepared for it to be absolutely horrible that we couldn’t believe how great she did. Now she is 21 months. She goes to bed at 8:30 pm and usually sleeps until about 8:00 am and takes a 2 hour afternoon nap. She will tell us “nap” when she is tired. It is unbelievable.

    We have always used a small fan for white noise and towels over the windows for darkness.

    You always tell it how it is, Heather. Its one of the many reasons I read your blog. Keep putting the truth out there.

  • Chantel

    2006/03/31 at 10:30 am

    My children are now teen-agers and thanks, (I know I don’t look a day over 25)..
    Anyway. I was a single mother of two very young children. They were only 15 or 16 months apart, I barely remember those days. From day one the kids had to accomodate my schedule. I had to to back to work two weeks after they were born so I still had to get up at the crack of dawn, feed them, bathe them and get myself ready for work. I will admit after a couple of weeks they were totally cooperative.
    They went to bed at the same time every night, I fed them and changed them and they were put to bed. The only time I went in is if they were crying, if all checked out then I left again. The first few months were a bit rough because I was a new mom and I thought I was harming my children but there was no way I could take care of them if I never slept or If I died because I fell asleep at the wheel on my way home from work.
    As they grew older they knew that Mommy’s bed was off limits. Sleeping with mommy was a treat like ice cream but it was not a refuge for scared, crying or sick children. There was no television or radios in bedrooms either; bedroom were for sleeping or playing only. There were a few times that they were scared and I found them asleep on the floor next to my bed but because of the boundaries I set early on I was able to get some sleep. I simply did not negotiate, ever! and there were rare occurances when the boundaries could be broken.
    Like now when they come in willingly and want to talk – I can’t beleive my teen-agers still talk to me.

  • Alison

    2006/03/31 at 10:29 am

    You are right about the blocking mechanism that leads us parents to the “fuzziness of memory.” My kids are now 8 and almost 11, and I can’t really remember how we got them to sleep through the night.

    I just want to tell all the new/expecting parents out there that every baby is different. You just have to do what is right for your baby and your situation.

    And if things are bad, just know that it does get better.

  • rachel Bowser

    2006/03/31 at 10:28 am

    i predict you get 7 gabrillion comments on this post, because the thing about trauma, psychoanalytically speaking, is that it begs for the presence of a witness. and there is nothing untraumatic about getting yoru child to sleep at night.
    we more or less let our duaghter scream it out too. our problem was less frequent wakings (at first) and more waking as soon as we put her down in her crib, and requiring 3 hours opf attention before she settled in for the night. once she figured out how to put herself to sleep, THEN she started waking all night. we also did the gradual time extension thing, and I probably only started the process because of all the guarantees that it would work itself out in 3-ish days. 22 motherfucking days later, our daughter slept for 10 consecutive hours. that was around 6 months old. now (8 months) she sleeps anywhere from 9-12 a night, btu naps are real spotty. she is, by all accounts, a totally lovely infant.

    i’ve recently decided one of the reasons that process was so hard was that so much of the lessons of new parenting are about trusting your instincts. and for better or worse, when i listened to my daughter scream, i had to suppress every instinct i had to rush in and scoop her up.

  • Phoebe

    2006/03/31 at 10:28 am

    I wish I had read this method when my son was a baby. He would wake up crying every night at 3 AM for no particular reason and did this until he was two and a half years old. I never thought to try to do something to stop this (I was 17 when I had him so I didn’t really know much of anything!!).

    The night that he stopped was when I was so tired I put my second pillow over my ears hoping that he would just stop crying, which he did, 20 minutes later. He slept through from that night on.

    He is now turning 15 years of age and he has since been a great sleeper and never fought me when it was bed time and now tells me between 8-9 PM every night that he is tired and going to bed. It shocks me that he doesn’t try to stay up later, but I should count my blessings. In October I will be having my second child and my husbands first(what the hell am I thinking!!). I will have to keep the books you mentioned in mind and this technique!! Thanks 🙂

  • Be Still

    2006/03/31 at 10:28 am

    I used a co-sleeper crib next to our bed. I’d had a caesarian and developed anemia from a surgical complication. So getting out of bed was pretty much out of the question.

    When our little guy would wake up, I’d just scoop him into bed with us and nurse him. Many times we’d just fall back to sleep together.

    We started putting him down in his crib when he began creeping and crawling. By then, the feedings were down to one or two a night. If he cried at night, I’d just go get him and bring him to bed with us. Every family is different but we didn’t mind him sleeping in our bed. Hell, our dogs were already in there too!

    Now that he can get out of his crib, we’ve moved his mattress onto the floor of our room and are currently teaching him the concept of the “Big Boy Bed”. If he rolls out, he’s only 5 inches off the floor. If he gets scared, he just crawls in with us. We’ll eventually move him back to his own room once he masters this stage. I certain that he’ll be sleeping in his own room sometime before he turns 13!

    I have learned that some women aren’t secure with their choices. Parenting styles that differ from theirs are perceived as some kind of threat.

    As such, I pretty much avoid talking about my parenting choices with casual acquaintances unless pressed or in “safe” company.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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