Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Want a good night’s sleep? Let the baby cry

Fast asleep on me when he should be in his cot!

This is the headline on the front page of the Telegraph today and while it inevitably will re-open the age old argument of Gina Ford vs. attachment parenting I wanted to share our experiences with Matilda and Henry when it comes to sleep habits. Besides I don’t think anyone truly fits into a category so why do we constantly try and label them as such?

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know the stark differences between Matilda and Henry in the sleeping department, Matilda slept through the night at 12 weeks and since then only has a bad night if she’s either teething or sick. Nap times are easy and now she even asks to go for a sleep and says night night as you leave. Henry on the other hand at 7 months is only just sleeping for more than 3 hours at a time and wakes up 2-3 times a night. Nap times normally involve rocking him to sleep in his push chair or simply going out for a walk or drive as fail safe ways to get him to sleep.

We’re reaching the point now with Henry where we’re trying different things to get him to sleep a bit longer and more importantly be able to resettle himself in the night if he wakes and isn’t hungry. The article mentions that ‘wakers’ tended to be boys and also breastfed. Well our very small sample of 2 matches that perfectly with Matilda bottle fed from 3 weeks and Henry still being breastfed at 7 months.

On a dog walk in his carrier, yet another tactic to get him to nap

But is this really precise cause and effect? Probably not but if a baby like Henry is used to be comforted and falling asleep while being breastfed does this make it more likely that they won’t sleep as well? Or is it simply a result of him being no.2 and therefore we have less time to really focus on keeping routines etc? We have regular bath and meals times but to a certain extent he has to fit in with Matilda also, that’s inevitable.

My personal view on parenting is that at some point a child has to be able to fall asleep without being rocked to sleep. They of course need to feel comfortable and safe enough to do this. For me the age to do this is when they start becoming too heavy to rock if only for the health of the parent, but also it probable is a reasonable sign of their age. Part of my back problems after Matilda was born was from the time spent rocking her and lifting her in and out of her cot and Henry already weighs as much as her despite being 13 months younger.

In contrast to Matilda fast asleep on our bed as a little baby while the hair dryer is on!

If done in the right way I don’t see this as cruel, far from it. With Matilda once she reached an age where we thought it was time for her to be able to resettle herself we did a very short period of controlled crying. It took 2 nights of about 30 minutes and from then on we could put her in her cot awake and she’d fall asleep give or take a few bed time challenges. Now a year or so later she normally spends 20 minutes chatting away to herself in her cot before going to sleep. Hardly the sign of an unhappy child is it?

But what do you think? Have you seen a difference in your children between those that were breast fed and those that were bottle fed? How did you make the transition from rocking them to sleep to letting them fall asleep in their cots by themselves? Or if you co-sleep how does that night time routine work for you? If you’re children are a bit older now do you think the sleep routine you established in that first year have had an impact on how they sleep now?

Really interested in your perspectives here.

  • http://twitter.com/mabuzzer Richy Black

    Our two have been great sleepers pretty much from day one, which is something we’re very grateful for. That said, Heather was plagued by night terrors, and would wake up crying every night between 10 and 10.30. It rarely lasted more than a minute or so, before she was back off to sleep, and from what we read there was nothing we could do about it. It’s definitely eased off in the last year or so, but she’s still liable to wake up crying once or twice a week.

    None of that from Megan, who’s one of the most content babies/toddlers I’ve come across where sleep is concerned.

    Both are girls, and both were bottle-fed from early on – interesting that this fits well with the Telegraph article.

    Of course, we have to be very careful when talking about this with other parents – folks surviving on 20 minutes nap time a day don’t need to hear how wonderful ours are and how much sleep we get. No-one likes a smug git :)

    • http://mutteringsofafool.com/ Ben

      you do have to be careful not to be smug don’t you? I’m sure it’s no more than a coincidence that yours fit the research but you never know do you?

  • Corinne

    All mine are boys and they were all very different, though all breastfed. My eldest (now nearly 14) quickly got into a routine and still sleeps well, he always slept in his own cot. My 2nd (3 years old) sometimes co-slept but was mostly in his own cot, once he slept through the night we did controlled crying for the next 2 nights as we knew he could do it. He also sleeps very well now and happily goes to bed at night and usually has an afternoon nap too. The youngest at 18 months co-slept until about 6 months, but I always tried to put him down during the day for a nap, but he was mostly attached to me feeding for the first 6 months of his life. We didn’t leave him to cry, he went from sleeping with us to his own cot gradually, we would move him into his cot for increasing lengths of time until it was all through the night. I wonder if my boys just really like sleep?

    As I’ve got older and had more children I’ve got more relaxed about things I suppose, but have also steadily taken gentler ways of dealing with things and that has made my own life easier. I simply believe all children are different but I also think it’s good to encourage good sleeping habits while they’re babies, not rigid routines but self settling if they can from about 6 months. Personally that just felt like the age where I was ready to get more sleep myself!

    • http://mutteringsofafool.com/ Ben

      Clearly just very happy and content boys :) Absolutely agree on the importance of getting a routine established early, we had a regular bed/bath routine but wonder if we’ve let Henry slip and bit?

  • http://twitter.com/SonyaCisco sonya

    Oh gosh I wish I had an answer to the sleep question! I am on number three child- first one was always a good sleeper, second one I did a little controlled crying at 7 months, it was a quick and not be painful solution and he has slept well ever since, number three is an absolute pickle- have tried all sorts and he still doesn’t sleep at 16 months- or rather he sleeps on New York time. From 11 til 8.30 he sleeps solidly, it nothing works in attempting an earlier night! Oh well, I assume in the end he will sleep….

    • http://mutteringsofafool.com/ Ben

      it really is the million dollar question isn’t it? At least your third one does sleep for a block, much better than going to bed early but then waking up :)

  • http://twitter.com/a_round_tuit Mum to two beauts

    I found this interesting. My first baby J (boy) was breastfed until 2 and a half years and co slept with us. He never slept more than 3 hours for that whole 2 and a half years and would wake just to breastfeed. My second baby R (girl) was bottle fed and co slept and slept through at 9 months….only one wake up from about 4 month though, so very different to J.
    Now J is 4 and R is 21 months. Our bedtime is a little different but it works for us. I take them both upstairs and rock R to sleep whilst J looks at his bedtime story books. Once R is asleep she goes in cot (next to our bed) and I read to J then lay with him until he falls asleep (in our bed). R will then wake and come into bed with us around midnight but other than that they both sleep through until morning. It only takes about 40 minutes to do this and both are asleep by 7.30 every night. I have never done controlled crying as its just not for me, and what we do works, which I think is what is important in any family. There are no right or wrong ways in my book, just whatever needs to be done to ensure parents and babies all have a good nights sleep.
    Sorry for long reply just thought I would offer a different perspective

    • http://mutteringsofafool.com/ Ben

      Thanks for sharing, I really appreciate it. Interesting to hear from someone who has a very different approach. Agree on your sentiment though that there is no right or wrong, unfortunately seems to be the point normally forgotten in these debates where people think that their way is ‘right’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aidinhaleal Aida Leal

    my boy was a really good sleep until around 3 and a half months when things went down hill. Everyone told me to let him cry but in my mind the cry is his only way to communicate with me and if I let him cry then I’m not listening to him. I know attachment parenting has a similar view but that doesn’t mean I carry my boy with me at all times or jump to every sound he makes. There is a difference between CRY and WHINE. With my little guy I find that all things being well he sets himself to sleep no problem but gets really sensitive if there’s anything going on – i.e. the ear infection that lasted for month and a half so far – he will probably need rocking, feeding to sleep and our newest experiment, co-sleep but we only do that as a last resource and usually early morning for a lay in as I don’t find particularly comfortable sleeping with the little one in our bed.

    • http://mutteringsofafool.com/ Ben

      agree on the co-sleep just can’t get on with it, doesn’t work for us. There is definitely a difference in the cries, sometimes we get what sounds like a cry but you go in and it stops immediately and there are no tears so clearly just to get your attention.

  • http://www.bump2basics.com/ Tanya (Bump2Basics)

    Ben! I have such a similar story to you and blogged about it here – http://bump2basics.com/2012/09/06/go-to-sleep/. The comments were varied and all food for thought.

    Like everything with parenting everyone has a view and I am an information gatherer but my advice is to go with your gut re what will work for Henry and your family.

    My first was breastfed (a girl) and a great sleeper. No issues whatsoever. I was spoiled and did not know it until LMM (#2, a boy, also breastfed).

    We ended up trying controlled crying (he was at the 5 month mark) and within two days of no more than 10 minutes of crying (so similar to your situation with Matilda) he started sleeping through bar two breastfeeds and within a couple of weeks the middle of the night feed dropped too.

    I felt really conflicted doing the controlled crying and saw it as taboo. But I also felt in my heart he was not waking for comfort, he was waking because he didn’t know how to settle himself. All my attempts to comfort him had not worked and I was getting to my wits end. Several months on he is sleeping through.

    I don’t think there is a one fits all answer. I know people who have co-slept for a couple of years and then their kids went on to be great sleepers. Personally Chris and I tried to promote independence when going to bed (with LLC this was just settling her in her own bed, quite easy, with LMM this ultimately resulted in controlled crying) but when LMM was initially sleeping poorly I tried co-sleeping, rocking, the whole nine yards and it wasn’t working. Good luck, I hope you guys get more sleep soon.

    • http://mutteringsofafool.com/ Ben

      Thanks for commenting, agree on everyone being different but it’s great getting other perspectives isn’t it?
      This week we’ve managed to get him to fall asleep by himself without rocking which is a step in the right direction. I really think they need to learn that skill so that it helps them go back to sleep at night.
      Let’s see if he now sleeps a bit longer at night :)

  • Square Sparrow

    Our experiences were similarly varied in the sleep department. Daughter No1 didn’t sleep through a single night till she was four years old, and we were utterly exhausted. Once, a friend who was visiting for a few days insisted we tried “controlled crying”. After nearly an hour of listening to the extreme screaming from her bedroom next door, I could bear it no more and went to find that our toddler daughter had smashed her face against the bars of her cot so violently that she had cut her lips and nose. There was blood everywhere! Holding her out in front of me, as if she was some sort of exhibit, I transported her through to our sitting room, presented her to our visitor and said: “I don’t think this is going to work for us.” The family GP soothed us with tales that such poor sleeping can often be a sign of intelligence. I have to confess that his platitudes didn’t make her sleep-starved parents feel one whit better at the time, but (ironically!) she is now a student at Oxford.

    • http://mutteringsofafool.com/ Ben

      4 years?! Wowsers not fun. We’ve done pick up, put down rather than controlled crying. You can tell if they are properly crying or just moaning, it it’s proper crying then 5-10mins would be my max I think

  • http://www.circusqueen.co.uk/ Adele Jarrett-Kerr

    I only have personal experience of parenting one and she has gone through times of sleeping well and times of sleeping, well, in a way that did not suit me. I figure it’s all a journey and I’m find with going through different phases and stages. My husband also has a bad back and thankfully doesn’t have to jiggle her like he used to. Now a daddy cuddle pretty much does it. Other than that, I breastfeed her lying down and we all go back to sleep. I am personally opposed to any form of cry it out for us but this may be partly because I honestly don’t think it would work with my daughter and because though we’ve had rough times, we’re all pretty happy with the way things generally are.

    • http://mutteringsofafool.com/ Ben

      Hey Adele – thanks for commenting, we find with Matilda that a bad night always means teething so just go straight for the Calpol now. Interestingly we try and cuddle her to sleep but after a couple mins she is fidgeting and asking to go back in her cot :)

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