An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

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?

  • libby

    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 did 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.

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

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

  • mm

    I have a four year old little girl. For the first few months of her life she refused to eat more than 1 ounce every hour. I remember vividly sitting on the edge of the bed, having not slept for weeks, crying “Please….let’s just sleep for four hours!” Thankfully it didn’t last very long. We still struggle getting her to go to bed at bedtime (I guess we need to be more of a hard-ass). It’s slowly getting better. I think being strict about it is the key….now if I could just follow through….

  • simon

    you shouldn’t be worried. like you said, whatever works. mine is 16 months now and has been sleeping the night since one month. we were really fortunate that she just did it on her own. occasionally she does get fussy and wakes up in the middle of the night or just won’t go down. in those cases we do the very same thing and just let her cry it out. rarely does it go past 5 minutes before she gives up and goes to sleep. be tough! don’t let them take advantage of you! 🙂

  • Tara

    Heather, so glad you wrote this. We just recently resorted to a version of “cry it out” with our 11-month-old son, with good results. He wasn’t getting up more than once or twice a night, but when he did wake up, even nursing him wasn’t enough to get him back to sleep (this used to be my failsafe method!). After a few weeks of dealing with him waking for an hour or two at a time, a couple of times a night, a few days a week, we were desperate. Clearly our son is old enough to sleep through the night without nursing or any other intervention from us. I thought about trying the “No Cry Sleep Solution,” but when I read that the NCSS fall-back plan is whatever you used to do to put your child to sleep (you know, my failsafe that wasn’t working anymore??), I knew we had to go another route.

    So we let him cry. An hour and a half the first night, an hour the second night, maybe half an hour the third night, and nothing more than occasional whimpers since then when he awakens briefly before falling back to sleep. It was a brief hell, thankfully, but it is still hell to listen to your child screaming at the top of their lungs for that long. I dreaded going into his room that first morning, until I saw that my son was none the worse for wear–in fact, he’d gotten more sleep than on the nights we went to him and tried to soothe him down, so he was happier and more rested than usual. And he certainly doesn’t seem to be any less attached to us, or less trustful.

    I swore, before I had a kid, I’d never try the “cry it out” method. I also said I’d never have my baby in my bed, but we ended up cosleeping the first 2 months because my son was dead-set against the bassinette. The biggest thing that parenting has taught me is that no one approach has all the answers, and you have to do what works for you, regardless of what others might think.

    Now that my son’s sleeping consistently through the night, I need to work on naps. (as in, getting him to nap on the weekends without me sleeping right next to him) Wish me luck!

  • I was alone with twins and the first thing I had to do was hire some help. The second thing I had to do (and some people told me how awful this was, but it was the only way I was going to survive) was to put them on a strict feeding/sleeping schedule from the start. For the first two months, it was three hour shifts. Wake them, change diapers, feed them, play for a bit if it was daytime, or right back to bed if it was night time. Then I made myself lay down when they did, even if I/we didn’t sleep. Slowly, I tried to keep them up during some of those three hour shifts during the day, and make night time feeding as quick, quiet and painless as possible. By month three we were at four hour shifts. By month four we were at four hour shifts during the day, and on demand (2 and then one time a night) at night. By about mid month 5, they were sleeping through the night.

    They still sleep 12 hour nights and 2 hour day naps, just like Leta (they are 15mo.) We lost the pacifier after the first month. I kept getting tired of having to go and put them back in their mouths every 3 minutes. We may live to regret this, because now one is a finger sucker. But I rather he has his finger right now than that damned pacifier.

    Because I kept them on such a tight schedule, they never seemed to need to cry it out much. but I do remember several times when I was at my wits end, when they cried the entire time between feeding and next two hour feeding while I went and buried my head in the proverbial sand. It wasn’t often, but it did happen. And that is the secret that happens to every mom that no one will admit to. SO many mothers confessed to me that they let their babies scream on ocassion after I had children. No one ever said that to me before children.

    My babies were/are well fed, rested, and happy. They won’t remember the few times they screamed for a couple of hours. They will remember that mom stayed sane enough to keep them and not leave them off at the fire department!!! I think the mom’s that never let their kids cry it out sometimes are either on really good drugs, or have really good nannies/relatives releiving them.

  • CJ mama

    Oh how I wish I had a crystal ball and could see that the next day, next week, next year, etc. that my kids would be just FINE despite the fact that I let them cry a bit, because they always are. I have two kids (4 and 1) and I know they’ll be fine and yet I still will hold my pee until I put the littlest down for her nap because I don’t want her to cry while I run to the bathroom. All kids should be so lucky that their parents love them so much.

  • blogger101

    For whoever doubted that there was a study showing long-term psychological effects. There was a Harvard study (from the department of Psychiatry) that showed that children who are left to cry themselves to sleep suffer long-lasting damage to their nervous system. As a result, they are more susceptible to post traumatic stress and anxiety disorders, including panic attacks.

    here is a link to a discussion in the Harvard gazette about the study.

    AS one of the researchers noted: “Parents should recognize that having their babies cry unnecessarily harms the baby permanently,” Commons said. “It changes the nervous system so they’re overly sensitive to future trauma.”

    I’ll see if I can find the actual study itself.

  • SweetLucy

    At some point,and this is me pontificating because I’m not a mother, but I have been a nanny, but at some point you have to train your kids to realize that you cannot be manipulated by tears and tantrums. And it is hard. But better for all parties in the long run.

    But yes. It is painful to hear your kid cry like that and know exactly how pathetic and sad they look with little tears leaking out their eyes. But they learn, and at this point in their lives? Won’t remember this experience, but the learning part of it will stick.

  • I totally believe that each individual child and each family gets their own answers for things. My daughter has never been particularly “high needs” and didn’t cry much as an infant (crossing my fingers about the next one that’s popping out in 11 weeks). But, she didn’t sleep through the night until I weaned her at 1 year old. I probably could have done more to get her to sleep, but at the time it wasn’t a big priority for me. For the last year and a half she’s slept about 12 hours at night and takes a nap for 1-2 hours during the day. It’s awesome. I think for her several big keys were taking away the pacifier at 5 months and teaching her to suck her thumb and getting her on a regular routine and early bedtime. Some family members give us a hard time because she’s almost 3 and sucks her thumb, but I don’t care. She can self soothe when she needs it, and it was a big help in getting her to sleep better. Also, I’m a firm believer that babies and parents need early bedtimes. She does so much better when we put her to bed earlier, and I crave my alone time in the evenings. I think you have to do whatever works for you and your child. My husband and I didn’t feel comfortable with letting her cry it out, so we didn’t do it. With this kid, I’ll probably be much more interested in getting them to sleep through the night much earlier. I don’t want to be a zombie for the next year or so.

  • Flambo

    Wow. I’m so glad you had the balls to venture into this minefield, because I did a month ago and there were casualties. Well. Specifically, casualTY, as in, I’m now down one friend. One friend that I admired and trusted, and she has chosen to cut me off because I wrote a post about sleep-training my child.

    I like what one of your posters said – “Why we gotta be bitches?”

    You do realize that Dr. Sears and his AP disciples have probably taken out a hit on you. They’re also probably studying every pro-CIO poster here and listing names.

    I say, whatever works. It worked for me. I can’t say it was easy. But ultimately, I believe that continuous sleep is healthy for both child AND parent, so a couple of nights of crying are a small price to pay for long-term rest and health. Just my opinion.

    Heather….you ROCK for your honesty. Thanks for your site. I really look forward to reading it every day.

  • mw

    My daughter will be 13 months old tomorrow and I can count ON ONE HAND the amount of nights she has slept 8 hours in a row. We tried a variety of techniques including the baby whisperer and the no-cry sleep solution and ferberizing although I never made it beyond 10 minutes so I accept full blame. Currently she goes to bed slightly drowsy at 8:00. If she wakes up before 4am – no nursing and if she wakes after it’s fair game.

    While I’ve never read anything about this, she appears to be on a 48 hour schedule with her patterns (yes, there was documentation, graphs and pie charts involved). About 50% of the time she will go down for a nap without fuss and sleep for over an hour. She dropped her second nap around the time she started walking.

    The plan was to lengthen the cut off time from 4am to 5am, etc…after a few days she reverted to waking multiple times. We’ve just accepted the 4am wake-up call as normal.

  • Jenn

    Brilliant Heather. My husband and I did the same with our son Isaac – who is just 2 months younger than Leta. He too sleeps 12 hours a night and takes a 2 hour nap.

  • JGT

    Mmmm… not as many holier than thou comments as I would expect. We hired a sleep consultant (The Sleep Lady) out of desperation at 6 mos (she’s got a book out now, Kym West) and she was the best. She espoused what everyone else is saying, that kids have different temperaments and you have to roll with what works. Anyways, we were in the attachment-parenting, cosleeping camp until 6 mos when our child was waking every hour AND couldn’t go to sleep unless we were doing deep kneebends with her in our arms, bouncing rhythmically, in the bathroom with the shower on. You may think I am joking. I am NOT. Anyways, since we were basically practicing what we liked even then to call Attachment Crying with our colicky, reflux, undiagnosed allergy baby, we decided to try the Pantley No Cry methods to see if they worked. Turns out our kid is just as stubborn as her parents (!) and it ENRAGED her that we would be nearby and not doing as she CLEARLY was communicating (pick me up, nurse me, and then START BOUNCING). The Sleep Lady found this very amusing, the karmic joke of the laid back, Sears-lovin’ bfeed on demand, slingwearers breeding a child craving Hitler’s train schedule. But life is life. So we did what they call extinction — shut the door, don’t come back. It happened to be Halloween, so I passed out candy to little kids on my front porch sobbing that night, also hushing them if they got too loud! But I was lucky, my daughter cried only 20 mins that night and maybe 1/2 hour the next and that was IT. Naps she was a little grumblier about and took until after 9 mos until the right sleep hormones kicked in, and she’s never been a LONG napper but we get between 1.5 – 2 hrs/day even now at 3. But she didn’t sob about naps, just complained. Every child’s different, and in general, I feel like unless you have a difficult/sensitive child, it’s hard to recognize that a)a lot is just hard wired and has nothing to do with parenting ie if they’re good sleepers they will sleep and b)we all feel MUCH better when we’ve gotten enough sleep. I guess that’s in response to the age old back and forth about this issue. Let other people parent their children; we’re all trying our best (otherwise why would we be analyzing different sleep methods?!) and you are not morally superior just bz your child happens to respond better to one parenting method over another. Also, to tie it right into gummy bears, if your child wanted to eat 100 gummy bear vitamins (which we love but your dentist might not) you would flat out say NO no matter how much she cried bz it might kill her. Not sleeping enough might not kill you but it don’t make you grow up strong and healthy. Oh, and I don’t think the above posters want to seem this way, but saying “I hate this method but I had PPD” is just a little bit of a cop out. Come on, folks, let’s agree just to say — parent how you see fit. And if you are traveling and want a quick blackout, they sell blackout cloth at Country Curtains and you can bring a roll of painter’s tape with you. Plus, white noise machines really *are* the best. And routines. And, apparently, the fact that our bfeeding-on-demand monster (12+ times a day until weaned after 2) would never take a pacifier despite our desperate best efforts. Thanks so much, Heather! You truly throw it all out there, so honestly. Appreciatively…

  • textimage

    first rule of fight club, is don’t talk about fight club. ARE YOU CRAZY?! im all for talking about taboo subjects but some things are just sacred… like my sleep.

  • Whatever works for your family is the best answer.

    We slept with ours until we’d had it. Then we did cry it out. And I was the one crying on the other side of the door.

    Now they both sleep for 10-12 hours a night, no problems. We also read and rock for a long time. Or we do family read if one parent is out of town, and then rock each child in their room. I will rock my sons until it’s their feet pushing the rocker.

  • I can only imagine–wait, I CANNOT imagine what parents have to go through with their children. Every time I hear or read something like this, it puts me in awe of the amazing nature of parenthood. I agree with the “whatever works” method of getting things done, and I think it’s absolutely acceptable to let the child scream–because you HAVE to do it in order to remain sane. I can see where people might think it’s cruel, but I think that in some [most] cases, it’s necessary.

  • noodlebugs

    Did I do CIO? Yes
    Do I support it? No, not anymore. It doesn’t make sense to me anymore now that I’ve read about the other side.
    Did CIO work for me? Once yes, twice no.
    Am I afraid to be jumped all over for a “troll” if I express why I don’t support it? Absolutely.
    Do I love this blog? Resounding Yes!

    Honestly, I have more comments on your commenters then I do on your post. That being the case, this is not the forum for it. I’ll go put that over on my own blog sometime.

  • misty

    Essentially, it has gone like this with all four kids:

    –first feeding to go was the Right Before Bed one

    –get up w/baby up until it was one night feeding and *at a specific time*. The time thing was/is key. Once it was every night at 3 am for a week or so, it was routine–not hunger. Between four kids with very different personalities & needs, it has always hit right around 4 to 5 months without fail.

    –let them cry it out at that time. longest it took was four nights, shortest two (depending on kid)

    We also have a very “bare bones” bedtime routine, no elaborate schedule for it as some do.

  • DDM

    We used the book, ‘The Baby Whisperer’. Well, we specifically used the E.A.S.Y. method that she explains, tweeked a bit to fit our life. Our son was a couple months old when we started, and it was the best thing we ever did! Still, he didn’t sleep through the night until 9 months old. At 9 months of age, I’d had it with the night stuff, and we did a form of cry it out. When he’d wake, I would go in and comfort him without picking him up, then leave. Let him cry for 5 minutes, repeat. Let him cry for 10 minutes, repeat. I only had to do it for about a week, and he never cried more than 15 minutes before falling asleep again. Now, he’s a champion sleeper. 12 hours a night. Our first clue that his brain malformation is causing him discomfort, is a ‘ripple’ in his sleep pattern. I do however, miss him napping during the day. He gave them up at about 3&1/2, and I cried myself through that one.

  • lmmom

    I meant to share my wisdom when you asked for comments about Stay at Homes vs Workings, and here it is now:

    Every Family Gets A Different Right Answer.

    We all have different kids, needs, pressures, priorities. We do the best we can, and we rely on each other.

  • kelley

    At 5 weeks old my daughter woke up to the world and decided napping was overrated. I didn’t give sleep a second thought until this happened (she’ll sleep when she’s tired, just like me!), and then I remembered your post about Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I ran to the bookstore and immediately began putting it into practice. It took a few very painful weeks of getting her to sleep even though she fought it like hell and it took total devotion on my part, to not let anything else take priority during that period.

    She has been a phenomenal sleeper since, sleeping 8+ hours at 2 months old, going to sleep on her own in her crib and soothing herself back to sleep when she woke up. She’s now almost 8 months old, goes to bed at 6 pm, wakes at 6-6:30 am and takes two good naps per day.

    This is entirely because I have made her sleep a priority, not because I lucked out and got “the sleeper” as the others in my birth class like to say. Their kids are all fatigued, sleep in mom & dad’s bed, wake every hour or two and nurse off and on all fucking night long. They have no idea what they are doing, and I tend to keep my mouth shut. When we first started putting this into practice, I told them all about the book but everyone brushed me off like I was full of shit. It was a very hard, exhausting few weeks while we got her straightened out, but the result is incredible. Much like many aspects of parenting, I imagine.

    I never “Ferberized” because I think I nipped the problem in the bud, starting her on the right track at 5 weeks. I’ll do the same method with the next baby as well.

  • Don’t Panic

    We did just what you did, with perfect, wonderful, restful results, and now I have a second who is 4 months old, and I’m so scared because I know we have to do it again. It was so painful.

  • Carli

    WIth the first baby, we tried after 3 months to get her to sleep in her own bed. I was going back to work and had to get out of the “sleep when she does” cycle. After a few weeks of me being too tired to fight with her or wanting her to hate me for being gone all day AND torturing her at night, I finally relented to putting her down in her own bed at 8 pm, then when she woke up (around 11), she just came in with us. Somehow, I still got pregnant again, and was only able to get her out of our bed at 12 months, when her big toe got painfully stuck in my belly button. Out with the old kid and in with the new. By this time she was 13 months old and could sleep through the night. Kid #2 was out of our bed at 6 months, but also in during the night. Finally we got the kid to sleep in his own bed when we moved into a new house and told him it was the new rule. He was 14 months old, and still woke up in the night a few times a week, but went right back to sleep. With kid #3, she still wakes up about 3 nights a week, becasue she is a VERY light sleeper and can’t find her binky to save her life. I never gave this one a chance to sleep with us, and didn’t “rescue” her as much as I had with the first two. Tough life lessons that I wish I knew before I had any kids.

  • Reading through these comments makes me wonder who are the people who ARE judgemental about how a child sleeps/nurses/eats/goes to school (or while we’re at it whether mom works or not, right?). I’m honestly so sick of hearing about these so-called “Mommy Wars.” It seems like most reasonable people know that the only real expert on any given child is that child’s parent(s)!

    So, right on, Heather. I’m glad that you are enjoying the fruits of your hard work with Leta. I couldn’t endure the crying, and my son slept in a cosleeper and then in a toddler bed next to mine bed for three years. He’s six now and sleeps fine in his own room. Whatever works right?

  • I think I consider myself and expert when it comes to knowing what every of these books talk about. The first book I bought was Dr. Sears and I have to say that I got brainwashed. My daughter has been a poor sleeper from day one. I nursed her until she was 10 months and she slept thru the night for the first time when she was nine months old. I read Dr. Ferber’s book to bee “in good” with my husband, but never agreed on the “cry it out” technique. I just could not handle it even though I was going absolutely crazy sleep deprived. My daughter has been sleeping with us since she was about 4 months, and I started sleeping better. She is going to be a year this week, and I do not regret having her with us. I feel very close to her, and when I am not around during the day, I feel like we make up for the time. I know that it’s going to be hard to get her out of our bed, but It can be done. So far, we like sharing our sleep with her, even though it requires some other sacrifices.

  • Okay, I see the land mines starting to explode here, so let the Bad Parenting Accusations begin, huh?

    Here’s the thing: Applying the Ferber method is not “bad parenting,” just because you disagree with it. And doing something that ensures your child will have better sleep in the long run is hardly akin to spanking or hitting. I have not done any research, but I would be interested to know of any long term studies that corroborate claims of psychological damage strictly due to the Ferber method. Clearly, Leta is a happy and healthy child, with very loving parents. Can we expect to see otherwise healthy individuals who do something questionable as an adult using “Ferber Method Syndrome” as a defense? This is comical.

  • Lolajb

    You evil cow!!!
    Naaahhh…. I’m just jackin’ yah.
    I wish I had the guts to do it as early as you did.
    My eldest woke up every 2 hours or less every single freaking night of her life until she was 2 and a half … at that point I also had a newborn and I thought! THAT’S IT!
    Read “Healthy Habits Yada Yada”, realized the advice could be boiled down to “Let her cry, she’ll eventually stop”.
    After 4 nights of Hell, she became an OK sleeper – not great, but whatever! I’d take 3 hours or more in a row.
    I waited til my youngest was 10 months, and like Leta, I can’t even go into her room at all, because she takes that as some indication that it’s time to party and is REALLY pissed if I leave again, so we just let her go at it. She eventually stops.
    Unless you’ve been through it, you don’t know the kind of hell a nocturnal child can put you through.
    Salut to you for being smarter than I am, sooner.

  • i have a friend who told me her six+ month old still sleeps with her and her husband. i was surprised since a) i don’t have a baby and no nothing of child raising etiquette and b) the only things i know about babies i read on here and you had gotten your baby to sleep 12 hours straight at 6 months! but you already knew that. yes, everyone’s different, but if i ever have children, you will definitely be the example by which i live.

    p.s. did you take your baby out in public when she was a month old? i have another friend who just had a baby and she and her partner refuse to expose it to the light of day lest he catch a deadly disease and wither away to dust.

  • Kristi W

    I also used the first book you mentioned as well as “The Baby Whisperer” by Hogg and “Babywise” by Ezzo. Since then I have been pointed to a website that does a poor job of explaining why Ezzo’s methods are child abuse (taking sentences out of context etc). I thought it gave a great overview along with the other two books. It was great for my daughter (now 27 months old). We went throught some horrific nights where I questioned my sanity, but she finally slept through the night at about 8 weeks and consistently at about 3 months (though she had a few occasions since then with night terrors and power struggles). My son slept through the night at 6 weeks…consistently. I have to say, my son has been SO much easier on every level, than my daughter was. On another note, I have had little luck with Ezzo’s “Potty Training 1-2-3”. I guess my daughter is very advanced in the potty training area for her age, but has not gotten it completely (like telling me when she has to go at home or going by herself – she has no problem telling me when she has to go when we are out). I think it is a power issue maybe. I would guess that you would not be a fan of Ezzo as he has a religious twist to his “Babywise” books that actually are a secular version of his “Growing Kids Gods Way” Christian series. Despite the horrible things people say about him, his methods have worked for us and if he’s a jerk, well I’m glad I’ll probably never have to meet him!

  • Tess

    My son is 22 months and he’s never had a problem sleeping through the night. I think it had to be this way or I would have gone mad since I had to get up at 430 every morning to get ready for work. His schedule is sleep from 9pm-730am and nap 12pm-3pm. The one downside is that he’ll only sleep in his crib.

  • Hell yeah, I see the land mines. I’m with you: do whatever works. As long as someone isn’t harming their child, I say more power. And if people disagree? They can suck it.

    My daughter, now 5, had the same problem as Leta. Only I didn’t summon up the cajones to not pick her up when she started howling. And boy, did I PAY FOR IT. Noelle did not sleep through the night until she was ONE MOTHERF-ING YEAR OLD. I think it did her more harm than good – she got less sleep than she should have, and would have if I could have seen through more logical eyes. But where’s logic when you are a brand new mom with little help and no experience? IT’S IN A POOPY DIAPER, THAT’S WHERE IT IS.

  • We did pretty much the same as you did. It was horrific at the time, but worth it in the end.

  • blogger101

    well, I guess I’ll have to be the first one to say it…

    I think Ferber and his training method is terrible and traumatizing to babies. Just because something “works” doesn’t mean it is good parenting to do it. Spanking or even beating your kids might work to make them stop their misbehavior, but it will have long term impact.

    I truly believe that letting your baby scream bloody murder (or even as Ferber says, crying to the point of throwing up repeatedly) to teach it to sleep is a long term mistake, with potential short term pay off.

    that said, obviously if the choice is between PPD or even complete exhaustion and the bad parenting that flows from that, then I understand trying this approach out. but there are other alternatives that don’t cause the unwanted psychological effects.

    also, the ped that thought babies should be routinely sleeping through the night at 4 months is off his rocker. Likely many of his patients formula feed, which makes sleeping through the night easier because the food is so dense. But when you are breastfeeding the reality is they need to feed more often.

    anyway, I love your site and am not a troll, I just happen to strongly believe Ferber etc. are misleading parents and I am saddened to think of how many people are about to go out and buy this book after reading about it here.

  • TiaJen


  • The Bold Soul

    I’m not a parent, so I can only imagine how difficult that must have been for you and for any parent who is trying to get a child to sleep. What I have observed, however, is that whatever methods or tricks you end up using, the START of being able to solve the sleep problem is when the PARENTS decide they’ve had enough and they take firm steps to change the situation. Once the parents give themselves permission to do whatever they need to do, the rest seems to fall into place after that.

    I saw this with my friend and her two youngest (she has 4) both of whom had difficulty going to sleep in their own cribs if mom or dad wasn’t in there with them (they didn’t put their kids to bed until 9:30 or 10pm, and let their kids sleep in their bed if the kids wanted to, or they would sleep on the floor in the kids rooms if the kids couldn’t sleep… I never agreed with that but kept my mouth shut). My friend seemed to agonize over not wanting the child to be upset or cry a lot at bedtime, and I think it was her ambivalence that was the problem. Once she, as the mom, got on board and made up her mind, those kids got with the program amazingly quickly. And now everyone sleeps fine.

    In my sister’s household, in contrast, neither of her kids ever once put up a fuss about bedtime, and I think that was a combination of their own personalities (they have the “cooperative at bedtime” genes) PLUS their parents being very firm about bedtime. Bedtime was always about 8 or 8:30pm when the kids were young (so they’d get that 10-12 hours of sleep, plus naps, like Leta). They also rarely, if ever, let their kids sleep in their bed… the kids had their own crib/bed and their own rooms and that was that.

    Even as a non-married non-mommy, I always enjoy your writing, your photography and especially your candor. Never censor yourself because of the critics out there. Until someone has walked in your shoes they have no right to judge.

  • Well, I didn’t know until today that the different ways to get your kid to sleep in their own bed, through the night, had names. Apparently, I am a CIO mom, myownself. I learned it the hard way when my firstborn was almost a year and a half old. She was already talking in sentences, and would break my heart with the tears and sobs and “Please mommy… I want mommy… I love you mommy” coming from the other room, but we toughed it out, and thus my sanity was saved.
    Worked for me and my little family, but I think it really is different for each kid and each parent. The real bitch-on-a-stick is when two parents in the same household can’t agree on the right approach (that was Kid # 2, and I am still scarred to hell and back from that scene).

  • Lolly

    no kids of my own, but i was the full time nanny for a little girl, now 2, from day one. her parents couldn’t stand to let her scream, so gave in to having a family bed instead. nothing wrong with that except they complained they didn’t like the situation.
    so when i was there in the evening they would turn to me for bed time. i’d put her down and she’d cry for about 2 min and be out, seemed like a easy child. but neither of her parents could stand to be “the bad guy” and walk away when she was crying (and she knew it)…since i wasn’t there that often in the evening that beautiful child is only recently sleeping the whole night in her own bed.

  • My 2 year old son Philip was the exact same way when it came to screaming: attending only made it worse. He is still like that, as well. No cuddles or feeds or rocks or play or anything helped, and we had some crying-i-out as well. I think sometimes women who have non-screamers really just don’t get how some other babies are genuinely born with other personalities. They are born with the ones they’ll have when they are 40, for the most part. Loud, likes or hates physical contact, likes or hates personal space invasions, likes or hates independent thought… and so on.

    Anyway, we used the Baby Whisperer technique of dream feeds. He woke up like clockwork, at 3 months old, at 1am and 5am. At midnight I’d wake up and go feed him in his sleep. He never woke up, there are specifics in the book on how to accomplish this. I did that for a few weeks until he had gained a few more pounds, then stopped. He was old enough and fat enough to sleep through the night (her rule was 10 pounds and having around 30 oz during the day) and so by feeding him in his sleep for a little while, and not much mind you, only a few ounces, it was enough to trick him into sleeping through. He didn’t wake up because he wasn’t hungry, and for HIM, that was why he woke up.

    Also, we REALLY encouraged thumb sucking. We had his pacifier for 2 months and went through the same thing about waking up all the time when it fell out etc, but he wouldn’t sleep without sucking. Once he could *physically* such his thumb again (we’rd how they can do it in the womb but then they forget or something) we encouraged the hell out of it. Putting his thumb in his mouth for him, things like that. THAT was the big kicker. When he woke up in the night, he could soother *himself*, and started sleeping 12 hours.

    Now that he’s 2 he sleeps 10-11 hours like a dream, and I have thanked my lucky stars to havea thumb sucker no matter what anyone else says.

  • Juniper

    Wow, reading this takes me back to sleep training my child, which sounds like a remarkably similar process to yours, although, we played the ‘replace the pacifier’ game up until she was 8 months (and then had to actually cut the end off the pacifier so we wouldn’t cave – it was a scary, relationship defining moment).

    We weren’t even trying to Ferberize our child, and were going with the “Baby Whisperer” method, which recommends consoling a crying baby but then letting the child fall asleep on her own, as soon as she is consoled. Of course, the author fails to point out that once you take away a child’s main form of soothing (pacifier, nursing to sleep), she is INCONSOLABLE and it turns into a cry-it-out session anyway. Very hard on the soul, but so, so worth it.

    One thing I’d reiterate that you said is that going back in when she was crying just made it so much worse. It took a long time for this notion to make it into our thick, sleep-deprived skulls, but eventually it did. She just turned 2 and, like Leta, has been sleeping 10-12 hours/night ever since that harrowing experience.

  • ryansmom

    Hi Heather,

    I just found your blog the other day and I love it. I only wish I would have known about it 2 1/2 years ago when I had my first son. I am due any day now with my second child and am terrified of going through the sleep issues again! I also used the HSHHC book and now my son is a model sleeper.

    Anyway- I remember when I was going through the tough times someone said to me “your childs’ life is so long so in the grand scheme of things, 9 months to year of sleep deprivation isn’t that bad. Soon they’ll be heading off to college and you’ll miss those days when they needed and wanted you.” My response?……


    Side note- her child is 37 and still co -sleeps.
    Just Joking! 😉

  • A friend of mine had to deal in a similar way with her (stubborn!) 18-month-old boy who constantly would climb out of his crib and come to wherever they were. So for two solid nights, she and her husband took turns — whenever Kyle would climb out of his crib, one of them would silently pick him up and put him back in it and not say a word, just turn around and leave his room. Many times he’d immediately climb back out and even BEAT them back down the stairs! Calmly, the other parent would then pick him up and take him back to his crib, again without saying a word or giving him any attention. Over and over and over and over again. It had to be so frustrating — and they went through stretches where they really thought it wasn’t going to work at all (the kid truly IS stubborn). But after the second night of this, Kyle finally stayed in his crib. Of course, then they had to go through it all over again when they put him in a twin bed six months later. (What, no bars? That must mean I have PERMISSION to climb out whenever I want to!)

  • Sheila

    I let my daughter sleep with me from day one in the hospital, drove the nurses nutty, but once I got the hang of nursing her without actually waking up, it was like not even having a baby at all. As a single mom, I decided “whatever works is good enough” and now she’s a happy healthy 5-year old who still occasionally ends up in my bed in the middle of the night, but whatever. Pretty soon she’ll be a teenager and the thought of wanting to share my bed will be a distant and repulsive memory to her.

  • brilntdsgz

    With my first he just started to sleep through the night – then we went on vacation and blew it all to hell. He never slept through the night after that. He would wake up and want to sleep with me – everynight.

    With my daughter she was easy – she sleeps 11 to 12 hours a night and takes a 2 hour nap. She did it on her own – the first few nights I kept waking up every 3 to 4 hours and would have to check on her to make sure was ok.

  • CanadianMom

    We were somewhat lucky. My son, now 6months old, was a screamer by day and a sleeper by night. He got a cold at 6 weeks, I gave him some tylenol for a fever, and he slept 12hrs. I figured it was a fluke, but he’s still doing it. I guess he liked it?

    We did make good use of the Healthy Sleep Habits book because of the “screamer by day” personality that he carried around with him. I finally got him on a great schedule and he still takes 2 2hr+ naps (most days).

    I don’t understand the “controversy” in getting your child to sleep. It’s your kid, and as long as you’re not harming it, what’s the big deal?

  • I think that as long as children are raised with love and structure and consistency and gentleness, the details just don’t mean as much.

    Which is to say, the constant controversy of how you put your baby to sleep, whether or not you wear your baby, when you weaned your baby, etc — it’s all just fodder to beat each other up and it’s really unnecessary. I hope you don’t get beat up over this.

    I’ve done it both ways. My firstborn slept with us until she was almost one. At one I started sleep training and she promptly came down with RSV and my guilt made me think it was punishment for my bad parenting. I got pregnant when she was 18 months old, which was a wonder as I was still sleeping on the floor in her room so that she would sleep all night, and I finally got serious. Two weeks later, she was sleeping like a champ — 12 hours at night and 1.5 hour nap.

    So when the second came a few months later, I started doing some sleep training with her around 4 months. I eased her into it, but she was definitely allowed to cry. Now she’s almost one, and I can lay her in bed after her feeding and she dozes off.

    If I had to compare them today? They both get all the sleep they need for their age. They are both well rested, bright, beautiful, intelligent, funny, well attached girls.

    Like I said, as long as they get there with love, the rest doesn’t matter.

    (And I may steal your tinfoil idea!!)

  • b.

    I feel like I should be slapped for saying this, especially after reading some of the comments about babies who took forever to sleep through the night, but…

    My son started sleeping through the night at 9 weeks. And without much of a fight either…

    HOWEVER… the pacifier-weaning didn’t go well. i kept giving in and giving it back to him until one day i just threw it away. IT WAS HELL.

  • Amy

    We used Ferber on both of ours. My son (now 2.5) learned to sleep through the night on his own at around 4-5 months, but he couldn’t fall asleep without first a bottle, being rocked to sleep, and then rocked and rocked and rocked until he was dead asleep (about an hour and 1/2 process) – at which time we would tiptoe quietly and try to lay him down without waking him up. I quickly grew tired of that routine, although he never did cry longer than 45 minutes. We were lucky.

    My daughter (now 8 months old) on the other hand, was tricky. One night she’d sleep 8 hours and then the next night she’d wake up 8 times. There was no rhyme or reason. We finally decided to Ferberize her too. Luckily, we rarely had to listen to her more than 20 minutes. Now both kids sleep about twelve hours a night each.

    (Tonight they’ll both wake up multiple times because I put that on the Internet.)

  • a shot of burbon in the bottle.

    i’m kidding!

    sort of.

  • Kathleen

    I’ve got 2 kids – one is 22 months, the other is 10 weeks.

    My first boy WOULD NOT sleep through the night. He would go down for the night really easily, but he was up every 90 minutes / 20 hours for months. I read Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child but I simply could NOT do what you did and do it all at once. I didn’t think he could go so long without being fed…
    So he kept waking up every 2 to 3 hours until I stopped breastfeeding at 8 months.

    I then almost immediately became pregnant, which was just a huge joke God was playing on me, right?

    I kept feeding my oldest once a night until he was 13 months, and then he just stopped. I refused to go in and get him until 6am, but by then he was sleeping 11 to 12 hours a night and still napping twice a day, so I figured 6am was reasonable.

    He’s still sleeping great, and still napping for a couple of hours a day – in his big bed. I am SO jealous of you that Leta still stays in her crib. I would pay money for that one.

    We’ve been lucky with our second baby. At 10 weeks he wakes up once a night.

  • Adriane

    Reading this post of yours has brought back some horrible memories for myself. First off I read your site pretty much everyday for the fun of it. Your posts are hilarious because I myself have a little one about the same age as Leta, but let me tell you this post is just all TOO familiar! I use to have the best pediatrician in my opinion ever…until he miss diagnosed ear infections and we ended up with a hearing loss (that was repairable but still). All in all he told me to do exactly what you did. My husband and I would put my son Christyan to bed at night and we would have to go and sit outside because he would scream not just scream BUT SCREAM for what seemed like forever and yes it was forever. It also took more than just a few days but in time he finally slept. I love my son more than life itself but the thought of having another one and having to go through that again i am just not sure…Now we are learning to use the potty and let me tell you he is doing so well except for the fact that he is now waking up again having to go potty so no water or anything after 7! I can handle this definitely better than the screaming! It sort of gave me a momentary lapse of how horrible it was having to wake up night after night.

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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