I suppose for some it’s magic; for us, it was more like mayhem. Seriously, my girl was one of the worst sleepers EVER. She did not sleep through the night until she was 3, when she gave up napping for good. My husband and I lived in a fog, and we were desperate.
I tried lots of different ways of encouraging her to sleep more. One mom recommended, if she wakes in the middle of the night, to just pretend to be asleep. Keep her in a closed, safe room with you, and pretend to be asleep.
I distinctly remember trying this one night, it was probably 2 am or so and she was wide awake. I don’t remember how old she was, probably about a year old. I closed the door to our safe bedroom, got back in bed, and pretended to be asleep next to my also-pretending to sleep husband. I waited for her to get the hint, lay down, and go back to sleep (Please baby!). This resulted in 3 hours, no joke HOURS of her shrieking at us, bonking us on the head, and repeatedly grabbing and yelling at us. She just does not give up. Ever.
When she was a wee bit older, about 15 months old, I was so exhausted and finally the advice of all the CIO proponents got to me. I decided she was old enough to understand, that I could put her in the bed and say “It’s time to sleep,” and leave the room. And if she cried a little, that might be ok… as long as she’d go to sleep, please! But instead of crying a little, my child went from 0 to desperately hysterical screaming in the space of about 4 seconds. I just don’t believe that that level of hysteria is safe for a baby, or could possibly have no effect on them. We have a generation of adults with all kinds of insecurities and depression and all kinds of issues. I think it is flatly impossible to say that leaving a baby alone to cry desperately has no effect on them.
Then I read this article on Moxie’s blog about what she believes are two types of babies. One type of baby needs to be put down to sleep, and may cry for a few minutes, but quickly goes to sleep that way. The other type of baby is what my girl is, the kind of child for whom being put down alone leads to instant panic, desperation, hysteria.
I think letting a kid cry who goes to sleep well that way is fine. I think there is a HUGE HUGE HUGE difference between crying for a few minutes, and literal hysteria. I think most parents know the difference. I think you cannot train one type of baby to be another type of baby, no matter what you do.
The thing I really hate about the sleep trainers is that they tell parents that if their method doesn’t work, it’s not because it doesn’t work for their baby… it’s because the parents are doing it wrong, or not enough, and they just need to let the kid cry more. Cry until they vomit, no big deal, clean ’em up and continue. I hate that parents are made to feel like if their kid is a bad sleeper, it’s their fault, and if they were just strong enough to let them CIO properly, they would sleep. I hate that.
My kid still can’t be left alone to cry to sleep. That’s just not her. Sleep trainers give you no leeway for an individual child’s personality or needs.
The thing that saved us was babywearing. I know I’m evangelical on this topic but wearing my daughter on my back flatly saved my LIFE. It enabled me to meet her needs while paying attention to my own needs. It gave us something to do on those awful nights when she was miserable and couldn’t sleep. I could walk around with her on my back and vacuum (the sound and repetetive movement really help), or play Lullaby by the Dixie Chicks loud. That was especially good when I was feeling sleepy mama rage, so tired, so angry, so pleasejustgotosleep!!!!!!
Bella is now 4 and we still wear her several nights a week to sleep. 47 lbs, 42″ tall, and still in a carrier. People who say their kids are too old or too big to be in a carrier make me laugh a little, while they struggle with their babies on their hips. Having a carrier to distribute the weight more evenly to your shoulders and hips is a thousand times easier than carrying a big preschooler on your hip!
If you need more info or tips or help with babywearing, I highly recommend The Babywearer’s forums and pages upon pages of information. And this post about keeping newborns safe in carriers is an absolute must-read. Meanwhile, try not to let the babytrainers get to you! Listening to yourself and your baby is more important, and figuring out what works for both of you.