Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hmm... So This Is What's Happened Next

In my last post, after being exhausted, at the end of my tether, out of solutions to lull my baby to sleep, and bitten on the boob twice, I let my baby cry it out.  Well, it was controlled crying, really.  I went back in and tried to comfort her without getting her up out of the cot a couple of times.

Thank you to all the wonderful mums who have offered me their suggestions and support.  It has been lovely to have so many people care.

Here is what I know about me and my baby.  I cannot stress enough that I am not talking about your baby or your beliefs, which I am not trying to judge:

  • I believe different babies have different sleep needs - meaning they need different total amounts of sleep, and also that they have different levels of rhythmicity (meaning some love a very predictable routine while others have a more dynamic pattern).  There is nothing wrong with a baby sleeping 12 hours a day if that's what suits them, or sleeping less one day then catching up with more sleep the next, regardless of what 'experts' like Tizzie Hall say.  However, below 11 hours is not just abnormal, it's likely to be unhealthy.  I believe this based on reading large longitudinal studies of what is 'normal' sleep, and studies on when sleep deprivation actually does have an impact on brain development.  There are probably some babies who can live on less than 11 hours, and if mine seemed happy and alert I probably still wouldn't worry - but she's not.  
  • My baby has been sleeping badly for over 3 weeks now, in that she has been sleeping very little and seems sleepy when she wakes - often yawning and rubbing her eyes.  I think sleep deteriorated because of the cyclone, a cold, and teething (and possibly crawling too, though we were really past that).   However, these things have passed.  I think what has happened now is that her internal sleep regulation system thinks that she needs less sleep than she really does.
  • To further complicate matters, through these difficult weeks I have fed her to sleep almost every time.  I don't regret it.  She was unnerved / in pain etc and she needed soothing.  But now she nearly always requires boob to settle, and even that isn't always cutting it.  She's overfull and distressed till she throws up.
  • I believe my baby needs about 12-13 hours sleep a day, and that she doesn't stick to a rigid routine but is happy to go with a little less sleep one day and make it up the next.  I believe this because prior to all this disruption, she was quite happy sleeping in that way.  She settled super quick (like, less than 5 min, when she was tired with rocking / patting / feeding etc. without distress), and any attempts to make her bedtimes earlier just had her awake earlier too.  I think she needs about 10 hours at night and about 2 hours during the day.
  • I have tried every gentle method.  Rocking, walking, patting, shushing, putting her in a stroller, in the car, feeding her to sleep.  Many of these used to work.  Some never worked.  And some still work some of the time, but now there are often times when nothing works.  When they don't work, she just seems to not sleep and get overtired.
  • She hates slings for anything longer than a short period of time.  I have an ergo, a comfy carry, and a hugabub - for a short while I think they help if she wants to be near me, then she gets uncomfortable and squirms and cries till I let her out.
  • I don't think screaming herself to sleep in a stroller or carseat is any more gentle than screaming herself to sleep in a cot.  Sometimes she goes to sleep happily with movement, but this is often not the case.
  • I honestly don't think my baby would be cued by a long and complicated routine, but she has started to recognise familiar rituals.  For example, we live in an apartment and every time I get in the lift I narrate the doors opening and closing, pressing the buttons, moving down (or up) the floors, and getting out at the bottom.  She doesn't cotton on what's happening till we actually get in the lift, but as soon as I start the narration she can't stop grinning.  She grins like this too when I show her pictures of her dad and I, but not for other pictures.  So, she does like small, familiar rituals.
  • I believe attachment is important, and that letting a baby cry is counter to attachment principles.  Regardless of whether it 'works', there are risks attached.  I think the risk varies from baby to baby, and depending on the parenting style and home environment overall.
  • I don't think many babies really have sleep problems that cause a problem for them as opposed to a problem for the parents.  The percentage of babies who have persistent sleep problems is actually very small <10%.  The idea that you have to train your baby to sleep or they will grow up to be an insomniac is rubbish, and most babies happily grow out of sleep inconveniences by the time they are 3 years old.  However, different babies cause different levels of havoc, and different parents are up for tolerating different levels of stress.  Most of us don't live in communes where you can share the sleep deprivation and baby care around.  I know I don't.
  • I think my going back to work is disrupting her.  But I am also not prepared to resign my job so that I can be with her to help her sleep.  Firstly, I'm not even 100% sure that would help.  And secondly, I have managed to get an arrangement where I'm only working 2 days a week and she is looked after by her Granny (who is very loving to her).  This arrangement may take some getting used to, but it is a very healthy arrangement.  I am even still coming home at lunch to feed her.
  • I am happy to do multiple night wakings, co-sleep, spend time soothing and settling baby, and fight with other people (including my husband) who try and tell me to be 'tougher'.
  • But I am not happy to let my baby struggle on for weeks when she is obviously so tired she is unhappy, when I can't help her with gentler methods, when she's biting me on the boob if I comfort feed, and in pain and throwing up. 
  • I don't believe in the distressed cry / just protesting cry theory - at least not from the baby's perspective, although it does help parents feel a bit better about cc.  I'm sorry if this is what you believe but I honestly don't think there's a shred of evidence to support it.  According to this theory the baby is only really distressed when they make that screaming cry they do when they're in acute physical pain (you've heard it when they get their injections), but other times they're just chucking a tanty.  I don't believe it.  Sure they get upset over seemingly inconsequential things, but to them, the feelings are still devastating and they don't have the higher brain power to rationalise those things or put them in perspective.  I think they're genuinely distressed whatever kind of cry they're doing, although if they're doing the screaming acute pain cry I would be worried about their safety if you left them to it.
  • Being left alone to cry can work for a couple of reasons.  It can break a sleep association and the babies learn self-soothing habits.  It can activate the right frontal brain which puts babies into 'withdrawal' mode.  And it can teach babies that crying is futile because no one's here to help them.  These reasons aren't mutually exclusive.  The first is all good, but the second two are worrying.  (I believe this from doing a lot of research, which you can find in the Factual Info tab).
  • I think we have a genuine classic sleep association problem.  Bethany needs the boob to get to sleep, but she can't always have it because she's already full and more milk is just making her sick, or because I'm not available because I'm at work.
  • Bethany is an active, very stubbornly determined baby.  She's almost never in withdrawal mode.  She's so desperate to be doing things she protests at being strapped into a car seat or stroller.  She doesn't just want to cuddle.  She persists in trying to stand up a thousand times, even when she's tired or it is evident she's in pain.  I am not worried that she is already 'withdrawn' and therefore at risk of developing anxiety / depression from cc.  In fact, I was worried of the opposite - that she would desperately persist in crying for hours - which I would not have allowed, because I would have considered it too traumatic for everyone.
  • I believe cc is potentially damaging to attachment, because you abandon the baby to a traumatic experience - but if it's only done for a short period, and careful care is taken to be responsive to the baby at all other times, you can overcome any damage caused.  I want my baby to learn that I'm here for her when she's sad, angry, frustrated etc., not just when she's "being good", and that until she's older and can genuinely learn to deal with emotions in healthy ways, I want her to express them so that I know where she's coming from and we can learn to deal with them together.  Bottom line, I want a child who will not be abused by someone in authority because she's desperate to please, who can talk with me about it if she's in trouble without worrying about upsetting me, and who will be respectful of her own needs as well as empathising with others as a teenager and adult.  
  • I do not think doing cc with a baby this young has anything to do with teaching the baby how to respect others limits.  They are barely developing a sense of self, let alone an awareness of who you are or that you have needs.  All they know is that they are unhappy and afraid.  But parents who aren't coping need to set limits that will allow them to cope - and indeed to function optimally for all their parenting experience - since attachment is a 24 hour concept, it does not just apply at sleep time.  That said, my comfort is not really the issue in this particular case.
Having thought all this through, I have decided that we are going to use crying in an effort to teach Bethany to self-settle for sleeps.  I would love to be rocking or cuddling her to sleep but it's just not working for anyone, including her.

This is the bad stuff: She cries for me desperately.  She stands at the edge of the cot and howls (we have a video monitor).  She sounds sad, angry, desperate.  She buries her face into the mattress and sobs.  It's frickin horrible.

This is the good stuff: She has started sleeping properly for day naps, and when she woke up she was smiling a lot more and no longer rubbing at her eyes and yawning.  She also stopped needing resettles between feeds at night.

This is the worrying stuff: It was astonishing how much more placid she was.  Some people might read this as 'good behaviour' or happiness, but I didn't, because she's too young to understand that sort of concept or have much (any?) self-control, and it wasn't about being happier but being passive - so I read it as going into 'withdrawal mode'.  When I offered her my hands she didn't want to pull herself to stand.  She sat listlessly in her stroller and just stared, the way you or I might stare at a TV.

BUT: I gave her lots of cuddles and encouragement, carried her round, encouraged her to explore and interact, and responded to her promptly when she cried out, and she soon became more energised and active.

An anticipated but unwelcome side effect: She become scared of her cot.  I made a point of taking her in there to play a lot with me until she was happy in there again.  I also practiced our bed-time ritual with a teddy, so she could become familiar with the words in a non-threatening setting.

It's gone like this (I think - I haven't written down the times but I have been watching a clock): 25 min crying morning nap, 20 min crying when she woke after 30 min and I left her there to re-settle, 15 min crying afternoon nap, 25 min crying evening sleep, fed and co-slept through the night (4 feeds - co-sleeping feeds are all kind of like dream feeds), 12 min crying morning nap, accidentally fed to sleep at lunch, slept in stroller evening nap, 12 min crying night sleep, fed and co-slept through the night (3 feeds), 10 min crying morning nap.  I think there was an extra feed the first night because I hadn't fed her to sleep and she was hungry, whereas the second night she did a big feed, but just got put down awake.

So overall, I feel that doing this is unpleasant but that she's coping well and I'm able to address the side effects.

So far...


  1. I know you haven't rushed into this and you have done heaps of research. I don't want to criticise you or rock the system if its working for you, but my gut reaction was it might be a little confusing for baby to be cc during the day and cosleep at night. Some babies (not all I know all babies are different) sleep better at night. It could be that bub is waking for night feeds because your breasts are right there. Would you consider sleeping her in the cot at night. When she wakes pick her up, cuddle her, feed her, but do it in her room and when she falls asleep again put her in her cot again? That way she will learn you will respond to her but she has to stay in her room. After a few nights she might sleep through feeds and if she is not overtired she might sleep better (or be happier with less sleep) during the day. Is this something you could try or is cosleeping really important to you?

  2. Oh, another reason why crying puts babies to sleep is that its physically EXHAUSTING! after crying baby probably feels warn out like adults do. Are you giving her plenty of water to compensate for the tears? She might feel unwell, dehydrated and hot after waking, a drink of water might help her be back to her playful self. Sorry to seem nosey, but this is all from my first hand experience.
    Also, is she getting enough solids? At one stage my baby wanted repeated breast feeds and was throwing up. The doc suggesting feeding her more solids incase she really was hungry but too much milk was making her sick. These days pretty much everytime I breastfeed my daughter she goes to sleep. She is older though and it mightn't work for you. Just some more things for you to think about if you are still unhappy with cc. Ofcourse now I'm trying to wean her I have to learn how to get her to sleep other ways. So maybe you are better off doing this now

  3. Hi Mother Experiment,

    My husband and I discussed the exact issue of consistency and decided it was better to keep the overnight feeds and co-sleeping. She eats so much at night (about half her daily food intake, I'd say) that she would be starving. Then she probably would scream for hours and she wouldnt be learning to self-settle when tired. She'd be learning we don't come even when she really needs us and screams for hours. Or we would go in there to stop her and make the whole thing worse by being inconsistent. The difference with night feeds is she doesn't completely wake up at night. I get to her within moment of her whimpering and she never opens her eyes. As we have separate mattresses, I think I'm far enough away she doesn't have milk smell right in her face, but I'm close enough that neither if us have to come right awake to do a night feed. So far this seems not to cause a problem. I think that it's good I can still give her those extra cuddles and closeness through the night.

    She gets water and boob on demand when awake. I offer her solids but am afraid she's one of those babies who insist on doing solids themselves. I don't see this as a bad thing - this is normal for about 20% of babies. She'll eat once she learns the skills - she does eat all ready, just not very much. So filling her up with solids is not an option. I don't mind a bit of reflux and neither does she, but the trying-to-get-to-sleep-by-sucking-then-crying-throwing-up-crying-sucking-some-more-repeat was not making anyone happy.

    Yeah, I don't think the crying per se is exhausting her to the point of sleep. The time of crying is too short.

  4. i would ust like to say well done i like that you have researched this, i used CC sucessfully for 2/3 of my babies, i also co slept of a night time while BF, i live by a pretty simple rule, we all need sleep so you do what you have to do, the CC will calm down,unfortunatly not all baies get that when they are tired they need sleep, i would have to say patting and rocking a baby is the worse habit i ever done, try hauling a 2 yo around in the newborn position lol, i have a 6,5 and 2 yo uthat go to bed when are told (mostly) all sleep in their own beds, the only tip i can give is, to make sure she is/has well fed, clean bum, not too hot or cold,had lots of cuddles and kisses and been told its time to go to sleep mummy/addy will see you when you wake up, so you know she physically doesnt want anyhting so its more of a tantrum, i used to imagine my 3rd and rather demanding son stomping his feet in his cot saying "im not going to sleep in this horrible cot all by myself" i want my mummy's bed and boobies, and i demand to be let out" because its basically what they are doing protesting becuase they are not getting what they want or are use too, and then when she wakes lots of praise and cuddles again, good luk with it there are no right or wrong answers for parenting, and f anyone ever finds a super mummy can you send he rover to mine to do a load of washing lol

  5. Yep cool. You have definitely thought this all through. Sorry if I came across as condescending, just thought I'd mention in case you were too tired to have thought about them, coz I do miss a lot when I'm exhausted. All the best

  6. General update: She noticeably slept a lot more today. She woke at 7ish and I saw her rubbing her eyes at 8.20. I thought maybe it was a bit early, but she seemed tired so I got her into bed quickly. The crying was not only shorter (10 min) but sounded less upset - at one point she actually stopped and bounced up and down (she was sitting up) and chatted to herself. She slept for an hour and a half. Then she did half an hour when she fell asleep in the car round 12.30. I waited parked for her to wake up, but when I got her out she was still sleepy and out of sorts for some hour or so, then she perked up.

    I think I missed her next set of tired signs because I wasn't watching her but doing things around the house while my sister played with her. I only clued in when she bumped her head (not very hard) and after crying the normal amount became overly emotional. I soothed her and got her into bed, but then she was REALLY unhappy. I ended up going back in after 10 minutes and patting her - I was only going to do it for a minute or so but then she fell asleep while I was doing it. It was pretty awful when I walked in though - big wet patches on the sheets from her tears, and she still seemed pretty tired when she woke half an hour later.

    Finally, tonight she seemed tired much earlier than her usual bedtime - but I think she perhaps has sleep to catch up on. Normally she goes to bed round 9ish. Tonight I had her in bed just before 8. She seemed tired and she went to sleep pretty quickly, stopping and starting with grizzling rather than screaming / sobbing. I did stroke her gently for about a minute before I left the room this time.

    @ The Mother Experiment - I didn't find it condescending! Thanks for your input.

    @ aussiebummummy - cc and co-sleeping combined is not your typical combo, I imagine, so it's encouraging to hear that it's fitted together ok for someone else.

  7. I would like to say that those times she's taking to get to sleep on her own are FANTASTIC. Good on Bethany and good on you. In the next couple of days I bet you'll be able to tell us that she went to sleep without one peep (not for every sleep, but one every now and again.)

  8. General update: She slept till about 11.30 fed and co-slept till 2.30, then fed again at 4am. At about 6am she woke up and seemed kind of awake. I fed her and she went back to sleep. After about 10 min she sat up in bed but then lay back down and put herself back to sleep. I snuck out and got a glass of water. She woke up as I came back in and saw me, so I quickly got back into bed and pretended to be asleep and she lay back down and went to sleep, but then 10 min later or so she woke up again, pointing at the night light and saying 'gah'. I gave her a cuddle and put her down in the cot with out bedtime ritual of giving her her bunny, her elephant, and a cotton wrap and then I hopped back in my bed (in the same room). She made a whingy sound for about 30 seconds then went to sleep. She slept till 8am.

    I on the other hand was awake from 6.30am with a splitting headache, feeling much more tired than usual.

    She seemed pretty happy when she woke up and we cuddled / played etc, but then it wasn't long before she was rubbing her eyes and yawning. This was happening so much that at 8.50 I put her to bed in the cot. At first it went well, she cried out for maybe 5 seconds, then sat up in the cot and chatted to herself, then started trying to lie down and go to sleep. But then at about 9am she started crying / sobbing etc. At about 9.15 I went in and soothed her in the cot, repeating the bedtime ritual so she was calm. Patches of tears everywhere on the sheets. When I left she really screamed and yelled hysterically. She really cried before she crashed out at about 9.35. She only slept 25 min and woke up crying.

    I waited a minute or so to see if she resettled but she continued to cry so I went in and gave her a big hug, carried her round for a bit, then gave her a breastfeed. There were still big wet patches on the sheet when I picked her up. It's very disturbing.

    She stayed awake then happily for a few hours and we went out and about and met a friend for coffee, then came back and played. I've been doing some reading on timing of naps for babies this age - since if you get the timing right you theoretically reduce crying - and there seems a general agreement than if they wake round 7ish, there should be naps round 9ish and 1ish. She was looking a bit tired at about 12.50, so I carried her around for a bit, gave her a big feed and she fell asleep and I put her down in the cot about 1.10pm.

  9. I found that I didn't need to do anything at night in the way of "sleep training". If he woke, I would always feed him, but once his day sleeps improved, so did his night sleep.

    We did wake at 7am and naps at 9am and 1pm and bedtime at 7pm from about 5 months to 9 months with great success. He would have his milk after he woke up from every sleep, and of course before going to bed for the night. With solid foods about an hour after each breast feed (since priority is on breast milk until 1 year of age) I've only just now had to change his nap times at 9.5 months because he seems to be ready for more awake time than that. In our case at least, consistency with the nap times has been extremely helpful, and he generally never cries when put to bed unless there is actually a problem. (I think I am lucky though, and that kind of thing can come down to the individual baby and their personality and individual needs) He has some of those blankies with a head on them and he snuggles up to them and goes to sleep. Its quite sweet to see actually.

  10. I'm so glad for you and Bethany that you stopped (just read your newer post). Maybe it wasn't actual withdrawal she was experiencing - maybe the cumulative effects of stress from the crying at the cot side calling for you.

    Just a thought; have you tried a woven wrap with a high back carry? This way they are up HIGH on your back, can see over your shoulder, and I found that my DD would fall asleep like this even if she wouldn't fall asleep on my back or front in the Ergo. Being higher so she could see over my shoulder until she got sleepy enough to lie her head down would also mean she could rest her head down onto my shoulder, which was probably more comfy that just falling asleep kind of upright in the Ergo.


  11. Do you have a link to the kind of sling you're talking about Rosie, and pref instructions on how you get a baby into one. I have managed to get her into the ergo on my back but she is getting bored and pulling my hair and whinging. I tried a camping baby backpack today but she was a bit small for it and her head flopped to the side when she fell asleep and she got a strap across her nose in a maybe obstruct her airways kind of way so wasn't keen on that yet.

  12. Yes, that's precisely what my DD did on my back in the Ergo unless I was walking briskly outdoors (where she had something to see on both sides at all times!). Try Paulus's SHBC with a wrap at, for a high back carry in a mei tai, and for a double hammock (chunei back carry as it's also known) in a wrap. I recommend an Easycare wrap from - a ~4.2 to 4.6 lenght should do you for a double hammock carry, which is a carry which requires one of the longest wraps, but is very secure. I have a rainbow Easycare. Easycares because they are the most supportive wrap I have tried that is also easy enough to learn to wrap with. Didymos are a fancier wrap but they are harder to get started with. Storchenwiege wraps are bombproof and will last several generations but they are like cardboard when new and can be hard to learn to wrap with. Wrapping looks hard but it's easier done than said - once you have a wrap and a video tutorial and a spotter for the first few times, you'll be off. A mei tai can do a high back carry too as you can see in the above video but they are less versatile, and as many find, less comfy A wrap distrubtes the weight nicely across your whole torso. If you get stuck try joining the Baby Carriers Downunder Google Group, where you will find all the advice you could ever want on just about every single kind of baby carrier you can think of ;)

  13. The Baby Carriers Downunder group also has a nationwide sling loaner's database and fairly regular sling meets in every state :)

    PS another reason for Easycare over other wrap brands - they will last longer than most brands in terms of comfort- I have a Didymos stripes wrap which is not supportive and "give-ey" enough to carry my almost 2 year old anymore when I go for a bushwalk or whatever but my Easycare is still very bouncy and comfy. The Didy stripes was OK until she got to about 1 year old, then it didn't give enough on the shoulders anymore. :) The only Didymos sling I would bother with is a Didymos natural linen indio, but they are not easy to learn how to wrap with :)

  14. Rosie, I did some research and was considering a Bali breeze because they're lighter material. But even that im not sure. It's too hot here to wrap the baby in too many layers of anything, and all the secure back wraps wrap around the baby a few times. I got her in the ergo once for a back carry and she was happy once I clipped on a toy for her to play with, but it's not great for sleeping. Cher head falls back and I can't reach the head support thing to clip it up, and when I got someone to help me it was too tight for her anyway. The next time i tried to get her in the back carry i couldn't work out how to get it quite right and she was very uncomfortable. I think I need someone to help me practice. Yesterday I got her to sleep in one of those $30 strollers and

  15. You can do a high ruck in a short Easycare (3.6m or so) - layer only once over baby. It's just as secure if you do it right - nice big "pocket" for baby's bum to sit into. Mums have been doing rucks and rebozos for thousands of years :) I know people using Easycares in Brisbane. Vatanais are also a hot weather wrap. Takes a bit more practice to get right but I'm sure you are capable :) Ergo head rest - tie a string to each clippy tag and tuck them into your pockets - I have done this... you can also just clip the left side taggy thing to the right side clippy thing and leave the other taggy thing loose. Baby's head usually droops to one side or the other so that should work. It soulnd't be too tight, are you getting her bum well down into the carrier? If you need some help with carriers and wraps etc and how to do it, definitely try a sling meet from Baby Carriers Downunder. It'e free :D To get baby onto back in Ergo, try either the hip scoot (see on YouTube) when Ergo is already on hips and down the back, or else try putting her in Ergo on front, then holding both straps just under her arms tightly and scooting the whole caboodle round to your back. Mucks up your shirt alignment but you can fix after. Secure way to get her on. Easier done than said, like with other things - just try it over a bed with a spotter to help you if anything goes wrong :) I foud it SO liberating to be able to get DD on my back and have her happy - I could do things ten times as fast than if she was grizzling around on the floor and i was constantly distracted -

  16. You can also get mei tais made of Solarveil - a google search will help or look at KeoniSlings, or check out BCD google group, there's heaps of lightweight/holey fabric & properly made mei tais floating around

  17. Rosie, you'll laugh at this. I read your comment and I'd never heard of solarveil, so I googled it. Once I worked out what it was, I started googling for solarveil slings, but I just kept bringing up ring sling after ring sling. I spent hours googling for solarveil mei tais, which as it turns out are very rare, but just kept unearthing ads for ones that were sold months or years ago. Eventually I stumbled on KeoniSlings and have ordered one from Esther. I jumped back on here to check out your note about the Easycares and saw that you had actually mentioned KeoniSlings in the first place. I was feeling very pleased with myself for finding one at all, but am now feeling a little foolish.

    I've looked a bit more into a hot weather wrap. Vatanais and Easycares are recommended, but some people say these are still too hot. Bali Breezes are supposed to be thinner, but because they are thinner, you can't do a ruck and need to put multiple layers round the baby to put them up high on your back. So I'm still working this out.

    I'm getting a bit better at getting her into the Ergo on my back, but it's still hit and miss. She often ends up not aligned properly and then is uncomfortable and cries till I take her out. But it's good when it works properly. I googled Baby Carriers Downunder but they don't seem to have sling meets in Darwin.

  18. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. We are going through the same thing, my baby boy associates boob with sleep, but then overeating, etc. leaving him to cry was something I said I'd never do, but found myself getting so frustrated and exhausted with 45 min of crying while trying to gently ease him off the breast and to sleep. After 6 weeks I finally tried timed crying and altho his daytime naps got easier he started waking every 2 hours at night, which was fine because I want him to know I'm here for him, but it scared me to see that this was his reaction. After a week his night sleeping is getting back to normal and we're just trying to cuddle him even more while awake to keep a strong attachment. It still cuts me up to hear him cry alone, but it's better than a constantly exhausted baby and a stressed mum IMO...