The Crying Game

My son is awesome. He's super friendly and sociable. He's really musical and loves to explore new things. Plus, he's one of the better looking babies I've ever come across. All indicators point to the fact that he is 100% Prime Grade-A Baby. He has but one flaw... And it is a mighty flaw... He is a HORRIBLE sleeper.

I had a pretty good feeling this was coming. My whole life I've heard what a terrible sleeper I was as a infant. And as we all know payback is, in fact, a bitch. But knowing that it's coming and experiencing 11 months of never ending sleep deprivation are quite another thing.

I will never claim to have any wisdom or insight into baby sleep. I will never offer my mama friends any advice on the subject. I know people whose 3-month-olds sleep through the night. My 11-month-old doesn't sleep through the night.  I haven't gotten more than four (and that's on a good night) hours of uninterrupted sleep in almost a year.

There are two types of mommies in the world -- Cry-It-Outers (CIO) and no Cry-It-Outers (NCIO). The natural, attatchment parenting mommies tend to be NCIO. Being young, impressionable parents desperate for sleep my husband and I took the advice we had received from countless friends and family members and attempted a form of modified CIO when my son was about six-months-old. It was pretty awful on mama, daddy and baby. Plus his sleep didn't get any better. I feel pretty guilty about it now. I'm not going to take any kind of moral stance on CIO, as I know some wonderful mommies who have used it, but it did not work for my family.

My problems with CIO:
  1. Making a baby CIO does not address any of the underlying sleep problems the child might have. I would eventually pass out too if I had been up screaming for hours.
  2. Because of the mainstream popularity of CIO, many families try to make infants sleep through the night well before the child is physically or emotionally ready. Hearing about other babies your child's age who already sleep through the night can be incredibly frustrating to exhausted parents, but all babies really are different. Forcing a baby to sleep through the night when they are not ready has been linked to failure to thrive, dehydration and attachment disorders. Some studies even suggest CIO could cause brain damage http://www.drmomma.org/2009/12/crying-it-out-causes-brain-damage.html. Do I think a few minutes of letting your baby fuss is going to do permanent damage? No. Do I think some babies can get so upset they may hurt themselves? Yes.
  3. I don't trust many of the so-called-experts behind CIO. Dr. Gary Ezzo of Babywise and Growing Kids God's Way fame has some seriously questionable credentials. For more information on Ezzo please visit http://www.ezzo.info/.
  4. CIO doesn't make much sense for breastfeeding moms. Physiologically, breastfed babies continue to wake in the night not only out of hunger, but also to keep their mother's milk supply up. Night feedings are a biological necessity. Additionally, many breastfeeding mother's find that co-sleeping is the best way to get some much needed rest. Co-sleeping and CIO are diametrically opposed to one another. Any type of CIO would be very confusing and ineffective with a co-sleeping baby.
All that being said, my kiddo still has sleep issues. And I still don't know how to fix them. I would say generally we're very slowly improving. We've just tried to let him work on his sleep at his own pace. We have a consistent bedtime and a consistent bedtime routine. Now he puts himself to sleep at bedtime with little to no fussing. On a good night he'll only wake twice. But on a bad night he'll still wake four or five times. Naps in general are disasters.

The only way we can get any sleep at all is to co-sleep. It feels very natural to me. Kiddo and I both have a hard time sleeping if we're not together. However, it's still very necessary for his safety and my sanity that he sleep in his crib for naps and the first few hours of the night. Bedsharing may not be right for everyone, but it's right for us. Research shows co-sleeping can be very safe and effective for breastfeeding moms http://www.askdrsears.com/html/10/t102200.asp and http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40094001/ns/health-kids_and_parenting/. I may be setting myself up for disaster later, but it's what my family needs right now.

Though my son's anti-sleep stance may be killing me, he's a happy, healthy guy who shows no signs of sleep deprivations. He leaves that for mama and daddy. He's just lucky he's so cute.


  1. Your sleep situation sounds a lot like ours. My almost ten month old slept through the night for one blissful week at around 3 months. I made the mistake of talking about it, and it abruptly stopped. Aside from that week, I have not had a night of uninterrupted sleep since the point in my pregnancy when my bladder became too squished to hold out for six straight hours. And that's okay.

    CIO definitely could not ever work for us either, and bedsharing really makes things manageable despite the night wakings. I do wake several times a night, but often I hardly remember it the next morning, because I just lift my shirt and we both doze off again.

    We have put babe's mattress on the floor beside our bed and she naps and starts the night there, but when she wakes to eat, she's with us for the rest of the night.

  2. My baby slept through the night once. Turned out it was because he had an ear infection!

    We do a weirdo version of co-sleeping. There's a full bed in the nursery and I sleep in there with kiddo. My hubby gets the new king-sized bed to himself! I know some people think it's bad for the marriage for a couple not to sleep in the same bed, but my hubby snores and we'd usually ended up sleeping separately pre-baby too. It's what gets everyone the most sleep. Believe me, being grouchy cranks is not good for a marriage either!

    Thanks, Melissa! Sleep-deprived misery loves company!


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