Here are some lies people tell you about infant sleep

Before I posted this, Adam peeked over my shoulder, saw the title and said, ‘”Oh my god, stop writing about infant sleep. No one cares.”

If this statement applies to you, SORRY NOT SORRY THIS IS MY LIFE, ADAM!

Now for our regularly scheduled mom post.

I know that many of you don’t have babies yet, or have babies that are younger than Olive – I am writing this post for you.

When O was about four months old I remember taking her to a talk put on by the local library. Each week they hosted different speakers, and this particular week featured a public health nurse speaking about the unique nature of baby sleep. It sounded interesting and I needed to get out of the house and talk to real grown up people that didn’t shit their pants, so off we went.

At the beginning of the talk all of the moms went around the circle and introduced ourselves and described our baby’s sleep patterns. Many moms expressed frustration and/or insanity at the lack of sleep they were getting, but because at that point O was sleeping like a rockstar I just said she was sleeping well and was interested in hearing the talk.

I did, however, happen to mention that I typically nursed her to sleep, and at that point the speaker interrupted me to let me know that nursing a baby to sleep was not good. Not just not recommended, but like NOT. GOOD. at all, ever. Period. Her sternly angled eyebrows added extra emphasis.

She was pretty clear about the fact that all in all of the popular approaches to baby sleep, and all the books written by all the experts, the common thread was that “sleep props” like nursing impede a baby’s ability to self-soothe. She told me that Olive would never sleep through the night if I continued putting her to sleep this way.

I nodded, because everything I had read – by all of those experts in all of those sleep books – agreed with this statement. And that’s what I do in the face of confrontation, I nod and smile.

But despite my robotic nodding, I didn’t agree.

Olive WAS sleeping through the night, despite the nursing. And she DID wake up and go back to sleep, I could hear her several times a night – waking, talking to herself and then rolling over and drifting off.

But I sat there and nodded because who I was I, a first time mother with a four month old, to argue with a nurse (not to mention all of those experts?)

Complicating matters even more was the fact that I happened to be, at that very same moment, nursing O to sleep because it was her nap time. As the introductions moved on to my left, I guiltily unlatched her, and then spent the next forty-five minutes walking her and bouncing her and trying to hear the nurse over her cries because she was tired and wasn’t done and I had stopped nursing her because I couldn’t bear to be doing it wrong.

The next day we tried a mild form of sleep training, involving some bullshit that they call Pick-Up, Put-Down, and I call HORRIBLE. I was supposed to hold Olive, and when she looked drowsy, put her in her crib. If she cried I was to pick her up, hold her until she had JUST calmed down, and then put her back in her crib. Aaaand repeat.

The idea is a no-cry sleep training. In reality it was 45 minutes of lots of crying – from an exhausted baby who just wanted to be snuggled, and a confused, frustrated first time mom who didn’t understand why what she had been doing was wrong, but desperately wanted to be doing it right.

At the time that this all went down – the nurse and the talk and the day of failed “sleep training”-  I remember feeling incredibly helpless and confused. I was scared that they might be right, that I might be ruining Olive’s ability to self-soothe and she would be a horrible sleeper and rely on nursing as a “sleep prop” forever, and never be able to go to sleep on her own. EVERRRRRR. 

Looking back now though, as the mother of a one year old, I mostly just feel angry.

What is this bullshit? Why do we do this? Why do we voluntarily subject ourselves to sitting in a room full of people, being told we are doing it wrong simply because a handful of self-proclaimed experts with books to sell say so?

You can’t sell a solution if there isn’t a problem, and in the past fifty years we have increasingly categorized what amounts to normal, human infant sleep as a problem needing to be solved.

Experts, and books, and exorbitantly priced “Sleep Consultants” have proliferated and because we are terrified new parents with bags under our eyes the size of Samsonites we eagerly open our ears and our wallets to find a solution, any solution! And we are frustrated. We’re frustrated because our expectations are out of whack, and our expectations are out of whack because we are being sold lies -LIES I tell you!

Here is one lie: The secret to a three month old sleeping 12 hours straight is just $20 away.

Another lie:  It isn’t normal for an infant or toddler to wake up a few times a night.

And one more lie: It is now, and has always been, customary for humans to sleep in solid 8-12 hour increments.

Enough of these lies! I call bullshit! I want the truth! I can handle the truth!

This series of articles published in Psychology Today was honestly the single best thing I ever stumbled upon as a new parent.

It is totally worth a read – all six parts – but if you are text-averse like Adam, I can sum it up for you by saying this:

“Infant/toddler sleep is erratic, unpredictable and doesn’t conform to our expectations. Children’s sleep habits have evolved to best serve the child, even if they don’t make sense to the parent. Adjust your expectations, not your child’s sleep habits (within reason).

Don’t stop being a parent at night.

And y’all, seriously, stop being so crazy with the books and the shushing and the picking up and putting down and the intervals and the living by the clock.”

The whole series of articles made me feel as though I was getting a good, old-fashioned wallop of common sense from some stern lady with a wooden spoon, but the line that stuck with me the most from the whole thing was this: “…one long-term study looking at child sleep between 3 and 42 months found that there was no stability in night wakings or even sleep duration…”

Guys – there is no pattern! There is no rhyme or reason or explanation! It does not matter if you sleep train or don’t sleep train or nurse to sleep or rock to sleep or whatever. Just give up! Adapt, react, give in. You don’t have to train your child to sleep, you don’t have to enforce rigid guidelines and you don’t have to stop nursing your baby to sleep out of misguided fear, perpetuated by experts looking to make a buck.

Here is the truth, from a mom who has nursed her baby to sleep for more than a year: It is easily one of the best parts of our day.

It is an indescribably sweet feeling to sit quietly with her as her eyes flutter and her breath slows. I love that pause, that stillness, and honestly, there’s a reason it works so well. Night time breastmilk contains tryptophan, the same chemical found in turkey that makes us feel so drowsy after huge thanksgiving dinners. (and even as adults, what is the old wives remedy for insomnia? “Have a glass of warm milk…”)

More importantly than all of that however, and this is the part that makes me mad thinking about my scared, impressionable new-mom self: They were wrong.

At twelve months old, nursing is absolutely not the only way Olive can go to sleep. Grandma can give her a bottle and rock her and she will drift off without any fuss. Adam can snuggle her and she’s out in five minutes. And recently, miracle of miracles, there have been a few times that I have put her into her crib awake for a few of her naps and at bedtimes, and she has rolled around for a bit, talked to herself and then fallen asleep. BY. HERSELF.

It doesn’t happen every time, and now that I have share this information with The Internets, I have ensured that these events will never, ever repeat themselves, but I was told that this would never happen periodbecause of the sleep props, and the bad habits, and my horrible, terrible, lazy parenting with the bedtime nursing.

For months I felt guilty, instead of content, every time I sat there with her and watched her drift off.  And guys, that’s why I’m angry, because no mom should feel like that for nourishing and comforting her child.

It’s hard being a new parent. Not just because of the incredible changes affecting every facet of your life – your career, your finances, your home and your relationship – but because everyone has an opinion. About everything you are doing, and more importantly everything you are doing wrong.

Not being able to breastfeed is heartbreaking, but being constantly guilt-tripped over it is worse.

Being up all night with a baby is challenging, but being lectured on all the ways you are ruining your child’s future sleep patterns when you admit it, is worse.

So here’s what I recommend to all of you new parents or soon-to-be parents, or someday far away in the verrry distant future parents: Read the article I linked to above, and have zero expectations. You might have a baby that sleeps, you might not. You might have a baby that tricks you into thinking they are a sleeper and then messes with your mind by suddenly stopping the sleeping, like Olive did. But regardless, when someone asks you how your baby is sleeping, smile and say “Like a baby”.

That will be the truth.

And so is this: It’s normal for a baby to sleep 9 hours straight. It’s normal for a baby to be up every hour. It’s normal for your baby to do the former one night, the latter the next (and it’s totally normal to feel like an insane, husband-hating, coffee-chugging, borderline-emotional-wreck while this is happening.)

*****

Here’s another thing, while we are on the subject of truth telling. Two months ago Olive went through a week long stretch of waking up every 1-2 hours at night. I call this, “The Dark Time”.

The Dark Time happened to coincide with deadlines for the final draft of my book, and every morning as I hauled myself out of bed, I wanted to gouge my eyes out simply because the eyeballs were taking up valuable space that could have been filled with more coffee.

It only lasted a week or so, but it felt like an eternity measured in 1-2 hour segments. Sleeps that were never long enough, and eyes gritty like sandpaper. I was like, “Oh my god. They were RIGHT. She is EFFED. EVERYTHING IS RUINED FOREVER NO ONE WILL EVER SLEEP AGAIN MISTER FERBER WHERE ARE YOU WHEN I NEED YOU?”

The thing is, the week after The Dark Time, Olive began crawling, started standing unassisted, and then popped out two teeth.

And her then her sleep went back to normal.

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You see? There’s a reason for all of it,I promise, even when we don’t understand. It’s not our job as parents to understand, it’s just our job to parent. That’s all.

All we need to do is respond to our child’s needs, even when they need things at 1 a.m. And 2 a.m. And 2:30 a.m. and every single other a.m. that you didn’t know existed.

It doesn’t make sense and it gets better and then gets worse and the nights seem long and the crying oh god the crying, but the dawn always comes. The sun always rises.

And that, my friends, is the truth.

 

Did you enjoy hearing me ramble about infant sleep? I also ramble about other things, too, in book form! 
If you are interested in learning how to estrange your husband by composting, make your neighbours uncomfortable by flashing your
under-lovelies, or start shampooing your hair with baking soda, click here!

588 thoughts on “Here are some lies people tell you about infant sleep

  1. After nursing four babies, I’m pretty sure that one big reason babies wake up is because they get chilly. There are two ways for them to warm up: they can snuggle with mom, skin on skin, and get nice and cozy warm again, or they can scream their brains out until they warm up.

    I recommend choice A, which is what our instincts tell us to do, what you and I both chose to do as new moms, and what works best for mom and baby.

    Good luck on your book! I’m finishing my last edit of my first book right now too! Crazy, scary and so fun. Blessings.

    xo, Chelsea

  2. i feel like we have to remember that there was only instinct to guide moms’ behavior once upon a time. so what feels SO right cannot be that far off base. trying to imagine what a totally untainted-by-modern-schools-of-thought momma would do, i think they would never refuse to breastfeed, and they’d never become alarmed that baby is falling asleep during. it’s obviously incredibly natural, which is why seemingly every baby does it. it’s not a sleep prop; it’s part of the natural behavior of babies. sheesh. some “experts” need to be slapped. also, the more secure and safe baby feels while their brain is developing, the more likely they’ll be a calm, mellow, confident kiddo. letting the fight-or-flight response dominate all of a child’s developmentmal experiences is a TERRIBLE idea, in any form it takes. have you read about “attachment parenting”? i bet you’d love the philosophy. it advocates breastfeeding as a central feature of the mom-baby relationship. it also advocates always responding to baby’s discomfort—that is, never forcing a little one who relies on you to go it alone physically or emotionally before they’re ready, but letting them show you when they’re ready, which will be different for every child (just like sleep). can i also recommend “unconditional parenting” while i’m at it, and “raising our children, raising ourselves” as great antidotes to the cold, harsh advice like you received at that talk (that, in my opinion, teaches us how to raise little neurotics & sociopaths)? they’re still experts in child development, but it’d be hard to be rubbed the wrong way by the authors of these books b/c their advice is flexible, loving, kind, compassionate, patient, and when they describe something as good for the child, it’s not thinly veiled advice on what is most convenient/least effort for the parent—it’s actually all about what’s best for the child, and it asks you to be the judge, b/c you know your child best (not to rely blindly on specific, rigid rules). and it doesn’t ask you to go against your tender, motherly instincts; if there’s challenging advice, it’s only b/c it asks you to dig deeper into that reservoir of tenderness (and patience)!

  3. Pingback: teething? development? cold? dairy? ack! | Edith the Merry

  4. God I so agree! I had my son on a routine from 2 weeks & while he responded beautifully when we had our daughter, now 7mths I didnt have the time to spend ‘putting her’ on the routine as I was chasing after my toddler….when I would turn around to put her to bed she had thought ‘sod this’ & put herself to bed! I felt duped to say the least!! What I worked so hard at with him she did all on her own. So I say the same. Do whatever it is that gets you through the night without wanting to shoot yourself in the face! Thanks for your ramblings.

  5. Thanks for your article. While I still believe there are a few general principles that can help your baby to sleep more at night such as a routine of ‘feed, play, sleep’ and trying to get them used to settling themselves off to sleep; the only thing I’m sure of now is that all babies are individuals. There is no perfect formula! After years of pediatric nursing, years of running a play group and raising my 2 boys (now 7 & 9years) I’m convinced the only thing that works is what suits your baby plus you plus your partner, and therefore that will vary for every family. Although my youngest usually put himself to sleep I needed to feed him off to sleep for his afternoon nap sometimes because it was the only way we could both get some sleep while my toddler slept. Also I sometimes wonder why I pushed my oldest son to self settle- it dosent suit his personality. At age 9 years old, last night he said to me “mummy I love it when you sit with me and give me a hug as I fall asleep, it’s my favorite part of the day” . He will come back downstairs in tears if we forget to tuck him in.
    Melanie

  6. Love what you wrote. I’m a postpartum doula and I teach my moms to do what feels right to them. To follow their instincts and to not get caught up in google, books and opinions. Every baby is different and you need to trust that you know your baby the best and will do what they need. My almost 3 year old was nursed to sleep for a long time and both my kids slept on their stomachs. Do what works for you!

  7. So true. Some kids can be nursed, rocked, sung, or whatever to sleep and do fine. Others not so much. If the “habits” and their sleep is not an issue for you then it’s not an issue. Ferber actually even says this in his book. He even says that if you can nurse them down to sleep or rock them down and they sleep all night then it’s not a problem, it becomes a problem when it’s a problem for you. We still deal with my daughter and sleep. We have done so many different types of sleep training and I do think it has helped us because it has been bad and was not working for us (5-6 times a night wasn’t working for me when she was 6 months old…I was just too tired). Anyway she’s 2 yrs old. Still wakes usually once a night but goes down quickly which is fine. Now we sit in her room till she falls asleep. Sometimes it’s fast, sometimes not. We’ve just starting doing this because we found it’s clearly what she needs. We’ve also found that she definitely needs much less sleep than other kids. It’s just something you learn about your kid and have to accept. And you have to follow your intuition. A friend of mine said she just thinks to herself we’re not going to be doing this when they are 10 yrs old.

    • Michele,

      We do the exact same thing with our almost two year old son. Sometimes, I find myself awake at night hoping he will get up and need me! I know as parents deprived of sleep, it can be frustrating getting up and down, but just as I miss it in the present, one day, these are the moments we might miss the most. :)

  8. You have some excellent ideas. As a parent of 3 and grandmother of 1 I can tell you that you are right. I wish there were more people like you.

  9. Thanks for a beautiful article. My favorite part of my day is nursing my 6 month old to sleep, even though she usually has what we call “second bedtime” 30 minutes later, sometimes she sleeps all night, and sometimes she needs a 2am feeding.

  10. Thank you! As I read this article I just happened to be nursing my three month old son to sleep. I have worried about this on many occasions because much of the material that I have read not only recommends against it but seemingly judges me for it. The first author I picked up on the subject as an anxious new Mom actually ridiculed clients who were getting it wrong. It’s good to read for once that I’m not messing up my kid by choosing an approach to bedtime that is soothing and easy for us both.

  11. Hi! I came across this cause a newish mom friend linked to it on Facebook. I have 4 kiddos, but the youngest is almost 7. I nursed them all to sleep. In fact, I even had them in my bed up to and past 2 years with the youngest. Despite all the (many many) naysayers who said they would never learn to sleep on their own, that I would never get them out of my bed, that I was ruining their likelihood of growing into functional, independent, normal individuals, I did what felt right.

    When the time game for them to transition into their own beds, and not be nursed or soothed to sleep – they all did it just fine! Sure, there were a few days of transition for each of them, and we stuck to the routine and commitment at that stage that they would now be in their own beds and we and they would feel some pain with the new adjustment.

    However, not one of them took more than a few days to transition, and in the end they were going to sleep fine, in their own beds, (even the one who started this process at 9 months) without being nursed, without crying, without hours of stress from me. They did not need to be taught to do this when they were 2 weeks old. They were taught and helped to do this when the time was right for them and they learned very quickly.

    Humans are amazing. Humans adjust, adapt, survive, make it work. That includes even the youngest of humans. Silly books and experts to try to make us believe they are like machines who only work properly given certain maintenance procedures.

    Don’t listen to them. Listen to yourself. End of story.

  12. Thank you SO MUCH for writin this. It actually made me tear up a little because this is exactly EXACTLY what I have been going through with my just 4 month old. I stumbled upon the Do Not Nutse to Sleep advice and have been very conflicted with trying to not do that when it feels so natural. I am going to stick with my gut an thank you for encouraging me to do so.

    • Definitely stick with your gut. I have just night weaned Olive, (which is will write a post about in a few weeks) and I find these sorts of transitions way easier for both of us now that I know she can understand me, and what I’m telling her. Keep on keepin on, mama!

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

  13. Yes mommas. Nurse your babies ! Nurse em to sleep, nurse em to playdates, naptime….I nursed for “me time!”
    That’s right I nursed for ME. The minute baby latched on I was hooked. The wonderful oxytocin flooding my system…Ah, totally relaxing.
    Our society relies on keeping our culture under the thumb of “expert advice”
    Mommas, You will get this from the nurses, authors, pediatricians, teachers, in-laws….
    Do not expect cheerleaders. This is the toughest stuff for women. But this will make you strong. The feminists don’t get it. You will find women who understand some of it.
    I totally get it.
    Only mommas know their babies.

  14. I found your post interesting but wonder why you feel the need to use such foul language. Its very distracting and unsettling.

    • You know, I’ve often questioned how often I swear in my writing, and whether I should try to avoid it altogether.

      I think I do it because I tend to write the same way I speak (or would speak, if I was able to express myself better verbally), and when I’m writing about something I feel impassioned about, or telling a story that makes someone feel like they were right there with me, swearing for emphasis feels most natural, and the most like I would speak if talking to a close friend.

      I totally understand that this style may bother some readers, but it’s how I feel most comfortable writing.

  15. If it is working for mum and baby, then surely that is perfect? There isn’t a single person out there that knows how to soothe every single baby. They are all unique and just because something works for one baby, it doesn’t mean it works for them all.

    As mums, we need to listen to our babies and do what we feel if right for them.

  16. This is a great blog entry. If you and your family are getting the sleep you need, then carry on as usual and don’t worry about what you “should be doing”. It’s like one of the other responders – nursing your baby to sleep is not a problem until it is. If your baby can always nurse to sleep and sleeps in great stretch at night, then you have it made. As a mama who finds breast feeding to be one of life’s greatest joys – I would have gladly nursed my babies to sleep for every nap and ever night. Unfortunately, a lot of babies who are always nursed all the way to a sleeping state wake up every time their sleep cycle ends and can not get back to sleep without nursing again. Most babies have a sleep cycle that is only 30-40 minutes, so as you can imagine this can be 10x a night. You were blessed with an easy baby who is a great sleeper. You mention that her daughter started sleeping through the night on her own at 4 months of age. Wow, that is awesome. You also mentioned that for exactly one week between the ages 4 and 11 months your child was up every 1-2 hours. ONE WEEK. You called that one week your “dark time”. One sleepless week was your dark time….hmm I think your baby might be the best sleeper I have ever met. I don’t know many babies like that. But I do now many babies who wake every 1-2 hours every single night for months and months. Can you imagine that? It would make your dark time look like a walk in the park. What should those moms do – just say “oh well, I wasn’t blessed with a fantastic sleeper” and so I should be up all night? Those moms deserve to know that there are people out there to help them. It is a proven fact sleep deprivation is one of the leading causes of PPD. And what about those moms who are suffering from PPD and there baby is not sleeping – you are telling them they just need to suck it up? I started in my profession (I am one of the mentioned “dreaded sleep consultants”) because without sleep, us and our children can not function as happy and healthy human beings. Again kudos to those lucky enough to have babies who just sleep – but for the rest of us (myself included with my first child) there are people who can help us navigate the confusing world of getting your baby (and yourself) much needed sleep. Again, if you and your family are getting the sleep you need – carry on. But remember that while sleep is not something we are born knowing how to do. And most babies do need to be taught – be it with a very gentle method or a more extreme one. I would just hate to be the mom who has the challenging baby and who read this blog – and thinks wow I must be doing something wrong…because most babies just aren’t that easy. I wish you luck with number 2 my friend. You just may re-think you current stance.

  17. You are lucky to have a kid that is a good sleeper. Many of us aren’t this lucky and we have to resort to teaching our babies how to sleep so we may have some sanity in the house. After 8 months of waking every 2/3 hours at night to feed our son to sleep, we decided to sleep train him. It was the toughest and the best decision we made. He is 3 now and a rocking sleeper.

    Every child is different. My advice is: do what works best for your family.

  18. Totally, completely and utterly agree. I beat myself up when my kids didn’t “sleep through” but once I realised I was setting them, and myself up to fail, and the problem was more in the expectation than the reality it was SO much easier. Don’t expect a routine, don’t expect a full night’s sleep – and you will cope SO much better emotionally with the reality. Great post.

  19. This advice applies to every aspect of parenting. Every time I have gone against my instinct and followed the advice of teachers, doctors, experts, things have fallen apart. When I listen to my gut and what I know is right for my child because I am his mother, everything falls into place.
    I do think we should listen to suggestions and take advice but only when that advice feels right. Only when it works for you. My son is a teenager now and I still get that feeling that I’m doing things “wrong” sometimes. Then I force myself to listen to my heart and let that guide me.
    FYI my son is one of the best, most kind people I know and makes me proud on a daily basis so following your heart and owning your mothering instincts does pay off.

  20. Reblogged this on Serene Criticism and commented:
    My friend shared this post about infant sleep over the weekend and it could not have arrived on my screen at a better moment. Even with my second daughter at 15 months old and a wealth of knowledge that rough patches in parenting do pass, I simply needed to be reminded that we are not the only ones clawing our eyes out from a week of intense sleep deprivation. No, in fact we are “normal,” for whatever that means, and after a relatively relaxing weekend, we will all survive. Now pass that second cup of coffee and start another pot.

  21. I could have written it. Totally! Still nursing at 21 months and yes, people love telling me how she is too old for that. And, yeah, for sleeping with us. And yes I nod and then really sorry for them not knowing what is to snuggle with this little, warm, needing you body and to wake up by a set of eyes staring at you for good morning

  22. Thank you SO very much for writing this. AS a first time mom of a now 4 month old I have been feeling exactly the same way, thank you for making me feel like I’m not doing something wrong!

  23. Nursing to sleep doesn’t work for all babies. As a naturopath specialising in family health I see a lot of mothers who are so sleep deprived because their baby can only ever go back to sleep with a nurse. This affects their health both physical and mental, as well as their milk output. There is no one-size-fits all formula. Routines work well for some babies and others do just fine being nursed to sleep. I’m sorry you had such a traumatic experience at that nurse talk – I can completely understand how frustrated you must have been when things where working just great with your little one. I have, however, met plenty of very empathetic nurses who’ve been very helpful to new mums.

  24. I have three children (now ages 9, 8, and 5) and ALL THREE were incredibly different in their sleep when they were babies. My oldest slept through the night at 6 weeks! YUP! 6 Weeks! I thought I had it in the bag with sleeping babies and I had it all figured out. Then came my son. The ONLY way he would sleep through the night was in his swing….for 9 months…yes….9 months. He is now my BEST sleeper. Out like a light at bedtime and wakes up happy. Moving on to child number 3, I nursed her to sleep until she was 7 months old. Why? Because I knew she was my last one and that’s what I wanted to do! Let me tell you ladies, they will ALL sleep through the night when they are ready to sleep through the night. That’s all there is to it!

  25. Thank you so much for writing this! My baby is going through a dark time herself, and I’m feeling at the end of my rope. Last night I just kept saying, “I can’t be a mother anymore”. This encouraged me more than I can express! Thank you thank you thank you!

  26. I have a 3 and 6 year old. I nursed both of my babies to sleep until they were just a little over a year old. To this day I out them to bed around 6:30 and they both sleep good until 7-8am. Periodically threw the night I can hear my youngest wake up and talk to himself. But they are both easily capable of self soothing. I say who cares what the ‘experts’ say. They don’t know my kids like I do. Each child is an individual, not everything works for everyone all of the time.

  27. As a mother of three boys, I loved this. I try so hard to tell my expectant friends that you will never know how you will parent until you become one because every baby is different and every PARENT is different. You have to find a groove that works for both of you and chances are that it’s going to be completely different then every other baby-parent relationship you have ever come across. and in the long run who is going to be happier, the mother who spent hours holding abd living her baby or the mother who is going crazy because she has been trying to get her baby to “self sooth” herself to sleep? I have done both and the older my kids get the more I see how important it is just to simply LOVE

  28. Hi,
    I just happened to catch this on FB. My “baby” is now almost 31 years old. When he was born I was told not to nurse him to sleep. “Let him cry,” said the doctor. Well, being a new young mother, I did. He cried for an hour and then silence. I peeked in to check and he had stopped breathing and turned blue. After that, I stopped listening to the “experts” and began to follow my instinct. My son didn’t need sleep. He was 10 before he slept through the night. As a toddler, not only wouldn’t he take naps, even being awake all day, he wouldn’t sleep at night. Finally, I let him follow his own pattern of sleep needs. No more stress on me. No more stress on him. I’m happy to say he is now a successful college graduate and has a great job. BTW, he does sleep now!

    Keep up the good work!
    K.G.

  29. I had the exact thing happen with my first born. Felt like a failure because I nursed him to sleep and even co slept with him. People left and right made sure I knew I was doing it wrong. He’s 3 now and sleeps through the night and still will come to bed with me sometimes but it makes me so mad that our society has made the natural instincts of a mother as something to feel guilty about. Thank you for sharing, it’s always nice to hear other moms who do things the “natural” way. Feels like we have to keep it a dark secret we can’t discuss with anyone.

  30. Thank you for bringing me back to reality!! I have a 5week old and I made the mistake of reading Hogg’s secret of the baby whisperer. I thought I could get my baby boy on a schedule no problem. It’s has honestly been a horrible difficult challenge and I felt defeated! I found the other day when I was out and about and on no real time schedule, he slept for 2 hours in my arms or on my friends chest. He’s wake talk coo wiggle nurse and back out again. I think your article made me realize I need to stop looking at the clock and pay more attention to him. I also felt guilty for constantly holding him, co sleeping, even having daddy give him a bottle of formula. But I know what works, how he sleeps better and how we as parents will do what it takes to sleep!!

    • Oh my gosh yes- at 5 weeks tell all the schedules to go to hell! Olive always slept better when I wasn’t trying to manhandle her into someone else’s timetable- but it took a long time to learn that lesson!
      Cuddle your baby, cosleep, celebrate your awesome formula feeding man… It sounds like you are doing an amazing job.
      You can’t spoil a baby with love. Physical contact soothes them and helps their brains grow :)

  31. I loved this. As new parents we all have to realize there is no real right way to do anything. We ate going to get criticized for it no matter what we do. I went through some comments and seen the comments about swearing. We are all adults here it’s not that offensive it’s just another way to judge a person. Same for Amy Lage’s comment there. I do believe sleep is a very natural response and we are born knowing how to do. But everyone has to learn what is most comfortable for them to fall asleep and a routine. I haven’t seen anyone just not sleep for years because it was not natural. This article or what I take from it is that the experts are telling parents they are doing things “wrong”. When your baby and yourself get good sleep there is nothing wrong with that. Those mothers that co sleep if it works for you kudos. That could be dangerous for others, like myself. My husband and I are very heavy sleepers we’d probably kill our kids trying to have them in our bed with us. Those parents that nurse their babies to sleep kudos we can. I honestly feel bad for those who can’t or won’t nurse their babies at all but it didn’t work for them. I am glad for those that study this and many other problems with kids. I learned with my first though what works doesn’t work for everyone nor does it work every time. My youngest will be 2 months old next week. She has been rocked, nursed, self soothed, and a good few other ways out to sleep. She is a decent sleeper now but as long as I’m getting the sleep I need as well as getting the things done I need done everyone should be happy. Not say it’s wrong, like a lot of experts like to say when trying to sell their advice. Mothers need to quit competing life is not a race. Love it and live it mothers. Don’t stop giving advice either. Someone may be helped with it. Also remember to pat yourself on your back and spread confidence not judgment.

  32. Love this!!!! I’m currently nursing my (9month old) second one to sleep each night and while she is still getting up to nurse twice a night, she is also crawling and pulling up and trying to walk. Along with popping out teeth!

    Milk is supposed to put them to sleep! I’m convinced that sleep training was created by people who could not nurse their babies to sleep!

    And guess what, the habit of sitting in the same spot each evening to nurse works when given a pumped bottle by hubby or my mother! She still falls asleep!

  33. What a great article on sleep and babies. I enjoyed the comments as well. As a mother of 8, the youngest now 18, I’ll add my two cents. I nursed all my children past 1 year of age. They ALL had different sleep patterns and nothing was ever predictable. My job was not to change what their internal clock was saying but to just find the best way to cope and to adjust …and that seems to sum up a lot of parenting no matter the age.

    The only schedule babies know is their own. They are very basic creatures with very basic needs, why complicate things? Babies and toddlers don’t have any terms of reference, they don’t care if we have a house to clean or laundry to fold and they aren’t aware that we need groceries, a hot cup of tea or more sleep. They only know to try to let us know what they need so they can feel secure and happy.

    You only have them for 18 years or so…and it goes by in a flash. By all means listen to everyone’s advice and then do what you feel works best. You, after all, are the one who has to live with them…and if that means knowing every channel reruns of Friends are on between midnight and 6am, so be it…it won’t last forever.

    Make the most of this time and save frustrating both yourself and your child….throw your expectations and everyone else’s opinions out the window and parent your child the way you feel works best…and learn to trust yourself! You’ll both be happier and that will pay off in the long run!

  34. While I appreciate that your story is coming from a good place of wanting to encourage others to continue innate mothering practices, I feel that this campaign of “follow your instincts” is completely unnecessary to begin with.

    For whatever reason you decided to seek advice on baby sleep even though your baby slept like a rock star. Fine. It is unfortunate that it sounds as though the advice that was given was terribly misdirected and misinterpreted. Bummer. It is also unfortunate that you were impressionable enough to think that you needed to stop from breast-feeding your child to get her to sleep. Big bummer. Unfortunately, all of these missteps have led you to one conclusion, that mothers shouldn’t sleep train. And you are now passing just as much judgement on these approaches as the misguided nurse passed on to you.

    I could not agree more that baby sleep
    Is erratic and cannot be expected to be regulated in the manner and time-frame we may want. However, there are babies who truly are not capable of regulating sleep on their own. It isn’t healthy for a 9 month old to still wake every hour, sometimes staying awake for several hours in the night, feeding doing nothing to help. In fact, as a bleery-eyed mother of one of these, I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to hear from you that I should accept this and deal. Because no one, including my child, benefits from this “normalcy”. The example you used of your daughter going through a week of bad sleep, was my life for over a year. And again, being able to attribute this to milestones puts your daughter in the “normal” category. Consider yourself fortunate, as this is not always the case. Many mothers are desperate to find a reason as simple as teething or crawling for their child’s lack of sleep. If only I had been so lucky to have my child just fall back into a routine after. Also, this fallacy that you shouldn’t breastfeed your child to sleep is completely misinterpreted on your end. This is not advice for you, whose child can self-soothe. Please do not perpetuate this stigma on sleep-training. It saved my marriage, my child, and my sanity at 14 months. Something you wouldn’t understand until you’ve experienced true sleep deprivation. Mothers feel too much guilt already. We don’t need to pass this along in yet another aspect of parenthood.

    • Thank you for writing your comment. I completely agree! …but it’s late and I’d rather not write my own lengthy reply that will keep me up any later. So I appreciate you basically saying word for word what I was thinking. :) (from a mother of a 2, 3, and 6 year old. All of whom have had their good share of milk drunkenness and their good share of sleep training as babies)

  35. Thank you for writing on this topic. My first baby slept amazingly well by 3 months. His brother, now almost 18 mo has never been much of a sleeper. Never. He still nurses all day and night off and on. He still sleeps beside me because he never was interested in a bassinet or crib… As in will not even lie down in one. I get frustrated after such a long period of time of irrational sleeping but I notice he is always teething and gets 4-8 teeth in at a time. At the SAME time. Both my kids teethe at a long, slow, grueling pace. I’ve heard some other babies just wake up with teeth one day. Hmmmm… That just isn’t our world. The bottom line I need to remember and that hopefully can help us all is to think of what we’d want if we were that baby. To be forced to scream and be alone and be traumatized into doing what our parents want? Or be loved, and cherished despite our parents’ great sacrifice. No parents learn to love their children better through sleep training. They learn to make the child suffer to make their own life more comfortable. Talk to any adult with early age childhood trauma. It is real. It is painful. And it doesn’t go away. Whether the child can remember a trauma or not, trauma is stored in the body and it manifests itself in unhealthy ways later in life. I haven’t done it all right. I have been impatient, I have yelled, I have cried, I have blamed my baby for making my life hard. But my goal is to improve at my self-donative abilities so he can grow up knowing he was loved even in the toughest of times.

  36. This is great! I love nursing my babies and all three if my kids have been different. I’ve never had babies that sleep through the night at a young age, but I also don’t allow them to suck their thumbs! Seems like anybody that lectures me about the proper way of sleep training lets their baby suck their thumbs. I think thumb sucking is a worse habit ;)

  37. I’m so happy to read this!! I went through 13 months of pure torture from lack of sleep. My daughter slept in my bed most nights and woke up every few hours to nurse or drink a bottle. I was up at 3am most nights crying because I was so tired and wanted to know why my children was so abnormal with her sleeping habits. We tried the cry it out method, the pick up, put down method like you mentioned. I read every book and blog I could find trying to find sanity! We went through a spurt of night terrors around 8 months, and then one night around 13 months we gave her a bottle put her to bed and she’s been sleeping through the night ever since. Let me tell you the last 5 months have been amazing but I did nothing different than what I normally do and it just clicked. She still wakes up some times at night but puts herself right back to sleep and I too was told that would never happen because I would either nurse her or rock her to sleep every night before. So thank you for making me feel like I’m not a horrible mom and that there is no right way for a child to be sleeping.

  38. Thank you for writing this. My son is almost 9 months old and still wakes screaming every 2-3 hours at night. He doesn’t nurse to sleep, but only because he is kind of an over-alert baby and stopped falling asleep while nursing on his own. He goes to bed awake, even after night waking, it’s the staying asleep that is not there yet.
    Even though we are both so very tired and at a total loss as to why my guy won’t sleep “well” (he doesn’t nap consistently or enough either), it’s so nice to know that I’m not a bad mom, not crazy, and not alone.

  39. This was amazing!!! I nursed my daughter to sleep for 16 months!! She never slept regularly until last month. She will be 18 months on March 3rd. I also allowed her to co sleep with us!! Gasp!! Everyone said “she will never sleep in her crib” well guess what??? After 3 months of co sleeping (age 3months to 6 months) she went right to her crib with no problems. Imagine that!!! I knew what was best for my baby! Do what you think is best for your baby!!!

  40. Pingback: some stuff i’ve been reading | Scribbles for Today

  41. THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS!!! I felt like a crazy person when I wasn’t getting sleep, but I felt even crazier when I tried to rigidly sleep train my sweet little lady, who, for all of her existence, had only known sleeping next to or on my body. So I listened to myself, ditched the book and everyone is happier, especially my husband. I wish I had read this a month ago! well done mama!

  42. Having 7 children, nursing on demand for 16 years (double 1 1/2 years of twins) and being there for every cry to comfort, my children turned out very smart and secure. I am a mom and that’s what I do…..care for my children. Why have children if you think they are going to inconvenience you?

  43. I love your candor. I nursed my daughter, as as first time mom, unwilling to be externally judged. I shared the same experience and would follow the lead of any subsequent baby just the same.

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