To Cry or Not To Cry…

Look at this face.  I mean… I’m so crazy about this little guy I could eat him up!!  When he smiles I swoon.  When he giggles, forget it… I’m mush.  But when he cries – ugh.  I hate it.  And though he’s no longer a velociraptor full-time, he can still scream like a beast.  Which brings us to our latest parenting challenge.  Sleep.  This adorable little creature still does not sleep very well.  He has blessed us with a seven-hour stretch on two occasions (that is to date his longest stretch – mostly we are grateful for four to five hour stretches), but those “long” stretches start at around six o’clock at night.  Therefore, even if we go to bed at nine-thirty (which we do often these days), the longest stretch of sleep we’re getting is four hours.  In fact, the longest stretch of sleep I’ve gotten in about seven months is four hours.  I’m tired.

I’m also tired of hearing about all these other babies who sleep eleven, twelve and thirteen hours straight – and have since eight weeks.  The pediatric practice we go to sent out an email encouraging us to sleep train at two months.  And I’m talking hard-core sleep training.  Kiss that little face goodnight at seven o’clock, shut the door and don’t go back in until seven in the morning.  (I’m looking into a new pediatric practice).  Now – Theo has always been a skinny little peanut, so I’ve been hesitant to deprive him of any nighttime feedings, worried that he needs the extra sustenance.  I got that email at two months and thought – NO WAY!  That is cruel – he is helpless!  He needs me!  He needs food!  So I decided to keep feeding him whenever he cried out in the middle of the night, hoping things would regulate at their own pace and that is what we’re still doing to this day.

Now he is five months old.  He is still a skinny little peanut, but I’m no longer so worried about his weight gain (still a little worried… I’m a mother, I worry).  For the most part, I’m thinking he’s just a skinny peanut and that’s who he is!  Adam and I were apparently both on the smaller side.  Plus, it seems to me, that when he nurses in the middle of the night, it’s mostly just for comfort.  And recently, over the past couple weeks, instead of waking up twice in the middle of the night, he has woken up more like three or four times… which frankly, is NOT ok.  Twice I can handle.   Three or four times??  UH UH.  So I’m starting to get to that point where I’m considering sleep training.   I have already been letting him cry to get himself to sleep for naps for over a month now – and he never cries too long – and he’s much happier for getting the sleep.

But when I think about him crying out at three o’clock in the morning all alone in his crib in the dark and nobody going to him, I feel so sad.  Will he feel abandoned?  What if he’s teething and in pain?  What if he really is hungry and needs me?  What if he cries for two hours straight?  I am tempted to try it – hell, maybe he’ll surprise me and cry for ten minutes before passing out again.  But what if he doesn’t?  Most advice on the topic says that whatever you do you should be consistent.  Don’t let him cry for an hour then run and pick him up because next time he’ll cry for an hour, knowing that he’ll get picked up after that hour.  Ugh.  And Adam or I could go to him and pat his back instead of nursing him just to let him know we’re there, but that doesn’t really seem to work  (we’ve tried it) and usually I feel like it kind of makes him even more frustrated!  He’s like… “Why aren’t you picking me up?!!  You’re right there and you’re not picking me up!!  What is wrong with you people??” (I’m picturing him yelling at us as Stewie Griffin).

Of course I’m reading every sleep book that exists (not exactly helpful!!) and it only confuses me.  Many sources say babies are definitely ready to sleep through the night by four months, while many others say waking up twice to nurse in the middle of the night is developmentally normal for babies up to nine months.  And that even if it’s for comfort… it’s ok.  Babies need comfort.  Some say if he’s waking up at the same time each night, it’s habit – not hunger.   Theo will wake up at the same time for three nights in a row and then totally mix it up the following night.  Confusing.  Several of my friends said they trained their babies once they knew they were capable of sleeping for a long stretch – like twelve hours.  If the babies had done it before on their own, then it should be ok.  Well Theo’s never done it before it on his own.  So I’m not so sure.

So here’s what I’m thinking… I am trying to get in to see a new doctor who was recommended to me.  He is more of the attachment parenting style and does not believe in sleep training before six months.  By the time I see him, Theo will be six months old – so we can have a chat about it then and he can tell me if he thinks Theo is ready (despite his tiny size).  I mean, when it comes down to it, it is such a short time in the grand scheme of things.  And even though I am dying for a good night’s sleep, I do somewhat enjoy those quiet times in the middle of the night when it’s just the two of us.  It’s sweet.  And I’m sure a piece of me will miss that when he gets older and doesn’t need me in that same way anymore.  I just don’t want to let it go on too long – as it supposedly gets harder as they get older and more strong-willed.  Then he’ll be crying out “mama!  mama!” and I’ll die inside even more.

Hmmmmm…  another parenting conundrum (I have a feeling there will be many to come).

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13 thoughts on “To Cry or Not To Cry…

  1. neil. sleep train him and sleep train him now. we were wusses with milo and we paid the price. he’s a good sleeper now but man. we struggled. milo has buddies who were sleep trained and have been sleeping like champs for years. our next peanut is getting the full treatment at 4 months. it’s apparently brutal for the first few days (wouldn’t know because again…we were wusses) but well worth it. sorry baby 2, we’ve learned from our mistakes and you’ll thank us later when we’re not walking zombies 🙂

  2. Hi, Nell! First, just wanted to say how much I’ve enjoyed reading your blog! Thank you for being honest and sharing your struggles – we’ve all been there, but not everyone has the ability to share it in such a candid and refreshing way.
    As for the sleep – I 2nd Jaime’s comment. Having two kids (and a third coming soon) we took a different route with each and I can say with confidence that sleep training (using a method that we were comfortable with and made sense) was a great “investment” that has paid off in so many ways. With our first we just followed our hearts and tried to provide comfort, but in the end I think it was more about satisfying our own needs and not such an educated approach – she is still not a great sleeper. With the 2nd I found a method that really helped me to learn about a child’s need for sleep and feel confident about the training process, and now my son LOVES to sleep! We started at about 5 months and it really did not take a lot of time. Yes, there were a few brutal moments but I was able to get through it went I thought about what was really happening (my child was overtired, needed some time to soothe, me coming in would have reinforced bad behavior, etc). Now he happily agrees to go down for a nap and to go to bed at night, and sleeps about 12 hours a night. We used Health Sleep, Happy Child by Weissbluth.
    Let me know if we can help!

  3. I agree with the above comment. I certainly paid the price. My first son slept through the night since he was born (honestly). My last child never slept through the night. He is two years old now and I am still tired. He has horrible sleeping habits. While I find it hard to just let a child cry for hours (because my child s so spoiled that he will cry until he gets his way, even if its 3 hours) sometimes you have to do what you must to obtain the results you desire… Whatever your decision you seem like a wonderful mother already, so Good Luck!!! I think the most important thing is to do whats best for you and the baby..

  4. they’re a law unto themselves, my eldest started sleeping through the night on his own at 7 weeks and the first time it happened we both flew into his room assuning something terrible had happened first thing in the morning. He was brilliant 99 nights out of 100 until his brother arrived in the world and began becoming a little self aware, now as a two and 3/4 year old we often have him trying to sneak into our bed in the middle of the night, yet his eleven month old brother is sleeping like a baby. Good luck is all I can really say, I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer.

  5. I’ve been there. Twice. And I do agree that the more you read, the more you get confused. I will also say that neither of my boys are great sleepers to date (both up at 5:45am this morning!), but I am not sure if it is because of who they were/are (both were high needs babies), or the fact that we are out the door to childcare by 7:30am and they are used to getting up early.Or, because we didn’t sleep train. It is true that the longer you wait, the harder it gets to “train”. But the decision to “train” is multifactorial.

    Sleep training is such a vague term with so many different definitions (as I am sure you know from all of the techniques you have read about). And factors such as breastfeeding can make a difference. Sure, he may not physiologically *need* to eat in the middle of the night, but as you note, he’s not just nursing for nourishment. That is a very emotional relationship that is hard to break up! (As a working mom, as much as I hated waking up at night, it was some quiet time I spent with the boys, which I felt I didn’t get a lot of during the day…and I know it contributed to my not wanting to sleep train.)

    I know people may argue, but I don’t think there is a right answer. You have to take into consideration so many different factors and then make the best decision for Theo AND you. (Happy Mom/Happy Baby is my motto!). I do have some gut feelings about training before 6 months, but that is personal bias, and of course I envy the mothers who have babies who at a month sleep 7 hours…but not sure sleep training before a certain time would work in our situation. (I had 2 preemies who needed regular feeding, I live in a very small house and run the risk of waking other children with prolonged cries, etc).

    Sleep and babies is one of those topics that is rife with judgement, “rights and wrongs,” envy, and many women (ahem, myself) feeling subpar or inadequate that I didn’t birth good sleepers. I readily admit I may have cried just as much as my boys did at night feeling a slurry of emotions ranging from exasperation to anger.

    I would be interested to hear what the new AP pedi suggests. Bring up your concerns, your fears, your limitations…and I am sure you can come up with a strategy that you feel most comfortable with. I hate to throw another resource into the mix, but I *highly* recommend The Baby Sleep Site http://www.babysleepsite.com/ There are sample schedules, research articles, etc. You can even get consultation about working toward getting your child to sleep through the night with a bend toward attachment parenting.

    I want to end with saying:

    A) You are NOT alone.
    B) I truly believe you aren’t damaging your child by letting him nurse multiple times at night. Although, you may be damaging your capacity to function in the day!
    C) I also truly believe you are not damaging your 6 month old by incorporating strategies to get him to sleep longer stretches at night. (ie, sleep train)
    D) Don’t let anyone let you believe that up until this point, you have done something wrong or missed a crucial window into his development. (ie, don’t allow yourself to feel any sense of guilt for what you have already done)
    E) This will pass.

    Wishing Mr Sandman greets you more regularly soon…keep on keepin’ on, girl.

    sorry so long!

  6. Hey! Funny, we’re going thru the same thing at 10 months. Jake was a great sleeper from 9 weeks to 6 months and then bam, my life changed completely. I dont think he’s slept thru the night in 4 months. So i’m on night 4 of the ‘shuffle’ method. It’s a bit like Ferber (which we’ve tried) but not as intense and scary. Our issue is a bit different because we started cosleeping. Jake will sleep hours on end with us but Mike and I can’t take it anymore…..so i wish you luck at your sleeping training and i’ll keep you posted on mine!

  7. Good Luck Nelly! Theo will get there soon, don’t worry- you’re doing an amazing job! Nathan didn’t consistently sleep through the night until he was close to one. But they all do…eventually. Love you guys sooooo much!

  8. Hi Nell! I feel your pain. My own humble opinion is that you can get a bad sleeper, or a good sleeper, and the same child may vacillate between the two. I got bad sleepers. I liked the book: The Sleep Book for Tired Parents. It compared the 4 often discussed ways of dealing with sleep in a chart like format, which worked well for my overtired brain. It was very non-judgmental. It’s so great to be able to keep up with you and your adventures in motherhood! Sorry we missed you at the reunion, although it sounds likely was a tough weekend. Can’t wait to meet Theo the adorable when the stars align and we are on the East Coast. Take Care! Bira

  9. I am so happy you are blogging again and I just love your brave honesty! We do not talk enough about how hard parenthood is, support each other enough. I had days when I literally walked into walls, put dirty dishes in the refrigerator thinking it was the sink, wore my clothes backwards and inside out. A friend of mine was just telling me about a friend of hers who had to be briefly hospitalized for a psychiatric breakdown when she had her second child for lack of sleep (imagine not sleeping and having a toddler demand attention all day). I will tell you that everyone I know who sleep trained is so happy they did and the children are all very well adjusted, happy, excelling in every area. A doctor put it very well: you are teaching them to self-soothe which is one of the most important things you can actually give.

  10. Nell, First off to each their own – there is no right answer and you know that! But, I will tell you from personal experience that even if you give in now – it wont last forever. I, personally, do not believe in sleep training my baby until a year old and we got damn close to that point! Shane did not sleep through the night (i am talking 8, 10, 12 hour stretch) until 10 1/2 months old!!! But – ever since he did, he has been a great sleeper and we are so grateful. Fortunately, my husband was on the same page…b/c you both really have to be united on this one. We just felt that there are so many different needs he could have whether it be hunger or comfort or the need for security and he was not yet able to articulate them, so we wanted to be there to satisfy whatever the need was b/c like all things, it does not last forever. Like you, I did enjoy our special time during the night and I was glad to have the time with him, albeit exhausting! Whatever you do – trust your gut and your mommy intuition – if you do, you cant go wrong! I do sympathize with you – if you ever want to hear from someone who was in the same boat – I will be glad to chat with you more. Your little guy is adorable and I hope to get to meet him and see you soon!! Lindsey

  11. HI,

    Yes, been there. For 2 1/2 years Drake slept with us because it was easier that way. Yes, I was tired. And then we got his “big boy bed” and he wants nothing to do with our bed anymore. To be honest, I miss snuggling with him. Those 2 years are so short in the span of a lifetime. I didn’t have the heart to let him cry it out. But, it does work for some. Go with your gut. My kid NEVER slept more than 6 hours. Still doesn’t. That’s his personality. #2 is 3 months and already sleeps 5/6 hours a night. My advice is do what you feel is right, not what everyone is doing. I had friends who swore that their kids slept through the night. When we happened to stay over, guess what their babies didn’t sleep through the night – THEY DID! lol

    It all works out. Hang in there.

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