Please don't ferberize me! Help my six-month fall asleep on his own....(baby filter)
October 21, 2008 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Please don't ferberize me! Help my six-month fall asleep on his own....(baby filter)

We have a six month old having a tough time getting to sleep on his own. He likes to sleep cuddled (can't blame him), but we're thinking it's time for him to learn to fall asleep in the crib on his own.

Unfortunately, every time we put him in there he bops about and cries until we hold him under our arms to help him to fall asleep (which can take a while and cause quite a headache leaning over the crib).

Any suggestions on how to help him get to sleep? We don't want to leave him there to cry it out on his own (don't believe in that).
posted by BigBrownBear to Human Relations (29 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried a binky?
posted by leahwrenn at 8:55 AM on October 21, 2008

Response by poster: Yes. We use one to help to sleep generally.
posted by BigBrownBear at 8:56 AM on October 21, 2008

we're thinking it's time for him to learn to fall asleep in the crib on his own

But apparently he disagrees, so why fight him over it?

The No-Cry Sleep Solution is a decent read and its methods likely effective, but I still say it is much nicer and easier to just put your children to bed. You can knock them out quickly and reliably with cuddles and nursing, so why bother with sneaky fiddles to get them to not need you? That will happen sooner than you think no matter what you do.

Nighttime Parenting is a nice book, and this is a useful read as well. On your deathbed, you are hardly going to be miserable over all the time you wasted cuddling your son as a baby.
posted by kmennie at 9:01 AM on October 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

Increase the time between when you put him in his crib until you go into soothe him by 1-5 minutes each night. Also, when you go in, don't necessarily pick him up immediately or at all, rather, put your hand on his back to let him know you're there, and to reassure him. Keep the room dark when you do this. You should see a decrease in the time he cries over days to weeks, hopefully days.
posted by cahlers at 9:02 AM on October 21, 2008

Have you read any books about sleep training? I wonder if you're imagining a cruel cold approach that isn't recommended by many people (Ferber included!) There are systems from "teach your baby to sleep by keeping him in bed with you until he goes to college" to "teach your baby to sleep by locking him a room until he learns to sleep like a big boy", but most approaches recommended by pediatricians are somewhere in the middle.

Ferber actually recommends the "graduated extinction" method -- don't worry, it's the crying that goes extinct, not the baby. If you and your kiddo can tolerate short periods of crying, you can probably ease into sleeping alone.

This PDF lists a bunch of the different methods, involving different levels of crying (including the No Cry Sleep Solution). You might find something there that fits both your beliefs and your kid's style.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 9:03 AM on October 21, 2008

(Sorry, PDF doesn't specifically call out NCSS... mis-stated that.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 9:03 AM on October 21, 2008

I have no personal experience with this, but you might be interested in this article
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:04 AM on October 21, 2008

Response by poster: Just so it's clear, the baby spends alot of time with us in the bed at night. We're not opposed to co-sleeping. But we also like the idea of him being able to FALL ASLEEP on his own. Naptimes and such. Currently, to fall asleep, he pretty much needs to be held. We like the idea of him sleeping a bit in the crib during the day and we put him in the crib when he falls asleep nursing.
posted by BigBrownBear at 9:09 AM on October 21, 2008

BigBrownBear, in response to your comment about falling asleep, try putting him in the crib when you notice him being sleepy, as you have been after nursing.
posted by cahlers at 9:11 AM on October 21, 2008

Response by poster: That's what we thought would work but the little guy seems to suddenly pop wide awake when we do that! . We are actually big fans of co-sleeping but we like some sort of middle ground where he isnt entirely dependent on us to go from sleepy to asleep. Does that seem reasonable (should not that on absolutely every else the kid is a delight...couldnt ask for an easier going child)...all the more reason we hate to fight him on this...
posted by BigBrownBear at 9:17 AM on October 21, 2008

You know, I rocked and cuddled my very confident and happy 2 year-old to sleep every night until a couple months ago. (We still read books but now she tells me she wants to "lay down" or "get in the crib" and off she goes to bed happily....) It took an extra 20-35 minutes and I think it was worth it for me (a working mom that valued this quality winding-down time that we both could count on every night). She enjoyed our nighttime routine (bath, pjs, books, holding, rocking, singing) and didn't dread it..... falling asleep happened faster and faster over time because she was so relaxed and happy. I'm sure there's something to be said for putting the baby to bed awake, but I would at least help them get relaxed/partway there.

In our case, I think it has made our child more secure and confident. She definitely knows that we are here for her. If you can and you want to, don't be afraid to hold and cuddle your baby. Soon enough, they will be independent "big girl"s and boys and won't want to be held and cuddled so much..... In our case, she became more confident over time about going to sleep and it all happened very gradually.

We did do some "crying it out" in the middle of the night from the ages of about 9 months on (you still need to respond when they are ill or in teething pain) so that she would get used to going through the night without Mommy or a bottle. It usually took 1-3 days and wasn't too bad. Usually one night that was tough and that's about it.
posted by smart75 at 9:19 AM on October 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

Ferber actually recommends the "graduated extinction" method -- don't worry, it's the crying that goes extinct, not the baby.

Seconding Arthur, you're either using Ferber as a convenient straw man, or haven't actually read Ferber's book. It's been years since I read it, but I can assure you that it's not based on having the child cry as much as possible as a punishment for not sleeping.

Good luck, and keep an open mind.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:21 AM on October 21, 2008

While Ferber doesn't recommend leaving the baby to cry until they give up and fall asleep, he DOES want you to leave the baby to cry alone in short 1-5 minutes bursts. BigBrownBear clearly stated he doesn't believe in that. He asked for alternatives to cry-it-out methods, rather than "oh it doesn't count as cry-it-out because its only cry-it-out in short bursts.".

Seconding kmennie's suggestion of No Cry Sleep Solution. If you do a mix of crib and co-sleeping, you will find the book great since it has suggestions for helping the baby learn to go to sleep even when co-sleeping.

I also recommend this article by Dr Jay Gordon on sleep. He does recommend waiting until a year, but still there are some helpful tips in there for teaching a baby to soothe himself to sleep when co-sleeping.
posted by Joh at 9:52 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

My daughter had a hard time sleeping away from my wife, who nursed her until about 10 months of age. The baby could not fall asleep without being nursed to sleep.

We started out with a co-sleeper, attached to the side of the bed. The baby outgrew that we we then switched to a bed rail with the baby sleeping between my wife and the rail. This only works if you have a large enough bed for both the parents and room for the baby to sleep.

We then tried a crib, right next to the bed so the baby could see mommy while falling asleep. This probably would have worked except the crib was recalled and the Jardine company was ass-slow in sending a voucher so we could replace it. We ended up with a solution that we continue to use, which is putting a twin-sized futon mattress on the floor next to our bed. The baby gets rocked to sleep in the living room and is put down on the mattress.

Of course, now we have the problem that the baby won't fall asleep unless she is in mommy's arms in the rocker. This makes it hard because I can only get her to fall asleep with me when she is very tired and gives up struggling because she is not in mommy's arms.

The baby just turned one and we're now trying some new things, like establishing a bedtime routine where I read her books while holding her in my arms, give her a sippy cup of milk (which helps her calm down) and getting mommy to go out-of-sight while daddy calms the baby down for bed.

We also found that she falls asleep almost instantly in the stroller and/or car seat, so we sometimes will time our trips out so the baby is asleep when we get back. She's a light sleeper so we have to be careful transferring her to her futon mattress when we get back, but even if she wakes up she's usually sleepy enough to fall back out on her own. This, of course, gets harder as the weather gets older.
posted by camworld at 10:14 AM on October 21, 2008

All we got from trying the No Cry Sleep Solution was a lot of extra frustration and anguish. (We had much better luck with Ferber.)

If you're able to get the baby to sleep with your current method and are deadset against letting him cry at all, then I suggest you just tough it out. It's impossible to believe it when you're spending a late-night hour soothing him in the crib (just like you did last night and the night before), but within a year he will be going to sleep on his own and will have learned the techniques all by himself. Within five years, you might actually miss leaning over the crib and rubbing his back. I know I did.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 10:34 AM on October 21, 2008

Experiment to see exactly what the kidlet's requirements are. If it's the knowledge of parental proximity, then lay the crib bedding out on your own bed roll around on it until it smells of parent. For best results combine this with a recording of your voice playing in the room at a low volume or talking to him over a baby monitor from increasing intervals.

Alternatively it may be the claustrophobic feeling of being squished and snuggled he needs to sleep comfortably. In which case you may want to experiment with crib sizes and bedding combos.

Don't worry too much about the Ferberism/Attachment Parenting kerfluffle. The trick is to work out what this particular baby needs, then find a solution you can live with. Each baby is different, so you're probably gonna need a whole new approach with the next kid, anyway!
posted by the latin mouse at 10:39 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

i just had this problem with my 6 month old girl, and i solved it by adding a blanket. she loves to cuddle that, too.
posted by lester at 10:52 AM on October 21, 2008

After trying many different methods, the sleep lady shuffle is what worked for us.
posted by Otis at 10:56 AM on October 21, 2008

Look into purpose-built swaddling blankets, such as the Miracle Blanket.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:18 AM on October 21, 2008

We had similar problems with our baby son several years ago. All of the sleep problems were solved in literally 48 hours, permanently, once we imposed a very consistent bedtime routine and moved his bedtime from 10:30 pm to 8 pm. I'm not sure why it worked, but I suppose it set his expectations for the night. Several years later, he now has very healthy sleeping habits and hardly ever wakes up at night or has trouble going to sleep.
posted by crapmatic at 11:18 AM on October 21, 2008

For our little demon the trick is to just lie down on the floor of her room for a bit while she is in the crib with lights out etc. There is maybe a couple minutes of "pillowtalk" then we stand up and leave, telling her - she is usually not asleep yet.

It takes another 5 minutes (tops) but seems to help her transition.
posted by H. Roark at 11:36 AM on October 21, 2008

Crapmatic's comment brings up two relevant issues - routine at bedtime, and the time of bedtime are critical. I read an article recently that shifting bedtime by even 15 min, even for older, school-age children, can have a dramatic impact, either positive or negative. Having a routine is key also.
posted by cahlers at 11:53 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

As others have said, Ferber doesn't believe in the "cry it out" that most people THINK he does; you don't say whether you've read his book, nor do you say whether your disbelief in "cry it out" is against any crying while falling asleep, so I'm not quite sure whether Ferber's actual recommendations are inside or outside your beliefs. But it might be unrealistic to expect there to be absolutely no crying during the process of transitioning from being put to sleep to being put to bed and falling asleep on his own -- there is very likely going to be a period of a bit of crying, and once I came to that realization, I decided that what I could control is how that happened, and how we responded to it positively and constructively.

We were facing pretty much the same issue as you with our daughter a month ago, and on the plane back from a pretty brutal trip, we decided to read Ferber. His "graduated extinction" method really resonated with us, and we started the process about 24 hours later. At that point, our daughter required both swaddling in a Miracle Blanket and nursing for 20-30 minutes to fall asleep, only after which we could (very gently!) transfer her into her crib... and if she woke up during the transfer, we were hosed for another 30-45 minutes of rocking, soothing, and pulling our hair out. After two weeks of working with Ferber's ideas as a base, our daughter was able to be put into her crib awake, unswaddled, and in her PJs, and then put herself to sleep (generally in 1-5 minutes), staying asleep for anywhere from 9 to 12 hours. It wasn't all easy, there were definitely nights that were worse than others (damn teething occuring right in the middle of it all!), but it's been terrific for us. The key was to understand that Ferber's method is just a recommendation, which is able to be modified and augmented as any two parents see fit for their own kid; we definitely changed his recommended waiting times here and there to suit this and that, just so long as we were sticking with the overall goal of allowing her the time to figure out how to put herself to sleep without conflicting messages from us.

Like I said, I only offer our experience because I'm not entirely clear what your limits are to "crying it out"; if you truly don't want to have any crying during the process, then there are certainly other methods out there that profess to accommodate that.
posted by delfuego at 12:45 PM on October 21, 2008

Just saw a glowing review last week posted on Boing Boing of the book Twelve Hours' Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old. Maybe it might have some good tips for you?
posted by platinum at 1:16 PM on October 21, 2008

If your little guy pops awake when you put him in the crib, maybe try putting a heating pad (definitely set on low!) in the crib for a few minutes before you know you'll be putting him in there. That way the bed is nice and warm, just like the arms he just left.
posted by corey flood at 1:44 PM on October 21, 2008

It's possible that you wanting the baby to sometimes sleep with you and sometimes sleep in a crib, sometimes fall asleep on his own and sometimes be held/rocked to sleep is confusing your little guy. An article in the NYT suggests that it doesn't matter what "plan" you use, as long as you're consistent in its application.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:28 PM on October 21, 2008


OP: 'I don't dig CIO'
MeFi: 'Ferber'

Re. "it might be unrealistic to expect there to be absolutely no crying during the process of transitioning from being put to sleep to being put to bed and falling asleep on his own" -- yeah, I too would caution you that a lot of people's "And he just goes to bed in his crib, sure, no problem" actually involves a lot of "Well, of course there's crying some nights!" It's not like once you've got him sort of used to being put down drowsy etc, you never have to worry about bedtime again. Co-sleeping makes nighttime crying a real rarity, though...

CIO is not benign no matter which research-free "method" you go with. Weissbluth claims his method is gentler than Ferber's. I doubt babies much care what the "method" is to let them cry alone at all, though.

It mystifies me as to why anybody wants to do this -- have their babies put themselves to bed -- but -- if I was of that bent I would consider following the idea where you put baby in the bed, and then spend several hours wandering in and out of the room. If baby cries, pick him up and cuddle. Put baby back down when content, and go back to coming and going. This is reported to be a great deal of work for about a week, but after that you (reportedly) have a baby who always thinks you'll be back along in a moment and so is not bothered about falling asleep alone.
posted by kmennie at 5:05 PM on October 21, 2008

In light of kmennie's observation, BigBrownBear, I'll reiterate: I shared my experience and feelings about Ferber's specific methods only because it's unclear to me whether they do or don't fit into things you'd consider; they're certainly not the absolutist "cry it out" method that folks historically have claimed them to be.

And kmennie, this isn't really the forum to debate the science of "crying it out" (I keep putting it in quotes because it's an all-encompassing term that tries to include way too many totally different ideas and methods to be at all meaningful), so I'll leave my comment to just that there's WAY too much wrong with that "is not benign" PDF you link to to make it convincing to me; it presents an increase in cortisol and heart rate/BP as necessarily a bad thing without providing any reason why that's the case, and tries to argue that a lack of convincing evidence that "CIO" is good should lead to the definite conclusion that it's bad.
posted by delfuego at 8:36 AM on October 22, 2008

My five-month-old, at about three months, stopped falling asleep in the rocker with me after her last feeding. She was staying awake, and after I swaddled her to go to bed, I noticed she'd cry to herself for a minute or two (most of the time).

But then she'd go right to sleep and stay asleep for 10-12 hours.

While I'm not sure why she cries, I mentioned our routine to her pediatrician, and was told it is perfectly fine. I know she's fed, her diaper is clean and she has burped. My best guess is it's an "I'm tired" blubbering cry, or an "It was so nice to be held by you and now you're gone" cry.

People's definitions of CIO vary. It's not fair to let a baby whom you know is suffering from a dirty diaper or a gas bubble cry in pain or discomfort. But, based on my story, do you think this is crying it out? I don't.

Babies do well on routines because they know what to expect and what is expected of them. That's why it pays to put a routine in place around bedtime. Our is playtime, bath, bottle, rocking, bed, cry for a few minutes, sleep. The lights are low during the bottle and rocking, and then completely out when we put her in the crib. We also play the same CD for her every night. I highly suggest a routine, shared by both parents, regardless of what it us. And swaddling, either arms in or arms out, may help your baby get snuggled in and go to sleep faster.
posted by FergieBelle at 11:58 AM on October 22, 2008

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