The Great Sleep Debate, Jill Petey, Co-sleeper, Arm's reach Cosleeper, Dr. Sears, Attachment Parenting, Sleeping through the night

There’s nothing that seems to be a more universal conundrum, or a more divisive issue for parents, than how their babies sleep. The first question that I get hit with in almost every discussion about my kid is, ‘Does he sleep through the night yet?’ ‘Sleeping through the night’ seems to be the panacea of every parent. But is it natural, a reasonable expectation, and is it the best thing for babies? As the mother of a six-month old, I really don’t know what to think. My husband and I have poured over tons of parenting books (including the entire Dr. Sears collection), and have gone back and forth between a number of philosophies on the sleep issue. Now, with a six-month old who sleeps in our bed and wakes up for a comfort nibble 3-4 times per night, we’re rethinking the issue and our perhaps overly literal interpretation of Attachment Parenting. We’d love to hear what you think about babies and sleep – so please leave a comment below! To foster a dialogue and encourage a forum discussion about this issue, we will be sending a free Inhabitots T-shirt (or onesie) to our favorite response in the comment section.

The Great Sleep Debate, Jill Petey, Co-sleeper, Arm's reach Cosleeper, Dr. Sears, Attachment Parenting, Sleeping through the night

Although we started co-sleeping with an Arm’s Reach co-sleeper, at this point our baby is just in our bed for most of the night. Before we had our baby, we were completely wedded to the ‘Attachment Parenting’ philosophy, interpreting this philosophy very strictly to mean: co-sleeping, feeding on demand, no baby-training, and no schedules. However, at this point in time, ‘sleeping-through-the-night’ is starting to look very appealing to my bloodshot eyes, and I’m wondering if this is something that can be achieved through child-centered, no-cry-it-out methods of baby training. I’m still a bit horrified by the concept of ‘Ferberizing’ (training your baby to sleep soundly through the old fashion ‘cry-it-out’ method), although I can certainly understand the appeal of trying to teach your baby to self-soothe and fall asleep on his own.

The Great Sleep Debate, Jill Petey, Co-sleeper, Arm's reach Cosleeper, Dr. Sears, Attachment Parenting, Sleeping through the night

I’ve seen the ‘Dr Sears Sleep-Training’ video from the Babycenter website, and I am considering trying an approach like this. Has anyone tried something like this? Does it work?

I’m guessing that many parents out there who are interested in eco-friendly living are probably also leaning towards the attachment parenting side of things in terms of child-rearing philosophies, so I’m hoping to hear from readers who have had similar experiences and can share their own opinions.

What are you doing about the sleep issue?
What are your philosophies?
Is it possible for a co-sleeping baby to ‘sleep through the night’ without waking up several times?
If we don’t get our baby into a crib before the end of the first year, will we ever get him out of our bed before he reaches kindergarten?

I would love to hear opinions on the above issues from any and all of you. And remember, I will send an Inhabitots T-shirt (or onesie) to my favorite response. Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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26 Responses to “THE GREAT SLEEP DEBATE: Tell Us What You Think!”

  1. Beth Shea says:

    We have surely had our share of sleep issues with our little one. She had severe colic, coupled with acid reflux as a newborn and well into infancy, and was not able to self-soothe. Crying also worsened her reflux, so even if we wanted to go the “cry-it-out” route (which we never wanted to do!) we didn’t have that option. Our pediatrician advised us to keep her sleeping upright at all times, and most nights, she slept right on my chest, as I sat on an incline. We are convinced having her in bed with us may have saved her from choking on a couple of occasions, as her reflux was so severe, we had to sleep with a nasal aspirator in one hand to suction out her mouth many times a night. Bottom line: we did not get a natural sleeper. When she was ten months old, I was forced to quit nursing for medical reasons, and my purist, formula shunning self went through great sadness. However, it was then that Olivia went from waking up 10-12 times a night to nurse (yes, you read that correctly), to waking up only once. My husband and I gave her 1 bottle of formula at bedtime, so we knew exactly how many ounces she was taking in. Then, as Dr. Sears advises, my husband was the one who tended to her when she woke up as she was so used to doing, several times a night. After four nights of him cradling her, rocking her, and loving her when she wanted to nurse, she started sleeping through the night, realizing she no longer needed those nibbles to sleep. This wasn’t without a few tears, but there’s a huge difference between holding your crying baby close to your heart while reassuring them, and leaving them alone to cry themselves. As for co-sleeping, she is now 18 months old and still spends the majority of every night in our bed. She starts off in her crib, which is sidecar to our bed, but we have to “wear her down” in the Nojo sling for every nap and every bedtime. When she wakes up in the middle of the night yelling, Mommy!? I simply bring her into bed with us. We can’t say this is our IDEAL situation, as we’d love for her to be able to self soothe and fall asleep on her own and stay asleep in her crib, but the way we see it is, this period of her life is so short, and our time with her is divinely precious. Yes, it means being kicked in the face, having your pillow usurped, and having your nose headbutted, but we’d much prefer her near us than down the hall in a cold, dark room. We cherish our cuddles with our sleeping baby, knowing this time is actually fleeting, even though those newborn nights seemed endless. I used to be afraid to admit all of the craziness surrounding her sleep habits, but I have embraced it now, and it makes it much easier. I think people are way too swayed by what doctors and other parents say they SHOULD be doing, and parents should just follow their own loving instincts when it comes to their child and what sleeping situation works best for their family.

  2. Abigail Doan says:

    As a mother of 16 month old twins, I am not sure if I have followed any ‘norms’ during this rather amazing and somewhat physically challenging journey of being a new parent. I have not slept through the night since October 10, 2007, and I state this with amazement and also shock, as I was someone who really loved and cherished sleep prior to becoming a parent.

    We began co-sleeping with our twins for all the reasons that Jill and Beth openly state above. I also have to confess, that with twins waking up 3-4 times a night to feed, this was one of the only ways that I COULD get any sleep, that is, by feeding and then drifting off at intervals for 1 to 2 hours of sleep with one of the babies at my side.

    Since I have been living overseas with my family for the past two plus months, the babies have been sleeping in travel cribs on either side of our bed. When they wake up for a feed during the night, they inevitably come into the bed with us for a while – sometimes individually, sometimes together.

    We are just entering a period where I feel that we might begin weaning, primarily because I feel that I need to recharge and gain strength for the next chapter of toddlerhood. I also want them to feel at ease being able to self-soothe or simply enjoy time with us prior to bedtime and then snuggle in for the night in their own warm beds.

    Like Jill, I am amazed by how many people ask us whether our babies sleep though the night – it seems to be a sort of badge that parents want to wear or flash at their pediatricians. For us, it has always been very important that our babies are well-adjusted and at peace playing, eating, sleeping, exploring during both day and night time hours. We actually have a pretty set schedule for all activities, and this makes sleep not the goal but just another vital component in our daytime nap and night time routine.

    I am not really saying anything conclusive here, besides perhaps that fact that I am very glad that I stuck with my instincts for this first year and a half, and did not stop breast feeding or co-sleeping, particularly with twins. I feel that this time has allowed us to have a shared experience as a family – one that has been extremely challenging at times but also a real bonding experience. Folks assume that with twins, the breast feeding and co-sleeping is an impossibility, but I believe that each twin has an even greater sense of self because of the time that we took to treat our babies like singletons.

    In the end, each parent also has to do what allows her/him to feel as healthy and energetic as possible, and as we all know, each one of us has a very different definition of optimal health. For me, this has been a very emotionally and physically demanding time, but one where my understanding of self has really expanded and grown to encompass the nurturing of two very unique babies, despite the attachment we have fostered and perhaps now need to redefine.

  3. jackie_d302 says:

    After our sons one year check up the doctor informed us that he now can sleep threw the night. Our son had other thoughts about this! My son only sleept in our room a hand full of times and it was never in our bed. The first three months I thought I wasnt ever going to make it. I wasnt living day to day I was living moment by moment. I have come to realize that just because other mothers or doctors think that a certian way of doing this or that isnt nessissarly best for the baby. For example we could never co-sleep. I was informed that it was safe as long as we werent over weight, no sleep apthima, and neither of us were drinking. Well were both over weight my husband suffers from sleep apthima and would have a beer after a hard days work. I toss and turn all threw the night. It just wouldnt work out for us. Then we would be stuck with the question of when do we put him into his own bed. Our pedi informed us that babies need to be feed all threw the day and night, depending on there age, so blood sugar levels stay where they need to be. But once he truned one then it was no longer needed. What is so majic about one? We adjusted to what our sleeping needs were. I ended up putting a twin bed in our sons room after he was born. But moved back in to my our bed as he did not need me as much. Basically do what is safe and what your family needs and adjust as time goes along. I do belive it is unhealthy, for my family, if our son were to sleep in our bed. Once he is older we plan on having a palet on the floor instead of squeezing in our bed. Its a plan, not set in stone and we will adjust as needed. My advice: this is what worked for us. As long as everyone is safe then do what is best for your indivdual family. There is not a true right and wrong or majic touch that works on every baby to get them to sleep threw you have to figure it out.

  4. KiwiLog says:

    Kiwi’s Moms Meet program recently had a debate about different sleep methods, and saw arms reach co-sleepers as a great option. The article is pretty helpful and will be up on the Moms Meet website starting in March…

  5. Swarrell says:

    I think that I am going to be in the minority here, and what I have may not really apply to your situation. Each baby is obviously different, rarely ever fitting one single mode. I have also been told that most things practiced in the first year, whether co-sleeping, using a pacifier, whatever. can be easily corrected if they become a problem.

    My wife and I both work and so that means that we were obviously looking at how we can all function as a family together. We have had to balance letting her fuss for a few minutes (we never made it much longer than a few minutes) with picking her up, feeding her, or seeing if a pacifier would soothe her. I think that is a battle we all fight. But the demand feeding was never an option. The danger is that a baby snacks and then never really gets the second hind milk that has all the good calories. Our process was to get full feedings to stabilize the baby’s hunger. Her body then allowed the baby to sleep. We are at almost 14 weeks and our daughter gets about 6-8 hours of sleep a night. I take the late shift while my wife goes to bed early (8:30-9:30) and feed at about 10:30. Our baby almost always fall right asleep at about 11:00 and goes until about 4:30-6:00. She is on a 2.5-4 hour feeding routine. She is about the happiest, most laid-back baby I have ever seen. She is most definitely a well-adjusted baby and the routine allows us to take her places with us because we know roughly what her needs will be. We have been going out to town with her since she was two weeks old without any major problems. She rarely fusses unless she is tired or hungry. I can’t say enough about the routine.

    Like I said, I don’t know how relevant this is if you are demand feeding, but you are now talking about mommy sleep deprivation and that is one of the big factors in postpartum depression. Just remember that you need take care of yourself so that you can take care of your baby. I love my daughter so much it hurts some times to think that she is going to change and not be the sweet baby forever, but I love my wife at least as much and so that means that I want her to be healthy and able to live a well-adjusted life also.

    I don’t know if this is helpful at all, but I thought I would share my story.



  6. Brenna says:

    When I had baby #1, I fully intended to have him sleep in our room in a co-sleeper or pack-n-play until he was about 6 months old. Unfortunately I learned very quickly that he was an incredibly noisy sleeper and I already was a light sleeper who was so paranoid about baby’s every noise and move. I wasn’t getting any sleep and I think I woke him up checking on him that he wasn’t getting as much either. So at 8 weeks, I had had all I could take and he moved to his crib in his room. He continued to wake up to 10 times a night until he was 8 months old. I was a walking zombie and I knew it wasn’t healthy for him either. He also needed me to go to sleep and would cry for hours if my husband tried, or if I didn’t nurse him back to sleep.

    We tried every trick, sleep technique, advice we could get that did NOT involve any form of cry-it-out. None worked for him. I eventually succumbed to trying cry-it-out when he was close to 10 months old. I was heartbroken when he cried the first night. It turned out to be the only solution that worked for him though. He is now 5 and sleeps around 12 hours a night.

    Baby #2 was much different than #1 and we never had to let him cry. Baby #3 did cry quite a bit when she was around 6 weeks to about 4 months when I finally figured out that she didn’t want us rocking her to sleep and she did much better on her own. Go figure. She is much more similar to #1, but I had it figured out sooner with her. 😉 She is now 8 months old and is waking 1-2 times a night.

    All babies/kids are different and there is no technique that will work for all or all families. You have to find what works for you, your baby, and the other members of the family. One thing I have learned in this quest for sleep is that it is incredibly important for all of us. Important for mood, productivity, brain development, and on and on. That said, there is no right answer when it comes to sleep. Don’t let anyone sway you to make a decision you are not comfortable with. If it’s working, great, if not you need to find the best way for you to change it.

  7. Jennifer Chait says:

    Cedar co-slept with me and his dad pretty much from birth. Personally I think this is why I got more sleep as a new parent, not less. If I would have had to get up to feed him, change him, what have you, it would have been hard. It was way easier having him in my bed. Plus, to be honest, I don’t see the point in having a baby then placing them so far away in a crib. (We never even owned a crib). It’s semi-unreasonable to me to expect a little babe to sleep all on his own after he’s been living in your belly so close to you. Then he’s born and you ship him off to be on his own. It seems kind of rude and sudden for the baby. Cedar slept far better with us than without us – and would sleep through the night by the age of 8 or 9 months (I did ween him off of night feedings so I could get more sleep – plus for the sake of his teeth). I think that when a baby sees that he is part of the family in such a large way it’s comforting and makes him feel closer to the family unit as a whole. All in all, I’m super pro-co-sleeping and in our case, we experienced very few cons.

  8. I grew up in a cosleeping family. It was a wonderful experience for me, especially after my parents divorced when I was four. During those hard times, sleeping with my parents provided me with comfort and reassurance. I could let go of my fear and anxiety and just cuddle with my parents, absorbing their love and assurance through an osmosis of sorts.

    Now that I’m grown, my family is a cosleeping family. It has worked very well for us, and when my son had seizure issues when he was little, he even had a seizure in bed with me. It was terrifying, but even more horrifying was the thought of what might have happened if he had been in a bedroom all by himself when he had the seizure, without me there to help him.

    My kids will be moving into their own bedroom this summer, which is a huge step for our whole family. It’s just getting too crowded in our bed! My husband and I will be right across the hall, though, if they need us. 🙂

  9. linsybyster says:

    I will just add to some of the great comments already made. One thing that I have gathered from talking to other parents and reading lots of blogs and forums (and from my now three-year-old) is that babies/kids are wired to sleep a certain way, each child is different and something that works for one baby may not work for another. There are definitely babies who need to sleep in their own space, and more so that need to sleep near their parents. There are kids who will wake in the night until their six even if their parents do sleep train. Conversely, there are kids who will sleep through the night from birth (though they’re few and far between and most, even if they do sleep through the night in the beginning, will undergo a regression around four months and start waking in the night). Each family really has to figure out what works for them without feeling pressured by others’ opinions, and if it works, stick with it and don’t feel guilty!

    Second, attachment parenting is not the strict adherance to all those great AP philosophies. Yes, they’re great and they do work for lots of people. But attachment parenting is listening to your instincts as well, and answering your baby’s needs. If your baby *needs* to sleep in their crib to get a good night’s sleep, or doesn’t like being carried as much, or whatever, you should, to some extent, answer those needs. It can be sad but you can strike a happy medium between your visions of a perfect AP life and their actual needs. 🙂

    Third, as for sleep books, I would recommend Elizabeth Pantley.

    And lastly, we co-slept (with a 1-2 month period of my daughter sleeping in her crib in her own room, at 5-6 months) from birth till 20 months. I nursed on demand (she got plenty of hind milk). I nursed her at night until she was 18 months old, when we night weaned (using Dr. Jay Gordon’s method). My daughter moved into her own bed, in her own room, at 21 months. She still nurses at three years old. She is very independent (or interdependent I suppose) and she sleeps through the night in her bed, 9 nights out of 10. When she needs us because she is frightened or sick, she knows that we are there for her. Most nights we read books and cuddle, then she reads (not really) to herself for awhile before going to sleep on her own.

    The first two years are a TOUGH time for sleeping. Whether you CIO or co-sleep, nurse on demand or formula feed, there is no easy answer. It’s like weight loss – lol. You have to find something that meets your needs and your baby’s needs, and that you can feel good about. And then don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it!

    Good luck. <3

  10. Nat says:

    happy! very happy that our baby is sleeping through the night
    and let us have a life after 8 pm until around 12 when he wakes up moaning for a night snack and that’s it! back to sleep until 6 or 7 depends on the mood and specially on the light and noise around…
    the easiest thing for me is put him on a bed in a dark quiet room and breastfeed him (reclining position) so he falls sleep quickly. after he is in deep sleep (you’ll notice) put him on his crib…
    breast feeding on bed seem to work great for me!

  11. Michele de Jesus says:

    Great post as sleep deprivation is a BIG issue for parents. We also hadn’t realized how a future baby would impact our lives. We didn’t know enough about cosleeping, and we certainly didn’t understand that babies nurse throughout the night, and need soothing before they learn to self-soothe. We already had an organic cotton, pure-grow wool, and natural latex Queen size mattress on a wood IKEA Malm frame. We’d gotten a beautiful used wood convertible oval Stokke bassinette/crib/toddler bed system as a gift but as soon as we got over our smothering fears and I figured out safe side-lying nursing (at 3-6 weeks) we started cosleeping by bed sharing with a long wood bedrail from Kidco. We designate his area of the bed with an organic cotton Naturepedic waterproof mattress pad and a burp cloth for his pillow area. Note that for safety I always face the baby or lie on my back, block my pillow with my arm, and mom dad and baby each have their own sheets which are kept safely far apart. We’ve even removed the slats from the frame in order to place the mattress on the floor but still inside the Malm frame which has a full headboard and is tight against a wall. We pray this doesn’t lead to any mattress mold issues. A Queen bed is a snug fit which gets tighter as our little one gets bigger but it was worth it to prevent SIDS as a newborn, and I still love the convenience of quick nursing and falling asleep … and of course there’s nothing as adorable as how our little guy wakes us up in the morning with taps, smiles, giggles, and cuddles. We use the crib by our bed for naps and for putting our little one to bed alone around 7 or 8pm while we stay up. We’re trying out No-Cry Sleep Solution techniques but I still nurse him to sleep for naps and for the night quite often and dad frequently bounces him to sleep on the ball those same times. Now at 8 1/2 months he is sleeping longer and longer stretches at night and has technically slept through the night maybe 6-8 times from 7 or 8pm to 1 or 2am, a 6 hour stretch in the crib. At that time I bring him to bed, we nurse and nurse again at 4am and at 7am. Dad is also more and more successful at night soothing without my having to nurse him. We hope this trend continues and so are embracing partial cosleeping. We’re just not comfortable with CIO for is age and want him to develop a sense of trust in the world and in his parents. He’s a baby for such a short while. We want him to learn to self- soothe and eventually sleep a 10-12 hour stretch on his own timetable. We are hopeful we won’t have to force the issue with any partial cry-it-out methods when i return to work sometime after he’s a year old. For now we’re willing to wait to see how things unfold.

  12. staramajka says:

    I’m a mother of a 7yr old girl and 4 months old baby boy. With my girl i did use ‘cry it out’ technique, scheduled breast feeding, never co-sleeping and it worked wonders, really (or maybe she was just a good baby) . When she was 6 weeks old she slept from 8pm-7am. Sometimes even longer. But, I lost milk supply when she was 2 months old. And I felt guilty later for not giving enough love and support when she needed it most…but she turned out very independent and happy about it.
    My friends, who fed babies on demand, co-slept etc, ended up sleepless for more than a year. Their kids wouldn’t fall asleep on their own later and for me that is a torture. Mothers are also human beings.

    Now i believe that it is best to do something in between. Co-sleeping is really not my thing. No body gets a goodnight wakes up more and parents worry about crushing the baby plus, pardon my question, but how do you have sex with your baby in the bed?
    But i did sleep with my son on my chest until he was 2 months old. But not through the entire night. Only for an hour or so after he finishes feeding burps and falls into a deep sleep. Then I put him in the crib.
    Now, if he doesn’t fall asleep on my breast i put him in the crib, wait for a while, let him cry for a while, and sometimes he falls asleep on his own, and sometimes I have to pick him up. Sometimes he doesn’t cry at all, but falls asleep. As usual you have to feel what your baby needs.
    My son now sleeps from 7pm – 5 am (on good nights) and on worse nights he wakes up around 2 or 3am and then 5 and then 7…
    Also, both of my babies slept on their tummies. I know it’ a BIG no-no, but putting them on a side never seemed natural.

    This Arm’s Reach Co-sleeper is really GREAT!!! If it were available here where i live, i’d definitely co-sleep with my baby!

    all the best to all :]

  13. Desmond Williams says:

    My wife and I considered ourselves rebels during pregnancy (though in retrospect we really weren’t THAT radical, just different from our parents) and this continued into the early postpartum stage. We had this notion that we would let our parenting skills develop naturally, organically, resisting most outside influences. This approach, of course, was unsound. And when my wife was having trouble figuring out nighttime feedings she turned to THE INTERNET – gasp! – for a solution. It was at the La Leche League website that she discovered the ‘side-lying‘ position and fireworks exploded in her head – nighttime breastfeeding could be a collaborative effort between herself and our newborn!?!? From that moment co-sleeping became an integral part of our early parenting.

    Now here is where I may get a few pillows thrown at me… Once our son weaned himself off of breastfeeding, we followed his lead and weaned him out of our bed. We used methods similar to those devised by the ‘devilish’ Dr. Ferber, but modified to fit the needs of our child AND ourselves. Luckily for us we were correct about following his lead, and our son didn’t fuss much. Plus by sticking to a routine (feeding, burping, comforting, reading, swaddling, rocking) we exited this transitional phase as quickly as we entered it.

    Would we do it again? This is uncertain, as the answer would depend on the temperament of our next child.

  14. Bertie says:

    My daughter seemed to have been born a not so good sleeper. She always slept with us. When she was tiny, she only woke up a couple times a night, but after a few months she was waking up every two hours or so. I was tired, so I started reading sleep books. We tried about every method that we could find- crying it out didn’t work, she just got so worked up that it took hours to calm her down after a few minutes of crying. Finally, around two we just gave up and decided not to worry about it anymore. It was much better when I wasn’t trying to do anything to make her sleep- I felt much less tired and stressed. I guess that changing my espectations helped a lot, even though she was still up every 2-3 hours wanting to nurse. Around 2.5 she started sleeping longer and now (35 months) she sleeps all night almost every night. We didn’t do anything to make this happen, I guess that she was just ready. I’m sure that every kid isn’t like her, but that’s what worked for us.

  15. Kj says:

    It has been great reading the different experiences. As Aaron we are also quite lucky. Our baby girl started sleeping through the night in a matter of weeks after birth. As a result of birth-complications, she was sent to a ward for some days, and although we had a lot of contact with her during the day, she was without us at night, but under a lot of care from the nurses. She got a pacifier as a result from her failing to calm down in the ward. So when we went home with her, she was a caesarian born baby already addicted to the pacifier and supplemental feeding. Felt like the perfect start for a challenging childhood. (The long term consequences are still to be revealed 😉 )
    We co-slept for the first few days, with a lot of air between us (put in another bed). This was as much for us to be happy, as I never liked sleeping in a packed situation. We were not sure that she was getting enough milk from her mother, so we balanced it out with formula. She didn’t really notice her being put in own crib after some days, and we started an on-the clock feeding regime, also at night, both getting up if I wasn’t going to work. We learned her behaviour whenever she needed extra formula. The days before D-day when she slept through the night, we fed her well before night set, and when she woke, we tried to reintoduce the pacifier, and listened for a while. We have been advised to go the cry-it-out route, but cut it off after a certain time, pretty much based on when it felt evil not to pick her up. A couple nights later she was getting a good 10 hours (yay). It has been a breeze so long, nine months later. We try to reduce pacifier-use, but she controls this pretty much herself. She is an extremely happy and calm baby (but not complacent and dull!), and we feel extremely lucky. Admitting to the fact that one of the early motivations was for both of us to get enough sleep, the tools of our time, pacifier and formula, has probably been an important ingredient. But I honestly don’t know it was essential. A consequence of liberal use of formula is that she did not want breastmilk after four months.

  16. Amanda Hayes says:

    I am a big believer in both self-soothing and routines. As an educator, I have heard time and time again in child psychology courses that kids need consistency, and I have seen it to be very true in the classroom. When I became pregnant with my first child, I was not the typical nervous first time mom. I’ve been a nanny for over 5 years and so I definitely have some experience with babies 🙂

    I set out with a plan and I’ve stuck to it all along, resulting in my son sleeping 8 hours straight at 8 weeks old, and 10.5 hours after that until I finally relinquished our late evening feeding to allow for 12 hours of sleep at 7 months old. All of this was accomplished with no crying on his part or mine, it just naturally fell into place. Several books suggested the eat, play, sleep cycle to a baby’s day. Part of the reasoning is to try not to create an association between nursing (or bottle feeding) and sleep. Also, with the new back-sleeping campaign against SIDS, babies often suffer from gas pains if they are fed and then immediately laid on their backs to sleep. On the rare occasion I did that, my son woke screaming after 30-45 minutes. So I always feed him as soon as he wakes from his naps, then I burp him well, and we play for awhile.

    The second thing I’ve come across is the idea that babies are easily overtired and overstimulated. The ideal amount of waketime for a newborn is somewhere around 45-60 minutes, a 4 month old is often 1-1.5 hours, a 6 month old 1.5-2 hours, and so on. If you keep a baby up beyond that, they often cannot fall asleep, much the same as when we as adults stay up too late doing something fun and cannot calm down enough to sleep. To figure out your individual baby’s ideal waketime, it’s best to keep a log of feeding times, waketimes, and how long it took them to fall to sleep for a couple days. You will start to see a pattern emerge, pointing to a specific amount of waketime being more conducive to good naps than other amounts. A 9-16 month old needs 2 naps, then sometime between 14 and 18 months they gradually transition to 1 nap, along with 12 hours of nighttime sleep. *Note, the amount of waketime includes time spent eating.

    I also subscribe to the theory that it’s okay for babies to fuss for as much as 20 minutes before falling to sleep. The AAP even says that this is an acceptable amount of time and will cause no harm to a child or the child’s relationship with the parents. I always checked on my son frequently as he fell asleep and made sure I was doing everything I could to help him sleep. I didn’t keep him up too long, I changed his diaper right before naps, I spent 5 minutes before naps holding and rocking him to settle him down, sometimes we read a book. He also has a soft blankie with him that he likes to play with as he falls to sleep it’s a familiar, comforting play item that doesn’t overstimulate him with bright colors or music like a mobile would.

    As for co-sleeping, I was not raised in a co-sleeping family and neither was my husband, In our home, we decided that with our entire home being open to our new sweet baby, and all of our daytime hours spent with caring for and cuddling with this lovable baby, we needed to retain our bed as the marriage bed. We try to put each other first when possible, it’s so easy to put your kids first in everything, they come into the world so tiny and lovable and instantly have your heartstrings firmly in their grasp. A marriage, i believe, takes a conscious commitment and keeping our marriage bed a place where we can nurture each other’s needs is important to us. I honestly haven’t seen many well-rested co-sleeping parents, which is something you’re discovering, so I suppose that has been a definite benefit 🙂 My son likes his crib, he feels safe and comfortable there, it’s made specifically with the safety of a baby in mind. We make it a pleasant place and he even plays there sometimes as I wash off his cloth diapers after changing him. I think those things are key when asking a child to sleep anywhere, that it be a safe, secure, and comfortable place. Almost any place can be like that if approached with the right attitude by the parent.

  17. Lien says:

    At the aparently universal question (I’m a belgian mom) “does your baby sleep through the night”, I answer with “do you?” It seems to me a very unnatural thing to actually sleep through a whole night. But waking up every 30 minutes isn’t right too.

    My now 4 year old had lots of difficulties falling asleep. Untill she was 2 she woke up at night many times. I wasn’t a single mom, but had a not helping husband. She only fell asleep breastfeeding, untill she was one and a half, and when she finally slept, she woke up immediatly when I tried to release my breast (putting her to bed could take two or more hours). And during the night she could easily wake up for 6-7 times. Cosleeping was a clearly made pre-birth choise, and in these curcumstances the only possible one. I was able to feed lying down (as being a “gifted woman” 😉 ) and fall asleep again while nursing. I won’t say I didn’t notice her waking up, I do was tired (!), but it made things easier to carry.

    Crying out was not an option for me. As it is babies only way to express a feeling, why ignore this expression and give the idea that being sad, being angry, being afraid is a “wrong emotion”? A crying out baby really stops crying after a while, but not because he isn’t sad anymore, but probably discouraged and apathic.
    At the most frustrating moments I kept that in mind. I learnd about “one-minute-meditations”, and created my own way of meditating during these everlasting nursing moments. It took away the frustrations and gave me a moment for reflecting my day, finding rest, making plans,… Being that calm myself, I noticed that my daughter fell asleep easier, and faster.

    She stopped waking up that much by herself, and when she moved to her own room (at the age of two and a half) it went smooth and without any problems. She took her own tempo to achieve this. She still wakes up, takes a sip of water and falls asleep again. She’s a wonderful and happy child and talks very well about her feelings.

    My relationship with her father stranded, which was very sad for all of us. But well-blessed with a child that could talk about her feelings, made it for her easier to deal with the divorce.

    I have a second daughter now, of 8 months. When I put her to bed, I nurse her, but the moment she stops the actual drinking, I take away the breast and stay next to her. She puts her hand on my face to be sure that I ‘m still there, after a few minutes I can leave the room. When she wakes up, my husband takes her in his arms, which is not always succeful, but little by little she learns that he’s there too, and it’s good with him too. At night she wakes up 2-3 times. We have had some harder nights too, at these moments she ends up in the middle of the bed (instead of on my side) , more in his than in my arms, with me talking to her.

    I guess it looks a bit like the Sears-method.

    A helping thought for these diffucult moments: its difficult for us, but more difficult for the baby, they don’t understand and I ‘m convinced that they really want to sleep, but just not always not know how to find that sleep.

  18. tatta says:

    I’m a mother of an almost three year old little girl, who nursed until last Christmas and sleeps with us. Until she was a year and a half she nursed pretty much on demand, and sure there were times i really didn’t want to wake up 4 times at time to nurse her, but the thought woulg go away as soon as i looked at her nursing.We’ have been trying to get her on her own bed gradually and most times i fall asleep in her bed!she already naps in her bed with no problem.
    I feel very confident that i’ve done the best for our family, it probably won’t wok for everyone and who should be able to choose and feel confortable with what works for you and your family.

  19. Deb_momof2 says:

    Oh the great sleep debate!

    I have two little ones, now 5 and 3, and wow are they both so different but the one thing I did the same with both of them was nursed them exclusively until they weened themselves. But from experience I would say that the most important thing to remember is to get some sleep regardless of what method works for you and your family.

    With my first, I was a firm believer in co-sleeping. It was convenient for both me and my son. He would just graze all night long on my breast while I slept peacefully. However I had no clue of what I was getting myself into once I became pregnant with my second and I still had a 18 month old in the bed with me, not to mention I had gone bad to work once my son turned a year old. As I was getting further into my pregnancy I was running out of room in the family bed, I was losing sleep and really not enjoying my second pregnancy. It was then that I decided co-sleeping with my little on was just not going to work any longer. This is where the nasty problem revealed itself, convincing my almost 2 year old that he was a big boy and could sleep in his own room in a big boy bed. Unfortunately he was not buying into this and fought my husband and I with everything a little two year old could muster up. After two extremely long and sleepless months of helping my son to learn how to self-sooth, he finally mastered sleeping in his own room. Needless to say my last trimester of my second pregnancy was absolutely miserable.

    So once my second was born, a little girl, it was almost like she had learned in utero that mommy and daddy really are please with good sleepers, LOL. She was an angel when it came to sleeping, she loved to sleep alone in her bassinet and was sleeping through the night by 4mths of age. She transferred beautifully into her crib in her own room around 5 months. And has been an angelic sleeper ever since. So I truly think it is a combination of both the child and parent and what works for all parties involved when it comes to sleep.

    But the one big thing I learned is that every child needs to learn to self-sooth and the sooner the better!

    Three years later we are all healthy and sleeping great. One would never know that my son was exclusively breast feed and practiced co-sleeping with his parents for two years. He fought us tooth and nail for two long months because he never taught himself to self-sooth and we never gave him a chance until he was already stuck into a routine which he obviously had gotten attached to.

  20. TickTock says:

    Our first child slept with us until he was 6 months old. I enjoyed co-sleeping and it made bedtime a lot more fun than usual. Sure he woke up a couple times a night but we became adept at getting him fed and asleep before we got annoyed at the crying… I think it’s that sound and not the lack of sleep that is the worst. Though he’s 15 months now, so maybe I’ve blocked it out!

    We also had a schedule for him too. It became more developed as he got older. Bedtime was, eat before 5pm and then wait until he was really ornery and hungry around 7,8 or 9 and then give him a long bath to draw out the time, but keep him comfortable. Then finally get him into bed and feed him. Usually he would pass out for long periods. This got better as time went on. Soon it was one feeding in the middle of the night only.

    We never got the crib mastered and he and I got into some real power struggles that I now regret having. I am dead against crying it out… not from reading anything but having tried it. There’s no way that’s good for your baby. It was by chance that when we moved recently we just put a futon mattress on the ground in his new room and locked up the drawers and sockets and we just throw him in there. He is infinitely happier being able to roam around until he gets tired enough to sleep. Usually we have to lay him down with an ounce or two in a bottle so we can escape the room without it being the focus of his attention. We get a lot of weird looks when people look at his room, but it’s worked well for us.

    Good luck – I don’t think having a baby is rocket surgery, you’re hardwired to be a parent, just listen to your gut and your baby!

  21. […] and sleep training/cry it out advocate Marc Weissbluth, M.D. We’re very interested in the sleep debates, but we wonder if Weissbluth taking to his blog to debunk Sears’ research is going to help […]

  22. enjoigreen says:

    My daughter is 5 and almost every night I wake up to the sensation of someone watching me. I open my eyes and there she is, stuffed puppy in hand staring at me… “hi mommy…I can’t sleep can we cuddle?” Geez how can I resist that.. I scoot over as close to my husband as I can and let her come on my side of the bed.

    In the morning my husband is always like “Our bed is too small for all of us!” And me and my daughter just giggle.

  23. kiki says:

    Our son is now 22 months and still sleeps in our bed. He still nurses at least 3 times through the night… he may sleep about 5 hours and then nurses. I don’t really care that I am somewhat tired and don’t get a solid nights sleep. I know this won’t last forever and I totally disagree that children need to be forced to learn how to self soothe. They will learn to self soothe when they are ready to handle that. My son is happy and independent – and I attribute that to attachment parenting. I am happy and fulfilled that I am giving my child as much as I can at this time in his life… I knew going into parenting that my life would change. I am happy to let my son nurse and co-sleep as long as he needs. We wake up every morning with a song and a smile for each other – it is warm and loving.

  24. Wizzze says:

    I have to agree with Kiki’s response above.
    When you thought about having children, did you ever thought it was going to be easy, did you eat up those stories about how children are more manageable now because of technology? when exactly did you hit puberty because that is just not true. I know you weren’t born yesterday either or that you have babies teeth still but c’mon people! If you have a child, get ready to wake up between 2 and 5 or 6 times a night and still get up for work and put in a full day, put up with people and problems and still get home and put a smile in your face when the kid just smiles at you because you are home and genuinely missed you while you where gone.
    I personally loved every minute I spent with my son, now 4, when I had to change diapers in the middle of the night or feed him. I would put some soothing music on and let the wife sleep, feed him in the rocking chair and sing for him until he’d fall asleep in my arms.
    The difference is that I knew what I was getting into, yes, I did not get all the sleep that I wanted, and yes I was tired, but the moment I knew my wife was pregnant my son became a priority and handled it as such. So think about it, you are able to put up with stupid people at work and an overbooked agenda as well as cell phones ringing and people asking you to do everything for them at work but you are unable to take 20 minutes out of your life to feed your children? It does not take long to do and they fall right asleep.
    For those of you wanting to know the secret, let me spoil it for you, there is NO secret!
    Basics you need to know, there are 3 reasons why babies cry: 1, diaper stuff (poop, pee, too tight, rash, sticker side exposed to skin etc…); 2, hungry; 3, sick. Now rule them out and you got yourself a happy kid.
    As Kiki says: It does not last forever! Eventually he or she will sleep through the night and you will have a better relationship with your child because of the time and effort you have given him and they see that.
    How many time you see a person on the street on their PJ’s walking a dog that looks like a rat and have to pick up their droppings at 5 or 6 AM and it is cold outside? but those same people are unable to change a diaper at 2 AM for their own son? or complain about it left and tight? or buy a ton of books for something that should be common sense? where have the women of yesterday gone? mothers nowadays that are unable to figure out if their child has a fever by touch and they need to get them to a hospital just so that they can put a thermometer in their mouth?
    Think about it. It is love and affection, principles and values that makes a good parent, not the Sears books or some supposed to be “expert” that tells you to leave your son crying over and over and over when what he needs is some love and affection and is probably hungry.
    Be firm when you need to, carry out what you say to him, keep the promises you make to him/her, love them and care for them because they did not ask to be here, YOU put them here, it is YOUR responsibility to care for them…. so grow up!!!!! or don’t have them at all, buy a dog instead and walk him in bitter cold at 6 AM and pick their poop up from the floor!

  25. ninamcd says:

    I have a 3 1/2 month old baby girl. She’s my first child. From the moment we brought her home, she has slept in our bed during the night. My mother argued with me that I should use the bassinet, but I was so comforted by sleeping, facing her, always “keeping one eye open” so to speak, knowing she was breathing. Of course, as time went on, I felt more and more certain that she was just fine and so I actually began to sleep solidly. At first, I was traditionally getting up at least 4-5 times a night until she turned 2 months old, now she has an amazingly predictable pattern…which is 9pm, bed time, 12-1am a feeding and then she doesn’t get up until anywhere from 7-10am. I am couldn’t be happier with this. And I really don’t want to change a thing. I mean I am getting sometimes 8+ hours of sleep! But now she has started to scoot and push and punch, I have to move her out of the bed, it’s too dangerous. Plus, her father and I are very tall people and unless we go out and buy a Cal King, this is just not going to work anymore. Hense, why I am interested in the co-sleeper. I want to still be able to roll over and put her binky in her mouth, feed her, etc and not have to get up and go anywhere. Hey, I am not ashamed of that — if mom’s happy – the baby is happy – trust me – I’ve learned that! So, I’m gonna try the co-sleeper, I think it’s genius, then when she’s outgrown that – I guess I’ll have to go through the transition phase of crib training. I am not really looking forward to that I’ll be honest. There is something incredibly soothing about just opening one eye and without any hesitation, knowing your baby is breathing, sleeping and happy. Nonetheless, I will let you know how the co-sleeper goes, I am hoping it won’t change a thing, other than give her space to wiggle and scoot without the danger of us getting in her way..

  26. swesko says:

    I am the proud new mother of a one month old. I know things are just starting off and can change quickly, but I must say I am loving the routine my baby and I have established together. I decided to breastfeed and did so for the first four days of her life. However, after that I switched to exlusive pumping. I know pump every two hours to maintain my milk supply and feed my baby bottles of my milk. She eats roughly every four hours a 4 oz bottle. I make certain to burp her well after every ounce or two. She usually eats 10, 2, and 6 am and pm. That is 6 feedings a day at 4 oz per feeding. She is consuming 24 oz of breastmilk a day and she is very satisfied with that.
    Now with the sleeping ordeal. She likes to be rocked to sleep still. I will rock her until her eyes have been closed for at least 5 minutes and then I lay her in HER CRIB in HER ROOM, turn on her swing’s music, and go to bed. Sometimes shell stay asleep, other times she will realize she is not in my arms anymore and scream for me. I will tend to her and pat her back or continue rocking her. Either way, I have been getting (broken up) 5-8 hours of sleep a night.
    I believe a baby should just start offi n their crib in their room because they cant sleep with you forever. There will be a point in time where you will want your bed to yourself, or to you and your partner.

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