In Support of Sleep

Getting your infant, toddler, or even preschooler to sleep through the night is tricky at best. If you are one of the lucky ones, you may have an “easy” sleeper. You know, the one that seems content after some rocking, singing, and nursing. Things just flow and voila…you actually have a baby that…”sleeps like a baby” so to speak.

However, for many of us, “sleep like a baby” is quite a misnomer because we often struggle to find that magic method that will reliably guarantee us a solid night of sleep. And, for those of us burning the midnight oil, pacing a dark house with a crying bundle cradled in our arms, there are a plethora of strategies thrown our way.

Let your baby cry it out. Don’t let your baby cry it out. Sleep with your baby. Don’t sleep with your baby. Try this sleep training method. No, that one is no good. You must Ferberize. Ferberizing is cruel. Rocking your baby to sleep will set him up for life long sleep problems. Letting your baby cry it out is psychologically damaging to them. If you let your baby sleep in your bed, she will never leave.

Sound familiar?

It’s no wonder we end up confused and no matter which direction we decide to take…guess what? We feel guilty. Guilty because something negative has been said about the sleep direction we have decided to take.

It’s time to let go of the guilt. You are not psychologically damaging your child by letting them cry it out. You are not setting up your child for life long sleep problems by rocking him to sleep. Your happy little co-sleeper will not be in your bed forever.

It’s time to stop perpetuating all these terrible myths. It’s time to stop perpetuating the guilt.

There are only two things I care about when it comes to sleep and babies. The first is that both the baby and her parents end up getting the sleep they need. The second is that they do so safely.

So whether you’ve struck gold following a particular sleep training method or have decided co-sleeping is the way to go, just remember to put safety at the forefront. Whether your baby sleeps in a crib, a bedside co-sleeper, or in bed with you, take the time to review these safe sleep guidelines so you can all rest easier.

As for the negative background chatter? I say let it go. Only you know what is right for you and your family. Follow your instincts. Do what you know is best for your baby and for yourself.

19 Responses to In Support of Sleep
  1. Katherine
    January 28, 2011 | 2:20 am

    This was a source of no small frustration as new parents. We did not have an "easy sleeper" and we got so much mixed advice, and none of it worked for our little night owl. There is nothing that makes you feel the guilt of being a "bad parent" like a baby that won't sleep. In the end, we did what worked for us and our baby (for this child, it was co-sleeping, for the next one, it wasn't) so that we were all able to sleep.

  2. Making It Work Mom
    January 28, 2011 | 5:36 am

    Ahmen! I am all about parenting in a way that works for your family. Let go of the guilt and follow your instincts!

  3. Working Mom Journal
    January 28, 2011 | 5:58 am

    You are absolutely right. Getting enough sleep and doing it safely is key. I don't have a problem with my daughter staying up till 10pm with me like she did last night. But I am content with that because she doesn't wake up till about 10am or 11am today…and that almost our routine. As I type, she is asleep at home…and I am happy with that.

    January 28, 2011 | 9:33 am

    This post hits home right now! I have two children a 2-year-old and an 8-month-old. I co-slept with both of them. The 2-year-old finally moved out of our bed right in time for lil-sis to take over. Lil-sis is not a good sleep buddy though. I have been desperate for sleep. I have been told everything from let the baby cry it out to if I let the baby cry it out I commenting child abuse. I have finally found what I hope will be the solution. Have you ever heard of Kim West, "The Sleep Lady"? She has a method to get babies sleeping through the night without crying for hours. It is not easy but doable.

  5. JDaniel4's Mom
    January 28, 2011 | 12:24 pm

    This is such an important post. Children in the same families don't even have the same sleep needs or patterns. Sometimes you have to find what is right for you and each child.

  6. Mrs.Mayhem
    January 28, 2011 | 1:02 pm

    How I love this post! Thank you for freeing mothers from guilt, and THANK YOU for the safety guidelines.

  7. The Twin Spin
    January 28, 2011 | 1:17 pm

    Thank you thank you thank you, and thank you! I'm learning the hard way that what worked for my twins may NOT work for my youngest. Is she going to want to nurse back to sleep every night until she's 18? Likely not. If I decide to let her CIO, then I will when the time is right. Or when I feel like i am going to go crazy from lack of sleep. :)

    Thank you for covering all sides of the arguments here.

    January 28, 2011 | 1:36 pm

    Well said!
    During the hard times I just say to myself "It won't be like this when she starts kindergarten"

  9. Laura
    January 28, 2011 | 2:31 pm

    "Negative background chatter" is a great name for it, and you're right — that's where it should stay. In the background.

    Thanks for bolstering moms!

  10. Kristin
    January 28, 2011 | 3:04 pm

    Agreed! Everyone seems to have an opinoin when it comes to sleep. Only you know what's best for your baby!

  11. Ameena
    January 28, 2011 | 3:22 pm

    I wish I had read this 5 years ago…seriously, I was at my wits end with all the contradictory information I was reading. But really, only you know what works for your own child and we need to realize that!

  12. AnnaNova
    January 28, 2011 | 3:37 pm

    i would like to add though that whatever your gut tells you is the way to go for your family, please, read up about it, make sure you are keeping the baby/toddler safe when you implement your arrangement.
    if you decide to let your child cio, try to find out what length of time is ok for baby to cry, what to do if they throw up from crying, how to minimize crying before bed in general, how to prevent older babies from falling out/climbing out of crib…
    similarly, if you decide to co-sleep and bed-share, it is VITAL to know how to do it so your baby is safe, so you and your partner/spouse get enough sleep.
    yes, parenting intuition is right in most cases, yet you can't just let your baby cry for hours on end, you can't just stick him in bed with you.
    please, keep your babies safe.

  13. Betsy at Zen-Mama
    January 28, 2011 | 3:59 pm

    With my three children I found that each was so different. My oldest didn't really sleep through the night until 5 years old. He didn't always mean to wake us up but he did! He's always been a little more of challenge. Our second and third slept through the night at 6 weeks. Although the third was afraid a lot as he got older. He slept on a little blanket next to our bed. Each child is an individual who will sleep or won't sleep no matter what you do. Follow your gut is the best advice I had!

  14. Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds
    January 28, 2011 | 6:08 pm

    You mean I shouldn't blame my mother rocking me to sleep as a baby for my current insomnia? Bugger.

  15. Cheryl D.
    January 28, 2011 | 8:48 pm

    My husband is convinced that some of our daughter's issues go back to letting her cry it out! Meanwhile, I think that's the best thing we ever did. She hardly cried and seemed to adjust to going to sleep on her own pretty easily!

  16. Galit Breen
    January 29, 2011 | 7:06 am

    Melissa, this is such an important valuable post. I love that you put on your doctor hat and used it for good: We all need sleep and if we're (safely) getting it, then it's (shockingly) okay. Well done, doc. Well done, indeed! :)

  17. TheBabyMammaChronicles
    January 29, 2011 | 9:40 am

    Amen! Thanks Melissa. I totally agree.

  18. parenting ad absurdum
    January 30, 2011 | 4:09 pm

    Fantastic post. I wish I had read it back when my little ones were keeping me up all night. I did ultimately do what was best for all of us, but I certainly questioned myself a lot – and this actually applies to so much of parenting!!

  19. […] how both my kids hated the crib, so spent only a handful of nights in them. It’s why I wrote this post a year ago about how we should really just ditch all the guilt and find what works for our […]