Motherhood Mondays: Sleep Training (It’s Tough!)

By the time Toby was six months old, we were all pretty stressed…

Like most young babies, Toby woke up several times a night. But since he didn’t know how to fall back asleep, whenever he stirred, he’d cry out for us to rock him back to sleep. Of course, we adored our sweet baby, but waking up many times a night was SO tough. Sleep deprivation makes you feel like a walking zombie, and waking up multiple times a night is an actual form of torture, no joke! During the day, I also wasn’t able to be the energetic mother I hoped to be, since I was basically cross-eyed with exhaustion. (I felt like this guy:)

The sad thing was, Toby was tired, too. He would wake up really cranky and spend the morning yawning and rubbing his eyes. At even the smallest annoyance, he would burst out crying; he was just always exhausted. After all, he wasn’t sleeping deeply, but instead was just dozing, stirring and waking up all night.

Desperate to find a solution for all of us, I would try reading sleep books while breastfeeding and half-falling asleep myself; they were confusing and talked a lot about the philosophy of sleep, versus just telling me what to do.

Finally, I was chatting on the phone with my friend Allison one morning, and she recommended the book The Sleepeasy Solution. Figuring out how to encourage your child to sleep can be very emotional. Everyone seems to handle it differently, and of course, every child is unique. But after a lot of agonizing, we bit the bullet and decided to give it a try…


Sleep training is not easy, and we were really nervous to get started.

First, Alex and I created a bedtime routine for Toby to help him wind down. We put him in pajamas, changed his diaper, turned on the white noise machine, read a couple stories, sang his three favorite lullabies, put him in his crib with his beloved pillow pet, said “Night night, we love you,” patted his belly twice, and then walked out of the room and shut his door.

But then Toby started crying.

And crying.

That first night, my heart was in my throat. As Toby cried in his nursery, I sobbed in the living room. I called my own mom for reassurance that we were doing the right thing. Alex basically spoon-fed me ice cream. (He didn’t find it as hard as I did, thankfully! Otherwise we would have both lost it.)

The Sleepeasy Solution made a few great points, which I repeated to myself as a pep talk:
* “You’re helping your child get the sleep they desperately need.” I must have repeated that line a million times to myself.
* Consistency was KEY. Although I desperately wanted to go into Toby’s room and rock him to sleep, I knew that it would make it harder for him if I kept interrupting him.
* Toby was not crying because he was hungry or wet. He was just saying, “I don’t want to go to sleep! I want to hang out with you guys! I don’t know how to fall asleep, and I’m frustrated!” That dialogue helped me remember that he wasn’t crying for a need other than wanting help falling asleep, yet he needed to learn that on his own.
* It’s ok for a child to feel frustrated sometimes. Sometimes I still catch myself thinking that Toby should feel giggly and giddy all day long, but that’s not really true, right? After all, if a child cries because he doesn’t want to get into the car chair, you’d still buckle him in; or if a baby wants to eat a giant brownie, you’d say no, even if that upset him. It can be empowering for a person to conquer frustrations; that’s part of life. Learning to sleep felt similarly important to me, even if Toby didn’t enjoy the whole process.
* Picture your child sleeping peacefully and soundly. Picture them waking up happy the next morning. That was a REALLY helpful visual and reminded me why we were doing this!

The first night, Toby cried for more than twenty minutes, which was excruciating. The longest twenty minutes of my life! He seemed so small and helpless, and I really doubted our choice. If hearing Toby cry went against my maternal instincts so strongly, was this all a big mistake?

But then he fell fast asleep. The next night, he cried for eleven minutes. The next night, three minutes. The next night, one minute. And after that, barely at all! We couldn’t believe how quickly it happened. (Naps were another story, but that’s a whole different post:)


Sleep training truly changed all of our lives.

Now that Toby knows how to sleep, he loves loves loves his crib. He even reaches for his crib when he’s tired at bedtime. And he adores his bedtime routine. Experts say that toddlers thrive on predictable routines and rituals because it makes the wild world feel safe. Toby actually scolds us if we miss a step (“Fan!” “Blanket!” “Song!”). He’s much happier and more rested during the day.

Sleep routines also make traveling easier. When we visit California or England, Toby adapts quickly to time changes because he knows his bedtime rituals so well, so we’re actually able to travel more often. And it’s easy to have an evening babysitter because we can rely on him going to bed easily and sleeping the whole time we’re out.

Alex and I are well rested, too. During the day, we have lots of energy to play with Toby, as well as work, hang out, whatever. We also have grown-up time in the evening once Toby is asleep, which we really cherish (even if we’re just making pasta and watching Mad Men reruns:). It’s great to know that every evening at 7:30pm, we will be able to relax together on the sofa, while Toby’s cuddled up in bed.

So, not only did sleep training turn out to be a good choice for Toby, it also was good for us. And I really think it’s ok to look after yourself as well as your baby. You know how on an airplane, they’ll tell you that if there’s a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will fall down from the ceiling, and you should put yours on before you help your child? I think that’s true of parenthood overall. When you want to be a great and energetic parent, it helps to take care of and nourish yourself, as well as your children, don’t you think?

Sleep training was one of the hardest parts of parenting, but it was the right method for our family. Although I know it isn’t for everyone, I’d highly recommend The Sleepeasy Solution. If we have a second baby (fingers crossed), we’ll definitely try it again when the time is right. One book said that it’s not just about having a well-rested child, but a well-rested family. After all, you’re all in it together, right?

So, I’m really curious: What do you think? Do you think it’s valuable to teach your child to sleep on their own? Or do you think kids will figure it out in time anyway? Would you feel okay letting your baby cry—or not at all? Of course, everyone needs to figure out what works best for them and their sweet babies. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts…

P.S. The funniest book.

(Photo by Meaghan Curry Photography)

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  2. Audrey says...

    I know this is a super old post but we started using this method on Friday with our 4 month old who was struggling to go down for naps and bedtime and waking up…it’s Monday and she has slept 12 hours every night with a dream feed at 1 am and went down for her first two naps without a whimper today! I knew this blog would have some helpful tips for us!! Love, a very well rested mama and baby

    • Michaela Hyatt says...

      I am so glad it worked for you! I just finished my second night of the training. I did the training about a month ago and we back slid a little bit and now I’m having to start it again. My 5 month old is very determined. Last night she cried from 3am-5am. I’m hoping I see results soon. I am trying to be really consistent this time around and not give in which is so hard. Nice to have other mamas out there going through the same things. :)

  3. Kim says...

    Sleep training made such a difference for me and my babies so I wanted to share my short story to help other parents. I’m a mom of two adorable girls. Alice is almost 4 years old now and Jane turned 14 months. They were both pretty bad sleepers. I needed to rock them to sleep, feed them at night a few times for a long time and they nap for 15-20 minutes.
    I was so tired after a few weeks with Alice that I decided to do something with it. I read a lot in the internet and there were a lot of people saying good things about “How to teach a baby to fall asleep alone” by Susan Urban and her HWL method. I was sceptic about any sleep training method but it’s a method without CIO so I decided to give it a try. When my second daughter was born I started sleep train her when she turned 4 months.
    In both cases it took me a few days to make my girls to fall asleep on their own, they stopped waking up so many times to eat at night and they started to nap longer. So the HWL method seems to work on anything related to sleeping.
    I got the guide on this website:
    I tried it so I can really recommend it. I’m just glad I found this guide!

    • Jennifer says...

      KIM! The guide you were talking about was a GREAT HELP for us! Thank you for mentioning it. Took us 4 days to teach our daughter to fall asleep on her own and I thought it was impossible after all this rocking. THANKS!

    • Judith says...

      Great ebook, great help. Thanks for making my life easier :)

    • Monica says...

      this guide is so much more approachable and easy to digest than the books I have bought (who can read 300 page books when sleep-deprived and spending time with a sleep-deprived baby??). Now I know that sleep training really can work. I went from our daughter waking almost every hour, to sleeping through the night and she’s able to fall asleep on her own now. I wouldn’t believe it if i didn’t rry it on my own! Great hepl! thanks Kim for sharing

  4. Emma says...

    I’m losing my mind with my 2 month baby who will ONLY sleep if being held and rocked (because being held isn’t enough), but I still feel like he’s too young to cry himself to sleep. I saw that you went through this process with Anton when he was 3 months. How did it compare to Toby at 6 months and why did you feel Anton was ready and could handle it?

  5. Maryam says...

    I know this is an older post, but hoping you are still keeping an eye on the comments. Thanks for sharing your story. Did you also do nap training with either child at the same time? If so, what was that like?

  6. I love you for having an article for everything I need. Don’t you find getting a recommendation from someone you respect really takes the edge off of a decision? I just bought the Sleepeasy Solution and am going to prepare my 3 month old for the next month when she’s getting booted to the crib! ;-)

    • Sophie Lecoq says...

      Hi to all, I’m writing from France. I strongly advise NOT to let a baby cry. I love all your other articles but this one really troubles me. A baby crying needs presence and reassurance. Your not coming just mean they learn, somewhere deep inside them, that their need won’t be fulfilled. This never is a whim or them “not finding their sleep”. If it hurts to let them cry, listen to your heart and don’t leave them like this, alone in their bed, not being able to take care of their own needs. They’re babies!

  7. megan says...

    I know this post is from ages ago, but I’m wondering at what age did you go through this with Toby? I’m pregnant now and just preparing myself with all the info I can get ;) THX!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Six months with Toby, three months with Anton xoxo

    • Susanna says...

      Joanna, thank you so much for coming back and answering this question about Anton. My second kid is currently five months; we sleep-trained our first at six months, and our big dilemma now is whether it is too early to sleep train little Theo. We are zombies, and I need to nip these new bad sleep habits in the bud. I feel weirdly like I’ve been given permission to go ahead now and do what worked so well for our oldest. Thanks again!

  8. Melanie says...

    I had read this post while pregnant last year and bought the book. My little one turned 4 months 2 weeks ago and both my Ped and Mom recommended that I start sleep training. I thought, geez, is it too early? But I also went back to work a month ago and our night time put to bed routine was up to 2 hours of nursing to dead alseep, very carefully putting to bed and waking a million times during the night – aka NOT working for any one. So. I bit the bullet and started a modified version of this – first night, put her down just slightly sleepy after our routine of jammies, nursing and songs and after 40 minutes of babbling to herself (i’m lucky to have a ‘talker’ and not a crier) she was asleep – next night 20 minutes, next night, 5. On occasion we have to go in after 20ish minutes and (no touching!) remind her it’s night night time and we love her and please go to sleep. I wasn’t ready to wean her night time feedings though (she’s so little!) but her feedings have gone down as during the night when she wakes she’s figured out ways to soothe herself so now she only really wakes me up when she NEEDS to eat (and doesn’t just want soothing). I highly recommend this process and encourage Moms to start around 4 months (when they have zero habits). It’s been great for our whole family and has (knock on wood) been a breeze so far to implement!

  9. Joyanna says...

    I know everyone is different but at what age did you feel comfortable starting your baby on this sleeping in the crib routine?

  10. Dianne says...

    Sleep training my daughter (currently 7 months old) has been one of the top three hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, period, including getting my PhD. (And now she’s in the “roll over” phase I’m getting the chance to do it all over again!) I’d been around babies before she was born, but I had no idea just how intensely excruciating I would find it listening to my own baby cry during these periods. It’s very difficult to describe the feeling if you haven’t experienced it; like Joanna, I frequently found myself sobbing outside my daughter’s room while she was “crying it out.” My husband also travels at least one week per month (sometimes more), and when he’s gone I sometimes call him crying on the phone because I’m having to re-do the sleep training with her again. It has been getting easier, and there is no question that she is a much happier and more well-rested baby now that she can easily go to sleep and stay asleep on her own (most of the time). But listening to her crying during these periods and feeling like someone is raking over the inside of my skin with a series of sharp nails while I try not to totally lose it makes me seriously question having a second baby. I know that it’s working and that she’s going to get past this stage, but I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who has found this difficult!

  11. Anna says...

    I had resisted sleep training for my daughter’s first six months, instinctively feeling she was too young. When she was about seven months, our cosleeping life had run its course. Her tossing and nursing all night kept me awake, and I suspected made her tired through the day. Sleep training is difficult for us as we only have one bedroom, but I decided excuses weren’t worth all of our sanity, we built a little blanket barrier shield around her crib so she couldn’t see us, and got to it! The first night was very difficult as she cried 2 1/2 hours and only slightly less every night after, but to our shock she was able to sleep soundly through the night (9-12 hours!) without feeding once! I am astounded with the results, as she now naps much longer, and is a drastically more easy going baby. She plays by herself where before she’d be whining almost instantly. This was by far the most dreaded but absolutely crucial and lifesaving decision we
    Made in this first year. I’m so grateful for my friend who convinced me to try.

    • Tamar says...

      I’d love to know more about the blanket barrier u built… Got a pic?? That is one of our issues too! Thanks!

  12. Kate says...

    Yes! I’m also curious about your approach to naps. My babe is 3 months old and I’m trying to muster the strength to sleep train. She still feels so little. :-(

  13. Michelle says...

    Did you ever write about your nap experiences? We are going through it right now. Brutal!

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  15. One of the reasons I read your blog, is it’s just so honest. I’m currently sleep training my 6 month old daughter and this first time has been rough. I didn’t cry while she cried, but really wanted to! I give myself little projects that prohibit me from caving and racing in to cuddle her – like painting my nails. Just something that requires a little focus.

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  19. There’s really no sure truth about whether sleep training harms the child, but what came to mind when reading your post was the effect it could have on the child’s attachment based on Bowlby’s attachment theory.

    During the first year of a child’s development they develop either a secure or insecure attachment to the main caregiver based on how their needs are responded to, and sleep training gives mixed signals to the child. This could result in the child not being sure when they can rely on the parent and when not, and affect the way they handle and display their emotions. It’s not a simple matter, and I realize it’s very important for the child to get their sleep, but it’s something to be considered.

    Some people were concerned about tending the child at night becoming a habit that gets out of control. In response to this, sleep training is something that can be used after a secure attachment has been established, when the child is at least over a year old (it’s individual though). Also to assure the child that they are safe to sleep alone (which can’t be done to an infant).

    As said, it’s not certain, but it’s a perspective to consider.

    Love your blog xx

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  23. “well yes
    i guess we must learn how
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    and did you know
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    i heard
    that many adults have insomnia
    because they are afraid of the dark

    well i suppose
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    well yes,
    i might have mentioned to her
    that i have cried until vomiting
    from loneliness and despair, also

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    to do so
    in front of locked doors
    not behind them.”

  24. My son (aged 4 1/4 now) has refused to sleep since the beginning. As a baby he would thrash his head from side to side if he started to drift off to sleep – he wants to be part of it all. In a perfect world (which we discovered when we travelled through Europe for a few months) he would run and dance tip 11pm/midnight, then sleep til 9-10am.
    He stopped his day sleep not long after turning 1! and that was i the hands of daycare who had a policy that one year old have a day nap.

    I tried every sleep technique, but if I left him he cried, hysterically – he did not stop, not after five, ten or 15 minutes (that was as long as I could manage). I simply could not parent like that. I am not judging those who can, I just cannot. Perhaps it is because his coming into the world was a slim chance – I had to have an operation to enable conception, then I serious complications during pregnancy, & he almost died in birth, and his first year was hard – 4 stays in hospital – so I could never care that I was tired, I could never care that my eyes were puffy. The most real thing is the memory of seeing his heart stop beating on a monitor.

    Even now, I lay with him til 9pm when he falls asleep. It might be tough now, but one day he will read himself to sleep, and he will spend his weekends with friends – I just hope that by doing what he needs/wants now, he will always know that I will always do what he needs, I will always be here for him.

    Of coarse, I am an older mother, and I live in a small coastal town and work part-time. being older it is not a financial need for me to work fulltime. It is entirely my own choice to raise my son the way I do, and so my sleepiness is the price I am prepared to pay for a kind and soft appraoch. Would I recommend it – probably not. Sleep training is certainly kinder on the family as a whole.

  25. “(Naps were another story, but that’s a whole different post:)” — did you write this post, then? Or, is it time now? We did CIO for night time hoping it would transfer into napping on his own as well, but nope.

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  35. early stages of pregnancy women do feel sleepy during pregnancy. Ladies, your body is going through a lot of changes and you must realize that. It is hard work to carry all that weight on you and roam around for over 9 months. It is not easy; that is why you feel tired during pregnancy.

  36. I think I have read every comment on here. I am excited to hear your your adventures when #2 comes along. I am currently exhausted with my 8 month old. She goes to bed okay but then waking up three times a night. Try to give her the passy to get her back to sleep but just continues to scream unless I nurse her back to sleep. Is this the separation period?! She has plenty to eat before she goes to bed so I know she’s not hungry. Do I let her cry it out? I don’t know…

  37. I was on the fence about sleep training until recently. I think we all have to do what is best for the entire family and that includes rest and sanity. It’s hard for me to judge anyone who sleep trains because my little guy has been an amazing sleeper from the get go and most nights we’ve gotten good sleep. I credit babywise with helping me follow an eat, play, sleep pattern and not letting him go too long without feedings. I also know he just has a very laid back personality. Lately we are going through a rough week with multiple night wakings and rocking him back to sleep does not work, the minute his head hits the crib he wakes up and cries. As much as I hoped we wouldn’t cry it out I think it has become necessary. I don’t mind rocking him and I preferred it to hearing him cry but now it is very clear he knows he can manipulate us and he isn’t staying asleep in his crib. Thank you for writing on such a controversial topic. And those studies about sleep training not being good…who knows? We are all trying to do our best and what is best for our families – who can judge that?

  38. I know this is an old post, but I was wondering if you could write one on naps. Currently, I’m struggling trying to get my 3 month old to nap longer than 25-30 minutes.

  39. I had a somewhat similar issue with sleep when our daughter was still a baby. By the time she was 8 months old she stopped wanting bottles at night, she just woke up out of habit. We didn’t get enough sleep.

  40. I find it upsetting that some have posted that thy have practiced the cry it out method at 4 months! 6 months is the youngest that the APA recommends doing this with, and even 6 months in my opinion is still so young. I understand the importance of sleep, but allowing your baby to feel abandoned (they can’t rationalize why you’ve left them alone and only stop because they’ve given up on the notion of you comforting them) isn’t worth it.

    I just read a very sad account of a mother whose son passed away from SIDS and she expressed her relief in knowing that she had never allowed her son to cry it out, to feel alone, or to think she had given up on him while he was alive. This is where my mind and heart go on nights when I wonder why I’m awake at 3 am, gently soothing my daughter back to sleep. There are solutions, while possibly more time-consuming, that can work.

  41. We started to train our baby girl to sleep right from the beginning by following “The Baby Sleeps Tonight” from Shari Mezrah and it’s amazing!!! Our baby girl wasn’t waking up anymore during the night for a feed from 1 month old, she had her last feeding at midnight and was waking up at 6am. The only regret I have is that we didn’t follow it at 100% as my mum was staying with us and I felt a bit judge sometimes, so we were not putting her to bed for her naps when the book was saying… Also I couldn’t follow the feeding schedule completely as LO can not wait longer than every 3 hours for her feeding. We have some issues lately – that actually might have been here since the beginning to be faire – LO does not want to go in her cot for her naps, she just refuses to nap there. The thing is that she is exhausted, I can see it, she yawns, has red eyes, get cranky, rub her eyes, but as soon as she is in her cot it’s over, she cries for more than half hour if needed, until we pick her up. The only time she sleeps is while breastfed, in carrier or pram… Anyone would have suggestions? We are desperate here xD
    Otherwise we are really happy for the night pattern, everyone tell us how lucky we are and is so impressed, I will definitely do it again for next baby :)

  42. Thanks for this post. Enjoying your blog. Great advice!


  43. I just had a full night’s sleep. Thank you. Bought the book, read the book, re-read the book through one terrible 1/2 hour of crying at 4am. Last night he cried briefly but then put himself to sleep. He woke up once for a few seconds but was able to put himself back to sleep again quickly. This definitely worked for us and our son. Thanks for the recommendation. It’s a kind and easy-to-read book.

  44. Hi!

    I have a Daughter who just turned one in November and we have yet to sleep train her. We usually put her down for the night at 8:30, and she’s up again at 11, and either myself, or my fiance rocks her back to sleep and we just hold her until we’re ready to go to sleep. She sleeps in our bed and I breastfeed her to sleep (including naps!). Olivia is TERRIFIED of her crib, which is why I never pushed sleep training, however I would really like to start weaning her from breastfeeding and start getting her to sleep through the night. I am so scared to sleep train, mainly because I hate hearing her cry. I am also scared because I live in a townhouse so I don’t want my neighbors to think I just like to let my child cry. Living in an apartment, did your neighbors ever say anything to you? Any advice for me? Also, if you don’t mind me asking, are you still breastfeeding? Olivia will only fall asleep if she is in her swing, or if I feed her to sleep. And she won’t take a bottle so it is always me that puts her to sleep. How are you putting your son to sleep for naps?

    Thank you!

  45. Time for the follow-up post on napping!

  46. can’t wait for your nap post! hope to see it soon. :) am having a rough time helping my 6 month old learn to nap after success with night sleep thanks to the sleepeasy solution!

  47. Joanna, Maybe i missed it…but how old was Toby again when you started the sleep training?


  48. Joanna, Maybe i missed it…but how old was Toby again when you started the sleep training?


  49. Ugh.

    Not being a mother, I have no agenda and nothing in particular contribute to this conversation. I just wanted to express dismay at so many mothers here, especially some of the “No-Sleep-Training” contingent like eastcoastbird above, whose posts seem really to be veiled ways to express how by refusing to let their little darlings cry a moment, they are better moms than the cry-it-out contingent.

    “He is completely at peace, happy, and calm as he drifts off into dreamland”? How is this a helpful observation–or are you trying your reassure yourself?

  50. I know many people do this but I could never leave my daughter cry herself to sleep. I feel that if I do that, she will think I abandoned her and I don’t cater to her needs. Babies love being cuddled and they feel safety when in their parents arms. My child is 2 years old, I had been rocking her to sleep for several months and at some point she just started asking by herself to be put into bed. I stayed beside her bed and talked to her and rubbed her back and she fell asleep, and that’s how it’s been going on since then.

  51. Jo, your post inspired me to finally be serious about sleep training my 7 month old son. I was honestly at my wits end when you posted about it. Literally crying in the morning when I had to get up with my baby because I was so tired and frustrated. I had tried to let him cry a few times, but gave in after 30 min. So, Tuesday night I let him cry when he woke in the middle of the night. It took one excruciating hour for him to go back to sleep. Wednesday night, he woke in the middle of the night and cried for 15 min and Thursday and Friday nights he slept straight through! Hopefully its not a fluke. Thanks for all the wonderful, honest posts about mothering. I look forward to them every Monday.

  52. I find that whatever works best for each particular family is the best thing for that family! When my baby was about that age (maybe older, I remember she was pulling up into a standing position), I found myself nursing her to sleep for an hour, sometimes an hour and a half, going to lay her down and then she STILL would snap awake and I’d have to start all over again. I was getting frustrated and angry. I wasn’t too concerned with night-time wakings since it was so easy to just grab her and let her nurse with me in bed, but GETTING to bed was a nightmare! I read a very similar book to the one you recommend (I actually wonder if it might be the same, with a different title), and for us it was a life changing miracle. We had the same thing happen, with shorter and shorter periods of crying each night to the point where she (rarely) cries at bedtime any more. The thing that helped me the most was realizing she had no earthly idea why I would lay her down in a crib alone. She did not know what she was supposed to do! But letting her cry a bit, and going in to pat her back, but not allowing her up, showed her what she was supposed to do, and eventually it clicked. Every child is different, and maybe this sort of “training” isn’t necessary for everyone. But it worked for our family, too, and made everyone so much happier. I feel threatened when people say you should “NEVER LET YOUR BABY CRY TO SLEEEEEEP!” Because I agree with you, babies also need to understand some challenges in life. That said I wouldn’t use this method with a baby younger than 6 months or so.

  53. Hi Joanna,
    I am not a mom yet, but I can imagine how hard it was the firts night! When I was growing up, I loved to watch Mad about you and this episode stuck with me. I never forgot how nervous Jamie and Paul were while listening to their tiny baby cry! When she finally falls asleep Jamie said “now she knows we wont always be there for her.” wich is really sad lesson in a way, but SO SO SO important in many other ways! I was a kid myself when I heard this, and even then I knew how valuable it was to try to learn to do things on my own. Take a look:

    Well done Toby and you too!

  54. i’d just like to empahsise, (and Joanna Im sure you picked 6 months because Toby was eating solids successfully?), that a baby needs food, i.e. milk, through the night in order to grow and develop, and feel safe and secure- their body clock and digestion is nothing like an adults. Once they are eating proteins (i.e. have advanced through eating solids and are now onto protein foods) throughout the day it is possible to train them to sleep through the night if you wish. Before then you will find all experts agree it is not wise to deny them milk.
    if you are feeding them and they cry on being returned to the cot that may be a different issue than food, i.e. they want comfort/security or cant fall back asleep without aides. The No Cry Sleep Solution book is a good start for understanding baby sleep needs and patterns.

  55. i’d just like to empahsise, (and Joanna Im sure you picked 6 months because Toby was eating solids successfully?), that a baby needs food, i.e. milk, through the night in order to grow and develop, and feel safe and secure- their body clock and digestion is nothing like an adults. Once they are eating proteins (i.e. have advanced through eating solids and are now onto protein foods) throughout the day it is possible to train them to sleep through the night if you wish. Before then you will find all experts agree it is not wise to deny them milk.
    if you are feeding them and they cry on being returned to the cot that may be a different issue than food, i.e. they want comfort/security or cant fall back asleep without aides. The No Cry Sleep Solution book is a good start for understanding baby sleep needs and patterns.

  56. We were totally sleep trained. It was a fluke since we didn’t officially call it that but it’s essentially what we did. It took 2-3 nights to get him used to the idea and then for the most part night sleeping became a breeze. Minus an occasional illness or teething period. But we’ve recently sold our house and moved into an apartment and he’s just not sleeping anymore at 20 months! It’s pretty torturous but we don’t know what to do since crying all night seems bothersome to the new neighbors but we are all zombies! I’m hoping it’s just a phase based on the new place…but it’s sure tough.

  57. I don’t have a child but I’ve been working in France as an au pair with the same family since their little girl was 8 months old. They really swore by Tracy Hogg’s The Baby Whisperer: Sleep book & I will for sure use this method one day when I have children. From what I read about sleep training (or “cry it out”), is that typically babies stop crying because they’ve just given up & feel like no one will come for them. That breaks my heart. Hogg’s method really encourages training your baby to find their own confidence in putting themselves to bed. That doesn’t mean entering the room every time he or she makes a noise, but we could usually tell by the sound of the cry when the little one really needed us.

    Our routine went like this: 1) Put her into bed at roughly the same time every day. This way, her body developed a rhythm & would already be tired. 2) If she cries, we go into the room, & give a little hug or pat on the back to soothe, then leave the room again. 3) If leaving the room is simply out of the question (& it will be in the beginning) we would stand at a distance from her crib & quietly speak to her, encouraging her to find her sleep. 4) Once she’s asleep, leave the room.

    Eventually she will be confident enough on her own – you’ll be able to simply say goodnight & leave the room. Anyway, this method wasn’t always easy but it’s been something that’s really worked for us.

  58. We started sleep training Gigi two weeks ago. We had a very similar experience to you. Now, she might grizzle a bit at night every few days for a couple minutes, but that’s it. She’s really good at putting herself back to sleep.

    Where I’m really struggling is naps. She isn’t able to put herself back to sleep. She cries it out for the remainder of the nap and I’m dying. She actually lost her voice. My perfect little 4 1/2 month old lost her voice. Today, I just popped her in the pram and took her on a walk and she slept for three hours straight. That’s how exhausted she is! Because, she’s only been taking 30 minute naps.

    What have you done to help your little baby nap better?

  59. We started sleep training Gigi two weeks ago. We had a very similar experience to you. Now, she might grizzle a bit at night every few days for a couple minutes, but that’s it. She’s really good at putting herself back to sleep.

    Where I’m really struggling is naps. She isn’t able to put herself back to sleep. She cries it out for the remainder of the nap and I’m dying. She actually lost her voice. My perfect little 4 1/2 month old lost her voice. Today, I just popped her in the pram and took her on a walk and she slept for three hours straight. That’s how exhausted she is! Because, she’s only been taking 30 minute naps.

    What have you done to help your little baby nap better?

  60. My almost 4 month old has her own little sleeping ritual: lights out, bottle feeding, some cuddling, then bathing, more cuddling, then sucks on her thumb, sometimes read a book and falls asleep with her white noise machine by her side. Sometimes she can put herself to sleep alone, other times she wants me to hold her until she knocks out. But I still feel like she is too young to do the sleep training. Or maybe I am not ready to have her cry for minutes or hours.

    • I just realized that she already has a sleep training routine after I read my comment. lol

  61. My baby is approaching her 2-month visit at Tribeca Pediatrics and today I received this in the “preparation email” that comes shortly before every well visit: “Sleeping: In 1994, when Tribeca Pediatrics first opened its doors, we recommended that parents begin sleep-training their babies at around the age of four months. However, to the universal delight, comfort, and sanity of our patients, we have discovered that sleep-training is even more effective if begun at two months. So please be seated to read the following: In three days, Harper will be sleeping through the whole night (upwards of twelve hours!), falling asleep in the early evening, and waking up with an adorable coo and a big smile at seven (AM). Yes, you read that correctly: In three days, done.” When I read more on their site they state that “After any three- or four-hour fasting period, she’ll be hungry. You’re hungry in the middle of the night, too; it’s just that you learn not to eat because it’s good for your belly to take a rest. Well, it’s good for hers too.” My husband is skeptical, but I think we will start trying it after our 2-month visit…

  62. We tried sleep training a few times during the first year with our son, and I simply could not do it. It went against every nerve in my body.

    And every baby is different, my sister has a daughter that sleeps through the night at 5 months without any sleep training. Lucky her is all I can say :)

    I am now expecting our nr2 and hope that she will be more like my niece in her sleep patterns ;)… but I am not going to try any sleep training this time around.

    I believe the most important thing is to listen to your baby and do what you feel is best for you all.
    If going without sleep makes you crazy, then sleep training is probably the best option for you.

    But to me, interrupted sleep and nursing through the nights for the first 18 months was something I was willing and happy to put up with, for the very short time in my life that my babies are babies.

  63. I am due in about 7 weeks and will absolutely be using this method or the controversial “Baby Wise” Method to train my baby to sleep. I have read both sides and I am following my maternal instinct that this method will work for us because it fits into the way my husband and I want to raise our child. When researching for my own baby I asked my parents what methods they used in getting my brother and I to sleep and I can’t help but wonder what a study on the outcome of adults that were co-sleepers with their parents or that were cry it out kids would look like. Somehow I don’t think that there is any correlation between the success/happiness of adults based on how they were put to bed as a baby as long as it was in a loving home. I also think that NO ONE can remember how their parents did or did not sleep train them as an infant (maybe you have some memory as a toddler). What matters is being a loving caring nurturing parent to your child for the entire length of their lives (as my parents still are to me at 33!) Teaching or not teaching a baby to sleep is just a piece of the puzzle. Do what works for you- I believe that sleep training will keep my marriage happy and keep our home a loving and calm environment for our child to grow up in.

  64. I am from Germany and the discussions are here the same. Especially about that topic.
    Also the same range of opinions.
    Interesting to read …

    So, for us (2 Children 6 Months and 4 Years) worked “the no cry sleep solution” Elizabeth Pentley.
    I couldn’t listen my baby cry, so I was searching for sleep training where the Baby isn’t crying.
    It worked.

    I think the most important thing is, that you have to find out, what kind a person you are and then stay consequent.
    If you like to have your baby in a family bad, its fine…
    If you can not let your baby cry, then don`t do cry out sleep training, then it wont work.

    If you are sure, its the best for you baby to sleep alone, then go for it.
    If one wont’s its baby to sleep alone, then the most important thing is to really stand behind it.
    Otherwise the baby will feel, that you feel guilty and then think something is wrong here.

    For me its a difference to encourage you baby to sleep alone, ore to sit next to the door and cry, because the baby is crying….
    I am sure that kids can feel if you are serious with something or not… what I mean is authenticity.

    I had a babygroup with my fist son. He is 4 now and I am still friend with the other 4 women.
    What helps me a lot is to see, that, although we raised our kids different regarding sleep habits, or eating habits (another theater of war ;-) every single one is gorgeous…and well raised.
    In the end, everybody has to become its right. The Child and the parents.

  65. I am from Germany and the discussions are here the same.
    Also the same range of opinions.
    Interesting to read …

    So, for us (2 Children 6 Months and 4 Years) worked “the no cry sleep solution” Elizabeth Pentley.
    I couldn’t listen my baby cry, so I was searching for sleep training where the Baby isn’t crying.
    It worked.

    I think the most important thing is, that you have to find out, what kind a person you are and then stay consequent.
    If you like to have your baby in a family bad, its fine…
    If you can not let your baby cry, then don`t do cry out sleep training, then it wont work.

    If you are sure, its the best for you baby to sleep alone, then go for it.
    If one wont’s its baby to sleep alone, then the most important thing is to really stand behind it.
    Otherwise the baby will feel, that you feel guilty and then think something is wrong here.

    For me its a difference to encourage you baby to sleep alone, ore to sit next to the door and cry, because the baby is crying….
    I am sure that kids can feel if you are serious with something or not… what I mean is authenticity.

    I had a babygroup with my fist son. He is 4 now and I am still friend with the other 4 women.
    What helps me a lot is to see, that, although we raised our kids different regarding sleep habits, or eating habits (another theater of war ;-) every single one is gorgeous…and well raised.
    In the end, everybody has to become its right. The Child and the parents.

  66. Just like adults babies are individuals with a growing self. Whatever parenting strategies we attempt to adhere to may or may not be the best for our little diaper clad person.

    I studied attachment theory a lot in grad school, and when I became pregnant was sure I would whole heartedly attachment parent (baby wearing, co sleeping, nursing, the whole shebang!). I have been very surprised by my son. His needs are his own and he expresses them on his own schedule. Which happens to be about the same times everyday! He has never slept through the night, and naps horribly.

    And about a month ago, I had a gut feeling that he was wanting to sleep better and didn’t know how. So I picked up the Sleep Easy Solution just to try it. The first night he cried for 50 min. And we checked on him often. Each night after that he cried less and less. He cries 5 min now and then coos for a bit and happily falls asleep.

    Through this process I learned that it is more important to see, know, and assess your child as an individual, and to be flexible with ideology because each person is different. And the way we best love one another is by tailoring love to the needs of the other, even if it is not how we ourselves would prefer to be loved.

  67. Hi there, I have a sleep training technique with zero crying that my husband and I kind of stumbled upon with our first. In super-brief, babies naturally begin to sleep train themselves at 6 weeks old. They basically skip a feeding. If you catch that opportunity and help them maintain that specific non-eating interval they will extend it again after a couple weeks. And this continues until an unusual skipped feeding at 6 weeks old becomes a 12 hour full nights sleep at 3 months old. I’ve done this with my kids and walked so many friends through the process…usually with their 3rd babies when no one can even pretend to be super mom any more;) It’s not too complicated and kind of feels like it’s a lost art from our great grandmother’s generation. It just seems that nowadays what was once obvious mothering is now a “technique.” Feel free to be in touch…next time…I’ll walk you through it…

  68. Thanks for an interesting insight into how Americans feel about this hot topic. Sleep-training is an ongoing debate here in Norway as well, and some politicians recently suggested that crying-it-out-methods such as Ferber should be banned, which would mean that health personnel would not be allowed to inform about these methods of sleep-training. One of the arguements is that laws against hitting children were made in the 80s, and Norway should therefore have laws against this as well. Personally,I am not sure about the law, but know that I have a bad feeling about Ferber and would never use it myself (I have a daughter who started sleeping through the night when she was 11 months), but think that if the child is not too small and receives lots of love when she is awake it might work for some families…

    ps. this is my favorite blog, and I particularly like your balanced and relatable motherhod posts :)

  69. We did “Controlled crying” with our son at 9months. Thankfully he was more of a grizzler than a cryer/screamer, but even then it was really hard to listen to him grizzle for 2-10mins at a time. My husband and I lay in bed holding hands listening to his cries.

    I know a few people who have tried the cry-it-out method with no success, only ending with babies who vomitted as they were so upset. However I will not judge what people do to in order to get some sleep.

  70. I’ve read a lot of these comments and what sticks out to me the most is the tone. Whatever works for you and your baby is best for you and your baby. You are not going to convince any of these other moms who might disagree with you that what your family is doing is right or better. Letting your baby cry for ten minutes is not neglect and co-sleeping doesn’t mean your baby will be constantly soothed. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion in all things and especially in parenting. There is no correct answer. Let’s be nice ladies, we all have different experiences and react in different ways and that is ok!

  71. I too am surprised by so many supporters of “crying” sleep solutions.

    Two great alternatives are: Sleepless in America by Mary Kurcinka and The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley (already mentioned by other parents above).

    I found both books to be incredibly helpful with my toddler and much more aligned with my parenting philosophy.

  72. Haters gonna hate. This reminds me of a political debate with two distinct sides. Problem is…WE’RE ALL ON THE SAME SIDE!!!! We ALL love our babies. We’re parents. I so wish the Mommy Wars would end and we could be supportive of each other’s parenting choices (with the exclusion of parents who make choices where CPS gets involved).

  73. I read The Baby Whisperer when my son was a couple of months old. You put your baby to bed and if he cries, you let him cry for a few minutes, but no longer. Sometime babies can cry for hours which stresses everybody. You can go in his room, pick him up and give him cuddles, but then put him back. You sit in his room where he can see you, but you do not pick him up. You’ll be surprised at how fast they realize that you are not going to pick them up but you are still there for comfort. We did this for 2 nights, and at 3 months he started sleeping through the night. We would put him to bed at 5:30 pm and he would sleep until 5 the next morning (we did pick him up and change his diaper around midnight, but he went right back to sleep). It was amazing. The only downside was that he didn’t nap during the day, but I could live with that because I was getting a good night’s sleep.

  74. We co-sleep. It works beautifully. It’s a third option to suffering sleepless nights or letting him cry it out. I love our family bed and am so glad we figured out that it works for us.

  75. We used the same book! We had a difficult time the first week, and I contacted the authors through email. Jill called me the next day to talk everything over and came up with a plan for me free of charge. She called me again the next day to check in. It has been two weeks now and my daughter now goes to sleep easily is sleeping peacefully every night. The book was a godsend and I so appreciate the authors taking time to help my family!

  76. i’m so interested to hear about the nap situation. our little one (3 mo. old) is a good sleeper at night, but getting her to go down for regular naps is so hard. she fights it all day! does the sleepeasy solution say anything in particular about naps? what do folks do about this? i’d be interested in any helpful hints or words of wisdom!

  77. I am a neuropediatrician, and from research we know that a baby under 1 year does not habe the cognitive capability to learn how to sleep. The only thing it learns is: i am crying amd nobody is coming. Then it stops. From paychoanalytical aspects this is really worse, bevause the early
    mother-child binding gets disturbed. A baby has only very basic feelimgs, bur
    those are very strong. If he/she cries badly, it is a very existential fear. It is not ‘oh i wpuld like to hang out with you buddies’, it is the existential feeling of being alone in the world.

    The problem is about society: we live in times where we habe to function. We define ourselbes through work, we can not allow ourselves to be tired and therefore more slowly. But: banies grow up so fast. Why is it so difficult to say, the first years with a bany means less
    sleep? Is it really too much to give? And, one more important result
    fr research: so called ‘sleep training’ has no effect on long term aspects.
    Please do all not forget: our babies should nor
    be ‘trained’, this is something for dogs or horses. Kids are
    human beings with very serious needs, as serious as the needs of an adult person.

    Prof. Dr. Anna Beckenbach

  78. I am a doctor if neuropediatrics, and i can say for sure that we know from research that a baby under one year does not have the cognitive ability to understand complexe tasks like ‘falling asleep alone’. the only thing it ‘learns’ is that nobody is coming if he is crying, this is why he stops. From psychoanalytical aspects this is one of the worst things to do because the very important early mother-child binding gets disturbed. A baby can not think ‘i want to hang out with you dudes’. The only thing he/she can experience is existential fear, if nobody is responding to his kind of language (and crying is a babies language!), or deep trust and relief, if somebody he knows is caring about him/her.

    The problem is about our society. We live in a world where we define ourselves through work. We have to function at daytime, we can not allow ourselves to be imperfect or tired. This is why our society is ‘so much into sleep training’. Babies have to be trained in a way that our adult world
    is working for us adults.
    Why not just say: having a child means waking up a lot at night for the first years? Those babies get old so fast, the babytime is so short. Why cut it off willingly? We should just relax ourselves and don’t be angry to our little ones and to ourselves.
    Prof. Dr. Anna Beckenbach

  79. I just recently attended a panel discussion and Jill Spivack was one of the speakers… I love her and am now obsessed with her ideas, insights and advice. I wish I knew about this book for our first but will definitely use it and her techniques for the second.

  80. Yep. We totally sleep trained. My daughter is 8 months, and the other night was that one-too-many hard nights (up every few hours, completely inconsistent), the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and I said THAT’S IT. We’re sleep training. The Ferber method gets a lot of flack, but the beauty of it is that you can tailor it to your own preferences. If it seems too harsh, then tone it down! (I never let her cry more than 10 minutes w/out reassuring her. Granted she’d lose her shit when I went in there… not sure it’s worth it. But it made me feel better!) The key is CONSISTENCY. We’re on day 5, and dare I say… things are good! She’s putting herself to sleep, and sleeping through the night. Magic!

  81. I think it is very interesting how strongly people feel about this. It is a good thing to feel strongly about your children! I posted already that I am in the CIO camp, but I heartily support people who feel as though it goes against their experience with motherhood. I think it is important to be true to yourself as a parent. Mostly, I think that parenting is hard and the more that we can support each other in the hard decisions that we make, even when we vary, the better the experience is for all of us. I am also happy that there are disagreements because it means that we will learn more as a culture, and also we will learn individually from each other, and be asked to question parts of our parenting to make sure we are in line with our beliefs.

    The article from BBC was very interesting. My question is–Being tired all the time from interrupted sleep also creates elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body (See Dr. Weissbluth’s research on infant sleep), which have the same detrimental effects to the brain and development. Is this is a situation where one version of cortisol is worse than another? Or is it simply a place where parents must decide which environment they wish to create for their child?

    I have personally seen happy and well-adjusted children from both kinds of parenting–those who use CIO and those who don’t. The only “conclusion” that I can draw from this is that children are resilient to all the good and bad decisions we make, and that (mostly) we are all trying our best. Of course I am no scientist, but I am a teacher so I know many children and families on a deep level.

    Thank you, Joanna, for opening a controversial topic. I struggle emotionally with watching the disagreements unfold here in the comments section because I have a tendency to shy away from confrontation, but ultimately, I am grateful that parents care so much about parenting.

  82. Sleep training… goodness. Your Toby must be more mellow than my son. He cried for TWO HOURS. We’d leave him, he’d cry bloody murder and every ten minutes we’d go make sure he was okay, pat his back, give him his paci and leave again. The first night was two hours, the second night was forty minutes, the third night was twenty….and finally, within a week he was trained.

    That was when he was a baby. Next up was toddler bed training…..which took a little longer since it wasn’t crying, it was STAYING in bed! Next up, night time potty training. haha

    Now I have a four month old and wonder when sleep training will be needed by him! So far, he’s following his big brother’s schedule almost identically. In fact, all the hard hard work we put into training our first is being reflected naturally by our second. We’ll see though, he hasn’t reached the age where he fights bedtime yet.

  83. Like an earlier readers commented, I am surprised I am the minority here. And I am shocked that others seem to applaude those who could stick with Sleep Training even if they couldn’t.
    I know that I am going to step on toes here ( and Joanna, I appreciate your honesty and love that you brought this touchy subject to the forefront), but I am very much against sleep training and have not/ will not ever ask my son to cry himself to sleep. My son is 5 months old, he is a good sleeper, he naps 3 times a day, he goes to bed at 9, wakes up 1-3 times to nurse during the night and wakes up around 7:30 each morning…with a grin from ear to ear.

    I hold/sing to/rock/ my son every night as he falls asleep, usually as he nurses. He is completely at peace, happy and calm as he drifts off into dreamland. Also, my son rarely ever cries….I have to believe it’s because he knows that when he is hungry, he will be fed, when he needs comforting he will be held and that he can depend on us to be there for him.

  84. oh my … :-)
    i think everybody have to go their own way.

    my little boy is 17month – i rock him to sleep and by now he mostly sleeps through the night.
    He has got his own crib and I take him in our bed if he is ill or sleeps very poorly.

    funny thing – if he is in child day care – they put him down together with all the other kids and he falls asleep without any problems. after this happened i was totally relaxed because i know he could fall asleep alone if neccesairy…

    i think that baby needs are the most important thing, i don’t care if i only sleep for some little hours during the night because he has got any problems.
    i feel to sacrifice and to devote to my boys needs are naturally within me.

    i wanted the child for the child and not to have my sleep/power/time/whatever back.

  85. I would also love to know what worked for you in terms of napping as my 4 month old daughter has been a champion evening sleeper for two months but her naps are a different story. If she doesn’t get a quality 45-60 minute nap in the morning, she’s a mess for the rest of the day, particularly between 4-7pm. She was 6 weeks early so I’ve been hesitant to let her CIO since she’s still so small (12 lbs).

  86. This is such an emotional issue, and like most things parenting related, people tend to get really defensive about their choices. I think every kid is different and you can’t expect all babies to respond to the same sleeping patterns or techniques. My son is a really tough sleeper. He’s never fallen asleep without some assistance, and at times has even cried for up to an hour while be held. Cry it out was just never an option for us. I couldn’t put my son or my family through it. We live in a 1 bedroom apartment, so there is no way to shut the door and ignore him, since we sleep in the same room. And he has never slept in a crib, he always hated it. We ended up co-sleeping and found that it was the best situation for all of us, as it maximizes everyone’s sleep. My son is 17 months old and still wakes up once or twice a night, but just rolls over and cuddles with my husband or nurses with me and everyone falls right back to sleep. We certainly don’t sleep as well as we did pre-baby, but we all sleep enough. And I’ve come to love co-sleeping. I work full time and am away from my son all day, so I really enjoy the all night cuddle session.

  87. Listening to your baby cry is hard. Bedtime can be so hard. I agree with sleep training because the parents do need sleep too. I remember at one point we had to adjust my little girl’s bed time. She was about a year and a half old at that point. After 2 weeks of her waking up at 4 and being almost impossible to get back to sleep, I was exhausted and convinced something was wrong. The doc said she probably needed less sleep. We started putting her to bed an hour later, and she slept much later. Every child is different, so learning different techniques to try until you find what works for your family is so very beneficial.

  88. This is a great post and really encouraging. My little one Olivia is about to be 1 in a month and since a few weeks ago was sleeping very well and had a regular bedtime. We went on vacation and now her schedule is all messed up. Ive been trying to get us back into a normal sleep schedule, but it seems that she just keeps going to bed later and later and it is driving my husband and myself nuts. It has been great to read all the relies so that we can try this and hope it works.

  89. Such a hot topic for so many parents. I have literally seen hate blogs that rally against this method…like, they will kill you (not you specifically). I on the other hand LOVE it! I think it’s so healthy for everyone. It not only helps with sleeping, I think it helps give parents and kids a taste of independence. I know a woman that refuses to let her child “suffer” and the end result is that she suffers every night and her now 3 year old has never (no seriously, never) slept longer than 3 hours.

    As Americans, we have totally let our children take over our entire lives and it doesn’t have to be that way. So thank you for bravely sharing!

  90. i think using the word excruciating to describe hearing your baby fussing is a bit of an exaggeration. it’s not as though your child is sick or hungry.

  91. I used the book Baby Wise and started a sleep routine when my boy was 2 weeks old. It worked really well for us. He started sleeping through the night at 7 weeks. Now at 4 months, he’s still sleeping strong.