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A Helping Hand: My Baby Won’t Sleep

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My five-month-old won't sleep by herself. She exhausts herself to sleep with screaming and crying. She doesn't even like her car seat. It's just getting worse even though I am doing the same thing every night. She doesn't even like it when I pick her up. I don't know how to teach her to sleep on her own without fighting it.

A baby who isn't the go-right-to-sleep type isn't going to become the type no matter what you do. Put that thought out of your head so you can move on. For your own peace of mind, do also dismiss any stories you might have heard from friends and relatives about how well their babies slept.

They didn’t “teach” their babies to be easygoing – their babies were born that way. Lucky them. Just because they had easygoing babies doesn't mean there's anything wrong with your or your child. If anything, it means those other people couldn't have handled anything other than an easygoing child. Thusly, they are in no way qualified to judge you or your child or to advise you.

Parents of easygoing babies are often heard to say you can spoil a child by holding them too much. This is not true. They think this because their child was so easygoing. They would change their tune if they had had a child who wasn’t easygoing. You can no sooner spoil a baby than you can spoil a car by driving it all the time. Babies are born to be touched and held. This is why babies don't walk until close to their first year of age.

Babies have lots of brain cells, but those brain cells are no good unless they're interconnected. The nerve fibers connecting these cells are called dendrites. The only thing that develops dendrites is touching. There is a direct connection between the development of a baby's brain and how much they are held.

As the mother of one ADHD child and two other children — all grown — I can tell you that while you may spend the first year of that child's life holding her, you will spend the next 10 years chasing after her and the next 10 years after that waiting for her to come hang out with you. She will always come back to you, but only if she knows from her first year of life that you're a consistent, reliable, and loyal source of love.

Crying is a baby's only way of communicating with you. This is how she was able to tell you she doesn't like her car seat – at least not for the purpose of trying to get her to sleep. She's trying to tell you more, and would tell you with words if she could. She isn't "fighting" sleep. She's telling you the routine isn't working for her. She can hear herself cry and it's no less aggravating to her to hear it. She has no idea she's the one making those sounds, and it's keeping her awake just as much as it's getting on your nerves.

I know it sounds silly to say she doesn't know she's making the sounds, but she doesn't. Potty-training toddlers are notorious for saying things like "It stinks in here!" because they don't know their own poop is causing the smell. This further illustrates for grown-ups that a baby or small child is not a tiny adult. A child is an altogether different kind of person.

© 2007 Diana M HartmanWhatever routine you have going isn't working for either of you. It's time to try new things. Know first, though, there is no such thing as teaching a baby anything, much less about how to go to sleep on her own. If young babies could be taught things, the world would have a bunch of eight-month-old geniuses crawling around. All of their learning is internal. This means they respond to what best suits their need. They do not learn externally. This means you cannot impose your needs upon them.

You are the parent and the one in control. At the same time, she is the teacher and you are the one learning. Being the student doesn't mean you aren't still the parent and the one in control. It means you are capable of discovering new things (about a person, even a small one) and applying what you've learned. This is the hallmark of adulthood – not a mark of being someone's servant. Please don't confuse the two. There are many 35-year-old professors teaching 60-year-old students. It's the same concept.

Babies don't like to be left alone — ever. While many babies do just fine and go right to sleep, many more do not. You can try many different things and some may work, but bear in mind that a baby's needs change as they grow, and they grow more in the first two years of life than for the rest of their lives. This also means you'll be learning more in her first two years than you have before she was born.

Just as you have a bedtime routine that works for you — things you no doubt worked out for yourself over time and that will change as you age — so does your baby have things that will and will not work for her. Getting to know her and what she needs is the routine. As her mother, you are the most integral and important part of this.

Many young parents labor under the delusion that a baby can be "taught" to do this or that, thus freeing the parent from that part of the baby's routine, that somehow the baby will learn a behavior and take it from there. This is not true. If not for your presence, there would be no routine. There would only be sporadic development and chaos.

Just like an adult who misses their spouse when he or she is away on business, so does a baby miss its mother when she isn't there. Unlike the adult who does not rely on another adult for everything, a baby's reliance on her parent is 100%. You can have your morning coffee by yourself, even without your spouse. You’ll miss your spouse, but you can still function without them. Your baby can't have anything if you're not there to provide it.

That she exhausts herself to sleep isn't particularly healthy and I'm sure it rattles your nerves no end. It would be good to change the routine up with some different approaches. Anything you try will need to be tried over the course of at least a few weeks. If, however, your gut tells you something just isn't working out come the fifth or sixth day, go ahead and try something else. It may also take a combination of the following to work for her, rather than any one thing:

  • Rock her gently and hold her until well after she's asleep. Note: Some babies like to be assertively rocked. You'll know in short order whether or not she likes it. To do this, hold her close and firm, and then sway her back and forth quickly. (This was the only technique that would soothe my oldest daughter's wails.) If you do this and it clearly upsets her, stop and don't do it any more. Move on to other things.
  • Play soothing music with low or no lighting and gently dance with her until she's asleep. (My son would only nap to the sound of the Weather Channel. He especially loved it when they played "Songbird" by Kenny G during the local forecasts.)
  • Nothing beats the sound of mom's voice. Read to her – from baby books, a book you're reading, the newspaper, the encyclopedia, or the back of a cereal box. Read as though it were the most interesting thing you'd ever read. Look her in the eyes when you can as you read.
  • The next best thing to mom is her smell. Sleep with a small blanket or hand towel. It will smell like you after a few days. Once she's asleep, place it in her bed when you put her down for the night or for a nap. Keep another blanket or towel under your pillow to replace that one after a few days (or when needed). Make sure it's a small towel or blanket. We're looking to soothe, not suffocate.
  • Keep her bed next to yours so you can touch her when she wakes up.
  • Go to sleep when she does whenever possible.

There are those who will say this makes her rely on you. This is the dumbest thing a person can say to a parent. She already relies on you. How else would she eat? She can't change her own diaper or get herself to the store. There are those who would further say this keeps her from becoming independent of you. This is also dumb. The most independent child is raised by a parent who is there for them every step of the way. This doesn't mean catering to the child's every whim, want and desire. It means providing everything the child needs: food, shelter, safety, cleanliness, love, and touch.

Getting to know your child and what works for her helps your child understand what it feels like to go to sleep a completely different way than she is used to. She used to exhaust herself to sleep. Now she'll have a routine of going to sleep that is much calmer and quieter. Several weeks of this can then serve to change the routine wherein you hold her for 15-20 minutes, put her in bed, and stay with her until she falls asleep. Singing or humming is always a welcome part of any bedtime routine for a baby or small child. I read to and sang for my children until they were all over the age of ten.

There are two very important things to remember about babies:

  1. They require constant care, as I'm sure you've learned over the past several months. There is simply no way your life is going to be the way it used to be. Your free time is no longer a given. It comes only when you make the arrangement. I urge you to regularly schedule away time (a few hours once or twice a week) because every mother needs a break.
  2. The days are long but the years are short. Babies are only babies for about a year. Your life is not over – it is different. I know you're tired and so many things have changed. It's this way for your baby, also, but she doesn't have a way to tell you anything whereas you can come online and ask for advice. If she could go online, she might ask, "How can I tell my mother I miss the way she smells when I go to sleep alone at night?"

You have the kind of baby that gets wound up and has a hell of a time getting calmed down. She’s sent the message loud and clear: “Left to my own devices, I can only sleep after hours of screaming and crying.” Clearly this isn't working for either of you. You know laying her in her bed gets her started so don't start with that. Start with the dancing or the humming or the singing – or all of them. Slow dance your way through the house, into and out of her room and yours, get that shirt that smells like you and use it as a blanket around her. Look out the window or even go outside for a bit.

I know it takes some babies a lot of time to get to sleep, and this can feel like it's stealing hours and hours away from your life, but again remember this is a baby and she will not be a baby much longer. By the end of summer you will have a different child. By Christmas you'll have a child even more different than that. This too shall pass, I promise you.

Perspective is everything. Because you're right in the middle of this, I'm sure it seems like it's been forever since you had a quiet night, and it may seem like it will be forever before you have another quiet night. Do remember, though – it takes about four years to get a college degree. It takes about five years to pay off a new car loan. It takes about two years to get any kind of vocational training. It takes one year to get a baby to their first birthday and you already have several months under your belt.

©2007 Diana M HartmanTreat the baby the way you would want to be treated if you couldn't communicate, walk, or exert any kind of control over your environment. If you could only cry and lift your head, how would you like things to be?

I've told many young moms – don't blink. Your child will be 20 years old before you know it. Funny thing is, it wouldn't have helped me either when I had a screaming child in tow every night. I swear my children were one and two-years-old for ten years because it was so much work. Then I blinked – and now they're in college.

For the record, those who say they don't remember much of their children's childhood weren't really involved in their children's lives or had angelic children who never gave them trouble. Good for them, but that's not reality for the rest of us. I will never forget the hours upon hours upon weeks upon months I spent caring for my screamer and then later helping her communicate with others without losing her temper. I will also never regret having given her the time I did.

Try a new routine for you and your child. Schedule regular time away. Get out and about with other mothers, to the park, where ever and however you can. Even at five months, a baby knows there's something happening and will respond to the stimulation of a new place (sights, sounds, and smells). Fresh air during the day is especially helpful for a child who languishes at night. Take it easy, take care of yourself, take care of your child, and remember that her baby days — the crying, diapers, feedings, playing and cooing — will not last much longer.

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About Diana Hartman

Diana is a USMC (ret.) spouse, mother of three and a Wichita, Kansas native. She is back in the United States after 10 years in Germany. She is a contributing author to Holiday Writes. She hates liver & motivational speakers. She loves science & naps.
  • JC Mosquito

    Well, I know that some babies can be trained better than others – maybe you want them asleep from 10 PM to 8 AM – but you might have to settle for 11 AM to 7 PM, and that’s close enough. And there are probably babies that will sleep from 2 AM to 5 AM and are mostly untrainable. But I think most kids would fall somewhere between these two examples. You just gotta know what kind you got and which battles you’re going to fight – because you’ll be dealing with that particular individual for probably the next 18 years.

    Actually, if you raise ‘em right, you won’t have to have battles with your children. But if you do, here’s some advice – only fight the battles you know you’ll win.

  • Val

    That was a great article. It is always refreshing to read perspectives on sleep that view the baby as an actual “person” and not an animal to “train”. I have heard people talk about how puppies learn to sleep through the night after whining and crying for attention and they figure if it works for dogs, it must be ok for babies too. How primitive. Is it ok to keep your baby in a cage? To leave him/her alone in the house when your not there? To potty train him/her after a mere few months old? Obviously these are crazy (and even sick) thoughts. Babies are human beings who are needy and attached to us. I sure hope mine sleeps through the night soon because I am exhausted…but I know she needs me and this is my job right now. Now if I could figure out how to drink enough caffeine during the day and still nurse my baby without keeping her awake along with me and forgoing her naps, I’d be onto something!

  • http://blogcritics.org/archives/2007/05/08/092205.php Danielle Foster

    I just wanted to say this is a beautiful article. I am a 23 year old mother of a beautiful 6 week old baby boy. My pregnancy was unplanned so I guess I feel I wasn’t prepared for all of the changes. Sometimes, I get discouraged when I can’t seem to soothe Brayden but I’ve also developed a great deal of patience. This article really made me think a little bit harder about my actions. I know I’m a good mom but I can always be a better mom. I intend to spoil him with all the love I can give.
    Thanks,
    Danielle

  • Robyn

    I really appreciated the things you said in your article. I have a two-month old boy that is doing pretty well sleeping for a four to five hour stretch at night, but will not take naps during the day. Well, on a bed. He can sleep for a two-hour stretch when I’m holding him, but within minutes of being laid down, he will wake up. I read a book that recommended letting him “cry it out”, but it was hard on both of us – emotionally and physically. I’ve decided to hold him for now and wait until he’s older to get the naps right. Needless to say, there isn’t much getting done around the house, but I have this precious time with my son and if I need to hold him for him to get some good sleep, so be it!

  • Jessica

    This article was wonderful!!! I have a four month old son, who still wakes many times during the night. I am only 21, so I still feel sometimes that I am so unprepared for this challenge. Me and my husband wanted to wait about 5 more years to start a family, but here he is in all his glory. ;) I enjoy being a mother more everyday, but the lack of sleep sometimes makes me feel so crazy and overwhelmed. This article really helps me remember that I only have so many months to cherish this wonderful stage in his life. This is a great article for any new mom!

  • Dan

    My two month old daughter has always been a pain at bed time and during the night with sleeping issues… But recently, she seems to have picked up a bit of insomnia… She only napped today for about two hours total, and still isn’t acting very tired… She’s putting forth an olympic effort at sleep resistance… She’s switching between happy and playful for about 10 minutes, then fussy for about 10 minutes… It’s like DR Jekyll and Baby Hyde… Any suggestions on getting her to actually settle down and sleep? We’re rocking, walking and just putting her down, but nothing is working…

  • jenn

    This was a really great article to read. I have a 6-month-old daughter who, when she was born, would only sleep if held by me. I would hold her for 8-12 hours a day and felt held hostage for most of it. This lasted for nearly 2 months. At that point, she would sleep in my bed with me as long as she was nursing. This lasted another month or so. At that point, she was willing to sleep in her crib. This took a lot of work on both our parts, as I had to learn methods of soothing, and she had to learn that she was safe. The only way she learned that she was safe was to have me come in to soothe her when she cried. After a couple weeks, we were in a routine and she was falling asleep in my arms and then napping in her crib. She still wakes up about every 2 hours at night. I just wanted all of you moms out there feeling like there’s no end to what you’re going through right now to know that I was in your position mere months ago. In fact, I am still going through my own modified version of it. It’s not forever. This happens for a reason. This is how your baby gains trust in you. You are the provider of comfort and reassurance. Don’t give up!

  • LCN

    Hi, thank you so much for this article. I really needed to read these things, to remember how little time we have with our little ones. I am a single mother of a 4 month old who only sleeps about 20 mins during the day, and wakes a lot during the night. I don’t get much of a break at all! My little guy was a surprise arrival too, and I can relate to feeling unprepared for all the changes… I came to a bit of a low point today, feeling very tired and overwhelmed, wondering where that blissful motherhood that I felt when he was a newborn went. Where did the joy that I shared with him in the pure fact that he existed go, when my biggest wish for him now is that he would just sleep more? I cried reading this article, just at the thought that I can’t keep this time I have with him as a baby forever, it is so precious… and I can’t stop it from slipping away. Deep down, I just want to hold him in my arms forever. That’s all I need to remember to keep going. Thank you.

  • Stacie

    I really liked this artical. It really made me look at things for a different perspective. I am a 21 year mother with a 5 month old daughter and she is my first baby. I have been very lucky, she is very good and she never cries, she’s such a sweet baby. But she always wants me to hold her and nurse her all the time. I usually have to hold her while she naps after falling asleep nursing or she’ll wake up or won’t sleep very long if I put her down. So I usually hold her so I can have a break and so she can get the rest she needs. But I now realize I got to change my routine so she can sleep with out me. Also she goes to bed very late 12 pm or later and here lately I have to put her in bed with me just so I can go to bed without trying to get her to go back to sleep. Well then my boyfriend has to sleep on the couch and thats not fair to him. After reading this I know it won’t be much longer before she’s one and soon enough she’ll be wondering around and give me some free time. It seems like she’s growing so fast and I just miss when she was first born and so little. So I’m going to enjoy this time with her and make positive memories with her or else I’ll look back and regret it if I don’t. Thanks and good night cause I’m going to bed.

    Stacie

  • wendy pearce

    hi

    i have a 7 month old daughter, who from seven weeks old slept right through the night, but following my recent return to work the past few weeks have been a nightmare, she is waking up all the time, sometimes 5 or 6 times a night, can u tell me if there is any known reason for this or is she just feeling a bit unsettled with the change in her daily routine

  • Zenda

    OMG!! I really thought in the bottom of my heart that I was most probably one in a million mothers going through this crisis. I was spending so much time at the Pediatrician, I thought I was going insane, and all he could tell me was that my daughter had autism and that my daughter had skin sensitivity and and and. All I did was explain the same thing over and over. MY DAUGHTER CAN’T SLEEP, for longer than 45 minutes at time. He never once suggested anything sleep related. I know now what to do. Take my daughter for sleep therapy and be the best mother I possible can. I love you little Layla

  • exhausted

    Besides the fact I share many issues with this alleged advice-requestor, as a general reviewer I have to say that this was a lot of writing without really answering anything.

    This went on and on poetically about how you just have to put up with it, and it’s a “short time” (some people don’t have even that bit of time, due to medical issues or other grave matters) and you should cherish it, etc. 5 pages of saying essentially the same thing over and over.

    And apparently ignoring the letter; albeit it was short and not full of details, I gather the woman cannot get the child to sleep no matter what – she doesn’t even like the holding! Yet the same old things about how you should rock her, walk her, she’s made to be held, etc. In other words, you didn’t listen to the letter much less really answer it – in a good concise manner, no less.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    Dear exhausted,

    It sounds like you’ve tried everything under the sun and are still facing each day with a baby who will not sleep and each night without sleep for yourself. If this is indeed the case, it’s time to break out the big guns.

    While baby needs a different doctor – especially if the doctor you’ve already seen dismissed your concerns – a lack of time, money and energy often stands in the way. There is a way around that and I highly recommend it.

    I was a single mother when my daughter was two years old and my son was three. I couldn’t take any more of her gasping, crying and shrieking. For two years I was told it was colic, that I was a bad mom, that she was a bad child, that she was allergic to something, that she was something-sensitive. (Different doctor, different “sensitivity.” What the hell ever.)

    It is now 20 years later and not one professional has been able to tell me what was/is going on with my child. I was too tired to give anything else to my son other than the basics, much less spend quality time with the one who kept me up all the time. I was at risk of abusing either of them both as well as being at risk of sleep-deprived depression.

    I took my then 2 and 3-yr old to Social Services. I banged down their door and begged them to help me – even after they told me they only help those who have abused their kids, not those who have not abused their kids. I was relentless (I was so tired; what did I have to lose by staying put in their waiting room where the air conditioning was free?)

    First they told me they only help those who are, well, basically criminals (child abusers). Then it was that no one was available. When I still wouldn’t leave and take my crier out of their building (“She’s upsetting others,” they said. Can you believe that?!), they launched an attack on me. Fortunately, they told me stuff I’d already heard (and knew wasn’t true) so it did nothing to dissuade me when they said she was a bad kid, I was a bad mom, etc.

    I finally told them I was too scared of hurting my child to take her home and do another two years of this when no one could explain or help me with her, so I told them that if they weren’t willing to help, I had no choice but to leave her there with them. By that point I was bawling (from anger, frustration and a lack of sleep; and frankly, I should not have been operating a vehicle at that point, either). I knew I wasn’t going to leave my child there, but they didn’t know that.

    Lo and behold, they found a social worker to help me out. The first lady was a complete nimrod and admittedly knew nothing about small children. I wasted no time (one hour) getting right back there and insisting they give me someone who knew what they were doing.

    A woman named Beth Honse showed up at my door with a book (The Difficult Child), two baby gates (I couldn’t afford one), a list of foods she wanted me to stop feeding my kids and a list of foods she wanted me to start feeding them. We stacked the baby gates, one on top of the other. She taught me (and my daughter) a whole different sleep routine that involved weeks of training her (and me) how to associate lower light, relatively low sound and the pillow with resting time. Up to now, both of us had associated this with hostility. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to sleep; she was clearly tired, often overtired; it was that she couldn’t sleep. It was as frustrating for her as for me, but I had words to describe it where she had none.

    Beth also taught me how to teach my child to slow down. When the games called for getting on the floor, Beth (who had to be in her 50’s) got down on the floor with us – day after day – until me and my child had mastered the games. The best part was that she involved my other child. I was so tired at that point I didn’t realize I’d been leaving him out. She told me what I knew, but had forgotten: the kids and me were a team.

    This is significant because I lived in a horrible trailer in a horrible part of town. Beth – nicely dressed, college educated, obviously well bred and articulate – was not above my dirty floor, my lack of money or my screaming meme.

    Social services would also come to provide me with monetary assistance I didn’t know existed. This went a long, long way toward easing my anxiety about how to provide for my family and still be a productive person.

    It took less than six weeks to learn behavior management and teach it to my child – who responded just enough that I was able to get a good six hours of sleep a night. Too, my child learned enough self-control to ease both our burden and was able to convey her feelings to me (pre-verbally, she did it with a kind of sign language which we put words to as she grew and became verbal). We were able to regularly work through whatever was an issue for her at the time. Over the years, the consistent use of behavior management techniques we learned helped all the way through to this day.

    This is significant because I was told she would never read past the 6th grade level. Obviously, someone didn’t know what in the hell they were talking about and wrongly categorized my child who could not be categorized.

    One more thing – a thing I accidentally discovered. I was on the phone with Beth one afternoon and had a cup of coffee sitting on the table. I took it with a bit of cream and sugar at the time. The coffee had cooled (as all hot beverages do when the mom is busy tending to the kids). As I talked with Beth, my back was turned to the coffee. My crier got a hold of that cup and sucked it right down. Within a few minutes she was asleep. To me, though – the mother of a child who had never taken an afternoon nap – she was poisoned. Beth told me my child would be fine but to call Poison Control if I wanted to double-check. I did call them. They told me no one, not even a child, is harmed by a cup of coffee.

    I called Beth back and she told me caffeine is a stimulant, and that if my child responded to it by calming rather than becoming hyper, my child was hyperactive. (I’d heard this before – from the doctor who said she’d never read well.) I hesitated to use coffee on my child, thinking it was abusive in some way. (Never minding the doctor who suggested I use Dimetapp to get her to sleep – a suggestion that rendered my child completely out of control, and sooo not asleep.)

    At the age of six, my child was formally diagnosed ADHD. I shunned medication, mostly because I couldn’t afford it. Too, the coffee, in very small doses, was working well for her. By 8, she didn’t like coffee anymore. I allowed her to be started on Ritalin. That worked – extremely well – for several months. Then she began to “crash,” which is to say you could see on her face when the medication all of a sudden stopped working. It was as if she walked through an invisible wall from medicated to not medicated. She went from pleasant to pissed in a matter of minutes. They wouldn’t up her dose, so I took her off of the medication completely. We went right back to coffee (Starbucks has nothing on the concoctions I came up with to get her to drink it) and behavior management.

    The child is an archaeology major, an avid reader and a world traveler. This doesn’t surprise me since the child never could sit in one place for any length of time. Of course she would take to the world as an adult; what else would she do? She may fall under the heading of ADHD, but the child is not attention-deficit. She is attention-abundant.

    In summary, do what you have to do to find a way to deal with your child. I understand there is no shortage of would-be professionals who would be help if only they were professional. I know it takes weeks and months to find the one who will listen and do something productive. I also know that extreme circumstances call for extreme measures: start crying out yourself and you’ll be getting some kind of attention in short order. Don’t listen to other’s judgment or what you feel in your gut is bad advice (not even your mother, grandmother, other mothers or the “helpful” lady next door). Listen only to your heart and head. What do they tell you to do?

    If you have any reservations about seeking help and/or standing up for yourself and your child, storm right past those “I shouldn’t / I couldn’t” feelings and find help for both of you – no matter how many doors you have to knock on, no matter how many naysayers you have to confront.

    Social Services is your best first stop. Don’t leave without help. If you get help via some random diagnosis, take the help. You don’t have to repeat the diagnosis to your child and you do not have to accept this label. Disregard the label: just take the help and go on your merry way.

    If none of this proves helpful, come back here and tell me. There is always a way – and I always find it. If it comes to that, knowing your city will be helpful because I’ll need to be able to research the resources in your area – which, trust me, I will find. Over time, it became easy to find resources for my child – even as I was sleep-deprived. I’m not tired now. If you still need help, I will find it.

  • Jen

    Thank you very much for this article. It helped me after a night of 6 awakenings with my 4 1/2 month old son. It’s 6:00am, and I’m exhausted, but I can’t sleep, and reading this has put things into perspective for me once again. So thank you.

  • http://blogcritics.org/archives/2007/05/08/0922055.php Karoll Reyes

    I am just so happy I found this article. I am experiencing challenges with my 8 mo. old. I have cried along with him in the middle of the night. Not having the strength or the willingness to say a prayer for both of us. But having read this article along with the comments (especially the last one!) I feel I am not alone and that time will pass by and I would regret not finding that way out that my baby needs if I give up or don’t regroup and try different things. You Ladies are my Heroes, and I feel priviledged to share my comments and to absorb all that you have to say. My baby won’t sleep much, all together maybe 1:30 during the day. Goes to bed at 6:00pm and wakes up at different times during the night. Thank you once again for all your advice. God Bless you, Merry Christmas and Prosperous 2009!

  • EmiKat2008

    I just have to say thanks for the article. My daughter is just over 10 months now, and still will not sleep without being rocked and cuddled. After about a week of putting her to bed awake and letting her cry it out, we discovered that she has urticaria pigmentosa, which is exacerbated by stressful situations. Well needless to say, we stopped “crying it out” thing immediately, and after 10 months of doing this every night, I must say I am exhausted. She is a darling baby and a true joy. I just wish it was easier for her to fall asleep. I’m glad to see that there are those out there that don’t consider this spoiling, because I do consider it loving and caring for her, and in no way spoiling her. I brought her into this world and its my responsibility to do right for her.

  • Erik

    Hi,

    Thank you very much for the article, very insightful and heart-felt.

    I’m not a Mom, I’m a Dad (just in case my name didn’t tip you off :)

    My wife and I share baby duty, she works during the day, and I work during the night. I’m an engineer by trade and have worked a huge gamut of jobs in my 38 years, from training horses on an Iowa ranch, to commercial fishing in the Bering Sea, to working oil fields in the Arctic Circle, to being a semiconductor engineer.

    I understand very well the mindset of ‘training a puppy’, and the [unsuccessful] application of it to babies. It is instinctual and logical, at least to me, the uninitiated rough-n-tumble Dad.

    Although my tried-n-true ‘puppy training’ strategy was based on the best intentions and all the love a Dad could have for his daughter, it didn’t work. My daughter was miserable and I knew it, and that was unacceptable. Something was binding and not operating as it should. Knowing this and continuing with a failing strategy, I knew I wasn’t being the best Dad I could possibly be, therefore letting her down and possible causing damage. There was something missing, something that I was missing.

    I nearly went nuts not knowing what the problems were with my daughter, and not being able to come up with viable solutions to her sleeping (and other numerous baby) issue(s). I was miserable and felt worthless, that certainly doesn’t help matters. All she could do was cry and scream. Not only is that one of the worst noises I’ve ever heard, but something I don’t have much of a tolerance for.

    I happened across, and read your article, and hands-down-no-BS, understanding fell upon me like 12 tons of bricks! Changing my tactics and forcing myself to grow in what seemed to me to be a completely unnatural direction was very much like shifting gears at freeway speed without the clutch. (I’m referring to the part about basically being teacher and student at the same time, and her being a different kind of person).

    I’m so happy I did change how I handled my daughter. It was like oiling a squeaky hinge. Things are just as difficult, but the way is much smoother and easier, if that makes any sense.

    My daughter DID (OK, and does :) speak her own language, and that was the missing piece to the puzzle of understanding her, and I believe, her understanding me in her own way. With practice and lots of extra patience, there is definitely a constant and palpable flow of communication that transcends spoken (or screamed :) words. She’s only got 5 months under her belt of living among us, and I’ve never felt as close to this little person that I love so much. Thank you for your insight. I’ve found your advice to be trustworthy. If there are other Dads reading this, read it carefully, there are many other applications of this wisdom besides for sleeping matters. She knows what she’s talking about.

  • lolo

    well, i loved your article.. it wakened my senses.. i love my child though he dosent sleep all the night..

  • Kate

    I like the ideas presented in this article, but they are completely useless for my household. I’ve tried to follow all the advice of this author (and others) and my 5 month old screams through all of it. She cries when I pick her up, cries when being rocked, cries when put down, cries when I put a hand on her, talk to her, play music etc. She will wake up at 2am and cry until 4am even if she’s being comforted the whole time. She will not go to sleep with me any better than alone (I’ve tried both).

    The author implies that a parent not willing to rock a baby to sleep is a lazy parent. Well, some babies just don’t go to sleep when rocked. I’d love it if mine did. She doesn’t. I need more advice.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman diana hartman

    Kate, please refer to comment #13 (above). It specifically addresses the concerns of those parents who are in need of more than just the standard how-to.

  • Lorri

    My son is eight months old and has never, never, never, slept more than 2 hours on his own day or night. I am awake right now at two am trying to console myself looking for strength so I don’t cry and have puffy eyes for my 12 and 15 year old in the morning before I go to work. I haven’t slept in my bed with my husband since our son was born. I already know about life changing babies and my age gives me a huge amount of patience and, believe it or not, wisdom. But none of it applies.

    My son falls asleep with my help every night with no problem. None. But every night he’s awake, whether I hold him or not, every 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

    I read the article and I read most of the entries and how everyone was so moved by the words and that it opened their eyes. Unfortunately it doesn’t help me.

    I am trying to find a way to soothe him during the night. He likes the bottle sometimes but not everytime. I can pat his back with him over my shoulder. But not everytime. Sometimes he likes to be cradled on his side (try sleeping that way!), but not everytime. You’ve no doubt heard the phrase,”don’t count your chickens until they’re hatched”? I never count chickens at my house.

    I am waiting for something to click for him. I am waiting for him to feel safe and secure enough to sleep even a little at night without so much from me. Sometimes I feel like it’s sucking the life from me and my older two kids and my husband are suffering for it.

    All the advice I read pertains to falling asleep at night and routines at bedtime but no one seems to have advice for us baby invoked insomniacs. And what’s so ironic is that I’m patient enough and willing enough to do ANYTHING but nothing seems to be out there.

    Someone prove me wrong. Someone please reach out and tell me something besides the usual that has worked.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman diana hartman

    Dear Lorri,

    Please refer to comment #13 for more assistance. It doesn’t sound like safety and security are your child’s issues. Something else is going on – and it may be as innocent as a child who just wakes up reguarly, who can operate on much less sleep than other children.

    You’ve probably allowed him several minutes to go back to sleep on his own, but just in case you haven’t, do give it a try: Give him 20 minutes to ease himself back to sleep instead of picking him up right away. Don’t, however, give him time to get himself all riled up, else it will take even longer to get him back to sleep.

    What you need is some way to get more sleep for yourself – as clearly the lack of it is taking its toll and no amount of “it will get better soon” is going to help.

    If the suggestions in comment #13 don’t help, come right back here and let me know, along with your city. If I know your general location, it will make getting resources for you a lot easier.

    Diana

  • Mama Bear

    Hello Diana,

    Thank you so much for this article. It was truly something I needed to read. My 6 month old son is very difficult to settle down and being a first time mom, never knew about babies becoming overtired. I held the misconception that if a baby is tired enough, they will sleep. Needless to say, I’ve been learning the hard way that isn’t the case.

    I feel really guilty and like a failure for not knowing this and the thought that my poor baby has been overtired this past month(s) is heartbreaking considering it’s something I could’ve prevented. I’m making the changes necessary to help him settle down for his bedtime and paying extra attention to his tired signs, but after reading your article, it certainly puts things into perspective when the going gets tough (which it certainly does!).

    My favorite parts were about being a teacher and a student at the same time and that it’s ridiculous to think that certain thigns will teach a baby to depend on you (in regards to sleeping) because they already do! What you mentioned about the most independent and well adjusted children are those that had reliable and consistent sources of love an attention from their mothers is soooooooooooooo true. I can see that effect from the difference in children whose mothers where there for them the first 3 years verses those whose weren’t, just as a small example.

    Thank you for such a beautiful and (very)logical article. I’m definitely saving it and passing it along to anyone that needs a reminder.

    Warmest Regards,
    MamaBear

  • shaquille

    Thanks everyone. I am certainly sleep-deprived, but not suffering the way some mothers here are clearly suffering. I have a 3 month old who has a daily “schedule” posted on our fridge. It is purely psychological for me to refer to it and feed, bathe, put down for a nap, and allow 20 minutes of Noggin TV for him. Yes Noggin is for pre-schoolers, but he will watch it and give me a precious 20 min. in the morning to make coffee, load the dishwasher or just meditate silently. Again, the schedule seems laughable, but order is what we crave for them and sometimes he actually does fall asleep at 8:30pm after his bottle.

  • annimo

    I loved the article. One thing though, I want to try a new routine on my 8 month ol son. However, he hates when i hold him. He is only comforted by his father. Dad is often called out to work at night and it is hard to soothe a baby that only wants dad. i feel frustrated and a bit a the end of my rope

  • seema

    This blog is really very good and touching. i have 5 monhts old baby. she didnt sleep at night till she was 1 and half month old, at that time i kept patient and she began to sleep at 11 and woke up two to three times but from few days she is not sleeping at night again but that is not problem proble is she cries continously for 3 or 4 hours from 11 to 2 o clock and even doent take feed. i consulted doctor but he said my baby is ok she hasnt any problem.
    i was searching for some help on internet, now it may be because of routine.but where i can take my baby out in hard winters. earlier i used to take her to park or friend’s home. but now it is not possible for me to take her as she has cough and co ld. i try to change her environment by taking her from one room to another but it works only for 2-3 minutes.
    then waht i can do to sooth her and to make her calm at night.i really pity on my small baby when she continously cries :(

  • tired parent

    Thanks Diana,

    This gives me some succour with an insomniac boy who then wakes again anyway after ten or twenty minutes. He wants to watch everything going on and is determined never to miss a bit of life – while I applaud this and hope he continues such engrossing and enthusiastic curiosity into hius adulthood, it is frustrating for both his parents to not know if they are somehow getting it all wrong; so happy to have this perspective and some added routines to try out.

    Wish us luck!

  • Helena

    A really great article. Thank you.
    I have agreed with everything in this article since my first son was born 3.5 years ago. I was (and still am) a SAHM. My son was a terrible napper so he spent the first 8 months taking his short 30min naps on my lap, he fell asleep on the breast or I wore him down on a sling. He was happy being on me 24/7 and I was happy watching a lot of TV while he slept. We still cosleep at night. He has learned how to fall asleep by himself and is a happy and confident guy.
    My youngest son is 4 months old. He likes to sleep more than his brother did, but he also has problems getting to sleep. Often he doesnt fall asleep on the breast, doesnt want to be simply cuddled, sung to etc. He wants to be ‘assertivly’ walked around. I would be ok with this but the problem is that he is 25lbs(EBF). No sling, backpack or carrier reduces the tremendous back ache. Unless he is walked around he screams and is inconsolable. The other problem is that he often wants to slep 1.5-2hrs but can only achieve this if sleeping on my lap and is very grumpy if he can’t have that much sleep…But I have a 3.5 year old who needs me, which I can’t always do when I am strapped to the sofa with baby. I know from experience that you can’t ‘teach’ a baby and that they learn many things when they are ready. But my back is breaking and my nerves are shot from the screaming…I need to be less stressed for my boys but I don’t know what to do. Help.

  • laura

    this is a great article!i had been ready other articles but none had me satisfied with their answers you were so much help thank you!!

  • mom

    very well said.it touched my heart and soul.

  • Jia’s Mom

    Hello everyone!
    I read through this article, and all its replies with tears in my eyes. My 3 month old baby girl, born naturally, full term, was demanding right from the start. I was intent on breast-feeding, but was so low on milk supply, that she had to be formula-fed (which killed me to give and watch everyday because she was extremely colicky). I was constantly expressing, took medications and herbs to increase my supply, but nothing I did worked. I was so distraught and cried every night, because I felt so alone and like a failure.
    Then, just when I thought she would sleep on her own (or would learn to put herself back to sleep after 1 hour or so of rocking and singing to her), she would get up after 5 minutes of being put down, and I would have to repeat every possible method to soothe her, for another hour. She hated her car seat,occasionally settled in her pram, and I would again cry to myself wondering when the day will come when I could happily take her for a stroll in the park without let or hindrance. I seriously started doubting my abilities to mother, and was so afraid I would hurt her, because I was so exhausted,depressed and overwhelmed with having to care for a demanding baby. Many of my friend’s babies were so, so easy going, it made me green with envy and sometimes wish my child was different.
    Everyone told me my methods were wrong, and that I was spoiling her by always carrying her to settle her, and rocking her to sleep in my arms. What do they know about difficult babies? I have tried every possible way to make her settle and sleep on her own. I even imported an electronic cradle, that rocks her in a sling, but she would only sleep in my arms, no matter what and how I tried! I am a junior Pediatrician myself, and I know that she is growing well, but will not settle on her own.
    My husband would come home from work, and settle her till he goes to bed at about 1 am, then I take over for the entire day. No proper cooking,cleaning,outing or even relaxing was possible. I had to ask help from my mother and aunties to help me out, to retain my sanity. Everyone else was saying that I am too stressed, and anxious, and that my baby is unsettled because she can pick up my vibes. 1 aunt came to help once, and she left the house shocked at how much effort it took to settle her. She never again commented on my behaviour!
    I then discovered this book : Buddhism for Mothers, by Sarah Napthali. This book does not try to influence your religious views or impart any religious resonance, but it made me a more calm and excepting person of the situations around me. My daughter did not become more settled (although I was hoping she picked up the good vibes), but I could cope with my daily encounters and not loose my mind, thanks to the great serenity I found……
    I want to tell all the moms out there (irrespective of how easy your baby is) that if we are too stressed, and we know that our baby is just plain difficult no matter what we have tried, then just get help from family, friends,whomever or whatever you can lay your hands on! Do not listen to bigotry of others, just retain your sanity and patience, for our little ones need that the most. I keep reminding myself that one day, she will settle and become the sweetest child.Even if she doesn’t, at least I gave her all my time. If we were only to look at ways to settle our baby, but not ways to settle ourselves, then this will be a never ending battle, and a dreadful life!
    You have all my love and prayers…And so do our DIFFICULT babies!!

  • Talissha

    I too know how alot of these mothers feel. I have just had to walk away from my son for a few moments as I was about to cry along with him.

  • Acorn Oaktree

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article, and all the responders! I finally know I am not alone after 14 months of life with my beautiful, intelligent and very vivacious toddler.

    My daughter never got a flat spot on the back of her head because she refused to be put down from the very time of her birth! I did not put her down (except for bed time) for the first 4 months of her life. I dared not to because she would only stay asleep for 15 min to 30 min if I was lucky!

    She napped in my arms until she was 9 months or so. now she sleeps on the couch for nap time as she will not sleep in her crib, and she still wakes up every half an hour and requires me to put her back to sleep nursing in my arms.

    14 months and my house still resembles a nuclear disaster zone! I have learned to clean really fast and not to care about perfection!

    I decided to let my daughter cry it out once on advice of just about everybody I know (they all had complacent babies!). I was advised that she would probably cry for an hour, maybe two because she is a stubborn girl……well…..FIVE! screaming hours later I decided to give up as I was starting to have convulsions my nerves were so shot! To date she still sleeps with me and wakes up 2-3 times before I go to bed, and if she’s not teething or sick (which is rare these days) she will sleep for about 5-6 hours straight and then wake up 3-4 more times before 7:00 am when she gets out of bed usually.

    I have been doing some research lately as my partner has been trying to make me believe that i’m doing something wrong (my own partner!).

    I have found out that babies that need to be held alot are either highly allergic or highly intelligent or both! Well, my girl has no allergies but she is months ahead of most of the babies her age and even those a bit older……babies learn through touch….and boy is my baby girl touched alot!

    Hang in there moms! I’m still waiting for the night when my daughter will sleep in her own bed….and i still don’t know what to do about it sometimes….but i am learning to embrace my daughters energy, intelligence, non-complacency, etc!

    are there any moms out there with toddlers who are still high maintenance?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman diana hartman

    Dear Acorn Oaktree,

    I tell people my high maintenance child was 3-years old for about 5 years. They chuckle. I smirk. It sooo wasn’t funny at the time. I was sleep-deprived, hungry (when did I eat last?), and showered so fast the water barely made it to the drain.

    I also did the “let her cry” thing once on the off chance everyone else was right – and they were dead wrong. She cried, as you experienced, for five hours the first night. She’d have cried longer if I’d not stopped it. I was told she would cry less with successive nights. She did not. By day four I not decided that was enough of that. It was as if I’d packed a week’s worth of her crying (and my shattered nerves) into each of those five-hour sessions. It’s one thing to be a mom who thinks her child might cry forever. It is another to be a mom who knows for sure her child will.

    When people say, “Let her cry,” all I hear is, “Neglect is okay in installments, and everything you want is more important than anything your baby needs.” Mama needs sleep, food, a shower and regular time away from baby. Aside from that, Mama’s life has changed – and while you seem to have accepted that, others in your life have not. I know some babies do fine without mom being there 24/7, but some do not – and there is no need to apologize, defend or otherwise justify a child who does not do just fine without his/her mother.

    If you haven’t yet, please read comment #13. I posted this specifically in response to a mom who was still run ragged by her child even after trying everything she could think of.

    I’m so sorry your partner is not on board with how you’re doing things. While counseling may be helpful to get each other’s wants and needs on the table to be addressed (both, not just one or the other), no amount of counseling is going to change the fact that a child is not an appliance who can be turned off/on at will. Counseling is good for stressed parents – if for no other reason than because each of you can be heard by the other without interference from the baby, but counseling should not be looked at by either person as a way to get the other person to do what they want.

    Good luck with everything.

  • Tom

    My son is almost 10 months old, and will NOT, no-way-no-how go to sleep on his own. We’ve attempted cry-it-out three or four times since he was 5mo, and it flat does NOT work for him. And ya know, that’s Okay. We’ve tried rocking and massaging, and that does not work for him. Only nursing works for him.

    It’s hard on my wife because he’s recently started waking up at 2am, needing to nurse to go back to sleep. We’ve been fortunate that he’s generally very easygoing and would nurse at about 9pm, conk out, and sleep till 7am. But now that’s gone, and we’re both up in the middle of the night trying to calm him back to sleep. However, it seems that, for now, he’s just going to have to nurse in the middle of the night. It’s not pleasant to wake up in the middle of the night every night as an adult, but we’ll just have to deal with it. And, as far as is possible, we’ll just have to enjoy it. Soon enough I’ll be trying to teach him to drive a stick shift and to be nice to girls.

    Thanks for the encouraging article.

  • Pati

    This article made me feel so much better. I read the mentioned book and it breaks my heart to see a 6-month old crying to sleep. The only person my son can rely on to make him feel safe is me (and sometimes his dad), I don’t see how holding him can do any harm. He knows I’m there for him and when the right time comes he will learn how to soothe himself.
    thanks for the real mom words!!!!

  • Charlene O’Fee

    Thank you. The compassion for babies and moms loosened the knots in my shoulders and I have forwarded the link to the grandmas, aunts, and well-meaning friends. Now I can continue to build a wonderful relationship with my daughter Evangeline.

  • Lily

    I have a two-month old baby who only sleeps when she’s being held and rocked. When she’s put back to her crib, she wakes up almost immediately after we put her down and gets really cranky. The stress is building up each day. I don’t get enough sleep, and so does she.

    I’ve read articles about letting baby “cry it out”. I tried doing so, and I felt really guilty after. I couldn’t stand it. A lot of people have offered me advice, that I should let her sleep on her own, but babies (or at least my baby) don’t operate that way. My baby likes to be carried around inside the house when she feels sleepy. It’s tiring, but it is the only way we know that can help her sleep.

    It’s relieving to know that constantly holding my baby will not make her dependent on me when she grows up. I was afraid that I might be spoiling her for doing so. Your article is the only one that made sense to me. You gave the soundest advice about how to help my baby sleep. Thank you for sharing!

  • Shannon

    I stumbled on your advice and I’m glad I did. I’m on supergalactic baby number 2 now and your article was just what I needed.
    My daughter is my second high needs baby. Shes now 7 months old and following in her big brothers footsteps. I choose to co-sleep with her which no longer pleases her. Nothing does. She now crawls around the bed with her eyes shut crying. I look at friends babies who just fall asleep in moms arms and feel jealous. Mine never does that and after a while of seeing it all around you, you begin to wonder ‘what have I done to my baby?’ Its nice to hear that all babies are not easy. I wish more people understood that. Tonight when she wakes from her swing and I take her to bed I’ll remember ‘this too shall pass.’
    Thank you so much.

  • Ruth

    I came to the internet to find help with my nine month old sleeping habits, I was very stressed and felt helpless. After reading your article, I feel all pumped up. I just wanted to say thank you for your your help. Take Care.

  • Anne

    Thank you for your article. My baby was colicky for the first 6 months (i.e. would cry 2-5 hours every evening). I always had a difficult time putting my baby to sleep. I just didn’t have the patience to hold and rock him what seems forever at the time, especially when he’s wailing and wailing even when held.

    Needless to say at times we just couldn’t handle it anymore and had to put our baby down and just let him cry it out. The method works with some success (though, I recommend reading Bed Timing by Marc Lewis and Isabela Granic because there are windows of opportunities for sleep training and where we had some success was during those months of opportunities mentioned in the book. I read the book after the fact but it makes sense to me now why it worked when it worked).

    He’s now 7 months and “mostly” sleeps through the night and is a much more pleasant boy (so as hard as it is when you’re in it, that purple crying phase does pass). My problem now is he doesn’t nap at all. The only reason putting him to bed is somewhat easy (I nurse him) is because he’s so tired from no day naps. He’s an active boy who loves moving about and exploring his world. When I try to put him down for a nap, cuddling means trying to get out of my arms so he could play, nursing is like a cup of coffee that gives him more fuel, putting him down on my bed or his crib means getting up on the rails and crying until we get him out.

    All the sleep books tell you how important sleep is for children and in a nutshell, children that don’t sleep well or enough might not be too bright in the future. So, I always feel like a bad mother because he doesn’t nap/sleep enough and I can tell he’s tired as the day progress to wear him down. However, your article and comments on the site make me feel better. I just have to accept that my child is not easy-going and he just doesn’t nap. So be it. That said, I’m not giving up on trying to get him to nap as I know he needs it…I just know now he’ll take a lot longer to get there than other babies.

    Good luck to all the moms out there facing similar challenges!

  • Emma Leavens

    Wow, this article is just wonderful. Read it by accident, but I feel so happy now. You have the perfect understanding of children. One thing to add, wild children just have more energy flowing through them, are more creative and in touch with the real meaning of life. They don’t always adapt well to such a regimented, dull society. x

  • martha

    well this is a great article. this parent did not have twins and has no idea how to calm two babies that scream themselves to sleep and take 1 to two hours in your arms each to go to sleep when you try that avenue. It is tough and I wish my babies never cried themselves to sleep but at times that is just what I have had to deal with after 8 months of trying all the other things. Wish I could get a cure for twins.
    thanks

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/diana-hartman/ diana hartman

    Martha,
    I’ve put out requests on several sites for moms of twins to comment. Please check back every few days. I hope someone will be able to share with you what worked for them.
    Diana

  • jazmin barreto

    Thanks so much for this article. Just today I reached my limit and ran out of patience. Even got to the point of giving the baby to daddy and I just cried and cried because despite of my 2 hr attempt to put my daughter to sleep, it didn’t work out and I felt like such a failure. Reading this article made me feel better and realized that this happens to other moms too.
    Thanks so much for taking the time to write this for us!

  • Tany-Joa

    Excellent my wife and i have a one and a half month baby girl and she don’t sleep more than 2 hour sometimes, and other days she sleep 3 hours but normally she sleep 1.30 to 2 hours and some time she wait 2 days to make poop a lot articles in the internet help to understand many things about baby’s thanks to all of you.

  • wisia

    hi! my 4 months old baby couldn’t sleep at night… she sleeps at 12pm to 7pm… is it normal? im worried… thnx!

  • Tony

    This article helped me to see a few things. I work nights leaving my partner mostly to deal with ‘bedtime.’ During the day nap routine mostly consists of my partner to recognise our son is sleepy and rock/sing him to sleep before laying him down (a routine she feels is easiest to keep noise down and allow me to sleep.) Night times however she baths then feeds, then reads a book before putting him to bed awake. When 9 times out of 10 (if he hasn’t fallen asleep during feeding or reading) all hell breaks loose for between 10 mins and 2 hours. Reading this article has made me realise that we need to use the same routine for day naps and night time sleeping. Generally once asleep at night he does sleep through. There was a period when we could put him into bed at night and before the 10min timer on his mobile was up he would be asleep with little or no fuss. However as the article points out he may need the routine to change and the only way to tell us this is to kick up and scream the house down.

  • Jodie

    While much of this advice may be correct the statement that the only way dendrites grow in through touch stimulation is positively false. Touch is an important component of neurological development but sights, sounds, smells and emotions all also stimulate astrocytes to guide neuron growth accordingly.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/diana-hartman/ Diana Hartman

    Jodie, Touch is so important that even without sight, sound, smells and emotions, the dendrites within the brain of a blind, deaf autistic child with anosmia can still form connections and the child nurtured simply by being held with great frequency.

    Your focus on this one point leaves me to wonder how you would expose a baby to sights, sounds, smells and emotions without touching the child.

  • butterfly

    This is THE MOST fantastic article I have ever read on sleep (and believe me, I’ve read quite a few). It’s made me stop and think and above all, given me renewed hope. Thank you so much.

  • Kirsten

    Thank you.

  • First time mom

    Thank you for writing this article and putting my mind at ease! I have a 10 week old who up until now seemed to refuse to sleep. During her first weeks, she would nap, but woke with any noise and we found ourselves tiptoeing around the house. Then she stopped napping. For the past few weeks she has “fought sleep” at night and finally when down, wakes sometimes hourly. I sought advice on a blog, and several good-intentioned people gave me their advice, as well as recommendations for books about routines. We tried, we failed, we got even less sleep and had a very cranky baby on our hands. Finally, when I said screw it all, held my baby during her naps, and (gasp) nursed/bottle fed her to sleep, I was able to rock her to sleep without a fight. I’m doing what she’s telling me she needs (and what everybody else says is wrong) and she finally sleeps! Even as I write, she is taking the first nap she has taken in her basinet in probably 8 weeks. Amen!!

  • restless

    What the fuck r y’all talking about!! It’s 7 in the morning she won’t got to ned and I’m gonna flip the out!!!! I need advice on how not to end up on the news because this motherfucker WON’T SLEEP! !

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/diana-hartman/ diana hartman

    restless,

    Call ANYone you trust to come get your child or sit with your child for *at least* 2 hours. Whoever doesn’t answer or won’t do it, call someone else and keep calling until you get a “Yes.” If they take the child, go lie down and rest. If they sit the child in your house, put in some ear plugs (toilet tissue will roll up tiny in a pinch), go lay down and rest.

    When you call that someone, make it very clear you are at the end of your ropes. Don’t hem, haw or try to make nice of it. Tell the truth. You need a break and you need it now.

    If no one will help you, go to the Emergency Room with a car seat, stroller, whatever you have. Find the least busy corner of the waiting room and try your best to wait until your child goes to sleep. If anyone from the staff questions your being there, *tell the truth*. You are sure you’re going to flip out and you need to be some place where that is simply not going to be an option.

    Now get crackin’. Make calls and/or get ready to go to the emergency room.

    After all that and hen you get four minutes to spare, read comment #13 which I wrote specifically for parents whose kids just won’t budge a wink.

    :Diana

  • grateful

    Thank you so much, Diana, I have been trying to raise my first child by methods which make sense to me, but I had not read anything about sleep which made sense until now. Unfortunately before reading what you wrote I got sucked into the the whole “your child should only be waking up this many times by this age” trap and I tried the cry it out method for one night and one nap…and I’ve been hating myself ever since about it. My husband supervised the bedtime one and I supervised the nap one….I let him cry for an hour and went to get him. Seeing his little eyes brimming with tears as he smiled at me because he was so happy to see me is an image that will haunt me forever. I wanted to kill myself. When it comes down to it he’s never been consistent at night but gave me a few nights which spoiled me…he’s never been able to nap though without being held….it seemed he was regressing by waking up much more at night so I thought he was getting “spoiled” since I nurse him back to sleep. He really wasn’t that bad compared to many stories I’ve been reading here and elsewhere. After I nursed him I could usually put him down without being fully asleep and he’d go back to sleep even if only for an hour. Now, I don’t know if it was the cry it out or a recent cold he is just getting over (his first) or it was coming anyway, but now there is no putting him down to sleep at all day or night. My husband and I take turns right now holding him through the night. I’m happy to do it though, as perhaps this is all my fault in the first place for not being content with what I had when I had it (it’s important to remember it could always be worse, though it’s hard to remember or care at the time the sleep deficiency is adding up). But reading what you wrote has given me renewed vigor and joy and purpose in being there for my son. I now am confident that it’s okay. We’ll start over again at our own pace and I’ll hold him and go to him as much as I need to and to heck with what any naysayers think about it. He’s my son and I’m going to enjoy him the best that I can without worrying about all the “my kid slept all night by such and such time” competition. How I wish I’d come across this site sooner! To all looking for help, the best thing you can do is try to find help in finding a family member or friend or hire a sitter once a week or every couple of weeks or however often you need it. Sometimes there just are no magic tricks for some babies, unfortunately. The time will pass some day however far it may seem right now, you just need to find someone who will help you recharge your batteries every now and then to keep you sane. Trying some methods hoping for a miracle may work with some babies, but with others, as bad as it seems now it could actually get worse. GET HELP. You are bound to find someone sympathetic who was once in your shoes.

  • buket

    hi,i have got a 18 months old daughter,still breast feeding,specially at night every 2-3 hours.thinking of stopping breast feeding but i dont know how?she sleeps with us,cries in her cot.i want to make her sleep in her cot but she wakes up.

  • GC

    Thank you Diana for this wonderful article. I felt like you were speaking right to me, as this is what I’ve been going through the day my daughter is born. My baby is born a poor sleeper, and even though we did manage to get her some nice and long stretches of daytime naps, her night sleep is always bad. She’s now 4 months old and still can’t sleep through the night. She’ll constantly fuss, toss and turn, make sounds, cry when paci falls out, stuff like that during her sleep which will get us out of bed to attend to her. Lately it’s been taking us an hour if not longer to get her down to sleep at night. And I would be lying if I say it’s not annoying the heck out of me! Who can function well without their good long sleep?

    Sometimes I do lose my patience when she’s fussy and crying, or when holding no longer works either. I feel my life has changed to a way that it is being “on hold”. I have very little time for myself (a full time working mom), and very sleep deprived. I do admit I lose my perspective during those sleepless nights, don’t know if I can do this anymore. Sometimes there’s a voice in me saying I want my old life back. When those moments creep up it’s really really frustrating and difficult.

    I’m so glad I bumped into this article of yours, which really pumps me up and gives me some new insight and perspective. Parenthood is never easy, and yes I’ve accepted the fact that my daughter is not an easy baby. Pointless to compare with other easy babies and feel defeated and desperate myself. I’ve come to terms with myself gradually to accept my daughter just the way she is, and your article just reenforces my belief, that babies do need our tender loving care at all time. And I agree the years won’t be long. Before I know it she’ll be 4 years old, at 4th grade, 14 years old nasty teenager, 24 years old independent woman who no longer needs me…etc. I shall cherish the moments when I can still get to hold her because every moment is so unique and it’ll never come back.

  • sheila

    this is a rather old article but i am so grateful that i found it today. my baby girl has been keeping myself and my husband up for weeks now. she is 9 months old and will NOT sleep. we are at our wits end & i have been considering the CIO method. this article brought me back to my senses. yea, i’m tired. yea, it sucks to be tired ALL the time. but this is temporary. i will hold my sweetheart and rock her to sleep as long as she needs me to and know in my heart that i am a lucky, blessed woman.

  • Jennifer

    Diana, thank you for this article. I have a 10 month old baby girl who is the world to my husband and I. She is extremely active and already walking but too busy to sleep. Since the day we brought her home she has been a bad sleeper. We tried the cry it out method only because we were so tired. It took three days and then she learned how to stand two week later and it didn’t work anymore. She would just stand there crying hold on to the rails so tight her knucles would turn white. We couldn’t take that so we just go and pick her up. I just think every baby is different and that is ok. You are completely right, don’t let others make you feel bad.

  • sleepy

    I have a 1 year old and a 4 year old. My 1 year old wants to play at night. She is hyperactive. She sleeps about 8 hours a day (2 in am, 3 at noon and 3 at night). I tried to keep her awake in the day but she will just pass out in mid play during the day. I have to drive my 4 year old to preschool but half the time I have to call her off because I am too tired to drive. I feel like my older child’s education is getting neglected as well as play time with her alone because of being so tired or always having to keep up with my 1 year old. I do include my 4 year old in the activities I do manage to do. I tried every method from these professional, behaviorist etc. My 1 year old doesn’t want to be held, doesn’t want a bottle. She flat out wants to play and will cry till its wake up time 6am. She will cry all night till 6. I am consistent with bed time routine and only way she might sleep is in her car seat. She will stand and scream for hours if in her crib or pack and play. Yes i have tried the cry it out method and she only got worse after the so called 2 weeks that they should be trained in. HAHA what a joke. I am at the point of giving up and just letting her play at night instead of fighting her on it. I am thinking if I just let her play she might go back to sleep a little faster. I just hear so much don’t do that because of routine and teach her bad habits, but at this point does it really matter? it’s not like waiting till 6am is doing much good (being consistent). She hasn’t slept all night in 12 months of being consistent so apparently that is another theory that is a bunch of BS. I am afraid I will have to withdraw my 4 year old from preschool or she will get expelled for missing to many days which is not fare to her either. On the other hand I can not risk our lives driving this tired. Half the time I have that drunk feeling from being so tired. Any suggestions or Ideas would be great.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/diana-hartman/ diana hartman

    Dear sleepy,
    Please read comment #13 (scroll down the page until you get to it). I wrote it to another commenter, but it fits your situation as well. Please remember how tired you are. Set aside any “yes but…” you might have and try what I suggest.
    Sincerely, Diana

  • Dimple

    THANK YOU!!! I feel so much better now. My 10 and a half month old KILLS me (almost) during his naptimes. I didnt know what to do, sometimes I used to try up until a hour and half, no use. My back hurts bending over his crib and my hand hurts rocking him. Nothing works. People say don’t push it, but if I don’t, he won’t sleep and then it’s his time to eat and he’ll get cranky and then vomit out his food and keep wailing… Result, no food because of no sleep and the cycle goes on.

    But after reading your article, I feel much better. I love my son sooooo much and I just need to live with the fact that he has a little problem with falling asleep, other than that, he is a wonderful kid!!

    THANKS SO MUCH!!

  • Rachel

    Every baby is certainly different. I would have considered myself a parenting genious if the only babies I’d raised were my twins. They popped out wanting to be put immediately to bed when tired and left there ’til completely rested or ready for their next bottle and were sleeping through the night by six weeks. NOT SO WITH BABY #4!!!! She popped out wide awake w/what I now recognize was an extreme startle reflex. This sensitivity grew worse as she grew more exhausted, which she did! We were on a crazy 48 hour cycle of tiny catnaps (30 mins. @ a time on average)leading to increasingly tinier catnaps until complete exhaustion and a screaming meltdown finally occurred. Sleep would finally come at this point. A 4-6 hour nap would bring relief followed by another good nap but as the next 2 days unfolded the naps would shorten and shorten until the whole nightmare repeated itself again & again, week after week. Mommy was ready to check herself into a mental health facility, -seriously! Four-six hours of sleep every 48 hours is not enough! Swaddling helped and finally @ 8 weeks or so we discovered she would go back to sleep w/out crying if she was in bed w/us. Not ideal for safety reasons but doable w/caution and better than no sleep. I could finally ENJOY this precious one that I, of course, already loved immeasurably. Any regular sleep was wonderful and infinitely appreciated ( I told people she could sleep w/us til she’s 34 as long as I was sleeping, too!) but it was still restless, disturbed sleep for everyone so after a while I prayed for wisdom for how and when to help her sleep in her own bed. W/in a couple of nights I found that if she were squashed right up next to me (so as not to kick her dad all night long) she would sleep completely still and soundly the entire night. An idea was born, or should I say inspired?! (Yes!!) The next day I tried it during nap time. It was a miracle! One baby swaddled, laid on her side & squashed between two pillows behind her and a rolled up blanket in front, positioned well below her chin so as not to allow any chance of suffocation. It was like someone had exchanged our little pink terrorist (tongue-in-cheek term-of-endearment, people!) with a “normal” child! (There is no “normal”, people!!!) Extreme startle reflex syndrome SOLVED!!!!!!! She immediately started taking decent naps, waking when rested or hungry, and sleeping 8-10 hours at night w/only the occaisional pop of the passy back into the mouth and that only if allowed to get way too tired before being “tucked in” or woken by loud siblings tromping thunderously through the house. As I write, she’s napping behind me on the couch, on her side w/her back to the couch cushions and a pillow in front making her feel securely held. It’s been a month and a half or so and I still thank God every day and feel incredible compassion for people w/babies who have problems like ours has. If I could share anything it would be to figure out how to prop them securely on their sides, swaddled and squished enough to feel secure yet still able to move hips and legs and BREATH, OF COURSE!! Being on their side turns off the startle reflex and some babies must need the extra squish of the strategically and carefully positioned pillows to feel secure enough to relax into a deep, restful sleep. I hope this helps someone. Just make sure you don’t suffocate them. By the way, new sleeping standards say put babies to sleep on their backs but that is based on a study that only compared safety between those two positions.

  • Rachel

    oops! I meant to include stomach sleeping!!! No studies
    I’m aware of that include side sleeping!

  • Jeannine

    Thank you Diana for taking the time to write this. I have read your follow ups too and I can’t thank you enough. My baby is 14 mths and we still have sleep issues but after reading everything you had to say, it changed me instantly. I am a SAHM with no close relatives or friends for support. I have felt like a failure mom, all the other babies I know are on schedules and blah blah blah but you enlightened me to watch for my babies cues and what to do. After reading your suggestions, the first day we had a wonderful nap and a good night sleep. I have tears in my eyes, I was on the verge of a meltdown. Thank you so much, you do great work, keep it up my friend!

  • Charlotte

    I probably would have enjoyed this article were it not for the disparaging way you refer to parents with ‘easy’ babies as being unable and ill-prepared to deal with a difficult child. My first was a dream baby, my second had some severe issues with establishing a sleep pattern- due primarily in part to medical problems, something you don’t even mention once. And yes, while me second was a terrible sleeper, my ‘easy’ baby had his own difficulties which, at the time, were exhausting. So your opinions were not particularly well received here.

  • Charlotte

    As an aside, touch is not the only thing that causes dendrites to form. “Growing dendrites is a normal healing process of the brain. It is also part of the normal learning process. When you learn a new complex behavior, the brain actually grows dendrites to make nerve connections more elaborate. A piano player or a skater actually grows additional dendrites to connect nerve cells with other nerve cells as they learn more complex music or maneuvers. As the nerve cells become more connected, the pianist’s or skater’s abilities improve.” Once source does not a fact make.

  • Mommy of 4

    thank you