15 answers

Alternative to Crying It Out

Has anyone tried sleep training their babies using alternative methods to crying it out? I cannot & will not leave my baby alone in his crib to cry alone in order to help him learn to sleep through the night. I've been reading "The No Cry Sleep Solution" & "The Baby Whisperer," but I'm making very little progress after several weeks with our 7-month old baby boy. I'm beginning to wonder if there are any success stories out there with these methods.
Our son wakes up ever 1-2 hours (this is not new, he has been doing this since 2 months of age), sometimes even more. He seems to wake up after most every sleep cycle & has become dependent on nursing to fall back to sleep. I'm making sure he's well fed & am not nursing him when he wakes up, but it takes at least 1/2 hour for him to fall back to sleep then & of course by the early morning hours, both my husband & me (we take turns getting up with him) are so exhausted that I end up nursing him to sleep anyway or bringing him in to bed with us, where he doesn't cry as much but I still don't sleep b/c he's latched on to me so much. He is the happiest, friendliest baby, & super healthy (hasn't even caught a cold yet). Just can't sleep without nursing. I'd appreciate any insight or experiences with alternative sleep training methods.

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So What Happened?™

Thank you so much to everyone who replied to my request - over 3 months ago now! Well, it has been a very long & exhausting 3 months, but in a nutshell, I tried & tried & tried alternative methods to help my son learn to stay asleep, but to no avail. We only lost more sleep. And instead of sleeping for 1-2 hour stretches, he started waking up ever 30-60 minutes! I reached a horrible, frightening place of so much built up exhaustion, anger, & depression, that I just left for a few nights & stayed with a friend where I could actually sleep more than an hour at a time (or try to as I forgot how)!. My husband stayed with him, placing him in his crib when he was obviously tired & left his room. The first night, he cried for 32 minutes & woke up every 2-3 hours. The second night he cried for 4 minutes & woke up twice. The third night he did not cry at all & slept through the whole night. I cannot tell you how shocked & relieved I was at how quick it took.

Since then, however, some nights he cries more than others, some nights he wakes up & cries longer than others. My husband isn't home as much at night now so I'm on my own with it. I'm so afraid of going back to that sleepless way of life but also torn to let him cry so much. It has been almost a week since we started & I just cannot stand to hear him cry without being able to run to him! I'm also struggling with nap times as I thought I could nurse him to sleep for naps only, but that seems to confuse him at night - he wants to nurse to sleep then too! If I make him cry it out at night & for naps, I just don't think I can handle it & fear that it's just too much crying for him.

What are some of your experiences with crying it out? How long did it take before they would stop crying so much? What did you do at nap times?

Thanks for sharing & for your support!!!

Featured Answers

Here is what I have done: At about the age of 7 months, when I know they are not waking up because they need to eat, I let them cry for 5 minutes each time the first night before I get them up. Each night is longer for three nights until it is 15 minutes. The next couple of nights, I go to their crib and don't get them up, I rub their back and talk to them for a moment, then I leave the crib and they might cry some more. It usually only takes two nights of this and they are sleeping all night. I find they are much happier once they realize bed is for sleeping and they take wonderful naps after this too.

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If you can't stand letting your baby "cry it out" then don't do it. Just because other people had success letting their children cry themselves to sleep doesn't mean that you are a bad parent because you can't do it. I discovered that once I stopped listening to what everyone was telling me I should do with my kids and started doing what I felt was best, I became less stressed.

Here are the reasons why I decided not to let my kids cry themselves to sleep:

1. I want to reinforce in them the belief that I will be there for them whenever they need me, no matter what time of day or night it may be. My mom kept telling me to let them cry themselves out because "I let you cry yourself to sleep all the time." Hmmm... maybe that's why I remember as a child waking up in the middle of the night feeling sick and totally alone and not feeling like I could call out for my mom. Maybe not, but just in case I decided not to do that to my kids.

2. I've cried myself to sleep one or two times in my life and I remember how I felt when I woke up... eyes hurt, head hurt, brain fuzzy. In case that's how my kids would feel and since they can't tell me how they feel, I again decided not to let them cry themselves to sleep.

3. I saw a special on tv about the Russian orphanages where the babies are never held or nurtured. They just lay in their cribs all day and night, only taken out for diaper changes (if they are lucky.) None of the babies cried either. But it was because they learned early that it was pointless. I don't want my children to ever think that crying out for me was pointless.

I am not saying that parents who do let their babies cry themselves out are bad parents. But I do have an issue with parents saying that letting the baby cry themselves to sleep is the only way that children learn to sleep. Humans need to sleep. You don't have to teach them to do it. You just need to create the environment and setting that is conducive to your child sleeping.

All that being said, I have a 2.5 year old and a 5 year old, both of whom now sleep through the night on a regular basis. And I never let them cry themselves to sleep, yet they managed to learn to do it anyway. I know its frustrating and you are exhausted and sometimes it seems like you will never sleep again. But you son will get older and bigger and more active and start wearing himself out to the point he will sleep. And I have to admit, as much as I wanted my kids to sleep through the night because of the many times I rocked my sons at 3 or 4 am, totally exhausted, only to wake up at 5am in order to go to work, I miss my middle of the night snuggles with my boys. I feel a little sorry for the parents who just let their babies cry themselves out so that they can sleep through the night. They never get to experience the pure love you feel as you hold that warm little body against your neck in the quiet of the night, with the only sound his sweet breathing, and his body totally relaxed against you in complete trust. Now, I'm lucky to catch a quick hug as they slow down to run past me.

So hang in there. Believe me, before you know it your son won't be a baby anymore and you will be sleeping through the night all the time.

1 mom found this helpful

Does he take frequent naps during the evening? When it gets close to bedtime try to keep him up as much as possible and even getting him more active it will tire him out more. This may help him get more tired and sleep longer. Remember, You need your sleep as well, so don't feel guilty when he cries. It's important for your body, mentality, and his milk for you to get enough rest. Take into account of what he does during the day, is it the same? Eating every 1-2 hours? If not, what's different? Try to incorporate what happens during the day. If he's visually stimulated, set up a mobile for him to see when he wakes up. Of if there's a lot of noise around him during the day set up a cd player with low playing kids songs or lullabyes. There's been tons of advice for you so I hope you find something that will help!

I would recommend Dr. Sears' book, The Baby Sleep Book. They also have a web site with useful info: www.askdrsears.com They also do not like the "cry it out" method and give many alternative strategies.

I too have a 7 month old son (aren't they the best?!). He used to wake up frequently to nurse, too. At one point I tried letting him fuss when he awoke, just to see what would happen. After 15 min he suddenly went quiet and went to sleep on his own. So I continued with that. Sometimes he wakes up and his crying escalates, at which point I go to him (and then often have to nurse him back to sleep) but sometimes his crying does not escalate and I just wait, and lo and behold after that magic number, 15 minutes, he is quiet.

All that said, I'm convinced that every kid is different (as is every set of parents) so I feel strongly that you have to do what you think is right for your kid and you.

My husband and I used to take turns getting up with our son until we finally decided my husband would take the nightshift full time. It really has helped that just one of us goes in to comfort him at night and obviously if you're still nursing this may not be an option for you. We now refer to dad as "the sandman" and he has an amazing ability to get him to sleep when I have given up.

I truly think part of the many wake ups (for that first year especially) were sometimes about food but mostly about comfort. This may sound weird to you but I also make sure none of his stuffed toys are looking at him in his room and I swear to you this has helped. I read that in a book, imagine waking up with all those shadows and little eyes looking at you, and he has a LOT of stuffed guys. Our little man still wakes up from time to time, especially if he's got a cold or is wet etc and he's 19 months.

Some kids are just more sensitive about bedtime and night time I think.

K.,
I understand that you do not want to let him cry it it...Its so hard to listen to and just breaks your heart...it is total instinct to want to comfort them. With that being said..I think it is the only long term solution. I did not want to do it with our first, but my ped. said they will never figure out how to go to sleep on their own if you are always doing it for her. Well, I took a weekend and let her cry it out. The first night it was 1 1/2 hours of crying. The 2nd was about 45 minutes.. and the third night was like 5. After that it was non-existent. They seriously need to learn to sleep on their own...everybody wakes up that much...we have just learned to go back to sleep and that is what your son needs to do too.
Good Luck !

First of all, 7 months is early for crying out (in my opinion)so don't feel like you're all alone! My son, now 7, went through the same thing. Although, he was a co-sleeper as I also was nursing and working. He would nurse solely to get back to sleep. I nursed for just over a year and he was a co-sleeper for the first year also.

My daughter, now 2, I also nursed and did not co-sleep her.

You've done a great job by continuing to nurse, even though it can be exhausting! The good news is, you are coming to point where your son will be eating more and more other foods and will nurse less for hunger. I weened both my kids down so at 1 year they were only nursed at bedtime.

I would try a pacifier in the night instead of nursing if you want to cut those feedings. You can also try a bottle. My son didn't sleep through the night consistently until he was 5! My daughter has slept all night off and on since about 8-9 months. (There are always stretches when she doesn't, but it's less and less).

I just read an article about babies and sleep and they had a good point...it's not a natural thing for a young child to sleep alone. It's a trained thing that we teach them.

I got a lot of flack about my son being a co-sleeper. But after much research I learned that we are the only country that DOESN'T co-sleep with out children!

You just need to try different things, and give them each a week to see if they work. Talk to mid-wives as they generally don't go the "cry-it-out" method. Remember that you have made it over the 6 month mark, and your son WILL start sleeping more as he becomes more active. Hang in there!

Here is what I have done: At about the age of 7 months, when I know they are not waking up because they need to eat, I let them cry for 5 minutes each time the first night before I get them up. Each night is longer for three nights until it is 15 minutes. The next couple of nights, I go to their crib and don't get them up, I rub their back and talk to them for a moment, then I leave the crib and they might cry some more. It usually only takes two nights of this and they are sleeping all night. I find they are much happier once they realize bed is for sleeping and they take wonderful naps after this too.

Oh, I have been there! One more book to try: Sleepless in America by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. I refused to leave my son alone to cry, too. He's 2.5 now, so I don't remember all the details, but I know we struggled with nursing in the middle of the night and going to bed at night, especially. I finally did let him cry at bedtime at about 14 months and that only took one night to greatly improve bedtime. By then I knew he understood me and I knew it was an angry cry, not hurt or scared. I've never stopped going to him in the middle of the night. If he needs me he calls. Almost always it just takes a pat and a kiss and he's fine again. Hang in there, and do what works for your family. If it's easier to nurse him to sleep and you don't mind it, then it's okay! I know it seems like it will never end, but it will, I promise!!!

I am a working mom (school teacher) and sleep is precious to me. My husband and I sleep with our son. He nurses 1-2 times a night. We all sleep very well. This may seem against traditional advice but has worked very well for our family.

I have a two year old son. And I can count on one hand the times he's woken up crying since he started sleeping through the night at seven and a half weeks. I'm guessing that most days you are at home. So what I've always had is a routine. And even when you are away you can sort of follow it. My son gets his breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, supper and night snack all at about the same time everyday. He takes his nap at about the same time everyday. He goes to bed about the same time everyday. You get the point. A routine makes the baby feel safe and secure because he/she knows what's going to happen. I don't anymore but I use to, until recently, I use to rock and sing the same songs every night before my son went to bed. I've never rocked my son to sleep. I've never put a bottle or sippy cup in his crib. I've never put toys in his crib. The only thing that has ALWAYS been in his bed is his musical horsey. I've pulled that little horsey for him every night since he's been born. Your son needs to know for 100% sure that this is night time and this is when we sleep for a LONG time. And he needs to learn how to put himself to sleep. That means putting him the crib every night with him completely awake. Also, with the routine thing. As my son got older of course he took less naps and the time I kept him awake before putting him down for the night got longer. (2 hours, then 3, then 4 and so on)

Hi K.!
We too have tried every method out there with no success. (you can look up my posting BEGGING for help too) Here is what we have started doing within the last month that is working... I nurse our daughter at around 8 pm, then my husband takes her. He bounces her on his shoulder, he soothes her, and then put her to bed (asleep). If she wakes up BEFORE 3 am, he goes in AFTER she has cried for 10 minutes (NOT CRYING OUT). She is not allowed to nurse at this time (hence why he goes in). He again will soothe her back to sleep. If it is AFTER 3 am, then I go in and will nurse her. I do bring her to our bed to nurse, otherwise she likes to wake up her sister. Once she has been nursed, then I put her back to her bed where she stays until 6am.
I will be honest that this has not always been fool proof for us. There are nights where I end up falling asleep nursing and she is in bed with us. But the plus side, is she then is only in bed with us 3 hours, as compared to the 9 she used to be!
I also will tell you that it took us 4 nights to get to her to understand that mommy was no longer her "latching post". Now that she understands that she tends to wake up only around 3-4 am and I have had a few hours of sleep.
We too were so exhausted and it was affecting everything, our marriage, being parents, as well as other relationships with adults.
Good luck! You know your child and what works for your family. Just keep in mind, not many kids go off to college still sleeping in their parents bed! :)
R.

K.,

I can relate to your situation exactly. My first son (now nearly 3) woke about every 2 hours most of the months I was nursing him. He did not sleep completely through the night until I weaned him at 15 months. ***HE ALWAYS GOES TO SLEEP LIKE A CHAMP AND ALMOST NEVER WAKES anymore. Once he started sleeping well (at about 16 months) we never went backwards.

That said, I did try some of Elizabeth Pantleys suggestions in the No Cry Sleep Solution and had minor success with them. What we did was let him nurse when he woke before midnight (I was usually still awake) then try to rock him back to sleep between midnight and 5:00 a.m. Eventually he did sleep these 5 hours straight without waking. It did take weeks to get him there and I was exhausted. I stay home with my kids so I napped when he did and that made a world of difference in my ability to be firm at night and not cave in and nurse during our established "no nursing" hours. Once he was sleeping 5 hours straight, I worked on losing the 9:00 and 11:00 nursing times. He did eventually sleep from 7 till 11, then through till around 4:30 or 5:00. When I weaned him the 5:00 a.m. nursing was the last to go.

Some babies need there Mom's more than others. My second son is a better sleeper, but still wakes at least once most nights to nurse. Lately he has been a bear and up a ton because his molars are coming in (he's 15 months). I figure that if I can comfort him quickly and put him back to bed fast it works for us for me to nurse him.

Keep trying with the No Cry Sleep solution. It might take him a little longer to get the swing of sleeping through those waking cycles.

Good luck!
J.
SAHM to Charlie (3-24-05) and Joey (12-4-06)

I've recently had similar problems with my 7 month old son. He didn't wake up as often as it sounds like your little one does, but enough to make me wish for a better night's sleep. I could never get sleep training to work, though I'm not giving up quite yet. I had the same thing about not wanting to let him cry it out, but there was one time about 4am when I was so frustrated that I did let him cry for a half hour and he fell asleep. I felt guilty the whole night but since then when he wakes up in the night, I just make sure he has his binky and I lay my arm across him with my hand on his face and he hugs my arm until he falls asleep again. Now he's been waking up less and less each night.

In the beginning I'd rock my kids and/or nurse them to sleep, but after awhile they woke when I put them in the crib and they would cry. That didn't work for us and didn't establish the results I was looking for.
In the end, I resorted to crying it out. In a week or two of me not coming to the rescue the oldest went to bed without having to be soothed and the crying each night became less and less until it was not happening every night.

My suggestion would be to give your child some toys to play with in the crib. At about a year I also gave them a sippy cup with water. At that time I changed to the overnight diapers too.

With my youngest who is now 17 months old I nurse her, put her awake in the crib of a few toys and books. Once in awhile she'll cry but it's usually when she's cutting teeth or on a rare occassion pooped. She tends to play and occupy herself and then falls asleep. I established the toy routine when both girls were about 8-9 months or so. She does sometimes cry but I don't jump up and save her. For myself, I don't want to do that unless she's going on and on for over 20 minutes. I'll check her, ask her to lay down because it's night, night, and maybe rub her back a little bit, and I leave. She sees me leave and cries again. I let her cry.

Good luck to you and I hope you find something that works for your style of parenting.

Be carefull, if you are letting him stay latched on to you for comfort he is using you as a pacifier, you risk your milk production decreasing and if he falls asleep with milk in his mouth and he has teeth you risk tooth decay "baby bottle syndrome"
I know you don't like the crying it out method, but I tried everything with my daughter and after only 4 nights of crying she learnt to sleep 12 hrs straight! The first night she cried on and off for 2 hrs, the second night half an hour the third about 10 minutes and then the fourth peace:) It does work, my pediatrician said the best thing you can teach your children is good sleeping habits:) Good luck

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