This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party

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?

  • Lora

    My son (now 4) has always been a great sleeper…we were very lucky! He had a pacifier but, although he needed it to fall asleep, he didn’t seem to notice when it fell out of his mouth at night. It was harder to get him not to use it all day, every day, right up until he was 2+ years old and I finally cut the nipples off them. Once he was cognizant of a routine, as long as he had his “mok” (the same word he used for milk) and a baby washcloth in each hand he was happy. He always slept 11-12 hours a night and, until he was just over 3, he took a 3-4 hour nap every afternoon. Oh, how I miss the naps! He still sleeps about 11 hours a night and I can definitely tell when he’s not getting enough rest. He has allergies and before we knew that and started him on medication he wasn’t resting very well and those were some terribly grumpy weeks. I think the biggest factor in our success was having a definite schedule and sticking to it, no matter what. He sleeps so well because he knows what to expect…the same bedtime every night, the same routine – and we rarely vary it, even if it means leaving parties or cutting short a road trip so we can check into a hotel and put him to bed. I’m so thankful for his schedule when I hear friends of mine talk about how their kids never want to go to bed, stay in bed – what do they expect?

  • Galatae

    If only you had war stories about how to get the toddler out of the crib… talk about a land mine issue.

  • Oh god, the sleep issue. What parent hasn’t thought long and hard about it?

    I had no idea what I was getting into when I had Finn. The hardest and worst part was the sleep issue and no book prepared us. I figured we’d be up a few times a night for a month or so, then he’d start sleeping and life would go on.

    Boy, was I in for the biggest shock of parenthood.

    Finn was up every 1-2 hours in the beginning. I read “The No Cry Sleep Solution” and told myself it would be over soon and I could handle answering his cries. Fast forward three months; same no-sleep schedule. The lack-of-sleep was making me crazy! I never had more than four hours of sleep in a row. I decided to branch out and read “Healthy Sleep Habits” and “The Baby Whisperer”. I created a hybrid meathod of letting him cry sometimes and going to him when I thought he was hungry.

    Of course that just made it worse.

    When we finally decided to bite the bullet and let him cry, he cried for ten minutes and fell asleep. He still wakes up once a night, but I’m willing to deal with it now that I’m getting at least EIGHT HOURS OF GLORIOUS SLEEP IN A ROW.

    You have to do what’s right for your family and I knew that I wasn’t a good mommy when I was resenting my baby for keeping me up all night.

  • With our first we used a little bit of advice from the Dr. Weissbluth book, some co-sleeping and lots of time. Our second is a different story completely and even the duct tape and sedatives have not worked so well.

  • Shaye

    We used essentially the same method with my now 6 yo son. I had watched both of my sisters try the co-sleeping method, and it didn’t really work out well for either of them so I decided to just put him in his own bed and anytime I went in to feed or change him at night I kept the lights dim, didn’t speak to him, and just took care of his needs and left. Later on we had a few nights of crying it out, but it wasn’t more than a week, and it wasn’t bad because we started so early. I wish I had thought to put foil over the windows though. He has always been one to be up with the sun. That’s brilliant!

    I have to add that I think you are wonderful parents, and you should be proud of the job you’re doing. Leta will have a strong sense of who she is, won’t be afraid to be different, and will always know you’ve there for her if she falters. Bravo!

  • My wife is about to squeeze out our first child and I have to say that I’m *extremely* disappointed that you Parents-Who-Have-Gone-Before have failed to develop a consensus on how to get babies to sleep. It seems grossly unfair that I, having wisely held off having children for the first 10,000 years of recorded human history, should be in no better position than a Cave Daddy in 8000 BCE. Shame!

  • Chair

    At the advice of another Mommy Blogger and good friend Ada, I went with the ‘Healthy Sleep Habits…’ book.
    My daughter was colicky and we had a number of issues with her sleeping and I was always concerned that it was her colic bugging her so I was hesitant to let her scream -it seemed so incredibly cruel and I hated myself. But once she was 7 months old and seemed to be over the worst of the colic, I forced myself to endure her screams and after a week or so (The books say a few days: dirty liars, they are) it was over and she learned to ‘self soothe’. It was amazing how different she was -much calmer, happier, brighter.
    She’s now 17 months old and has learned to appreciate how wonderful sleep is, to the point of pointing at her crib and saying “eep!” in the middle of her stories if she’s tired and doesn’t want to bother with the routine. I can’t even begin to describe how awesome this is to me. She recognizes that she’s tired and she knows that sleep is a good thing.
    She sleeps 12-14 hours through the night and has a 2-3 hour nap every afternoon.

  • Susan D.

    Amen, Sister!

    I survived 9 months of feeding every 3 hours with my first child. At almost 2 1/2 he still cries every night before falling to sleep. He doesn’t cry long, and he sleeps until 7:30 each morning. (Probably longer if I’d foil his windows. Genius!!)

    My second child is just 5 months old. I’ve begun having “the talk” with him (sleep is your friend! go to sleep!) – and as soon as we get the pedi’s OK at our 6 month appointment I’m going to introduce him to my friend Dr. Ferber.

    Thank you for having the courage to say what the rest of us wish we could. My first son cried it out, and he’s not psychologically damaged at all! He still loves me best. 🙂

    So here’s a high-five from another Ferberizer. You have nothing to be ashamed of!

  • I breastfed for the first four months and for those four month I slept with Amy next to me so that I could just pop my breast in her mouth if she woke up hungry. When I started working I pretty much stopped nursing, Amy moved to her crib and my husband and I made a terrible decision: we introduced her to a pacifier. After that we went throught pretty much exactly what you did, Heather. She would wake up throughout the night because she would spit it out and couldn’t find it again. Both my husband and I were working full time and we just couldn’t deal sooo we took away the binky. I think it took her about a week to get over it. After that she became a wonderful sleeper, much like Leta, sleeping 12 hours a night and taking two 1 hour naps. Now she’s three and she still sleeps 12 hours a night but takes no naps.

  • Suz

    I couldn’t let my kids scream. I always went to them when they cried, and I would take them in the spare bed and sleep with them when they woke up. I gave them a bottle or pacifier, whatever they needed to get them back to sleep the quickest. (My husband couldn’t sleep with them in our bed.) I knew they would eventually grow out of it. We had a couple of speed bumps when it came time to give up bottles and pacifiers, but they did eventually sleep better on their own(around 2 years old.) I still go sleep with them when they wake up from bad dreams. I don’t mind, I like the extra cuddle time, especially since my youngest one is almost 4 and I see how fast they grow and how short of a time they need us in that way.

  • chumbot

    i don’t have a baby of my own, but i do have a niece that refuses to sleep in her own bed and will not go to sleep without a movie being on. she’s 3. i have seen that my sister-in-law always gives in because she doesn’t want her to cry/scream/wake the sleeping 1 year old in the next room. (although to be completely honest i think that she doesn’t take serious action because she doesn’t want to feel like a “bad mother”…) and maybe that works for her, who am i to judge? but i am very happy to see that you did what was difficult not only for leta but for you as well (harder for you really, because she will never remember those rough nights and you’ll never be able to forget them). i hope that when i have kids of my own i will keep in mind what is best for EVERYONE and make decisions that make sense for the “long term”, not just “right now”. that’s what you obviously did.

  • JustBreathe

    Thanks for sharing, particularly because it is such a landmine issue. I’m pregnant with our first and it is so hard to get people to share their experiences because they are afraid of being judged.

    Congrats on the sleeping success and good luck with the gummy bears!

  • My parents went with the “let them cry” method for both me and my sister. I didn’t even know there was another method. If I ever had trouble sleeping, my parents put me in the car and drove around the block, and that did the trick everytime. And I took 2 hour naps (and sucked my thumb full time) until I started first grade, and the only reason I stopped was because I had to go to school all day at that point.

  • veg4me

    Thanks for bringing back fond memories of hiding in the basement night after night with the TV turned up to deafening decibels, while I could hear my 12 month old screaming 3 stories above my head. I soaked an entire couch with my tears.

    It never worked for him. The only thing that got him to calm down was when I placed the shirt I had worn that day in his crib and he could cuddle it.

    His sister came along 4 years later and never had an issue with sleeping. I nursed them both the same, pretty much on demand until they were 18 months old. Every kid is just different. People told me that and I always doubted it.

    Just remember, different doesn’t always mean better. Your next child might be the polar opposite of Leta and it will rock your world because you’re used to dealing with her.

  • Every child is different, so what worked for Leta may not work for the next one. My son and daughter are opposites and things I hate with one, I don’t have to deal with on the other etc.

    My son needed to scream himself into exhaustion, then sleep. As he grew he needed specific routine or would not sleep.

    My daughter (at 3 1/2) wakes up when she has a nightmare, and for no other reason. Training her to sleep was easy and I felt like I could have 5 more children because I had some sort of knack for it.

    Later I realized that I was talentless and simply blessed the second go round of child rearing.

  • Well, I don’t have kids, but I still applaud your honesty. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re a bad mother because you did the thing which was better for you and Leta, even though it was hard.

    I know that my mom did the same thing. We went down at bedtime and she let us cry ourselves to sleep. My sister, who has a two year old and a week old baby let the oldest child sleep with her and her husband until the new baby was about to be born. Talk about traumatic for my oldest niece. Now, not only does she have to sleep in her own bed at night for the first time ever she also has to contend with an attention sucking younger sibling. I’m thinking this will be a very hard time for her.

  • Oh, yeah, I can see the land mines from a mile away. You give your child gummy bears?! You awful mother! They’re full of SUGAR and uh, GUM and, well, I’m sure you’ll rot in hell for that!!!! OF FRANCE!!!!

    But since I’ll be burning along next to you, I’m just wondering: Have you heard of Gummy Vites? I got a huge jar of them at Costco for about $10. But then you have to figure out how to not let your kid OD.

  • White noise. You need white noise and a dark room. We use a Mariah Carey or Norah Jones CD. But you could use a fan. Actually the fan we use is huge and makes his room sound like an airplane hanger. After a child is over the age of one, I only enter their room if it sounds like they have been stabbed. I’ve got four kids. I hate getting up all night, so for the most part we don’t. During nap time my older children are as quiet as mimes- they know if they wake the kid up they either have to throw themselves on a sword as ritual sacrifice or take care of the kid. They really aren’t wild about either.

  • With our first child, our son, we ended up doing a good job after three months of constant waking up. He was quite a screamer at night. We made a good decision early on for not using the pacifier very frequently and almost never at night. This helped a lot. Then, one day, we decided to let him scream in his crib while we ate dinner. He made his first mistake: he cried himself to sleep. We knew that we had him then. We knew that he was physically capable of crying himself to sleep, and all we had to do was just get him to learn to do it at night. Luckily, he learned to do this the week before my wife went back to work.

    As for my daughter, we got lucky. She has been a fantastic sleeper all along. It’s so great that we had the relatively poor sleeper before the good one or we would have been blind-sided. Our daughter is ten weeks old, and she sleeps for seven hours at night usually. We’re currently trying to extend that.

    PS. Heather, is the Armstrong Media, LLC verbiage at the bottom the reason you had a pow-wow with the lawyer, or has it always been there and I’m not observant enough?

  • Heather

    Both of our boys stopped taking naps at 18 months. Yuck. On the flip side however, they both go down at 6:30 pm and don’t wake up for 12 quiet, solid hours. I’m not sure how we did it, other than take them to the park to wear them down, but I am counting my lucky stars and holding my breath for big challenges coming up. Probably facial tatoos and nipple peircings at age ten :).

  • jb

    I forgot to add. Our son is now 5 and just this past week quit taking 2-hour naps and sleeps at least ten hours at night. It’s glorious.

    Let’s hope it works out that well with #2 (due in May).

  • *correction for #19

    “Twelve hours of consecutive sleep … ” should be “Twelve consecutive hours of sleep … ”

    Sleep deprivation apparently hampers one’s grammar, among other things.

  • Z

    My first child? I was a stay at home mom and he was a great sleeper – NATURALLY. But, the few times it was an issue? I let him cry – and I didn’t go soothe him either b/c it made it worse on both of us.

    My current baby? I’m a working mom and the guilt from letting her cry eats at my soul so I’m raising her spoiled-rotten and she’s sleeping in our bed. And waking up every two ours (at the LONGEST). *sigh* I’m currently reading The No Cry Sleep Solution – we’ll see if I use any of those methods and if they work.

    But I agree – whatever makes you FEEL BETTER.

  • I was lucky enough that mine started sleeping either through the night, or close to it, at a very young age. however, as toddlers, they both decided that actually going to sleep was a bad, bad thing. We still struggle with the 2 year old at times.

  • Hey Heather! Remember that time when you posted on the internet that you let your baby cry and then the internet freaked out and called you a hating rotten hateful baby-hater until you finally shut down comments and went back to feeding Leta broken glass?

    No? Shit. Well, we’re only 15 or 20 comments in. Give it a few minutes.

    I waited until my kid was almost two to really sleep train him. If you think hearing a baby scream is a nightmare, wait until your baby can BEG YOU WITH WORDS to stop killing them. It was unreal.

    I was determined that baby #2 would never be allowed to get to that point – but baby #2? SLEEPS. He was born knowing instinctively that sleep is wonderful and magical. He sleeps far more than his older brother, no thanks to anything I’ve done differently. From what I can tell, he’s just a nicer person.

  • I am expecting my first child in a few weeks and have heard a lot from the ferberizers and the attachment parents… such a huge amount of information from both sides. I’m not really sure what will work with us, but it is nice to hear so many positives from both angles!

  • Ramona Concepcion

    My husband and I are about to have our first child in a few weeks and I’m terrified about the upcoming sleepless nights.

    Thanks for the honesty.

  • jb

    Our doctor gave us a little pamphlet when our eldest was born full of advice for new parents and STRONGLY suggested that we read it before we call them. Ever.

    One of the things noted was that after 4 months, children have no need for nighttime nutrition. He recommended offering a bottle of water after 30 minutes of crying and no picking up or taking them out of the crib. Pretty soon the kids decide it’s simply not worth it to wake up and sleep through the night.

  • My son Hugo just hit 6 months old. Until last month he had been sleeping through the night, 11+ hours since he was 2 1/2 months. I wish I could take credit for that, but it was all him. He was just that good of a sleeper.

    Then, about a month ago we all got sick plus he started teething. He now wakes up for comfort 5/7 nights per week. Some nights he wakes once, other nights he wakes 3 times. I feel like it is the Flowers for Algernon phenomenon- sleep sucked, became heavenly, and then, before my eyes, I could see it going back to suck and it was out of my control. Bye bye rest, hello naps in the bathroom at work.

    Right now we’re trying to only feed him once and then if he wakes up again we go into his room to comfort him- without picking him up. It is hard, though because here we thought, all along, we had it made in the sleep department. But it is good to know that it gets better and that there’s hope that Hugo will go back to his regular routine. Thanks for that.

  • I have no children, just a cat, and I live in Brooklyn. It’s challenging enough to get myself to sleep, living on a traffic circle in New York, without throwing kids into the mix. When my cat isn’t batting aspirin bottles at my boyfriend’s head I wear ear plugs to drown out his snoring (boyfriend’s not cat’s). That, as long as there isn’t a shooting like two days ago, plus a fan to drown out the hangers out on the corner, usually does the trick for me.

  • Oh, this makes me want to cry and cry. We are STILL going through the sleep training that I started when my boy was about seven months old, he’s almost ten months now. We have only one time had two “good” nights in a row, and that was just this week. I read and follow Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and I follow it completely. At first I put him down for naps unswaddled, five minutes at a time, then I would go in and pick him up. Then I went in every five minutes but wouldn’t pick him up, then ten minutes, then fifteen, then an hour, for naps. At night we did the same thing but then we stopped going in. I have wept and wept and wept over this – I hate it so much that the way that I let him know that I love him and that he needs to go back to sleep is to leave him alone, but it is all that has worked for us. I do love him so, but my GOD has this child screamed enough in the past ten months for a lifetime! He was very colicky for his first, oh ten years or so. No really about 14 weeks were horrible. I have never been so miserable or so tired in my life and we are just now getting back to normal, even though my husband and I still go to bed sometimes at 8:00, right after the baby. With my next baby, if I have one, God help me, I will start much earlier putting them down and letting them fuss a little bit and not freaking out and running to them every time they make a peep, which is what I did with the first one. He still uses the pacifier, and I am hoping to start weaning him from it when he turns one, but God knows if I’ll make it. He might go to school with one.

  • We used the Healthy…, Happy…blah blah blah, too. It was hell. Love the book even more now that my 20 month old is a model sleeper. Worth the tears. Worth the Prozac to get through the tears.

  • We also used the Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child and like you I defend my son’s crabbiness as NOT being because he’s tired (unless for some reason, people are over and he really is tired/ready for bed). I LOVE this method. I HATED it when we were doing it, but I knew it would work. I tried some other techniques, but anytime I entered his room to “soothe” him his crying would get worse. It took us about 3 nights to get him to sleep from 7-7. (He was just over 4 months old.) Now he’s 16 months and sleeps 7pm-6am and naps for almost 3 hours. I’d like to get him to sleep ’til 7am, but we’ve got to get out and get going in the morning. It’s funny, because with the time change coming up I was reminded that we’ve been discussing when he sleeps/how he sleeps for a year now. (We recently went through a “re-train” with him waking up at 5am…but then thanks to you we put some tin foil on his window and that keeps him down until he hears Maggie, our dog, chomp down her food at 6am.)
    Most of my family (and some co-workers) thinks I’m crazy for having such a rigid schedule…but what they don’t know is how much he loves it. At 6:30 every night he’ll start to pick up his books/toys and walk to his room singing “pajama time”. He can SENSE when it’s time for bed and is HAPPY to get ready for the event. PLUS, I know exactly when to schedule pictures/doctors appointments because I know when his happy/awake times are.

  • libby

    Uh sorry didn’t mean to repeat post!

  • American Wife

    My daughter is 22 months old, and sleeping has been one of the toughest issues. I have been driven to such extremes of emotion from sleep deprivation that finding a solution to the problem was my daily focus. Nothing worked for us, NOTHING. I could not let her “cry it out” (which initialy seemed barbaric to me, but after more than a year of scarcely sleeping I was willing to adopt any technique that might make me a nicer mommy) because crying for more than 5 minutes would cause Violet to start vomiting. Yes, every time. So not only would I not be sleeping, I’d also be cleaning up vomit and changing bed sheets at 3 am. I have just had to struggle through it and hold her for up to an hour several times a night before she’d fall asleep. Thank heavens we invested in a comfortable chair for her room! This week my life has changed. Just this very week, I can put her into her bed after singing a few songs and enjoying a chat about our day and plans for the next without toddler screams of terror ripping through our home. She might fuss a little, i just call out to her to find “bunny” and go back to sleep. Dear god, I am a happier woman this week.

  • MommyofOne

    Heather,

    I appreciate your honesty so much. Thank you for being so real.

    My dd is 3 1/2. We never had sleep issues like you described, so I can’t sympathize with you on that level.

    You have to do what works for you, as you’ve already realized. To hell with the experts and the books that tell you not to do this, or to do that. I went back to work at 6 weeks and our dd slept in our bed. We were breastfeeding so it just made the most sense for us. We were able to sleep well together, and she made the transition to her crib smoothly. I never felt like a zombie. Many people will regale moms with the horrors of having kids sleep in beds. We said “screw them all” and did our own thing. And it worked for us.

    It seems raising Leta has been a bit of a challenge. I know people who had challenging first children, then the most easy, laid back second babies. One friend’s second (breastfed) son was sleeping 12 hours per night at 2 months. If you and Jon have another baby, I’ll hope that’s what happens for you!

    Jess

  • Wonderful information, Dooce. I am printing this out and I am going to save it for when I have children.

    I hope you and Jon have a fantastic weekend. :o)

  • Kathy B.

    Kudos to your for sharing this story! I hope it gives others the courage to do the same (if necessary.) I did pretty much the same thing when my daughter was 6 months. Like you, my ped told me that at this age she no longer needed to eat at night — she was just waking due to habit.

  • You are a brave, brave woman for telling your tale. I’m going to be releasing my first spawn in three months and am scared that I am going to have NO CLUE. Thanks for the candid insight. 🙂

  • Oh the screaming! I almost couldn’t stand the screaming. But it is so much worth it now to have a child that sleeps so well so that I can sleep so well. I am a much better mother when I have sleep. My question is, do you have to go back to step one with Leta (the screaming!) every time something out of the ordinary screws things up like a fever or thunder storm? Or does she *know* that things go back to normal the next night? I seem to have to go thru the screaming stage and start over again at least every couple of months. My ears hurt as much as my heart.

  • I don’t have children but I used to nanny and I have tons of nieces and nephews. I believe the parent has to take control by not thinking they need to attend to every cry of their baby. My sister had a hard time with her son, she had to go to bed at 8:00 or 9:00 pm at night just to get her son to go to bed too. I told her that was “utterly ridiculous”. I had to watch him for a week while she was on a vacation and I had him going to bed on his own in two days by letting him cry. It was painful to not go in and comfort him, but it worked and now my sister can go to bed a a normal adult time.

    Let em’ cry I say.

  • Ashley

    My kids started off sleeping fine, but when my son moved to a “big kid” bed he had a relapse. He started coming in to our room and either wanted to get in bed with us or wanted me to take him back to bed. It could happen up to 4 or 5 times per night! In a desperate attempt to break the bad habit, I made him walk back to his bed – by himself. He screamed the whole way, screamed himself back to sleep. It was a rough 2 weeks, but he did it! We did it!

  • It really bothers me that people would tell you how to parent your child, or that you would feel nervous about posting what’s going on in your life because of internet trolls. I’ll kick their ass. 😉

    I adore your blog, and your photos. Thanks for making me laugh almost every day.

  • libby

    Anytime the topic of a second child comes up, I think “I have to have another, for no other reason than to put to use everything I learned from our first child.”

    We practiced cospleeping with my daughter, now 18 months.

    (talk about a landmine)

    When she would stir I’d nurse her back to sleep. So many people were unsupportive, would say “you’ll never get her out of your bed”, etc. Well, she eventually did get out of our bed, and she is able to get to sleep without nursing. I have no regrets. I actually quite enjoyed having her nestled next to me. And she slept like a champ from the very beginning. More importantly, it let ME sleep. I really believe that those first few months post-partum are traumatic enough for a new mother, certainly for me. I didn’t see any reason to compound that with sleep deprivation and a pissed-off baby. When the time finally came to wean and sleep train her, of course there were tears. But by then, I was emotionally prepared for them.

    Congratulations on following your heart on what’s best for your child. That is one of the hardest parts of parenthood.

  • That this would be considered Land Mine Territory is equal parts fascinating and disturbing to me.

    I don’t have kids, but when friends and family members started having them in the last couple of years (I’m at That Age), I was surprised to learn that there was all this controversy over How to Get the Baby to Sleep Through the Night. The Ferber method vs. the Co-Sleeping vs. the Loud Shushing. And of course each camp is appalled by the other camp’s approach and takes every opportunity to note how harmful the other thing is to the kid and how THOSE kids will suffer grave psychological damage due to their parents’ misguided tactics.

    When I used to babysit, 15ish years ago (DEAR GOD, has it really been that long??), making $3 an hour to get clobbered in the head with Tonka trucks all day and then watch MTV after the kids went to bed, the default procedure at bedtime or naptime for every family I worked with (and endorsed by my mom, the Child Development World Leader) was to stick the baby into its crib, do something soothing for a few minutes (like rub its back), and then leave. And never come back, no matter the screams or the violent crib-shaking that might ensue.

    So I’ve always thought this was The Thing to Do, just what people did. It’s cool that people have come up with other theories or methods, but there is no question that you HAVE to do what works for you. The baby is a baby and will adapt; you are a grown human being who has to function and Get Shit Done in the world.

    But my main question is, given the landmine remark and your hesitation in discussion this when it happened, how can people judge each other over stuff like this? Especially moms vs. other moms – I don’t get it…women need to support each other in this crazy world – why we gotta be such bitches to each other?

  • Amy

    My first baby slept all the time with no help from me. I really congratulated myself on that one. Then came my second. I tried everything with her, including that healthy sleep habits book, which traumatized me since it basically said if your baby doesn’t sleep enough her brain cells will rot and she will become a diabetic emotionally scarred adult–and NOTHING I DID would get my daughter to sleep. As she got older she gradually got better and better and yet still at 11 months old she was waking up once or twice a night to nurse. Eventually one morning when she woke up at 4 am per usual, I had hate it and just let her scream. Which she did for 2.5 hours. SCREAMED! I thought the neighbors were going to call the cops, and they are friends of ours. Anyway, the next morning she screamed for 45 minutes. The next morning it was 20 minutes, and that was basically it. Now she sleeps about 11 hours per night (depending on when her brother wakes her up) and takes a 2-3 hour nap every afternoon.

    I do think the sleep discussion is so charged because every baby is different and responds to different strategies differently.

  • I got four hours of broken sleep last night. My eight-month-old daughter was up at 4 a.m., and we left her in her crib till 5:30 a.m. She didn’t stop crying, whining and hollering for more than .3 seconds. Her almost-three-year-old brother rises daily at about 5 a.m.
    They go to bed between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
    We tried the “Let them cry it out” thing, but we apparently didn’t have the wherewithal to follow through to a successful conclusion.
    Twelve hours of consecutive sleep every night?
    I imagine the sensation I feel while envisioning such a thing is similar to the craving a reformed heroin addict feels when thinking about smack.

  • annabanana

    Wow. Little people are scary – mine arrives in less than two months and kicks me every two minutes to remind me of this. Hopefully he picks up a sleep schedule quickly (and stops kicking me) because I doubt I could be as proactive about regulating his schedule as you and Jon were with Leta. Thanks for sharing.

  • salee

    Oh so good Heather – a lovely post. Dr. Wisebottom became our favorite as well. So much of what he writes was, for us, counter-intuitive.

    We had been keeping the baby up in the hopes that she would get really tired and sleep longer – all wrong, wrong, wrong. We now put her to bed at the same time each night and before she is exhausted. This resulted in some screaming episodes, but now she curls up and looks forwrd to the restful time in her cozy nest. She sleeps 10.5 hours per night and has 2 naps per day. Her parents are so very happy and well-rested.

  • Brandon

    Our almost 13 month old sleeps at most about 3 hours at a time right now. A month ago she barely slept 1 or 2 and my wife would essentially nurse her all night long. In a lot of ways this is a result of how we chose to parent (“attachment” parenting as they say). We nursed our first two daughter until they we 18 and 24 months respectively. About 3 weeks ago we decided it was time for a change with our current little one. Now, it is soley my job to put her to sleep at night, first by walking around holding her until she fell asleep, then trying to lay her down without waking her up. Just in the last few days, I have been able to put her in her crib awake, and she flops and crawls around for about a half hour or so, then falls asleep. At first, I would go get her if she woke if it was before midnight. Now that she is sleeping a little longer, I get her if she wakes up before about 2 or 3 a.m. It’s working. Slow progress, but progress, and there has been no crying involved. Thanks for letting me share our story, and thanks for sharing yours.

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