There's almost no talk about sleep training without
mention of Dr. Marc Weissbluth, pediatrician and
founder of the Northwestern Children's Practice.
Author of the infant sleep book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child, he is a
staunch proponent of letting your child cry it out.
"Many parents incorrectly believe that crying harms a
child, but they should understand that crying with extinction (a
complete stop of reinforcing behaviors that interfere with
self-soothing) works within several days if bedtime is early and
naps are in place," he says.
On the other side of the spectrum is Dr.
James McKenna, director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral
Sleep Laboratory, University of Notre Dame. He is an advocate of
co-sleeping who believes the "cry it out" phenomenon is of our own
McKenna believes crying is an instinctual behavior, one
that cannot be and should not be controlled.
"The reason they call their parents is it is in their
adaptive best interest and their bodies are designed to do it," he
McKenna urges parents to ignore cultural "norms" and
nurture and coddle their babies.
When the excitement and adrenaline of labor and
delivery end, there's only one thing that's more coveted by new
parents than the corner room at Prentice Women's Hospital in
Parents of newborns will do almost anything to get their
baby to sleep. They will drive around in the middle of the night.
They will leave the swing setting on "high" all day. They will
hold, rock, comfort, soothe and shush the baby until its little
eyes can no longer stay open.
But will parents let baby "cry it out?" Would you? Comment
According to an unscientific Google search, "crying it
out"-or CIO as it's known-is the popular term for Dr. Richard
Ferber's method of sleep training a baby and is also called
"Ferberizing." The approach essentially tells parents to let their
baby cry, for short periods of time, until they learn to soothe
themselves back to sleep.
Most people, though, associate "crying it out" with long
periods of screaming and wailing. Some liken it to baby torture.
Others vouch that it's the only way their little ones were able to
sleep for more than two hours at a time. Whatever the case, there
are definitely two schools of thought when it comes to sleep
training: those pro-CIO and those against.
We asked local parents and experts to weigh in on the
Dena Singer, of Chicago's Lincoln Park, and her husband
decided at about 13 weeks that they'd transition Maxwell to his own
room and crib. Previously, he'd been sleeping in a crib next to
"Once we put him in his own room he started to get up
every hour," Singer says. "I slept in his rocker, the floor of his
room, the hallway outside his door. It was about this time that I
also, in desperation, tears and exhaustion, read every sleep book
that was recommended."
She says she was willing to try anything.
The only method that made sense to her was CIO.
"It was easy and I could follow it," Singer says. "But,
the doctor said not to try CIO until 16 weeks. That day could not
come fast enough for us."
The first night Max cried for about 35 minutes at bedtime,
20 minutes around midnight and 35 minutes in the early morning.
After about three nights, he slept through the night. He's now
sleeping 7 p.m.-7 a.m.
Dayna Brown of Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood had a
similar experience with her two children.
With her oldest, Audrey, Brown tried out the Babywise
method of sleep training developed by Gary Ezzo and Dr. Robert
Buckman. The Babywise approach, also called "parent-directed
feeding," suggests that babies can be directed into three separate
cycles of feeding, wakefulness and sleeping. By controlling the
routine, the authors argue that nighttime sleeping will happen
faster. It's a controversial approach, but for Brown, it
"I did the wake, feed, play, nap method with her and it
really worked. I would let her cry for only up to 15 minutes at one
month old and most times she would fall right asleep. She slept
through the night at eight weeks."
Brown, a firm believer in CIO, says she believes "a rested
household is a happy one."
"I would absolutely do this again with another child. Good
sleep habits are the best gift you can give a child."
Of course, for every CIO convert there are parents who
dispute that CIO works.
For many, CIO is a matter of practicality.
"Basically, as the second child, I felt like Frankie had
to 'go with it' all day long," says Robin Immerman Gruen, of
Lincoln Park. "Literally, he had to go along with my daughter
Charlotte's schedule and he was so good all day long that I felt if
the worst thing he did was cry for food in the night, he would
outgrow it and he deserved to have his 'off' moments of the
For others, not letting their babies cry is a matter of
principle. Many parents who believe in attachment parenting or
co-sleeping believe getting a baby to fall back to sleep all comes
from the parents.
Chanda Szczeblowski of Berwyn is a firm believer in the
benefits of co-sleeping. An attachment parenting advocate,
Szczeblowski thinks night waking is vital to a baby's development.
And, she is adamantly opposed to sleep training-especially in the
form of crying it out.
"I think we need to ensure safe sleep and respond with
sensitivity. We are parents even in the middle of the night, and we
are the responsible people to give our babies what they need,"
Szczeblowski says. "When they are babies, their wants and needs are
the same thing. This is why I'm adverse to cry it out."
Szczeblowski uses co-sleeping. Her children, 6 and 3, bunk
up on a mattress next to her and her husband's bed.
"I thought there was less wakefulness with my babies who
co-slept," Szczeblowski says. "It continued to help with
breastfeeding and with working full time."
Amanda Krauss, of Lincoln Square, also does not believe in
cry it out and co-sleeps with her 20-month-old son,
"Co-sleeping helps the night sleep," Krauss says. "He's
always happy to go to sleep as long as my husband or I are
Krauss tried solitary sleeping and even let Landon cry,
but it didn't work. "He needed to be touched by me while he slept
and I felt more comfortable with the co-sleeping."
In addition, Krauss thinks we put pressure on ourselves to
get our babies to sleep at certain age milestones, and that it can
make us more negative parents.
"We have to change our expectations of what we expect from
our babies," Krauss says. "If you change your perspective and look
at how other countries do it, there's not a big obsession with
"Attended crying and unattended crying are two different
things," Szczeblowski says." It's scary to be alone. Wouldn't you
want someone to take care of you when you are upset?"
Sara Fisher is a mother of two living in Roscoe Village. She also blogs at selfmademom.net.
See more of Sara's stories here.
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