Why Sleep Training Makes Me Want to Cry

Welcome to September’s Carnival of Breastfeeding (see this month’s entries below)! As a parent I understand how hard the parenting job is. That is why I have a general philosophy of “I’ll do what works for my family and you do what works for yours.” There are just two issues I feel very strongly about: (1) (not) spanking, and (2) whether or not to let a child “cry-it-out” (“CIO”). While there are different methods, names, and sleep trainers out there (Ferber, Ezzo, controlled crying, crying-it-out, just to name a few), CIO is the general practice of leaving a baby to cry in the hopes that he will settle himself to sleep. For this month’s carnival on Breastfeeding and Sleep, I offer the opinion that CIO, in any shape or form, is not the answer for a good night’s sleep. I do not offer my opinion to bash other parents or to attempt to change someone else’s mind (I have no illusions of succeeding at that). This article is for the breastfeeding mother whose family keeps telling her to “let that baby cry!” against all of her mothering instincts, or for the mother who tried letting her baby cry once and now has regrets or mixed feelings.

One other disclaimer: I do not purport to be any sort of expert on sleep (which is why I quote a lot of actual experts in this discussion!) I have struggled with the sleep issue myself and if you are interested you can crawl through all I have written on the sleep category. However, while I may not have the magic solution to a good night’s sleep, I do know that CIO is not the solution. Fortunately, lots of experts in child care, psychiatry, and pediatrics feel the same way. Here are my opinions along with some science to back them up.

I do not believe: “Night-waking to nurse is a habit, not a need.”
I believe: For the first several months of a baby’s life, night-waking to nurse certainly is a physical need. Babies’ tummies are small and breast milk is digested quickly. Forcing an infant to go too long without nursing can lead to failure to thrive (inadequate weight gain, poor physical and mental development). CIO can be downright dangerous!

Advocates of CIO argue that after a certain age, night-nursing is no longer physically necessary and there’s no “need” for it. While I question that (who among us hasn’t gotten thirsty or hungry in the night, and we’re not still growing!), there are also all kinds of needs: physical, emotional, psychological, developmental, and situational. In an article entitled “8 Infant Sleep Facts Every Parent Should Know,” Dr. Sears describes a baby’s need to be parented to sleep and parented back to sleep. Also, the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health notes in its position paper:

AAIMHI is concerned that the widely practiced technique of ‘controlled crying’ is not consistent with what infants need for their optimal emotional and psychological health and may have unintended negative consequences.

I do not believe: “Babies need to learn to self-soothe.”
I do believe: Why do babies need to learn to self-soothe, exactly? It seems more that the parents need the babies to learn to self-soothe. Babies who night-nurse barely cry, if at all, and often settle back to sleep quickly and peacefully.

Besides, when a baby is made to CIO and the baby falls back asleep, it’s not accurate to say the baby “self-soothed.” Dr. Ben Kim’s site describes a study of children ages one to two who were separated from their mothers and left to cry it out:

Results showed a predictable sequence of behaviours: The first phase, labeled “protest”, consists of loud crying and extreme restlessness. The second phase, labeled “despair”, consists of monotonous crying, inactivity, and steady withdrawal. The third phase, labeled “detachment”, consists of a renewed interest in surroundings, albeit a remote, distant kind of interest. Thus, it appears that while leaving babies to cry it out can lead to the eventual dissipation of those cries, it also appears that this occurs due to the gradual development of apathy in the child. The child stops crying because she learns that she can no longer hope for the caregiver to provide comfort, not because her distress has been alleviated.

I do not believe: “It’s short-term pain for long-term gain.”
I do believe: First of all, I’m not interested in any short-term pain for me or my child. Nor do I believe the pain is short term. Parents who implement CIO often find that they have to do so repeatedly as a child starts to night-wake again during developmental spurts, teething, and illness.

Furthermore, there’s plenty of evidence of long-term harm rather than long-term gain. Psychiatrists at Harvard University researched the long-term effects of CIO and found:

[T]he widespread American practice of putting babies in separate beds — even separate rooms — and not responding quickly to their cries may lead to incidents of post-traumatic stress and panic disorders when these children reach adulthood.

The early stress resulting from separation causes changes in infant brains that makes future adults more susceptible to stress in their lives, say Commons and Miller.

“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.”

Some scientific researchers believe that leaving a baby to CIO can cause brain damage (that the extreme distress of CIO blocks full development of certain areas of the brain and causes production of cortisol in other areas of the brain).

Contrast such findings with those cited by Dr. James McKenna on the long-term effects of co-sleeping. Studies show that co-sleeping promotes confidence, self-esteem, and intimacy, while children who do not bed-share are harder to control, less happy, throw more tantrums, are more fearful, and here’s the kicker — more dependent on their parents.

Please feel free to share your views on breastfeeding and sleep in the comments. Read on for other views (not necessarily consistent with mine!) on Breastfeeding and Sleep:

~ BreastfeedingMums talks about the sleep advantages of breastfeeding over formula-feeding.
~ Mama’s Magic writes about being “So Tired” and considering the end of co-sleeping.
~ The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog sings the praises of the side-lying position for breastfeeding.
~ Hathor the Cowgoddess shares a comic on the family bed. (Note that while it’s safe for a toddler to sleep next to a sibling, an infant should not sleep next to an older child, only next to his parents.)
~ Leche, Baby! writes about the process of night-weaning.
~ Veggie Way writes about co-sleeping and letting her baby sleep where she wants.
~ Crunchy Domestic Goddess needs co-sleeping for sanity.
~ Life with Twins writes about her use of crying-it-out.
~ The Lactivist laments how each child has different needs.
~ Mama Knows Breast tells the truth about the reality of sleep deprivation.

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    • http://breastfeedingmums.typepad.com Sinead@BreastFeedingMums

      What a fascinating post, Angela. I’ve really enjoyed reading it. There certainly seems to be plenty of evidence to back up what you’re saying. I’ve personally tried controlled crying (although only ever for very short periods of time and never letting my child get very distressed) and although it works to a certain degree I very much believe that children cry because they need their parents/ caregivers help. Rarely does a child cry for no reason!

    • Ieasa

      Wow, All the fellings I have had about CIO with out the scientific proof and then here it all is. I love it. I love knowing that I was doing what felt natural and it was in deed the right thing to do.

    • Natalie

      Is there a particular age/developmental point at which frequent night-nursing does become categorized as a habit rather than a need?

    • http://mamasmagic.blogspot.com/ Jen

      Thank you for collecting some really good information here. I especially liked the link about the long term benefits of co-sleeping. Luckily, both my husband and I agree that CIO is not something we even want to consider…. and we’ve been able to provide a united front against family pressures. Now I have a few more facts to throw into the discussion the next time it comes up, should I be so inclined ;-)

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    • http://www.veggieway.blogspot.com Isil

      I love this post!
      I am also against CIO and here you have written about it in a nutshell.
      People somehow believe that crying is normal for babies. They cry because they need something, maybe a feed or maybe just a cuddle. Letting a baby CIO, feels so unfair to me.

    • http://www.breastfeeding123.com Angela White, J.D., breastfeeding counselor


      I don’t know that there’s a particular age where it’s definitely considered a habit rather than a need, but from experience I can say it’s the point where the child responds positively to gentle efforts to night-wean. If the child resists night-weaning, then there’s still a “need” for night-nursing, whether that need is physical or psychological or due to teething or illness.

      The one thing that made a big difference in stretching out the time between night-nursings for both my kids was a change in the bedtime routine, when they were each ready (around age 2). I would talk to them about the new plan (communication is key!), remind them about the new plan, and implement the new plan: nurse, brush teeth, read stories, sing songs and rest on my chest (or daddy’s) to settle to sleep. Putting the nursing first helped break the sleep association with nursing. As the child got older, we also talked about not nursing until the sun came up. The mum-mums were going to sleep until the sun came up, and once the sun came up the child could nurse again (in the meantime, after a reminder about the new plan, snuggles or water were offered as alternatives to night-nursing if the child woke).

      Keep in mind that night-weaning is also not the complete end of night-waking. My five-year-old sleeps well most nights, but sometimes she still asks to come into the family bed in the middle of the night. There are still episodes of illness, and for my two-and-a-half-year-old, teething. The sleep situation improves a lot (I slept from 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. last night!!!) but there’s no guarantee of a good night’s sleep! Hang in there!

    • Eilat

      “As the child got older, we also talked about not nursing until the sun came up. ”

      That is exactly what we started doing about a month or so before my son turned two. I’d say (during a 2am request):
      “We don’t nurse at night, only in the morning. We nurse in the morning on the couch.”

      We had to compromise so he is allowed to “hold it” for a few moments while drifting off to sleep. I guess the comfort of knowing they are there is enough for him. But no nursing.

      In the morning, the boy sprints to the couch and sits in anticipation, announcing: “Its time to nurse on the couch!”

      It is ironic to me that my son was potty trained before he was night weaned, but that’s what worked for us ;-)

    • http://crunchydomesticgoddess.com Crunchy Domestic Goddess

      i applaud you for putting all of this information together in one place. great post. i couldn’t agree more.


    • http://mostleast.com Ella

      This is a great post.

      If I could go back and do it all again I would still be co-sleeping with all my children.

    • http://www.babylune.com Kate

      Hmmmm….I wonder what conversation inspired this post.

    • http://www.breastfeeding123.com Angela White, J.D., breastfeeding counselor

      Coincidental, actually! We’d agreed to do a carnival of breastfeeding on sleep, and the topic of the book “On Becoming Babywise” came up. In my opinion, the methods discussed in that book are simply cruel and dangerous, and I got so riled up I had to write about it!

    • Amanda

      Thank you for your post Angela. Working as a psychologist, I believe that CIO can have some major consequences particularly if that child experiences trauma later on. As a mother of a 21 month old son and pregnant with our second, we’re committed to responding to our son and co-sleeping despite criticism from some.

      Our biggest problem right now is that while our son sleeps through the night (in our bed), it ends up taking us at least an hour to put him to bed (we lie down with him). I’d love some suggestions on how to reduce this time.

      For any mothers out there who struggle with their babies/toddlers crying, there’s an excellent author, Aletha Solter, who explains the need for crying. She believes in attachment theory and states that children should NEVER be left to cry on their own. Her books are “Tears and Tantrums”, “The Aware Baby” and “Helping Young Children Flourish”.

    • Michelle

      Hi, I just wanted to state that not all breastfeeding mothers are opposed to spanking and crying it out. My baby is 3 months old and in the 90 percentile for weight and height. He is exclusively breastfed, but I did let him cry it out (it only took three days) and now he sleeps through the night (eight hours). I really needed the sleep, I was being short with my 3 year old since I was so sleep deprived. I do not judge anyone who co-sleeps, so please return the favor. Every mom and baby is different. As for spanking, I just follow the Bible there. I spank only out of love and gentleness, never out of anger or frustration.

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    • Kate

      I did let my now 8-month old CIO and he sleeps 12 hours through the night. Some of the research I read regarding CIO and how it causes “brain damage” is enough to make me laugh. My son is healthy, happy, and well rested. People ALWAYS comment on what a happy baby he is. He was not like that pre-sleep training. I don’t appreciate people who judge us, as I don’t judge family bed people. However, I would like to talk to those people when there kids are 5 and still sleeping in their bed. There is something to be said about a good nights sleep for everyone.

    • Amanda

      I just wanted to comment that none of these posts have negative comments about CIO parents. They are simply opinions about using CIO or alternative methods. I think that’s pretty fair.

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    • Kelley

      Just a day after I read this article Gigi had her 6 month check up. The doctor gave her a fantastic bill of health (she’s my little chubber). Then she asked about sleeping. We told her we co-slept and that the baby wakes 3-4 times to nurse and then back to sleep. We told her that both my husband and I sleep fine, and feel pretty rested. She scoffed… literally scoffed… and proceeded to tell us that Gigi’s nursing was a habit, and that we should move her to another room lest she die from SIDS… AND that no one ever died from crying… I was so hurt and angry… my little one is thriving… never cries unless in pain… sigh, I guess we’ll have to look for another pediatrician… I never thought I would have to defend my parenting choices when my little one looked so healthy. I actually took a lot of strength from this article, Thanks Angela!

    • http://www.breastfeeding123.com Angela White, J.D., breastfeeding counselor

      Kelley, I’m sorry the pediatrician treated you that way! I don’t understand why some doctors feel the need to cross the line between offering medical advice and offering (unwanted!) parenting advice. I suppose she thought she was being helpful with the SIDS discussion, but she arguably is misinformed on that topic. If you haven’t already, see:


    • Kelley

      Thanks again, as always this site is my go to time and time again.

    • http://mariawj.blogspot.com Maria

      In a fit of desperation, I tried the controlled cry-it-out mess for a whole 10 minutes. I couldn’t do it, and from that point on, I switched to co-sleeping, which was a blessing for everyone! Now that The Boy is 16 months, I am slowly encouraging him to sleep alone in his bed, but when he wakes and wants me, I go to him. I have learned my lesson! CIO is NOT for me, and I refuse to allow others to tell me that I MUST do it. My son is happy, healthy, and loving. What more could I ask for?

      And my ped has never told me to stop night nursing. :)

    • patty

      angela….your post made me feel so much better about my almost 1-year old who is still not sleeping thru the night and who is continuing to sleep in our bed. as with some of the other mothers who have posted to this page, i have tried to let my baby CIO. but, it never lasts for very long because my mommy instinct always kicks in and i end up going to him. i sleep fine with him in the bed. but, i do feel bad that my husband has a more difficult time getting a good night’s rest with the baby next to us. lately, he has been relegated to the living room sofa. luckily, i have a wonderful husband who is so patient and understanding. he would never force me to do something that i don’t feel completely comfortable with. i was just at our baby’s daycare the other day, talking to his teachers. i was telling them about how our baby is still not sleeping through the night and that i’m still nursing whenever he wakes. they were all telling me that i needed to nip it in the bud now…cuz it will only become more difficult as he gets older. i appreciated their feedback i guess. but, i am still choosing to do what feels most right to me. i haven’t told my own mother that he’s not sleeping through the night because i know what her reaction will be. and, i’d rather not have to hear her preaching. so, anyway….it just feels good to know that i’m not alone in how i am rearing my child. thanks again for all the great information!

    • http://www.breastfeeding123.com Angela White, J.D., breastfeeding counselor

      Patty, I’m so pleased you found the article helpful!

      You might also like the comments on this discussion about how to wean from co-sleeping without crying-it-out:


      Good luck!

    • Jeffrie Henry, J.D.

      I have two children: the first, a boy, nursed or rocked to sleep and coslept until he was five; the second, a girl, nursed but wouldn’t fall asleep until she was put in her crib from day one. Therefore, with my second child, I had really no option but to allow her to cry to sleep. I did it in a very controlled way, though. At about 9 months, she was very aware of my leaving, so she began crying, which she had never done prior to that age. So this is the process I implemented. After nursing, I would lay her in her crib and pat her until she was very calm. I would then step away and see what happened. If she got upset, I would pat her again until she was calm. Usually after three times she was calm enough to leave the room. After I left the room, if she cried I would stay away for 5 minutes before returning to pat her. Unfortunately this process lasted about 30 to 45 minutes every evening, but by the time I weened her at 15 months she only cried for a couple of minutes each night before calming to sleep. Now, at 21 months she sleeps every night from 8:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., and most evenings only plays and sings in her crib before going to sleep. My son never slept like this until we put him in his own room at age 5 and told him that we didn’t like to be woke up at night unless he was scared or had to use the bathroom. So, I am now a believer that children need their own space to sleep. Just do it in a controlled, loving way.

    • Kyle W

      I’m a first time father and have been co-sleeping with our little guy and my wife for the first 6.5 months of his life. We had been putting off having him sleep alone in his room because, let’s face it, it’s a warm snuggly feeling to have the baby in bed with us (waking up to his smiley face, having him close, snuggling etc.). HOWEVER, responsible parenting isn’t about doing what is right for the parents, it’s about doing what is right for the child. Parenting = giving your child the lessons and tools to grow up to be healthy, well adjusted and equipped for life outside the nest, sometimes involving a little push to get to the next step. So why did we decide to do it? The fact of the matter is that continuing to co-sleep is a slow process of sleep deprivation to all involved. Sleep is crucial to development, well-being, proper bodily functioning and long term health, especially for a baby’s devloping body and mind. Without sufficient, nightly deep sleep (not intemitent, choppy light sleep) we all lose quality of health from a biological persepctive – more studies continue to link lack of proper sleep to impaired concentration and coordination, obesity, mental health issues etc.. There is no arguing about it – we all feel awful when we don’t sleep. MOST IMPORTANTLY, all 3 of us have been (although we may not realize it) not sleeping fully for 6 months and can’t continue to do so. I can sense that he stirs in his sleep every time one of us moves which also wakes us all up out of deep sleep; every time he feeds (every few hours) baby and mom avoid deep sleep and he’s never been able to fall alseep without some suckling which means every few hours, we’re all being pulled out of deep sleep. Although co-sleeping is cute and comfortable (just like eating lots of junk food is more fun and comfortable than eating veggies) we have all been hurting our well being. ADMISSION: despite knowing this we’ve been puting off having the little one move out of our bed beacuse like every other parent in the world, the idea of having baby cry and not tend to them is heartbreaking! Despite dreading the transition to ‘crying-it-out’, the facts remain the same – 1.Teaching a child to fall and stay asleep is a lesson kids need to learn alone. We can’t teach it through a book, with toys, with a video or group session it’s 100% personal and experiential learning 2. The older babies/kids get the harder it is to break habits or accept new ones. Add insufficient sleep to the mix and a timebomb if crankiness is brewing for the day they do move to their own bed (and they will…unless you’re fine with a 15 year old sleeping with you) 3. The longer we all avoid proper sleep, the less healthy we’ll all be in the short and long term (so we’re hurting oursleves by continuing to co-sleep) 4. Parenting will be full of times in the future where we have to let the child be unhappy at the moment for his own good (eg. when he gets older if he cries about going to school, we aren’t going to let him stay at home, we’re not going to avoid giving him medicine if he’s sick beacuse he doesn’t want to take it, we aren’t going to read for him forever if he doesn’t fel like learning to read and we aren’t going to let him play with a hot curling iron if he throws a temper tantrum in protest). SO, the night before last (one wekend after the deadline we gave ourselves…hey, we’ve struggled with this too!) we took the plunge and are SO happy we did – NOBODY liked the crying part, that was awful BUT, amazingly his sleeping patterns have already completely changed! The next day- he fell asleep on his own in the car without crying (almost never happens – he’s cried for as long as an hour in the car); he’s gone down for all naps since with barely a wimper (he could only ever sleep on mom for naps before); has been sleeping longer at nap time (as I’m typing this on morning number 2, I can hear that he’s awakened from his nap and is happily babbling, not crying in his room!); on day 2 we woke up in a panic realizing it was 45 minutes past when he ever wakes up in the morning and found in fact was in his crib talking to himself; we feel more rested and actually remember dreaming for the first time in a long time. TO SUMARIZE: it’s not easy to be a parent and life is going to be full of times when the best thing for him is not going to be the best thing for us. Like I had to keep reminding my wife on night number one – going into his room to ‘save him’ is not the right thing to do as a parent. We’re not scarred from having to learn some things on our own as children and I am grateful that my parents didn’t force me to stay in their bed (ruining my ability to learn to fall asleep properly in adult life) just beacuse they didn’t want to hear me cry. I’m sure our little guy will feel the same way when he gets grows up.

    • Rachel Mason

      I am interested in all the above posts and it confirms one thing to me. All babies are different and different things work for different children and indeed for different parents. We have two children who have been so different at night it is extraordinary. The first slept through at 10 weeks of his own volition. The second is now 2 and shows no sign of making it through the night despite having tried every technique going and seeing specialists. (Believe me, after 2 years of getting up at least twice a night and often for half an hour at a time tolerance for poor sleeping children is low in this house.) One health visitor suggested controlled crying (which we had already tried) but admitted that “tough nuts” could cry all night for several weeks and that i should let her do that. When i pointed out that i also needed to be awake all day with my son she seemed rather surprised that this would be an issue. Further she left me a happy footnote that leaving a child to scream all night would probably also mean that she would make herself sick. Hmmm – personally i felt that i didn’t sign up for parenting to let my children get so distressed that they were vomiting so i terminated that conversation. The outcome of my two years of trying everything from softly softly, in our bed, not in our bed, controlled crying, slow removal of self from her room, extra milk, extra water, some cuddles, some stroking, music….. the list is endless… is….

      Some people aren’t good sleepers and so some children are not good sleepers and if you have one of those you are going to suffer. There is also no doubt that some children need help to learn to get to sleep and stay asleep and some of the normal techniques suggested work well for them.

      As i struggle on with two extremely different children only one things saddens me – a sense that any other parent can suggest that by following a certain path you are not doing the best that you can with the limited resources, need for sleep and tolerance that beset all young parents.

      At the end of the day unless someone is abusing their child – children usually are fine if they grow up in a loving, attentive home, whether it is a strict one or a relaxed one. What i guess i am trying to say is do what works for you – who cares what anyone else thinks or indeed what current thinking suggests as it is changed every couple of years. I don’t see my parent’s generation particularly distraught as a result of different parenting trends practised on them.

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    • http://www.waldorf-pc.com Reina Brown

      First of all, I want to congradulate you, Angela, on your piece. Great job! I hope many parents will learn something from it and learn not to “train” their babies like animals, as many experts would have them believe is best for their development. I love your very humane approach to rearing a baby.

      Wow! all of this confirms that everything I do is only natural. I have no children but have cared for plenty. Never ever had I left a baby to cry. To me, it just seemed cruel, archaic, and illogical. I always wondered, why do parents do that? Why do doctors suggest such illogical advice? Who could get a good night comfortable sleep after being forced to sleep under conditions of anxiety, panick mode, lack of attachment, and being forced to cry inconsolably to sleep until wearing out? I know I never could.

      When I go to bed crying, and I’ve cried myself to sleep many a times, I sleep deeply but also woke jultingly to nightmares and panick. If I’m an adult and doing this, I could only imagine what a baby would do, but of course, since parents and experts have forced them to be in their own room and independent and all that craziness, they’d never know what their baby thinks or feels since they are so focused on “training” them that all baby’s cues go by the wayside.

      This method, no matter how fancy experts want to get with it, just suggests one thing, let the baby cry until it wears itself out. There is no science to it. Even a street dummy can come up with such a stupid practice. Of course a baby will eventually fall asleep after being extremely fatigued and exhaustion. I guess it WILL work! DUH. I don’t have children of my own yet, but I do, as a female, have a maternal instinct that I will not ignore. After all, every woman is born with that, hence her desire to have children and be nurturing. Though childless, I can see past the stupid advice of the experts and refused to be exploited by them. Let a doctor scoff at me. I’ll do all I can to have their license revoked because that is when they cross a line! I’m sorry for the mother that happened to. Getting a new doc is the best thing. I’d also file a complaint with the local QIO–Quality Improvement Organization. Doctors have to answer to someone, too.

      And to the parent who said that child will still be in bed with you at five? Well, haven’t you noticed that when you take down the crib and give the child a big boy/girl bed that they will keep coming into your room, even despite you letting them cry it out in a crib? Well, here is the answer. That child always wanted to be with you. Them coming into your room isn’t some new desire or habit since they got a big person bed. They always wanted to, but the crib kept them confined and made it impossible. They cried but were ignored. They tried to let you know before they wanted you, but rather than listen to your heart, you listened to some stupid expert, a complete stranger, who said to let your baby cry it out under all odds. They stopped crying because they quickly figure it is no use. Take a look of what the silent baby means. Babies who are not responded to quickly get the picture. They have no idea why they are being ignored. And they cannot reason that it is due to training, so they give up. But now that they have the bed and nothing to keep them confined, they have their own two feet to bring them to your bed for comfort. So, will you now lock them in their room to prevent that? Why must we force children to be independent before they are ready?

      The funny thing is that babies cannot change their own diapers, they cannot feed themselves, and they depend on someone for all of their needs to be met. Yet, the funny thing is that they are supposed to survive–I like to say toughen it out–all through the night for twelve hours without adult contact. Despite probably waken up in the night because of a wet or poopy diaper, despite probably wanting some comfort or a drink, baby must kick back and put himself back to sleep no matter the circumstances. If the diaper is soiled, tough crap. I guess experts say, “You’re a baby. Poopy diapers are the norm. Get over it, endure a little, and go back to sleep. Nobody is coming, so you’d better find a way to get comfortable, even if the mess between your legs is burning your crotch out.” Awwww, was I too graphic? Was I too mean? Did I say too much for your tender ears? Did I cross a line? Was I too harsh? Well, too bad. I had to say it like it is, and that is how it is, whether or not some want to come out of denial and accept it, which I find is better to do. Face it. It is cruel and should not be done.

      Let me tell you, and I have no shame in doing so, is that I’m completely incontinent. I must wear a diaper twenty-four/seven. Wet and poopy diapers do wake me because they are uncomfortable. I get up, change them, and go back to sleep. I could not imagine a helpless baby being forced to “put itself back to sleep” lying in the stuff. I have one word to describe that–inhumane! I don’t care what the reason is. There are better ways to teach someone something than that! This whole thing all seems so illogical, and I don’t need my own children to know how illogical it really is. I care for the mentally challenged off and on, and one has not been tried until they take on such a job. Caring for the mentally challenged makes caring for a baby a walk in the park. It isn’t a crime for a baby to wake during the night. Even adults do for various reasons. I woke up at four this morning due to a very wet soaking diaper, and it is five twenty-four. I decided I wanted to go on the computer for awhile, as I felt too wrestless to go back to sleep after changing my diaper. Now, should i be sleep trained? Should I be forced to sleep in my mess and not get out of bed? I wake up two to three times nightly, as I’ve been a very crappy sleeper since I was a baby. Should I be locked in my room to scream it out until I’m tired so that all the energy that I lost screaming my head off would make me sleep deeper because I was so tired from screaming it out? See the logic here? There is none at all. It is funny that there is all the evidence that suggest that it is bad to let a baby cry it out, but there is none suggesting that it produces happy, healthy, intterractive, independent, well-adapted babies. I’m ready for a REAL debate. Pull out the stuff that says it is okay. You won’t find any because it is not. Don’t bother to compete with me because I’m very well read on the subject. I’m even a staunch advocate against it, and I’m composing my own papers with scientific evidence to back it up.

      Humans cannot be “trained.” I refuse to “train” a baby. Rather, I listen and follow cues. This way, it learns to be assertive and be comfortable. If I wanted to “train” something, I’ll get a dog.

      To say that babies have no needs at night after a certain age is just plain stupid. We all will have needs no matter the age. Just think of it, just because a baby is “trained” that doesn’t go into adulthood with them. We are not “trained” like dogs, so why should a baby be?

      I’ve worked with mentally challenged people for a considerable amount of time. Let me just say that much of what is acceptable to do to babies would never fly in caring for the mentally challenged. If I were to do half the cruel methods suggested that should be done to a poor, helpless, defenseless, little baby, I’d have a criminal record that would follow me forever. If it cannot be done to the mentally challenged in caregiving environments, and if it is even unacceptable to be done to the elderly, who may even wake much more than babies, than why a baby? I seem to get the vive that babies are inferior in this culture and that they must be mannaged and controled to cater to what the parents want. Baby must be squeezed into an already busy lifestyle being forced to accommidate those around them, rather than it being the other way around. Baby comes first and always should.

      I’m glad that I regard all human life the same. I respect all of a baby’s needs, and allowing them to scream it out all scared and distressed before bed is disrespectful to say the least. And to parents who say that your baby is so very happy and healthy after this method, how do you really know that baby is happy? Think about that. Baby may seem compliant and happy, but infant depression can set in. Read this article at http://www.naturalchild.com/guest/pinky_mckay.html Something to think about, huh?

      Oh, and for proof of my incontinence, check out http://www.takeastandforincontinence.blogspot.com There, I share my story and am an advocate.

    • http://mariawj.blogspot.com Maria

      Funny how someone posted on here and brought it back up, and I could look at my comment to see how things have changed. 24 months now…and we blissfully co-sleep. Forget transferring him to his own bed. Each time we do that, he starts sleeping crappy. He can sleep from bedtime until my bedtime just fine, so I know he can do it…he just doesn’t want to, and I’m fine with that! :)

    • http://mariawj.blogspot.com Maria

      (and by “it” I mean sleep. He just isn’t ready to do it alone.)

    • Esther Hall

      Thank you at last I have found someone who is against CIO. I wouldn’t dream of trying it and I strongly believe that mothers sould follow their instincts not what our western culture tells us to. I nurse my baby many times in the night to comfort her to sleep, she is now 10 months (only for a minute and she doesn’t even cry) I agree that it is a natural process that my baby needs and will continue to do so until she naturally sleeps through (which I know she will do when she is ready). This article is a comforting read – thank you!

    • katita

      How can we help our co-sleeping babies adjust to daytime naps with other care providers?

    • http://www.breastfeeding123.com Angela White, J.D., breastfeeding counselor

      Hi Katita. I recommend the book “The No-Cry Nap Solution” by Elizabeth Pantley. See my review here:


      I bet the author has tips at her website:


      Good luck!

    • http://dragonflyzinjune.blogspot.com/ Crystal

      THANK YOU SO MUCH! I have had so many people tell me that I was his ‘soother’, that I should let my 7month old CIO, that he needed to learn to ‘self soothe’. All of it was not what seemed to come natural for me and my son. When he had a UTI at ONE MONTH, the nurses said I was spoiling him because I nursed on demand and would rock him to sleep. He refused a soother, so I guess I am his soother, but I am proud of it!! I can soothe him far better than any soother on the market!!!

      Tonight, my son was in his crib watching his mobile and content, so I decided to jump into the shower. I told him where I was going, that I would be right back and hopped in. He began to cry almost immediately, and by the time I got out 5-10 minutes later he was beyond upset. I scooped him up immediately, nursed him and cried (and cried and cried). He was better so fast, smiling at me and paying with my wet hair.

      I knew that CIO did not work, at least not for us, and I needed something, someone to help us! After he fell asleep, I found this article, THANK YOU!

    • Joanna

      I am the mother of a healthy 3.5 year old girl and am 6 months pregnant with a boy. We employ an open-door policy with our daughter, as far as our bed goes. Though she now starts out the night in her own bed, she knows she is free to come to our room if she gets scared. Sometimes she does; sometimes she doesn’t. If she comes in before midnight, and is not upset, I often say, “It’s too early,” and she’ll return to her bed with no protests.

      Why did my husband and I decide on a “family bed” situation? Well, mainly, due to the fact that the idea of letting a wholly dependent and helpless infant cry (her natural and only means of letting you know of pain, discomfort, anxiety, etc.) seemed completely unnatural and inhumane. But my resolve was bolstered, in part, by this brief article I read in an “Awake” magazine (7/22/94). It is 15 years old, I grant you, but the information seems completely sound and convincing.

      It reads:
      “Sleeping With Baby

      “Not only would we reduce SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), but we’d raise healthier, happier babies if moms did just one thing: Take their babies with them to bed for the first year, rather than isolate them in their own cribs,” says James McKenna, a professor at Pomona College in California. Sleeping in contact with a parent “helps regulate the baby’s physiology throughout the night,” reports The Dallas Morning News. Tests have confirmed that when a baby sleeps next to its mother, the infant’s “breathing patterns, heart rates and sleep stages follow those of its mother.” And as mother and child usually face each other, the baby can easily feed whenever it wants to. “Babies alone in cribs suffer sensory deprivation,” says Mr. McKenna. “We think this can lead to lack of crucial intellectual development and possibly to conditions more conducive to the risk of SIDS.” Statistics show that in countries where babies customarily share beds with their mothers, SIDS rates are much lower.”

      Another article I read asserted that the US has one of the highest SIDS rates in the world and also one of the lowest occurrences of a “family bed” sleeping arrangement. These facts are not, I believe, coincidence.

      I know that things go wrong, and that sometimes babies die due to no negligence on the parents’ part. But couldn’t it be that in some instances vital cues that something was wrong were missed because the baby was in another room on the other side of the house all alone? I mean absolutely no offense to any poor mother who has had to endure the horrible, incomprehensible ordeal of losing a child. I am placing no blame–just sharing some of the things that prompted my husband and I to be too uncomfortable with the arrangement of having our child sleeping in another room to attempt the CIO method.

      Also, I agree with the assertion that CIO can lead to an infants being MORE clingy and dependent. Case in point: When my daughter was 11 months old, I would put her to bed, after nursing, around 8 pm. After 2-3 hours she would wake up for her first comfort/nursing session. At that point I would go to bed with her, and she’d be in our bed all night. One evening, I put her down in my bed as usual, and set the room monitor (or so I thought) and went downstairs. After three hours I began to wonder at her sleeping so soundly; checked the monitor, and to my horror, realized my end had been off the entire time. I ran upstairs and found that she had awakened, crawled off the end of the bed (The mattress was on the floor on carpet. We purposely put off installing a bed frame just in case she would ever roll off the bed.) She had cried for who knows how long and eventually fell asleep on her face on the carpet. From that point on, for at least 6 months, she was extremely clingy. She would not permit me to leave the room while she played without bursting into tears. And heretofore, I had been able to get her to go to sleep on her own peacefully, if nursing had not made her nod off–but no more. As soon as she detected me trying to leave the room she would become hysterical. She was just an infant, but that one night of inadvertently crying it out scarred her for the next 6 months. She was terrified of being abandoned by her mother. I cannot tell you how much guilt I felt over the matter, and yet this is a method that many parents adopt, inflicting such seeming cruelty on a nightly basis. And, yes, I say “cruelty” because who has known an infant to cry when they are happy??

      I really appreciate this article and the many intelligent relies posted herein. Thank you!

    • Mel

      Oh my gosh. I don’t even know what to say after reading this article and the comments, other than I am appalled! I honestly and truly feel sorry for your children! The cry it out method refers to letting your child cry for a short amount of time AFTER knowing that everything is fine with them. Yes, it is habit if your child wakes at night and you go immediately to them and feed them. In the first few months of their lives, the child does need to eat this often, but after that they do not need it. They woke for some other reason, and instead of giving them a few minutes to be their own person you suffocate them right away by insisting they need to eat.

      Children DO NOT need breatsmilk or formula past one year old. I’m sorry, but if your child is old enough to come to you and tell you that it’s time to nurse, then you are SCREWING UP YOUR CHILD FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES!! OMG. Get a grip people! one person said that with their 5 year old it’s still no guarantee that they will sleep through the night. Let me let you in on a little secret. It is ok for your child to cry for a few minutes at a time for a little while. They DO need to learn how to soothe themselves and fall asleep, otherwise, you know what? You are going to end up with a teenager that has sleep problems because they don’t know how to fall asleep on their own. If you know your child has eaten, been changed, is comfortable temperature, etc, then let them cry for a few minutes. I know it’s hard to hear your child cry and not go run to them, but when is it going to stop? Part of being a good parent is taking care of your kids, the other part is teaching them to take care of themselves. You people who let your kids sleep in your bed, suck on your breasts until their 3 (or any older than 1, really), and run every time they start to cry are ABSOLUTELY NOT teaching your children anything good. All that you are teaching them is that if they ever need something in life, dont try to do it yourself, look for someone else to do it for you. What kind of message is that to give? Again, I feel very sorry for your children and the ENORMOUS amount of problems you are bringing to their future. Get a grip. Be a good parent or else dont have kids in the first place. I praise the doctor that gave one commentor some parenting advice, and I wish that more doctors would do this. [...] Thank you for your time, and if one person will realize the mistakes they are making from reading my post, then it will have been worth it.

      • Lee

        Wow, have never read a more judgemental and rude post as this one. Not to mention quite inaccurate as far as breastfeeding is concerned. The World Health Organization reccomends bf for two years and beyond as do most pediatricians. So YES, it is AWESOME to continue nursing beyond a year and no you are ABSOLUTELY NOT “screwing your child up for life” (what study/research/medical authority says this??????? This is just your opinion.
        Another sore point of mine: when you say “it’s okay for your child to cry for a few minutes at a time” what does that mean? Because I’ve tried sleep “training’ via the cry it out method and “few minutes” meant 1 hour and 25 minutes the first night (at bedtime) and 45 minutes at every night waking after that. We didn’t make it to night two as at the third night waking my son vomitted after his third session of 45 minutes crying. That’s not my definition of a “few minutes”. I think when people say ” few minutes” they are either in denial, wear ear plugs or have very compliant babies who would likely have been great sleepers on their own regardless.
        Anyways, just thought I’d throw my two sense as well and a reminder to not be so judgmental and insulting during your posts.

      • Tania

        Wow you need some serious help women! I take it you do have the internet to your disposal so please wake up and use it. Take note of the cold hard facts and all the research that’s been done on sleep training and children/toddlers in general, breastfeeding and co-sleeping. Hopefully no one will take your post seriously……

    • Seren Moon

      Well these are all great comments but what about a mother’s needs? I am a good mother, I have a one year old and a two year old and am pregnant with number three (close together for specific reasons). I breastfed both of them simultaneously until the eldest weaned himself around 19 months, and now I continue to breastfeed the youngest while being pregnant again. I think you have to just take it as it comes. Do all you can do for child, but if you’re running on empty what do you have left for them during the day? That is awesome if you can wake up multiple times per night to feed and then be raring to go the next day, but sometimes your own body will say enough! What is right with one child may not be right with the next, and what works with one child may not work with the next. Really when we deal in absolutes in parenting details we are setting ourselves up for failure, I am not saying compromise your ethics at all, but it should be enough to say give your best, and your best will differ from day to day or year to year. But in the end if you are doing your best you will have a happy and content child.

    • Laura

      I am fundamentally against CIO. Thanks for posting with such great sources. These are humans with souls not pets that we train. I think letting a baby cry till it throws up is revolting. I co-sleep with my baby and often she wakes up in the night rolls over smiles at me and goes back to sleep. That is the most wonderful feeling in the world.

    • Nikki

      I have 3 children. I appreciate the thought of them all sleeping in my bed- but there is NO way that any of us would ever get the sleep we need each day. Not to mention, that my husband and I would ever have sex again which is important for any marriage. I sleep-trained them all (in a controlled, loving and yes cry-it-out way) at 8 months each. My 8 year old and 6 year old sleep in a room together from 7pm-6:30am every night without fault. Even when they are sick, teething, lost a tooth or have nightmares they come in to our room for a hug or reassurance but are able to go back to sleep in their room shortly after without a problem ever. They actually KNOW that they sleep better in their room and beds. My 1 year old sleeps in his crib from 6:30pm-7am blissfully. They are all clingy sometimes, independent other times, cranky sometimes, angels other times- like all normal children. One thing I know for fact is that they are never ever sleep-deprived which I feel is so important for brain-development- much more than whether they cried for a total of 4 hours when they were 8 months old (Yes if you do it right you can eliminate crying to almost nothing when you actually sleep train!). They are all bright, focused, articulate, well-balanced children who have as wonderful of a relationship to me and their dad as any kids I have ever seen. From my experience, I 100% agree that children need to be taught good sleep habits in order to successfully sleep well and ALONE in the future, especially when their brains are still developing and much is demanded from them at school and in life. Just my 2 cents.

    • No ST

      What a relief to read this article. As a childcare provider this reading reinforces everything I have experienced from Sleep trained-CIO babies and children–anxietry, panicky, frightened, overly dependent and often joyless children and guess who else in the family has these qualitties? The parents! The physical problems noted in the article make absolute sense as well.
      This “quick fix cure” feels ritualistic and really scares me. I steer clear of working for families that practice it.

    • Chandra

      I breastfeed my daughter for a year, I would nurse her to sleep and lay her in her crib; then when she woke in the night I would bring her to bed with me, nurse her back to sleep, and either she slept with me or I would lay her back in her crib till she woke again. when she weaned at about 1 year I would rock her to sleep and lay her down, when she woke I would bring her to bed with me, she would have a drink of water and then she would fall back to sleep in bed with me very peacefully. ahe started walking at 10 months, but once she started walking very easially and accuratly I would lay her in her toddler bed (at about 15 months ) and when she woke up in the night she would come into my room by herself … she is now 2 years old (actually 27 months) ….shortly after she turned two I went in her room to put her to bed to find she was already to sleep in her bed, since she gets in her bed and goes to sleep all on her own when ever i tell her its bed time….( sometimes she sas she doesn’t want to because of a show, or shes wants a drink, etc. but its always an easy fix and she just goes to bed; 90% of the time she sleeps in her room all night and come in to wake me in the morning, and the other 10 % of the time she come in in the middle of the night, but often she sleeps there for about an hour, then gets up says bye and goes back to her bed.