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 Chicago: sleep.
The experts say…
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.
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 below!
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 topic.
The 16-week miracle
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 their bed.
“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.
Wiser with Babywise
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 worked.
“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.”
Some just say no to CIO
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 day.”
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, Landon.
“Co-sleeping helps the night sleep,” Krauss says. “He’s always happy to go to sleep as long as my husband or I are there.”
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 sleep.”
“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?”