Attachment Parenting Is Keeping Us Up at Night: Why We Haven’t Gone the Cry-It-Out Route

by jennifer on February 6, 2009

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Our daughter has never been much inclined toward sleep. A standard stretch usually won’t exceed four hours, and more frequent waking (like every hour) is far from unheard of in our house. As a result, my husband and I have yet to get a solid night’s sleep in the last 18 months.

We have marveled at the discovery that our bodies (and our minds – though arguably to a lesser extent) can continue to function on just a few nonconsecutive hours of rest a night, but that doesn’t make it any less painful. And yet, each night, when she cries, we wake to soothe her back to sleep beside us.

Mainstream American parenting culture tells us that she should be sleeping through the night by now. A common approach to accomplishing this is the Ferber/extinction method, otherwise known as “cry-it-out.” Have we considered it? Of course. Believe me, we’ve considered everything. But ultimately, crying it out just isn’t compatible with the principles of attachment parenting we believe in.

Attachment parenting is no newfangled trend. Though the term originated with pediatrician Dr. Bill Sears, the theory behind it was advanced by developmental psychologist John Bowlby in the 1960s. According to attachment theory, a strong bond between babies and parents is crucial for the child’s social, emotional, and even physical development. That bond is simply not reinforced by refusing to respond to the baby’s cry.

There is scientific evidence to support the proposition that leaving a baby to cry alone can cause physiological, if not psychological and emotional harm. Studies have shown that periods of crying and upset are accompanied by a flood of the stress hormone cortisol; frequent and prolonged exposure to cortisol can affect brain development in areas relating to memory, emotional regulation and attention, and behavior. The presence of a loving parent has been demonstrated to lower levels of cortisol even during episodes of crying.

Although such information is always of interest to us, on this issue we find ourselves guided less by science and more by instinct, and even a little common sense. Proponents of cry-it-out suggest that this method teaches the baby to “self-soothe.” I find it hard to believe that a baby left to cry it out has actually soothed herself to sleep rather than falling asleep after exhausting herself crying. It’s true that babies subjected to the cry-it-out technique may eventually cry less at night, but who’s to say that is a reflection of self-soothing skills rather than the result of basic behavioral conditioning?

Cry-it-out is, after all, operant conditioning, a method designed to extinguish a specific behavior. The baby, having learned that her attempt at communicating her need for comfort by crying does not elicit any response, will eventually cease in her efforts. Thus the crying stops – and behaviorists declare the process a success. But while she may not cry any more at night, it’s likely not because the reason she was crying has been resolved – why the baby was crying has no place in a behavioral analysis and therefore was never addressed.

All babies, in fact all people, wake frequently at night. If (hopefully when) our baby is able to wake at night and soothe herself back to sleep, we’d like for it to be because she is ready to do so, not because we’ve left her with no alternative. Some would counter that in being responsive to her nighttime needs, we’re spoiling her, and that she’ll grow up demanding and dependent. But as acknowledged by Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry researchers Commons and Miller, physical contact and reassurance at this young age fosters the kind of secure attachment which will provide our daughter a foundation from which to establish her independence.

We think that’s worth a few more sleepless nights.

Jennifer blogs about parenting and her other passion, photography, at Postcards From the East End.
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jennifer (8 Posts)


{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria February 6, 2009 at 12:40 pm

You said much of what I think and feel, but have not articulated nearly so well. Thank you!

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Kayris February 6, 2009 at 12:45 pm

I was shocked and sort of horrified when a friend’s pediatrician told her to use CIO on her 2 month old because “she should be sleeping through the night by now.” Honestly? Do people really think a 2 month old baby is capable of sleeping for 9 hours at a time without needing to eat or be changed? I know some 2 month olds do sleep that long, but I don’t think it’s something that should be forced.

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Naomifrederickmd February 6, 2009 at 1:43 pm

So agree!

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Maree February 8, 2009 at 3:28 am

I have an eight week old baby and am constantly told that he should sleep for longer than 2-3 hours at a time and the reason he doesn’t is because I have being doing the ‘wrong’ things. For example, I cuddle him ‘too much’, I breastfeed on demand and I co-sleep. He is absolutely thriving – meeting all his developmental milestones, rarely cries and has gained weight beautifully. People need to have a better understanding of normal human babies and frankly that includes medical professionals before they dispense advise.

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robin February 8, 2009 at 9:18 am

hello fellow nighttime warrior. it gets better. and worse, and better. but it is always the right way for us to go. we are awake at our house too. (less at 2.9 then at 18 months!) it is always better when you feel less alone in it.

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Amy February 9, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Yes! We are in the same boat at 22 months. It gets better and then worse again. We are tired, ya’ll.
But I can see her maturing and when the time feels right we’ll start pushing the idea of weaning/sleeping on her own.

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Nicole February 20, 2009 at 1:41 am

Thank you! I’ve needed that reassurance for a long time now. My family, too, has strong issues with our parenting techniques but each family is so individual, we need to realize that what works for one may not for another. I think its worth a few more sleepless nights as well:).

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Family Anatomy February 26, 2009 at 10:37 am

We tried the “cry it out” thing … The idea that kids need to learn to self-soothe (after a certain age) seemed to make sense. It didn’t last long, though. Both of my kids became increasingly upset, and they were unable to settle down. We spent a few nights trying to figure out how to handle this situation, which wasn’t easy because we were so sleep-deprived!

Finally, I set up a sleeping bag and a small mattress in my son’s room. When he cried, I was there to comfort him, rub his back, and hold his hand. At the same time, he could begin to see his bedroom as a safe place.

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Stephanie Lehane March 3, 2009 at 8:52 am

I have co-slept and bedshared with all 4 of my kids to some degree or another. It just comes naturally. Like most parents, I question whether I am doing everything right for my kids.
I recently gave up my corporate life (I went back to work when my youngest of the older three, ages 14, 11, and 10 went to school) to start an online retail store for attachment related products as a way to stay home with my “high need” 8 month old. Sometimes I wonder if it is worth it (I am working harder than ever!)
Then, I had the opportunity to attend a 1st birthday party for a very good friend’s kid. She is an attorney and continues to work outside the home. I asked how he was napping, and she proceeded to tell me what the daycare tells her about his napping/eating/diapering habits. At another point in the conversation, she mentioned how he wakes up in the morning and looks into the video baby monitor and they sit in their room, down the hall, and watch him! It was no surprise to me that at one point during the party, he became upset and didn’t look for his mom- he could have cared less who picked him up!
I came home from that party feeling sorry for my friend, and more assured than ever that I will continue to bedshare, babywear, breastfeed and stay “attached” to my baby!

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Lynn77 March 4, 2009 at 2:40 am

My daughter inlaw told me she refuses to hold my 4 month old granddaughter. She puts her in the crib and let’s her cry. I’ve been trying to get the baby as much as possible and when I do, I hold her as much as I can. This baby is wonderful but when she goes home to her mother, she seems to have a personality change. The mother now says I can not have her that much. Last week I didn’t have the baby for 5 days. Something happened to the baby. She doesn’t cry anymore but instead screams like a grown child. I am having severe anxiety over this because I am a product of severe neglect when I was small. Do you think I should call the “authorities”? Should I try to get custody of this child? My son doesn’t know who is right …his wife or I. I really don’t know what to do…please help me!

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Jennifer September 1, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Lynn, I just wanted to say that I feel for you and I think you are an amazing person and grandmother. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. My family mostly does not agree with our co-sleeping/no CIO stance with our three kids and think they’re being spoiled and “getting away with it”. My mom won’t let my kids CIO and does sleep with them when she has them overnight, because that’s what we do, even though she thinks that they should be sleeping on their own– at that, she only has them MAYBE a couple of times a year. It’s heart warming to hear of a gram who’s so loving and concerned and involved with her grandbaby. I really hope that your son and daughter in law will start to hear you out and that nothing really bad is happening. Is there another family member who she is on “better terms” with who might open up the topic with her? Or maybe you can talk privately with your son about it, with research ready, and encourage him to take up where the mother is not? One nighttime parent would be better than none for the little baby. I really wish the best for you and your family.

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API Speaks March 9, 2009 at 9:25 am

Lynn, I’m so sorry that you’re going through this–it’s very difficult when different family members have such wildly different approaches to parenting. I doubt the “authorities” are going to do anything–sadly cry-it-out is still the norm in much of this country, so I doubt they would consider it abuse.

I would encourage you to talk to your daughter-in-law and share your experiences as a child. You can back up your own personal experiences with the science of why Cry-it-Out doesn’t work–especially for a young infant like your granddaughter (check out the Ensure Safe Sleep Principle on API’s site: http://www.attachmentparenting.org/principles/night.php).

Do you think that she might be suffering from postpartum depression? If she is, then it becomes even more important to approach her from a place of love and support and make sure that she doesn’t perceive judgment.

I don’t envy you this situation and wish you luck finding a way to talk with her and with your son.

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Heather March 10, 2009 at 10:30 am

Hi! I wanted to leave you a little reassurance… We never let our DD CIO and she started STTN somewhere between 18-22 months. Now she is a great sleeper, rarely wakes at night and always goes back to sleep. Good luck and know (as I’m sure you do!) that she will sleep well soon!

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Sheryl March 10, 2009 at 9:05 pm

I laid with my high needs daughter for up to two hours for every nap and every bedtime for almost FOUR years.

I do not regret my decision to never let her cry it out. It might have been better for me, but it would never have been better for her.

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Rebekah September 28, 2009 at 9:21 am

Thanks everybody… I too am struggling through the night with my 13mnth year old – 3 1/2 hrs sleep, I am honestly excited – 4hrs, is a miraculous event!! Anyway, she is restless and awake to suckle v frequently…. usually every 1 1/2 hr or more. Its like a little secret, that only other AP, close friends know about. My best friend’s son is 2 1/2 mnths and already only waking twice a night… she follows Gina Ford & swears by it – I can face telling her this, although we are so, so close and I love her. SO, I come here for support… its hard, frustrating and beautiful all at the same time.
Lynn, I am sooooo sorry for your situation – what is the latest?? maybe some books, or gentle education will help?? best of Luck.

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Babies Health Naturally February 9, 2010 at 5:53 pm

I am a supporter of Attachment Parenting and we were very responsive to my son when he was an infant. We now have a wonderfully strong bond with him.
My mother instincts could have never in a million years allowed him to cry it out. Please don’t bury your instincts, listen to them and trust them. They are there for a reason.
Just hearing of other people’s stories of being forced to cry it out makes me almost cry.
God bless the mommies who are responsive no matter how high maintenance their baby is.

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CIO mom July 15, 2010 at 12:20 am

You guys are all nuts. Your EIGHTEEN month old child won’t sleep for more than 4 hours. REALLY.

She could just be unusual. Some kids are. But likely she is very sleep deprived. Poor thing. Let her find a way to stay asleep.

I think you guys are nuts. And this article has just proven to me that AP and baby led this or that is a bunch of hooey.

Thanks. People who read this article – I let my happy son CIO. And he lived and thrived and loves to sleep.

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Jenn - Connected Mom July 17, 2010 at 1:02 am

CIO mom, only someone who could let their child cry out and not want to go to them, could hide behind a nickname and try to shame loving parents. I wonder why you even feel the need to lash out so vehemently if you really believe your own criticisms. Thank YOU for proving to me that the way I am raising my children will encourage compassion instead of convenience in their adult and familial relationships.

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Julie August 28, 2010 at 11:46 am

I’m concerned that you may have misinterpreted both operant conditioning and what is a valid inquiry of behavior analysis. Your assumptions about behavior analysis may be based upon an old-school “behavior modification model”. I submit to you that a child-centered applied behavioral analytic approach, one that is based upon individual assessment and antecedent-based approaches does “agree with” and complements quite nicely with attachment parenting.

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Co-Sleeping Mamma September 9, 2010 at 8:29 am

CIO mom, I just have this to say: I have cried myself to sleep before (particularly as a teenager — after a frustrating argument with my mother, after an upsetting day when I was PMSing, after a breakup, etc.) I did not consider this “self-soothing,” though. There is nothing soothing about crying one’s self to sleep. It’s unpleasant and yucky. Why would I want my child to go to sleep like that every night? I contrast crying myself to sleep with falling asleep next to my husband. (No, no I’m not talking about romance — just peacefully falling asleep, listening to him snore quietly at the end of a long day.) *That* is soothing.

NOW… If I prefer to go to sleep next to my husband and without crying myself to sleep, doesn’t it make sense that my baby would prefer to sleep next to her parents and without crying herself to sleep, too?? Think about your own experience: how do YOU like to fall asleep? What makes bedtime relaxing and peaceful for you (a warm bath, being next to someone, etc.)? Do you think your baby might like those same things, too?

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Cristy September 12, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Why are you on this website if you feel so strongly that we are all crazy? Shouldn’t you be on the website for all the other CIO moms who are sleeping and getting back to their “normal” life before they had kids.

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Kellianne January 14, 2011 at 11:30 am

I am trying so hard to not feel total resentment over this attachment parenting business. I have co-slept my home-birthed child every night during his 8 months. He has met every milestone and is, at 8 months, the average size of a 2 year old. But! He can not sleep for more than a 2 hour stretch. It he naps alone, that nap lasts for 15 lousy minutes. I am literally tits up all night, every night. My career has gone to hell and my marriage isn’t far behind. I honestly don’t know how to rationalize attachment parenting with feminism. I don’t understand how I’m supposed to never sleep, have my breasts available on demand, can the organic vegetables, do the laundry, and have any semblance of the career I worked so hard to establish. I can’t help but think that it’s not cool to think of yourself as virtuous just because you burn out for the sake of your baby.

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Cassandra March 30, 2012 at 6:05 pm

Kellianne—thank you for having the guts to post this comment, I SO AGREE!
I am all for attachment parenting. I had my baby at home in a pool with my midwife and cater to his EVERY tiny need (my friends think I’m obsessed with loving him and they’re right!).
He is with me all day-we play-we cuddle-we nurse-we laugh—everyone, even strangers, comment on how happy, good natured and SMART my baby is! He is almost 20 lbs and only 5 3/4 months old so he is definitely thriving (exclusively breastfed).
BUT….!….after almost 6 months of waking every 2-3 (sometimes 1) hrs to feed/soothe him…I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE THATS TIRED. HE IS TOO! I have taught him that my breasts and/or bouncing are the ONLY way to fall asleep.
So I say to you wonderful mommies out there…every baby is different. I WOULD NOT have let him CIO at 3, 4, or even 5 months…but I feel that it is time. (and i have learned that going in to soothe him every 5-15 min just MAKES HIM MORE UPSET)
He KNOWS I love him, and its my job as a good steward and mother to him, to teach him to sleep and sleep well. But some babies may not be ready until much later.
((HUGS)) to all of you…and dont judge each other, lift one another up! Being a mother is beautiful and hard and the most fantastic love Ive ever known. Love your child and dont get caught up in the politics of it. :)

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Jessica Wright March 1, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I am currently doing the CIO method with my 12 month old, she has been co-sleeping and breastfeeding every 2 hours since she was born. I am a very very attentive mother, I stay at home with my little one, feed her homemade organic food, and do cloth diapers. My husband and I have decided together that it is in the interest of our whole family that she learns to sleep through the night in her nursery. We have tried the “no cry sleep solution” and a few other methods. It hurts to hear her cry but this is best for the entire family. I dont understand why we as women have to be so judgmental, every family has different needs. My husband is returning from a military deployment and we haven’t seen each other in six months. My situation may be different then yours, but I would never judge another parent for their choices. I love both of my children and a couple nights of crying does not make me any less of a mother or woman. This is not a competition ladies, we should work together and support each other, all babies and families are different. Different families have different needs, these should be embraced not criticized.

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Rachel March 6, 2011 at 1:58 am

Jessica, you are right that we should not be judging each other on what method we use to parent or put our children to sleep. I can say though, I am glad I did a lot of research on CIO before I decided to go through with it. I also talked to my mother who used CIO on us. My parents are both wonderful people, and they raised 11 (yes eleven!) children. My mother started using CIO around our first birthday, with all of us. I love all my brothers and sisters, but all 11 of us have some sort of sleep problems, anxiety, or aggression. I am on prozac for panic attacks and anxiety. I had severe post partum depression for the first 2-3 months after giving borth. My brother, who my mom said cried for the longest (it was something like 6 months he cried every night), has the most mental disabilities. He takes prozac and ambien (and those are the only ones I know of) and he is 36 and still lives at home. He has never had a steady job and has never been in a serious, committed relationship. I am not mad at my mother for using CIO, she had 11 kids for goodness sake! I love her and my father dearly and I know they had their reasons for having to do this. But after doing a lot of research online, I realized all of my family that had to CIO exhibit these disorders the studies talk about. There are varying degrees and symptoms in each of us, but we all have addictive personalities, which makes sense because we learned to look to outside “things” to make us feel better instead of comfort from a loved one. If at all possible I would urge you not to use CIO but there are times it is necessary. Good luck.

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MelissaN March 10, 2011 at 1:19 am

Also, don’t forget – its a WEIGHT issue for babies –
6-9 pound babies sleep for 1-2 hours at a time
10-11 pound babies sleep for 3 hours
12-13 pound babies sleep for 4 hours
13 pound babies and up sleep for 5 hours or more – and doctors consider 5 hours to be sleeping through the night.
Most people do not realize this, and try to base it on age.
Age has nothing to do with it. Its biology. The store of fat is what keeps the baby from being hungry.
Also, mom can make her milk a bit richer and fattier by making sure she gets enough essential fatty acids in her diet, an important component to breast milk.

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Kellianne March 12, 2011 at 10:52 am

That’s crazy old wives tale talk! My son was 9-2 when he was born, and over the 100% mark on the charts by 1 month old. He hit 27lbs by 8 months, and is now 25 pounds at 10 months, thanks to crawling.

He is the WORST sleeper out of all the kids in my patenting group. Thanks to co-sleeping, he is up every hour. I am absolutely exhausted and wish I had done something differently.

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Jessica Wright March 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Rachel,
I appreciate your point of view and hearing your experiences. I am a 30 year old woman who slept with my Mom until I was 6. I currently suffer from depression and take a anti-depressant every day. I wonder if this can really be blamed on CIO when my mom never did it with me. My son slept with me until he was 5. I did go ahead and do CIO with my daughter. It took 1 week and wasnt even as close to as bad as I thought it would be. Now she sleeps much much better, she wakes up twice a night. The first time around midnight I go in and lay her back down and she goes back to sleep in under 3 minutes. The second time I nurse her for just a few minutes(more for her comfort then anything) then she goes back down no problem without a peep. This works for us and I hope and pray that my daughter doesnt end up with anxiety issues because of it. My hubby will be home in less then a month and after 6 months we will have plenty of time during the day for family time and time in the evening to be together. Im sure that if my situation was different I probably wouldnt have done it, but I am so glad I did. I am sleeping wonderfully and much better of a mom during the day. Each family and baby is different, I respect every parent that can do whats best for their families.

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Rachel March 13, 2011 at 12:18 pm

It sounds like CIO was what you had to do for your family, I do think it is for some babies, just not for the 6 months my mom left my brother to cry. Your baby girl sounds healthy and normal, I don’t think the week of a small amount of crying will do any long term damage to her.

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MelissaN March 12, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Kellianne, its not an old wives tale, its actual current research. You, however, have the opposite problem – you have one of those wonderful super-chubby babies that flourish off-the-charts with breast milk – which is wonderful – but the baby will tend to be hungry more because the baby is so big.
Here are some simple things to do that might help some babies sleep for five hours:
1) Make sure you get enough essential fatty acids – Omega 3s – around 3000-5000 a day. Cod liver oil, eggs, salmon, and pills can help. Coconut oil, water, meat, and milk can also be helpful for the lineoic acid.
2) Some babies are greatly disturbed by movement and want to nurse back to sleep. Sidecar the sleeping arrangement – put a bed or a crib next to your bed. No movement, plenty of space, less sweatiness.
3) Some babies sweat a LOT when they are next to you, which makes them thirsty, which wakes them up. Sidecar. *Peaceful Parenting site has a great example of a sidecar sleeping arrangement.*
4) Some babies have a great sucking need. Even Dr. Sears says that for these babies, a pacifier is usually a necessity.
5) Some women have the luxury of having a husband that doesn’t mind rocking – so if the baby/toddler wakes up before 2-3 hours have passed between nursing, the father will rock/sing the baby back to sleep instead.
6) The numbers above tend to be for the newborn to 7 month stage, after 7-8 months some babies will start to wake more at night because their digestive system has become even more efficient, and they get hungrier quicker. Then you just have to figure out what is best for your baby.
7) Also, some people have the erroneous belief that co-sleeping means the toddler must be right next to you – for many people in the world, co-sleeping simply means that the toddler is in the same room with you, so that you are able to meet his/her needs quickly, and so that they won’t suffer from night terrors. Once they are past the 6 month stage, putting the baby in a bed right next to you is still considered co-sleeping. What most people have a problem with is sticking a baby in a room all by himself – the whole ‘you wouldn’t stick a child in a closet for punishment, why do that to a baby’ etc controversy.

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Kellianne March 13, 2011 at 12:22 am

I’ve done everything on this list, Melissa. A dozen times over. Some babies just don’t abide by anyone’s tricks and are very persistent. He’s 10 months old. I have aged 50 years practicing attachment parenting and co-sleeping (yes in the same room. yes in a sidecar. yes in the bed. yes on a futon on the floor in his room. yes as my husband slept with him, rocked him, and soothed him while I slept on a couch).

I love my dude. But I am concerned that co-sleeping was not the best answer for him. He is tired. I am tired. He can’t sleep without me being there even for a nap.

We need liberation.

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MelissaN March 13, 2011 at 3:03 am

actually, it sounds like you might need a sleep clinic? one that monitors brain waves, to see what it happening? or a thyroid issue? maybe something medical? it might have nothing to do with co-sleeping?

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Rachel March 13, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Kellianne, although I don’t believe CIO should be the first thing we turn to in a baby who doesn’t sleep well, it may be the only way for some families. You need to look at what is best for your family. If you decide to go CIO with your son, you can rest assured that you have tried every possible alternative for him. It sounds like you and your family are desperate for some sleep and CIO may be the solution for you, or gradual extinction where you let him cry for longer periods of time. All babies are different, so you need to decide what is best for your son.

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Jessica Wright March 14, 2011 at 10:37 am

Rachel: Update
My precious Angel slept 6-6 last night and woke up one time at 3am to nurse(no problem, I enjoy the cuddle). My hubby will be home in 27 days and we are well rested and ready! CIO is not for everybody and I would have never let my little one cry for 6 months, but our family is doing great because of the 1 week we did it. I wouldn’t change it for the world!

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Rachel March 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm

That’s great! I am glad that worked for you, I have a 1 year old who still wakes 2-3 times at night, so I am very jealous. He is a little on the needy side so I doubt CIO would work for him. I have a feeling it would take much longer than 1 week for him. I am happy that your husband will be home soon, I have heard (and believe it to be true) that it’s harder for the one who is left behind. Thank you for sacrificing time with your husband for our country, and please thank him for his service as well!

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Lisa December 31, 2011 at 1:52 pm

I have to say that I came upon this website when researching CIO and attachment parenting, as I have done both, together, and was curious if anyone else had as well. My husband and I practised attachment parenting from the time our son was born- it just seemed natural and instinctive to us. I breastfed on demand, co-slept, baby wore, etc, and it was good for the first few months. At around 6 months, our baby seemed to be getting more and more into staying awake late into the night (until 2 or 3am-ish) and then feeding or sleeping on my breast for the rest of the night, and waking every 2 hrs or so. He also took very short (about 20 minute) sporadic naps in the day, and was really pushing us to our limits. I remember days- being so burnt out, and my son would be crying in and I would literally scream and yell at him to be quiet. If you knew me, you would know how out of character and pushed to my limits I was to yell at a baby. After trying various methods of getting our baby to go to sleep earlier, and not wake up every 1-2 hours all night, my husband and I finally tried very gradual CIO. It was very challenging, but after 3 days, we saw HUGE improvements. Our son started to take 2 long naps per day, plus sleep through the night from 8:30pm to 7am. I actually have to wake him up in the mornings for his feed. He is much happier, and so am I. I haven’t yelled at my son since then, and my son is a really happy baby.

I still agree with attachment parenting, but sometimes, when you feel as though you are “losing it”, I think it’s ok to try other options. My son never cried longer than 15 minutes during sleep training. Previous to that, I had let him cry for over 15 minutes when attempting to have a shower and blow dry my hair, on several occasions! (Not intentionally, of course!) And every time our son whimpers in the night now (usually about once per night) I am there, rubbing his back and soothing him right away. It usually takes just a couple of seconds before he is fast asleep. I know in my heart that I am a good mom, and my intentions are nothing but the best for my son. If I had continued on just attachment parenting though, I am afraid that I might have continued being overwhelmed and yelling at him. Which I don’t need any scientific study to prove to me, is just wrong.

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Rachel January 23, 2012 at 1:54 am

I posted almost a year ago about CIO not being for my son, and I don’t know if that was true at the time, but boy did it do wonders about 6 months later! I was at my wits end, rocking my son for almost 2 hours one night and i put him down he was STILL not asleep…. ugh! I decided to give it a try and he slept the first night only waking up ONCE! I was amazed, grateful, happy, excited, everything! I also wished I had tried it a little sooner, but i think it’s better to be good and sure they are ready for it. I used the gradual extinction method, letting him cry 2 min, soothing, cry 5 min, soothing, 10 min and then at 15 min, he stopped crying and went to sleep. I think the 2 most important things are being consistent, and putting lo down AWAKE and leaving the room, even if he is crying! that is very important because he will know when he wakes up at night he will have to go back to sleep by himself (but follow the same routine of 2 min, soothing, 5 min etc), instead of being rocked to sleep and waking up in the middle of the night confused and upset about this change in routine. My son was 18 months when I started CIO so I explained to him throughout the day that he was a big boy now and had to go to sleep like a big boy, and all that entailed. As long as you are completely ready and you have a good solid attachment with lo, it will be fine to try and you will never know until you try!

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One Tired Mama but One Happy Baby January 29, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Thank you so much for this posting!! My little girl is five months and waking every 3 hours. I have a 3 year old boy and need to function in the morning and after a short attempt to move her into her own room am back to cosleeping and nursing on demand. I was feeling down and feeling pressure to sleep train her. Thank you for giving me the bolster I needed to remember I know what is best for my baby. Its great to be able to discuss this hear as people even other nursing moms are in shock when I say how often I’m up.

We were very practical and when my husband wasn’t sleeping well with the two of us he moved into the guest room. I feel pressure to work toward getting her out of our bed so he can come back. For my baby and my sanity I can’t even entertain the idea of walking down the hall and nursing in a chair but also want care for my wonderful and supportive husband.

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Tina, NYC February 8, 2012 at 8:06 pm

I need some advice and reassurance because while I came into cosleeping and bed sharing entirely accidentally I have now come to believe it is the right thing. However my challenge is my 3 month old will not nap anywhere but on me. This makes getting chores done nearly impossible. Yes, some things I can do while I am baby wearing Him but most chores are just too physical.
I basically want my cake and eat it too. Nap on crib but sleep with me at night. Is this possible? Also I need to find other liked minded parents. I live in NYC can anyone suggest anything? I go to la leche meetings and belong to various new mom groups but no one is cosleeping. Many thanks!!!-Tina

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advice for tina February 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I cosleep at night but my 6 month old takes her naps in her crib and in her pram(bugaboo cot)
I wore her for naps for the first couple of months and then as she grew she started at 8 lbs and is now 17 (completely breastfed might I add) my back couldn’t handle it.
I believe I owe her sleep to a few products and walking. Since she takes a two hour nap in the buggy she is calm when we are at home afterwards and I get my chores done then. Her morning sleep in the cot is only 30-45 minutes, I have a wedge under her mattress to help with reflux.
In the bugaboo pram I have a wedge, to lift her up part of why she likes sleeping on/with me is she is elevated when we cosleep. I also have recreated the cocoon of the baby sling with a blanket called babynomade by red castle. You don’t need a snowsuit with this, in fact I just put her in a really warm sweater booties and this wrap blanket. She will now fall asleep once in the blanket, she’ll stay asleep if I walk her. The third thing is a peace curtain, you could just use a blanket but I really like this its uv and blocks out light so when she wakes after 45 minutes, she falls back asleep. THe three elements plus the motion seem to recreate the baby wearing, while giving my back a break, me some fresh air and some sanity. I walk two hours a day feeling fit and she’s rested enough to play on a mat and watch me cook dinner when we get back.

Good luck I know its hard I too came to cosleeping accidentally, you know your baby and you’ll find whats best for both of you.

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Rita Brhel March 30, 2012 at 7:51 pm

From my personal experience, as I did not AP my oldest child in the sleep area for a time before I discovered API, the stress from CIO comes out in other ways. So, while your baby may be crying herself to sleep, and eventually does fall asleep, don’t be surprised if you see other issues pop up that seem to be totally unrelated. You may have increased separation anxiety, discipline issues, regressed potty training, etc. The baby period is intense, but that’s the way it is…that’s the way it’s designed to be. Talk to a mother with several children…it all works out later. Don’t give up on the nighttime parenting, but rather, learn to change your expectations. These early years don’t last very long, although it can seem to at the time, but really, it provides a time to adjust to motherhood.

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Elaine April 5, 2012 at 5:01 am

I think there is a happy medium – there are ways to soothe a baby back to sleep – without just leaving them on their own to cry – but which encourage them to sleep for longer periods over time, to be used on babies over 1 year (babies under 1 year need to wake often to feed). When my baby was 14 months she was sleeping on our bed and breastfeeding on and off all night but this was becoming more and more uncomfortable for me. So we adopted a rule whereby if it was less than x hours since last breastfeeding, she was not allowed out of her cot (which is in our room) as once she was on the bed she would pull at me to breastfeed. However that doesn’t mean we left her to cry on her own. I would hug her (over the bars of the cot) then put her in a lying position then rub her back, she would often stand up again and I would repeat this, I would also offer her some drinking water. She would cry a bit but in a sort of frustrated way, not in an “I have been abandoned” way. I would not get back into my bed until she was asleep again so I was with her all the time during this going back to sleep process. I would also whisper “time for sleeping” in a gentle way. This worked very well – the first two nights it took an hour for her go to back to sleep each time but within a week she would wake up, take some water and a hug and lie back down herself (in expectation of back rub) and then go to sleep within two minutes ! She is now sleeping often for 8 hour stretches at a time, and I can sleep too in my own bed undisturbed ! I think this approach is consistent with AP while also respecting my need for sleep ! As I said I think it is appropriate for babies over 1 year only though, but the above example is a 1 and a half year old. For Lynn, even though the baby is only 4 months old maybe an approach like this would be more acceptable to your daughter in law than complete CIO ?

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luiza December 20, 2012 at 10:58 pm

I just wanted to ask what do you do when you don’t want your baby to cry and you don’t leave him alone in the room or even in the crib and he is having difficulties to fall asleep? I co-sleep and breasfeed and my 22 month old baby takes forever to fall asleep. sometimes I feel that we are both struggling.

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Tara December 29, 2012 at 11:45 pm

Up until a few weeks ago, my two year old was having a really hard time falling asleep. So we changed her bedtime routine from rocking her to sleep to allowing her not fall asleep herself. I was fearful that she would resist, but she didn’t!! Her crib mattress is on our bedroom floor, so she is in a place of comfort to her… Our new routine is that she lays down and we talk about all the fun things we did during the day, I sing a song and then turn out the lights and turn up the peaceful music. I stay im the room with her until she falls asleep. It takes her about 5 mins to fall asleep — with no tears or stress!!! She stays asleep in her bed until about 2am and then wants back in our bed to cuddle, which is fine by us. Honestly, I think the more “effort” (rocking, swaying, etc) we put into putting her to sleep, kept her more stimulated!

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Tara December 29, 2012 at 11:46 pm

*allowing her to fall asleep by herself*

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alane December 27, 2012 at 7:29 am

Hi Luiza,
When our son was a baby (he is 6 1/2 now) I had to walk him most every night for about 20 minutes to get him to sleep, then put him in to bed. As he got older I had to get into bed with him every night until he went to sleep – he was that fussy and yes it has been a struggle, and we are always tired. These years won’t last forever, though. Our son, meanwhile, is happy, well-adjusted and very sociable as a result, despite the fact that we have had many moves and hardships over the years. It just took commitment to the process of attachment parenting/cosleeping and is probably not for every family. I hope this helps.

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luiza December 27, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Thanks so much for your reply. It feels good to hear that other parents choose to be with their baby while they struggle with sleep and that’s ok to cosleep and go through some difficulties together instead of letting the baby cry.

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Julie March 19, 2013 at 11:43 pm

I came onto this website while trying to find a way to help my 9 mo take naps on her own when I’m at work (while still sleeping with me at night). So many of the comments made me sad about mothers resenting AP, I just had to add a bit of information that I’ve found through my research, hopefully it helps someone better understand and make things less frustrating. AP is about bonding and mutual understanding so please try to think of things from your baby’s perspective before you decide sleep training. Some very important things to keep in mind: baby’s are meant to wake up every few hours to feed (SIDs is linked with babies heart rate dropping from being in ‘deep sleep’ for too long, so trying to force this when they aren’t ready can have tragic consequences, hence why SIDs is at highest risk between 3-12 mos) as their digestive system matures and they start to eat more solid foods then they can sleep longer (this usually happens gradually from 6-12 mos but can take up to 2-3 years). Another thing is that as babies go through different developmental milestones their brains go into overdrive trying to master that skill and just like when we’re stressed, excited, or anxious it can disrupt their sleep pattern. And lastly the understanding of object permanance doesn’t develop until 9-12mo so when you are out of sight, your baby does not know you are just in another room, to them you are gone. Please, especially to the moms getting frustrated, just remember babies go through so much in such a short time span that any comfort we can provide and help them through their transitions is what not just AP and style of parenting should be about. Also try to analyze the situation: are you upset because of pressure that you aren’t doing what’s normal? Do you feel your baby is too dependant on you? Are you expecting too much from your baby? These little miracles look to us to provide for them, they are completely helpless without us, in return they give us unconditional love. Is it such an inconvenience that the only way they can express how much they love you is by wanting to be close and crying for you to hold them. You are only the center of their universe for so long, this too shall pass and when it does you will miss those snuggles and little hands grasping for you.

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Kellianne March 22, 2013 at 11:04 am

I am familiar with all the research. I am also familiar with sleep studies that show that babies who are taught to sleep are, in fact, better sleepers.

We were never able to sleep train our son. He is about to turn three and woke up 5 times last night. We are all still exhausted, grumpy, and sick of being kicked around in the family bed.

I would urge any parent who went through the difficulties that we went through to sleep train at 8 months. I wish we had. One can be attached and still get some sleep. I’d venture to say that one could be better attached if the whole family is cheery and well rested.

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Courtney April 11, 2013 at 7:16 pm

I hear your frustration with getting more sleep for yourself and your child and wondering if sleep training would have been the answer. As you mention, some families learn they cannot even sleep train their child if they want to. By age three and before, parents have a variety of gentle parenting approaches that respond with sensitivity at all times and do not find that sleep training would be a good solution. API Support Groups are particularly helpful for getting support for ideas that can make a difference – such as the child getting plenty of physical activity during the day for a good sleep, or checking on medical issues, such as allergies, a whole host of possibilities that sleep training will squelch. For 20 years API is advocated against sleep training, and what parents consider success and “better sleepers” research does not support, and neither does parent intuition. Please visit the API website Principle on sleep for more information: http://www.attachmentparenting.org/parentingtopics/babysleepstrategies.php and the latest response to proponents of sleep training: http://www.attachmentparenting.org/SleepTraining2012.php.

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