Sleep Training

Mommy’s out there:
I’m new to this parenthood thing and I need some advice & support!  See that little girl on the left?  She needs a Mama who can help her learn to sleep!  Please.

I’m on day three (in a row) of sleep training.  Earlier attempts were failures as I would revert back to rocking Gracie to sleep when she woke for the sixth time of the night at 3am.  For three days now though, I’ve stuck with it.  My method of choice is the “Pick Up/Put Down” strategy from “The Baby Whisperer.”  Have any of you tried it?  With success?

If you’re not familiar with this method, here’s the rundown: when baby cries, you pick her up and hold her in the cradle position for a short time until she stops crying.  You then immediately put baby down, place one hand on her shoulder and rub her back or tummy with the other hand.  As soon as she cries again, you repeat.  The Baby Whisperer says to be patient as the picking up/putting down (along with baby’s crying) can last for an HOUR (or more).  She asserts that this method helps teach the baby to self-soothe while not letting the baby feel abandoned by leaving her to “cry it out.”

So on day three, however, I’m not really seeing a decrease in the amount of time it takes Gracie to fall asleep at bedtime.  Tonight she still cried as badly as she does when she gets her immunization shots – and for a long time.  I felt like my presence almost made it worse as she seemed unable to understand why in the WORLD Mama wasn’t picking her up!  And talk about how painful it is for a parent to see such alligator tears.  All the sleep training sites I’ve found that teach that crying is okay “reassure” me that Gracie isn’t hurting or sad, she’s just angry at me.  Super.  That makes me feel SO much better.

So go ahead and tell me – you won’t hurt my feelings.  Do you see merit in this method of helping my little one??  Did something else work for you that you can tell me about?  Or – are you of the mind that sleep training is for the birds and that I should hunker down in Gracie’s bedroom glider rocking her until she’s in dreamland?

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16 Responses to “Sleep Training”

  1. Kristin Witkowski February 3, 2011 at 4:47 am #

    I do not think you are being cruel here, Kate. But, I completely hear you with the heart wrenching aches of hearing your child cry so fiercely!! My suggestion, if you are interested, would be instead of just holding her until she stops crying and then putting her back down awake, perhaps just rock her a bit until she is groggy. If she is groggy, she may not cry at all (or at least maybe less), but the fact that she is still semi-awake will allow her to notice her surroundings and learn to feel safe falling asleep on her own in her familiar place. Our doctor recommended this to us with Morgan. I began it when she was 3 months old, and by 4 months I could put her in her crib wide awake and she would put herself to sleep with no (or very little) fussing. It was the best thing I ever did with her!! Good luck with whatever you decide… I know it will all eventually work out for you, no matter what method you go with!!

  2. Kristin Witkowski February 3, 2011 at 4:52 am #

    I should also mention that the “groggy” method the doctor suggested to us, she did tell us to leave the room once we put the semi-sleeping baby down. She said that way the baby would not wonder why you were there and not picking him/her up… and instead of focusing on your presense in the room, they would take in their surroundings and learn to find comfort in their crib, toys, mobiles (etc…) that would be there for them each night. And if/when the baby cried, to rock and soothe them, but just try not to let them be completely asleep when you put them in the crib, so that they would learn to do it on their own. Gradually decrease how groggy they are on your own timeline. Good luck!!!

  3. Rebecca February 3, 2011 at 5:37 am #

    I don’t think there is a “one-size-fits-all” sleep solution for any baby, specifically because every baby goes through different stages. My now 11 month old is nursing to sleep, then he wakes once in the night (usually between 1 and 3 am) to nurse back to sleep again. On rare occasions, he sleeps straight through the night. But, now he is working on some teeth and may wake up more frequently. Usually he wants to nurse. I know he’s not adding a feeding, he’s just nursing to soothe. And, that’s okay. I nurse him and he goes back to sleep. There is usually about 2 weeks of “normal” sleep patterns for him, then it seems to change. This pattern has been pretty consistent since he was about 5 or 6 months old. My thinking goes along with the “Dr. Sears” advice: Trust your instincts. Don’t continue with a bad experiment if it isn’t working. If there were some magical formula for sleep, why are there SO many books about infant sleeping out there? I tried sleep training with my 2 and half year old when he was about 5 months old. I did not try it with my second child. Comparably speaking, their sleep patterns have been remarkably similar. What this means to me is, I didn’t need to put myself through the misery of hearing my baby cry in the hopes of getting him to sleep longer stretches. They do it when they’re ready. There are no shortcuts when it comes to raising kids.

  4. Erin February 3, 2011 at 7:05 am #

    When my daughter was 6 weeks old, everyone kept telling me to just let her cry herself to sleep. As her mom, I knew this wasn’t the answer. I continued with the rocking to sleep. When she was 8 months or so, I knew she was ready for a regular bedtime routine and being put in her crib while still awake.
    I found she was much more upset and frustrated if I stayed in the room. She would get down right mad when I would go in after 10 minutes to calm her and leave a second time. I also became much more upset due to her intensity of crying. It was best for us both to keep a pre-bed time routine (diaper, PJ’s, passie, a book, lights out, prayer, kiss, crib and mommy leaves) and then just let her go to sleep on her own.
    The benefit now is when she does remain upset (20 mins or more) or wakes up upset, I know something is wrong. It could be a forgotten blanket, dropped passie, or (worse!) a fever. But now I can go in her room, fix the issue and she’s back to sleep in 5 minutes.
    It took time and my “mommy-intuition” – trust yourself, only you know Grace best and can do right by her.

  5. Elizabeth Bullock February 3, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    I started sleep training my son as a single parent when he was about 8 months old. It was one of the hardest parts of those early days but I have NO regrets 3 years later. I tried the Baby Whisperer Method and got the same results as you. I finally decided to give the “cry it out” method a try. I put my son in his crib (he immediately pulled himself up to standing) then gave him a hug (without picking him up) and reassured him that he was OK. Then I left the room and closed the door (I also left music on in his room to sooth him… still do to this day). I then returned to the room in intervals. First after 5 minutes. Then 10. Then 20. He NEVER cried more than an hour. I never picked him up when I went in the room. I simply patted his back and told him it was OK. He was sleeping (most of the night) in his own crib after three nights. He STILL falls right to sleep to this day.

    Every baby is different and responds differently to sleep training. And I assure you – it is MUCH harder on you than it is on Gracie! She is mad but you are heartbroken! Hang in there with whatever method you decide to try. She WILL sleep eventually!

  6. Molly Loveland February 3, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    Hey Kate! Leah’s pediatrician told us to put her down when she is getting tired. Leah shows obvious signs of being tired, like yawning, stretching, rubbing her eyes, etc. You know that kind of stuff. As soon as I see that behavior I lay her down in her crib. We are in a routine where when I lay her down she rolls to her right side and sucks her thumb. It’s wonderful how well she is doing with this. It wasn’t always like this though, trust me. When we first started putting her in her crib, I believe she was about 2 weeks. We would put her down in her crib, and she would cry for a long time. The doctor told us it would hurt us more than it hurt her. It is so true. The first night I was about in tears, but we kept up with it. We were putting her to bed with her pacifier, and that is a big no-no too. But hey it made her not cry so we were happy. The problem we found with the pacy was that around 3 AM she would wake up wanting it. Finally I just got tired of getting up and let her cry herself back to sleep one night, and from then on, she has slept thru the night. Halleluah! As for the naps, she was still sleeping in her swing twice a day. It was becoming a real pain for me, because I felt like I needed to stay away from the living room six hours a day while she was in there sleeping. I had tried numerous times to get her into in crib to sleep and she would take up most of her nap time crying. It was very frustrating. One day out of the blue, I decided to try putting her in crib again, and it worked. I don’t know why, it just did. I really believe that things will just fall in place at some point, just try to be patient. I know it’s hard sometimes! I hope Charlotte figures it out soon! Good luck!

  7. Megan February 3, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

    The putting to bed when still awake frustrate the Mama more and baby. Nursing to sleep and then gently laying baby in her bed or where ever she sleeps is my motto. Milk seems to be the most soothing way to get baby to sleep. In addtion, it’s normal for baby to wake more than once at night. Sleep patterns are not developed until a year or maybe longer.
    However, I find that soothing baby first, by pats, rubs, etc. work. Lifting baby only wakes her more and tells her that she can get up. With gently pats and whipers of it’s night night time might help. If all else, fails, nursing then back to bed. You never can spoil a baby or train them at such a young age. In fact, it’s not good for baby to sleep through the night yet. There is a reason they wake and this reduces SIDS. I highly suggest Dr. Sears books, such as Attachment Parenting. The older baby gets, the easier it will be to soothe.

  8. Laureen February 3, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    I used the Healthy sleep habits happy child Dr Weissbluth! It was great, I have twins and used it withthem and since there was 2 in there I didn’t feel as bad as I did with Nico 11 monthe now adn sleeps from6:30pm till 6-7 am every night. I had to let him cry it out because i tried the go in don’t touch, just soothe with your voice and that just pissed him off. Just let her cry it out! You will hate yourself at first then be so happy when she is sleeping at night and naptime too. email me anytime dacrue @

  9. Ellen February 4, 2011 at 1:10 am #

    How old is Grace? (This will help me with my reply.)

  10. Marsha Byrne February 4, 2011 at 1:49 am #


    I have said before that your lovely daughter reminds me of MANY nights with my oldest. Ask Shawn. Each baby is different. I tried ‘training’, then I realized she just needed to be by us. When she was Grace’s age we would just rock her to sleep. If she woke up in the night(which she did often), we would give her a while to see if she could calm herself down. If not, then we would go in and rock her back to sleep. It wasn’t ideal, but I just couldn’t bring myself to not go to her if she wasn’t able to put herself back to sleep. She never slept in the bed with us – but when she got older she would lie down on our floor. Shawn actually would lie down with her in her bed until she fell asleep. I think you have to do what works for you and the little one. Don’t feel guilty for any way of doing it. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. At one point I learned to not beat myself up over it and just do what calmed everyone. You aren’t going to ‘ruin’ or spoil her by keeping her close or rocking her to sleep. Sometimes babies are just more needy. My 2nd daughter slept MUCH easier than my first – but now we have issues with her not wanting to go to bed on her own. On the other hand, my firstborn puts herself to sleep and sleeps 12 hours. So, it all works out. She is a wonderfully adjusted girl – all her teachers love her – she is independent. So, I say all this to say that you have to learn what Grace needs – and work that with what you need and that will be the best solution for both of you!

  11. Luke February 5, 2011 at 1:18 am #

    It’s different for different babies but for ours we had the worst luck with them falling asleep with us in the room. I have tried the pick up and put down technique but always in conjunction with leaving the room. Especially at bedtime, when you know your baby is not hungry or cold or sick, you can walk right out and allow for 5 to 10 minutes of crying. Once your child learns how to go to sleep on their own, you will be well on your way. Good luck!

  12. Kate February 7, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    Hi everyone. I wanted to thank EACH of you for taking the time to share your advice with me. (Ellen, Gracie is just over 6 months old.)
    It helped immensely: I don’t feel quite so alone knowing how many others go through the sleep struggle, I got ideas about how to go about our “training,” AND I have taken away the knowledge that it is NOT the same for every baby or every Mama.

  13. Kate February 7, 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    And as an update :) Agree with the method or not, I’ve decided to let Gracie really cry it out (for the most part). And after getting herself SO ANGRY last night, once she finally fell asleep, she slept all the way until 6:45 this morning. Sleep, oh blessed sleep! I feel quite rested.
    I know one day does not a pattern make – but it’s a start :)
    Thanks again, everyone!!

  14. Kristen February 7, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    Hi Kate!

    I hope my tid bits of advice can help somewhat. It worked for both my boys (3.5yrs and 18 months) when we started doing this and it allowed us all (mom, dad and baby boys) to adjust to life without rocking and rocking and hold the eyes open with tooth picks rocking! When I knew that they weren’t waking in the middle of the night because they were hungry, then we started the sleep training. And as most have said no two children are the same and thus adjusting and tweaking for your baby will come with mom’s intuition. For us, we used a home-made Pyramid Method of Self Soothing. A pseudo cry it out without feeling like I’m letting my baby down cold turkey because we were continuing to go in, sooth and reassure them that we were there and they were loved.
    We picked a day and started setting the timers.
    Night one.. 1 time crying for 1 minute. Go in sooth, but do not pick up, rub backs, whatever is calming. Then restart the timer for 2 minutes. Let her go 2 times crying for 2 minutes. 3 times crying for 3 minutes. and so on. After the designated time I’d go in, lay her back down, rub her back (both my children as soon as they could roll over instantly became stomach sleepers and still are today, it’s safe because I knew they could roll back over if needed), turn back on the mobile if it’s stopped. About 30 seconds or so later, reassure her you are here and leave the room. So you are continuously assuring her she isn’t alone, but still allowing longer snippets of time to go by each time you go in.
    Day 2… start at 2 minutes instead of 1. 2 times crying for 2 minutes. 3 times crying for 3 minutes, etc. etc. Same reassurance in between the time intervals. I’d pick him up if this had gone on for 15 minutes.
    Day 3… start at 3 minute intervals.
    Day 4… start at 4 minute intervals.
    You get the idea.
    I think we only ever got to like day 5 with both out children and they were sound sleepers from then on. Both my children now still sleep 12-13 hours a night and go to sleep wide awake after a story and a song. Whichever method you do choose, stick with it as routine is the best method of learning. Once you break the pattern she’ll be confused and you’ll start from the beginning again. Good Luck!!! You’re an awesome mommy and we have all been there at one point.

    How do you put her down for naps? How long does she nap (am and pm?). Perhaps the technique you use for successful napping will help you determine a good framework for successful night sleeping.

    Either way, enjoy her while she’s little and know that she will in fact eventually sleep longer bits of time… well, until the teeth come in :)

  15. Susan February 7, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

    I have triplet boys so for putting each down after they have been rocked to sleep was not the answer. Even though they were very premature at birth, we followed the book Baby Wise. It is about putting babies on a schedule and following the routine. They were sleeping through the night by 9 weeks after being released from the hospital. Also if you know the baby is fine then you let them cry (if you watch the clock sometimes it is not as long as you think). I have to say that the many friends that have followed Baby Wise have very happy babies and happy parents because they are getting rest at night.

  16. Kate February 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    In case any commenters are checking back in here: an update! I’d like to gleefully share that Gracie only cried for about eight minutes before falling asleep last night… and after I fed her a late-night bottle, she fell asleep on my shoulder during the burp, woke up and stared at me when I put her in her crib, and then proceeded to roll onto her belly and fall right asleep. WITH NO TEARS.

    I repeat, one night does not a pattern make… but it was SUCH a great feeling :)

    Thanks again, everyone, for all your advice & support!