Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cry-it-out: Skating close to the icy brink

Anytime anyone comments on our baby from the couple sitting next to us at sushi, to the UPS guy (seriously!) it goes like this:

Aw what a cute baby [or some variation thereof]
How old is he?
[insert month]
Is he sleeping through the night?

And when you say No, you get advice. Buckets of advice:

Add rice cereal to his bottle
He's hot.
He's cold. 
Gotta tough it up and let him cry-it-out

We've been urged to cry-it-out from friends, family, doctors, and the UPS guy and because we're not doing what the majority of people are urging us to do- K feels bad. That we're lacking in the parenting department. That we're the only parents whose eight month old still wakes every few hours all night long. I know that's not the case. While unpleasant and frustrating, I know this is normal. He's a fabulous baby, but sleep? He's just not a big fan of it. The problem is I'm a big fan of sleep. I think sleep is awesome. I'd vote sleep for president if I could. And I miss sleep. He's had three doctor visits each giving him a clean bill of health [Thank God] and the admonition that if I like sleep then I must let him cry-it-out.

I've written before about how I don't want to do CIO as in just thinking about CIO makes me want to cry it out. But. We've tried it all: keeping him in his crib, co-sleeping, bath before bed, infant massage- nothing helps. We even gave him one nap-free day with the theory that surely he'd be so tired he'd zonk out all night. Instead? He was a perky bunny all day and just shakier and more hysterical at night. Teething? Possibly. Except- how long does this whole teething thing last? It's been months and nary a tooth in sight. It might be the sleep deprivation talking but the cry-it-out concept is singing its siren song like Ursula tempting Ariel- except I'm not asking for anything as grand as legs to replace fins, just the ability to function without caffeine.

We were tempted in November but we'd be out of town for Thanksgiving. December brought Christmas in DC. New Year? K's parents were in town. [and the last thing you should do is try CIO with grandparents anywhere in or near the vicinity.]. But now the reasons to delay are gone but the crying? It remains.

We moved his crib last night and while it was difficult for us, he gave us the first four hour stretch in four months. So maybe he needed the solitude of his own space. Still, the rest of the night I was a 24 hour diner. My doctor says don't encourage him by feeding him late at night- but nothing will soothe him but eating- and if it will help us sleep- I'm game.

Now that he's in his own room- the question of CIO springs up again. CIO advocates insist its best for the child and that despite the hysterics and screams, they want you to do it and that its the first of the many things we do to discipline our children. What Aisha? You can't handle this? What are you going to do when he hits his classmate and cries when you send him to his room? I know as a parent I'll have to impart discipline that might make him cry but those will be at ages I'd like to think he'll understand why he's being disciplined. Right now? He cries for us at night like he thinks we've left him forever. He clings to us when we go to him as though he was certain we would never return. While I know that we're right there- and that he'll see us, God Willing, when he wakes in the morning, for the dark moment in time that he feels all alone- that moment breaks my heart. But maybe this isn't about me and how CIO makes me feel- maybe he needs it and not doing so is damaging him.

So in short, when it comes to cry-it-out: The mind says yes- the heart screams no. But ofcourse we don't want to do it. Who does? What parent grins and says oh goody! Time to put my baby in a crib and hear them cry themselves into hysterics!

I'm thinking about doing it. But I'm scared. What if he stops giving me puppy dog grins and sloppy kisses. But what if I'm harming him by not doing CIO. Not teaching him to sleep properly for long stretches, triggering life-long insomnia. I feel bad K thinks he's being a bad parent by not doing CIO.

I type these words just twenty minutes after putting him down to sleep and you know what I'm thinking? Maybe tonight will be the night he sleeps through the night. Because every single night, despite logic- I hope this will be the night.


'Murgdan' said...

My sister has two children. One she refused CIO, the second she did it early. She said by the time the second one came she was just able to rationalize "I just fed her, I just changed her, I rocked her, I held her, and I know she's tired and needs I let her cry and now she's my best sleeper." Seeing the two of them you wouldn't know which was which. I absolutely don't believe it 'changes' them in the sense that they will be harmed or 'feel' less loved at all....It's simple conditioning. I just don't have the guts for it.

At least not at night, but now that the teeth are through and we've gone to giving a pumped bottle on his first waking rather than the boob...he's just waking once a night again, with a few short whines or fusses here and there.

Giving the bottle, for me, seems to have helped, because he's getting a full feeding in the middle of the night, while before he would basically snack for short periods and fall back asleep...maybe the midnight full belly is helping us?? Who knows. I do KNOW it was teething for us because the absolute day they cut through, it gets better, and it was like that for the top and the bottom.

I am thinking of trying a little CIO for nap times though...just to see. I'm not ready to give up cosleeping yet, so nighttime is still a no, but G takes naps on our chests at the moment. And that isn't working anymore.

katery said...

aisha, you just have to do what is right for the three of you. we've been pretty lucky with louise, she's a great sleeper. i hate the idea of cio too, luckily we haven't had to do it much with louise, but occasionally we do. i'm not sure if all kids are like this, but if louise is tired and we let her cry in her crib for 5-10 minutes, she gets even more tired, so then i can go in and rock her for a bit (5-10 minutes) and she falls asleep, so it's kind of a compromise, she does cio for a bit but it doesn't go on and on and i don't have to feel to awful about it. i would definitely try to cut out the night-time feedings because i think it would help, but you know what? i'm not there with you experiencing what you are, so maybe it just isn't possible. in any case, you really do just need to do what's right for you, waleed and k, and you shouldn't feel bad about anything that you are doing or worry about anything that anyone says, it's your family, we're not all the same and you are a fantastic mother. oh, and i know plenty of kids who are older than waleed who do not sleep though the night, walled is still a baby, you know? i don't think it's unusual for a kid his age to not be sleeping through the night yet.

kmina said...

Oh, yeah, the issue that defines my life right now. As I told you before, we tried CIO. Major fail. Make that FAIL. The couple of times we tried it, he got so worked up, he would not settle down even held. He eventually fell asleep, still in my or hub's arms, but the sleep he got was in 20' stretches and really, that is not sleep.

But I have to say that when he is too wound up to go to sleep, letting him cry for 5 minutes helps, as in he is fast asleep by the time I pick him up and bring him to my chest (not to nurse, just to hold). Putting him back into his bed is a bit tricky, but we do manage. Still, helping him go to bed each time he wakes up is not going to work for long, I realise that. He now wakes up every hour before midnight, then he gets a couple of 2-3 stretches before he is up. I tell myself that for now it is the teething, but how he will be able to change all this routine when he has teeth, it's a mystery to me.

I feel I did something major very wrong, because he used to go to sleep by himself and he did sleep more than he does now, but I don't know what I did wrong and how to fix it. And since it is my fault, I have to help him until he figures it by himself. And frankly, when I am barely functioning on the little sleep I am getting, I can't think long enough to come up with something worth trying.

Oh, and another thing, the advice I get from various books on sleep training?! Is worthless to me. I've been trying to get him to sleep more than 40' when napping for more than a month now, and he couldn't care less about that. I know it takes time, but come on, surely 5 weeks is long enough to see a tiny little change, right?

Right this moment, when we are up since 4h30, and junior is flapping away on the play mat (I know when to give up a losing fight), I feel like I am raising a monkey by feeding it batteries, he could not be more energetic than that...

Anonymous said...

I couldnt do it. If you can and it works then thats the perfect solution!

The Muslim Wife's Kitchen said...

Aw, Aisha, I know exactly what you're going through! First you gotta know, that this is nobody's decision but yours and your hubby's (certainly not the UPS guys!) so do your best to not let others opinion of you and your child motivate your sleep training method. As you know by now, parenthood is "try anything once, hope it works" kinda thing....if you've tried everything else (sounds like you have), then I'd say try CIO, but only if you want to! If you are gonna do it, be consistent and firm. We let both of the kids CIO and yes, it was hard, but we all lived, my babies are happy and healthy, alhamdulillah, and I'd do it again. Having a spouse who's on board with you, and a video monitor, really help too!

mystic-soul said...


My son had similar situation. And I suffered with advises for 3 years. He is now 9 years old and sleeps 6-8 hours with fully active day to follow without any trouble. CIO is a stupid advise. Every child is diffferent. When they start walking they will walk to your bed in middle of the night and will sleep with you anyway. If he is happy next day just ride it. My son never took nap and still he doesn't. GO WITH YOUR HEART. NOTHING IS MORE TRUTHFUL THAN MOTHER'S HEART.

Stephanie S. Kuehn said...

Do what works for you. Period. I coslept with all my babies and loved it. They are never that small again, and while our culture reveres independence, I think learning how to need and be supported by others is a very undervalued quality. Every baby and every mom is different. Only you know what's right for you both. And there's nothing wrong with trying something, only to change your mind. Children are wonderfully resilient. Do more loving and less worrying. There's no right or wrong.

Antonia Blanca said...

Aisha, Good luck! As others have said, don't feel pressured by anyone. It is entirely up to you & K. You know what is best for your family. My ex-husband and I were not into CIO. We couldn't and wouldn't do it. I don't think it's wrong - but it just wasn't for our family. We co-slept. And it was amazing for us. It gave us some of the sweetest memories. My boys are now 7 & 4 and sleep fine. :) Just try what you need to, do what you need to, you know your intentions are good. It'll be ok either way.

Best of luck and SWEET DREAMS!!! Xoxo

Sunny said...

I am so there with you. Except that I have two nine month olds that wake at least 2x each night.

Here's the thing. You are the expert on your child. And you are the one who has to deal with him 24 hours a day.

I know it's hard, but DON'T LET THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS AFFECT YOUR DECISION TO CIO OR NOT. Advice can be helpful when solicited. I think it's important to learn from the experiences of others. But don't accept their judgements of you.

I am not a sleep expert AT ALL (did I mention I'm up several times a night?) but here's my experience with my toddler in case it helps.

By the time he was 6 months old, he wasn't really sleeping AT ALL. Day was a mess, no naps longer than 20 minutes. Nights he was up 3-4x still. I was seriously teetering on the brink of delerium and I couldn't handle it. Tried CIO, couldn't handle the crying. Tried "No-cry sleep solution," couldn't get it to work. Meanwhile Bean and I were getting more tired, more cranky, and I started to panic that he wasn't getting the sleep he needed for brain development.

I decided to start with day CIO because I was most stable emotionally during the day. It was clear he needed 3 naps at that point, so I would change him, nurse him, love him, and set him in his crib for his first nap around 9 am. He had to stay in his crib for one hour. If he slept, great... if he cried, then I cried. :( But one hour it was. Then up for two hours. Sometimes he would try to sleep in my arms if he had cried during his intended nap, but I wouldn't let him. I stuck to this schedule, day-time nap CIO only, for 8 days. On the 8th day, it was like a miracle. I laid him in the crib, he smiled at me, grabbed his stuffed dog, rolled over, and went to sleep on his own. Had a great nap. Repeated two more times that day. I was floored.

And as a bonus, night time got better too. He went from waking 3-4x to waking 1-2x. For me, I decided that was okay. Not ideal, as I too am in love with sleep. My bed is my BFF. But I make a decision that I could live with the 1-2x as I wasn't comfortable with letting Bean cry in the middle of the night and not comforting him (which I did by nursing him). Around 14 months, he started sleeping through the night more often then not. When he weaned at 18 months, he stopped waking. At almost 3 years old, he is a super-stellar sleeper and has no scars from the time I let him cry.

That's what worked for ME with BEAN.

I still worry about my supply of milk, and whether the twins are getting enough breastmilk to make it through 12 hours at night without eating at all. So despite encouragement from my mom and my pediatrician, I just can't let them CIO all night.

Anyway, now it's past 10 pm, which means my brain is officially closed for the night. Hopefully my comment made some sense. lol You know where to find me if you have questions or need support.

Sunny said...

*sob* I just typed out an ENORMOUS response to this post... and my computer lost it. It's too late at night now to retype it all. I am so devastated. :( I'll try to come back...

Anonymous said...

Aisha, you know best. I know you do. I read your previous post regarding CIO--and the article you linked--and that basically sealed the deal for us to decide NOT to allow N. to CIO. She still has a rough time sleeping through the nights sometimes, but we (well hubby) figured out that she just hated her cage (aka crib) so we moved the mattress to the floor (initially in our room, but after 2 weeks, back to her room) and she now recognizes it as her bed, crawls into it when its time to sleep, and for the most part does a pretty good job of not rolling off of it during the night :) Might be something to consider for W. since he seems to hate the living room cage too ;)

Anonymous said...

I would highly recommend "Healthy sleep habits, happy child" by Dr Marc Weissbluth. Try it.


Sprogblogger said...

When I was still pregnant, I swear I looked at parents who'd decided to CIO (including my MIL) like they were just this side of being ogres. I mean, really, who goes into a situation saying "I'm making a deliberate effort to NOT comfort my child!"

And then reality hit.

The only thing I'm finding is making a difference with Henry - other than random luck - is trying harder to make sure he naps 3 times a day. The more sleep he gets in the daytime, the easier he seems to relax (and sleep longer) at night. Weird, but true.

We just had our first 'good night' in way too many weeks. But I'm seriously leaning toward HSH,HC 'CIO' method if the trend does not continue.

Of course, the beginning of our awful nights absolutely correlated with teething, so maybe poor W's teeth are just moving around a lot under the gum.

Whatever it is, I'm hoping you get some rest soon.

(Oh, and thanks to a comment you made on Twitter, I think, about your rule being 'if Waleed's napping, Aisha's writing' I cranked out almost half of a short story yesterday during various naptimes that I owe an anthology that's been hanging over my head since September. If you have the time, I have the time. Thanks for the inspiration!)

E said...

Viktor used to sleep all night until a couple of months ago. He also was only napping 15 min if I was lucky downstairs. So, I moved his crib into his own room and starting putting him upstairs for his naps. Now he takes 2 a day at an hour to two hours at a time. He is still waking up once to two times a night though. I was thinking of trying the CIO method but doing it the first week only letting him cry it out for 1-2 minutes and then slowly increasing that each week to see what happens. THe only thing is that Viktor gets so worked up that he actually vomits. So I will have to see how it goes.

Good luck!!

My 14 year old didn't sleep through the night until he was in 6th grade. I am not kidding. He would wake me up at least once a night for that long.

Aisha said...

These are some of the kindest, most thoughtful comments I've ever received- thank you to each and every one of you- I normally address each comment in the comment reply area- but I think instead, because you shared so much helpful stuff- it might be better to turn your comments into a post instead so others can also read them too. Thank you again for your support and your non-judgmental, non-abrasive approach to this often very contentious topic.

Jen said...

You can do it girl I know you can!

raisingbrainchild said...

I'll second a previous poster: "Happy Sleep Habits, Health Child" by Weissbluth. He offers various methods, including, CIO, graduated CIO, no CIO, etc. For some reason, I found him completely obtuse when I was sleep-deprived and in the throes of newborn colic...I took copious notes from his chapters, drew diagrams, looked for handouts on the internet, etc. I didn't find a solution to my daughter's issues, but in general, I think that his advice is really good. Once she was through the worst of her colic, we were able to use his techniques to help her sleep better (and us too). Check him out!

Aisha said...

Raising, thanks for the suggestion- I did check that book out but it frightened me so much I stuck it back on the shelf with warnings like psychotic people didn't sleep well as children- I probably need to check it out again.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, he goes overboard with the no sleep = disturbed children theory, but he does offer helpful advice. I read his book within the first few months of having my daughter and have to say, it really helped me look at sleep differently (especially in the desi culture where kids are dragged all around at all hours of the day/night, to weddings, dinners etc with no regard to their sleep). Bedtime is sacred for us even if that means one of us misses out on family dinners, weddings etc.


Shawna said...

You have to do what works for you and what you're comfortable with. At 15 months, after about 4 months of waking up at 2:00 and sleeping with M on the couch for the rest of the night, I gave up and gave in and decided to sleep train her/let her cry it out. I let her cry for 5 minutes, went in and patted her back and talked to her without making eye contact, and left the room with her still crying. Five minutes later she was asleep. We only had to do it 2 nights in a row, and she now asks to go to bed, and sleeps 10-11 hours. And my husband and I have our lives back and HOLY HELL DOES IT FEEL GOOD. I'm not sure if it was the sleep training or she was just going through a very long phase and it was just coincidence that CIO worked and was thankfully painless for us. The day will come when W sleeps for you, and you'll figure it out somehow . . .just don't be pressured by all of the people out there that insist that what they did wiill work for you!

raisingbrainchild said...

Aisha, gosh, I must have tuned that part out in my sleep-deprived state. Like I said, I was really looking for answers. I do think that aside from the theory he espouses as to why sleep is important (which is where I'm assuming that he freaked you out), I appreciated his discussion of the various techniques that you could use. He didn't say, "CIO is the only way" or "you're a horrible parent if you use CIO." He talked about the benefits of each from his standpoint and gave options as to how to make whatever technique you chose work for you.

Aisha said...

Anon- Raising- I will re-try that book again, try to ignore the scary stories- and look for the practical advice- thank you :)

Shawna- thank you for a lightbulb moment- wow- I think I may revisit this at 12 months. . . hmmm. . . do you wish you had done it sooner?

Shawna said...

In a way, I wish I had at least tried it sooner. But if it didn't work months ago, I may have been so utterly opposed to it that I would have never tried again. Sleeping on the couch with her sucked big time . . .afraid to move because it might wake her, afraid to fall into a deep sleep because she might roll off of me and onto the floor. But at the same time, she was never a very affectionate child (until recently--her new favorite thing is to run up to me and hug me as hard as possible. It's my favorite thing too!) so the hours I spent on the couch with her were so nice in a way . . .it was cuddle time where she didn't try to resist :)

Roadblocks and Roller Coasters said...

My only advice should you choose to use CIO is to have your husband go in and check on him. We Ferberized (we would go in at 5-10-15 minute intervals) with both girls and it worked. Lemy was a NIGHTMARE with sleep and it wasn't until we did this and then had G go in at night to get her when she cried instead of me that she finally started sleeping.

Turns out that if I didn't go in she was able to get back to sleep without nursing. Whenever I went in there was the expectation that I was going to rock and nurse her back down and she'd be up 15 more times. When G started going it she gradually started waking less until she completely stopped.

Jasper was much easier and didn't cry past the first 5-10 minute intervals. We are still working on sleeping through the night, but we will get there and SO WILL YOU! It will work out, just go with your heart and do what you feel comfortable with. I do not believe that CIO works unless you and your husband are in it 100%.

Good luck!

Banshee said...

OMG - so true. All of it. I feel for you.

PandaBear said...

Hi! I have a four month old and she has been great about sleeping, but only because her crib is sidecarred to our bed and we co sleep, meaning I nurse her to bed. Although she is "supposed" to be in her crib if I try to sneak her in there she wakes up and cries and needs me immediately - so many nights I simply let her sleep with boob in mouth all night - it seems to be what works for us. I don't think she could ever go in her own room - at least not until she understands it is her room and we are done nursing, probably when she is 2 or 3 or 4 (or whenever she says she is done), but for now this works for us. She needs snuggles. And with snuggles she will hang out with me and if I fall asleep with her in my arms then she gets sleepy and drifts off. When she wakes at night (sometimes she does, sometimes she does not) it really does not wake me because she is good at finding the boob on her own somehow. But most nights we settle in around 9:30 and are off to sleep by 11 PM. She sleeps until 4 AM. That I can deal with. On occasion she still wakes at 2 AM but like I said it sometimes does not wake me. There is no way I could do CIO, so I feel you. Also, if it were not for the co sleeping I know she would be like this because if I put her in her pack n play for even a second she wales.

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