A post that a blogger friend of mine wrote about “The Great CIO Debate” got me thinking about some things.
As many of you know I did use the CIO (cry it out) method with Little Bug. When I think of my experience with the CIO method I think the words sleep training more accurately describe what I did with Little Bug.
I think the general public associates letting your baby cry it out with a baby screaming bloody murder in the crib for hours to the point of possibly vomiting from being so upset.
When I think of sleep training I think of a baby who is cat-napping all day long and who constantly wakes in the night needing to be soothed back to sleep. Here is a baby who just needs to be taught how to go to sleep and stay asleep. And one way to teach baby is to use the CIO Method.
And yes, good sleeping habits must be taught. Why wouldn’t they? We have to teach (train) our children in every other area of their life, why wouldn’t we need to train them to have good sleeping habits as well?
Think about this for a minute with me. A baby is not born saying “please and thank you” on their own. Just this morning Little Bug started whining for more toast at breakfast. It was an ornery whine, not polite at all and not the way I want my daughter to ask for more food at the table. Here was an opportunity to teach her some manners. So I said, “Little Bug, that is not how you ask Mommy for more toast. You say ‘More please.’” Little Bug stopped the whining and said, “Psss.” – her way of saying “Please”! Manners must be taught.
Babies aren’t born knowing how to use the potty. It must be taught! Babies aren’t born knowing how to read. It must be taught! Babies aren’t born knowing how to be responsible and honest. It must be taught! And the list could go on and on, but I will stop there.
Now enters the question, Why teach a baby to have good sleeping habits?
Right after Little Bug was born and I was on a book reading frenzy to read all about babies so I would know how to care for Little Bug (by the way, I stopped doing that pretty quickly because it was too overwhelming), I came across several books and articles on the internet that explained the sleep cycles of a baby and informed readers how important uninterrupted sleep is to the growth and development of infants. (Now looking back on my book reading frenzy, the information I got about a baby’s sleep cycle is probably the most helpful information I could have read at that time!)
It was so enlightening to read and learn about a baby’s sleep cycle. It helped me understand what Little Bug was doing so much. I learned that a baby goes through light sleep and then transitions to deep sleep every 40-45 minutes while sleeping. This is why it is not uncommon for a baby to wake after sleeping for only 40-45 minutes if they have not be taught how to transition themselves into the deep sleep cycle without needing assistance. Plus, just like adults wake several times in the night (but may not even be aware of doing so!), babies wake in the night too. Adults know how to roll over and go back to sleep. Babies can learn to do the same too.
Now lets go back to the “CIO Method” verses the “Sleep Training” word usage. Yes, I do realize they are virtually the same thing.
Babywise makes a profound statement. It goes something like this: Start as you mean to go. Many of the sleep issues parents encounter stem from starting something with baby that eventually grows into something more instead of starting sleep training.
Let me explain using my experiences with Little Bug.
I’m not saying don’t ever use any kind of sleep prop like the paci, swing, vibrating bouncy seat. Little Bug used all of these during those “survival mode” weeks. In my opinion those weeks don’t count. I know that Babywise suggests you start sleep training right away. I didn’t start sleep training my 2 week old infant, but I knew, even when she was 2 weeks old that I would sleep train her eventually.
So how did I know when??
Little Bug had been napping well. I would lay her down on her tummy on a blanket on the floor with her paci. I would, of course, stay right with her while she napped because she was on her tummy. For a couple weeks, that was our naptime routine and it worked well.
It wasn’t long and Little Bug started waking after only 40-45 minutes into the nap. I noticed that if I stuck the paci back in her mouth, she would go back to sleep and finish the nap.
Actually this was great on a short-term level. I got her to finish the nap, but she relied on that paci-insert mid-nap to finish the nap and she was not getting that valuable uninterrupted sleep.
Start as you mean to go. I knew if I started inserting the paci, I would be taking something invaluable away from Little Bug: The ability to put herself to sleep and stay asleep.
If I started paci-inserts for naps it would only be a matter of time before paci-inserts would be needed in the middle of night multiple times. Before I knew it, I’d have a baby on my hands that does not know how to get to sleep and stay asleep without paci-inserts mid-sleep cycles. Which would lead to much interrupted sleep of both baby and myself!
I knew it was time to sleep train Little Bug.
She was exactly 15 weeks old when I knew the time was right for both of us.
That is key. Timing is everything. YOU as mom have to be ready and baby needs to be ready too.
I knew if letting her cry it out was going to work I couldn’t pick her up in the middle of the crying or else it would take that much longer for her to learn.
Little Bug was already on a good eat/wake/sleep cycle. Before the next nap I fed her well, made sure she had a clean diaper and waited for those sleepy signs so that Little Bug would be at an optimal time for a nap.
It took Little Bug about 50 minutes of crying to go to sleep on day one of sleep training. With every nap after that, the crying was drastically less and less. Within a couple weeks Little Bug was going to sleep with no crying at all.
(Now, don’t go thinking Little Bug’s naps were perfect from then on out, because they were not.)
I am confident that we never had to reach the blood curdling cries and crying till you vomit because I started sleep training at precisely the right time for Little Bug and me.
If I had continued paci-inserts, saying, “I’ll sleep train her later, when she is older.” the problem would have just snowballed and gotten bigger and bigger and harder and harder to resolve.
I’ve never tried to sleep train a 1 year old, but based on my experience with sleep training a 3 month old, I would say it is WAY HARDER to sleep train the 1 year old.
Because the one year old has been trained (whether mom realizes it or not) to need her breast, bottle, paci (or whatever is being used to get baby back to sleep) to get back to sleep only for the cycle to repeat itself an hour or two or three later. You end up with a baby and mother who do not get that precious uninterrupted sleep at night and a baby who does not nap long (or at all) during the day.
Sleep training the one year old is possible (so I’ve heard), but sleep training before reaching the point of first training your baby to need something to sleep is so much easier on everyone.
Sleep training is HARD WORK, no matter the age!! But it is so worth it.
I attribute my pediatrician’s comments that Little Bug is “advanced” and all the comments I get from people about Little Bug being so “happy, curious and alert” to the fact that Little Bug gets the uninterrupted sleep she needs every day. (Not to say that all babies who aren’t sleep trained are dumb, just to clarify! My husband apparently didn’t sleep for the first 9 months of his life and he is one of the smartest people I know.)
Parenting is tough. It is hard work. To me, sleep training has taken away some of the stress of parenthood. My baby is well-rested and I am well-rested and, on those hard days, that in and of itself, is what has probably made all the difference in the world!
Think about yourself for a minute. Remember the last time you were sleep-deprived and exhausted to the point you felt you could just crash and sleep for days. Your mind isn’t as sharp, you can’t process things well and even the smallest things can make you emotional and upset. But if you are well-rested you are alert on the job and something may happen that if you were tired would make you go off the deep end, but if you are rested you are better able to process and deal with the issue at hand.
Why would it be any different for babies?? Babies need uninterrupted sleep! It is a skill they must be taught. When is entirely up to the parent to decide. How is entirely up to the parent to decide. CIO is not the only way to sleep train your child.
Bottom line is this: You have to do what is best for you and your baby. You can’t just do what I say I did with Little Bug and be fine because you are not me and Little Bug isn’t your baby! You can’t do what your mom or anyone else tells you to do. You HAVE to do what you feel is right and the best thing for you and your baby. If sleep training is the answer, start now! The older baby is the harder it is going to be to sleep train. If constant night waking is okay with you because you know it is only for a season and your 10 year old won’t be waking you up in the night, then … (man, I feel for you). But seriously, one day you won’t have a baby waking you up in the night because they will be off at college and these sleep-deprived days will be a distant memory.
I feel my blogger friend’s pain as she is trying to figure out what to do about sleep training, CIO and everything else that comes along with it! Many hesitate to let baby CIO (even for that one 50 minute CIO session Little Bug had) because they are afraid they are going to harm the baby in some way.
I could write an entire post on that I’m sure, but since this post is already an eternity long I am going to sum it up in this way: Done responsibly, I don’t feel letting baby CIO for the purposes of sleep training is harmful to baby. Let me define responsibly.
I believe doing CIO responsibly means you lay baby down for a nap when you are 100% sure that baby is 1) showing sleepy signs and is ready for a nap, 2) has been fed and you are 100% sure that if baby cries when laid down he/she isn’t crying from hunger, pain, sickness, 3) baby has a clean diaper. If there was even a slight possibly that any of those factors could be playing into Little Bug’s crying 1) the CIO session would never begin or 2) Little Bug would be retrieved from the crib and her need would be met.
Following these rules/guidelines I always felt confident that the crying would not harm Little Bug because all other needs were met and she just needed to go to sleep. It was what was best for her. She was tired. Catnaps didn’t cut it for her. She would wake up grumpy after only a 45 minute nap. After sleep training and she learned to keep herself asleep for the duration of the nap, Little Bug would wake up so happy. Did I like hearing her cry? Absolutely not. Like I said, parenting isn’t easy. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t like because it is what is best for our child. (I am not saying CIO is what is best for your child! I am saying that I knew CIO was best for MY child, so I had to let her do it, even though it was hard to hear her cry.)
And really, the only way a baby has to communicate is to cry. If she could have talked to me about our sleep training process, our conversation might have gone something like this:
Little Bug: Mama, I really don’t want to be in this crib right now!!!
Me: I know, Little Bug. But you are sleepy and you need to take a nap. It is what is best for you. When you wake up Mama will hold you and rock you and love on you all you want! Go to sleep now and take your nap! See you when you wake up!
Little Bug: But I want you to hold me while I take a nap.
Me: Well, Little Bug, there are times for that. Like at church, when you are so sleepy and just want a nap, but there is no bed for you. Mama holds you then. We are home now and you get your best sleep and rest when you are in your crib! Plus, while you are sleeping Mama is going to go clean the bathrooms and start some laundry so that when you wake up we can eat some lunch and then go swing at the park!
Ok – I know. That “summary” turned into another post! I thought about making this 2 posts but decided to just keep it all together.
So, there you have it. My experiences and opinions about the great CIO debate! It’s just that – my experience and opinions. I do realize you may have entirely different experiences and opinions and that is okay!
Remember: DO WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU AND YOUR BABY!