Helping Babies Sleep (With Empathy And Compassion) Guest Post by Eileen Henry

Hi Janet,

My baby boy is 6 months old, and we do all we can to make sure he is happy and healthy. We realize how important good, uninterrupted, restorative sleep is – both night sleep and daytime naps – and I wonder how you might respond to the philosophy of Dr. Marc Weissbluth (“Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”), who advocates letting a baby over 4 months cry up to one hour for naps and an unlimited time for night so the baby learns to self-soothe and fall asleep unaided. (This is of course assuming that the baby’s needs have been met – he’s fed, comfortably dressed, appropriate room temperature, fresh diaper, no diaper rash or other obvious injury/discomfort, not ill, no coyotes in the crib, etc.)

Weissbluth suggests that when a baby needs  sleep but wants to play or cuddle, we are robbing him of sleep if we constantly go to him. Sure enough, I feel like I’m hindering my baby’s efforts to put himself to sleep rather than helping at all. As soon as he sees me, he immediately wants to be held and nursed, even if he just ate. The problem with that is if he does fall asleep on me, I cannot put him down asleep – he wakes up and cries – and he does not sleep on anyone for more than 15 minutes or so (clearly not restorative sleep). We have done this for hours during the day in an effort to get him to take a nap when he was obviously tired.

Sometimes I believe he simply cries because he is overtired (perhaps from missing the previous nap) and needs to blow off steam before settling down. I never leave the room while he’s crying, but he typically starts once I’m out of sight, leading me to believe he just wants more play time. He typically nods off after a few minutes, but there are times when the crying goes on longer. I’ve been very torn between allowing him to relax himself and going in and rescuing him, even if it meant a missed nap, which is clearly not in his best interest. Any advice would be appreciated.

(This was a comment on my post 7 Reasons To Calm Down About Babies Crying)

Sleep specialist Eileen Henry responds… 

7 Reasons to Calm Down about Babies Crying” is a great article. And my experience with parents is in line with Janet’s. In the eight years that I have been working as a sleep consultant, I have yet to meet a parent who can leave their baby to cry. Even the parents I meet who do the “Cry It Out” method or “Ferberize” end up going to their child at some point and offering some form of support. Sitting in the next room, listening to the child suffer and having that fight with the parental brain is a doomed scenario…

However, our parental brain still holds obsolete instinctual drives that tell us to “stop the crying” at any cost.  Even though we may intellectually know that all is well (we have the shelter part of our basic needs down — there are no wolves at the cave door),  the intense urge to follow the impulse is still there. We can have a head full of rational knowledge and still have great difficulty convincing the heart to sit back and listen to our beloved baby suffer.

Good news…you don’t have to.

Your reader above raises some very good points and familiar concerns. Once we know all of our child’s needs have been met, now is the time to satisfy the authentic need for sleep…but how do we support our child in their efforts to settle in and get a good, uninterrupted, period of sleep? As this mommy knows, the best way to raise a successful sleeper is to allow the child to learn how to go from sleepy to asleep on their own. And at 6 months of age, “On their own…but with a little help,” might be the ticket.

As mentioned in 7 Reasons To Calm Down About Babies Crying, the parent’s emotional state is key. I put this first in the list of ways to help our children through any disturbance. Since my program, Compassionate Sleep Solutions, is strongly rooted in Attachment Theory (or Regulatory Theory, as I like to call it), the first order of business is to offer soothing from a “self soothed” emotional state. To best help our child emotionally regulate, we must first make certain we (the parents) are emotionally centered.

The second thing I recommend is to try to distinguish between struggle and suffering in the child’s cries. Since struggle is inherent in all development, we can be confident that our child can develop a healthy relationship with struggle by allowing them to have their struggles.

If at any time you hear what sounds like suffering, by all means go in and offer soothing and comfort to your child. We will always respond to suffering, but we can do so without “rescuing” or “fixing” the child’s sleep.

Infants may have many wants, but  until they are verbal (and arguably even then) we will never know what they truly want. But if we are certain that sleep is what they need, we do not want to rob them of this wonderful time of rest and rejuvenation.  I find over and over that acknowledgement, empathy and compassion can be most powerful in helping our children through their learning struggles and inevitable suffering in this life.

I am reminded of what Thich Hhat Hanh refers to as The 4 Aspects of True Love. And true love is a deep and continual practice of compassion.

  1. Is true presence…”Beloved, I am here. We do this in the care giving routines and rituals of the day. We do our best to be mindful and present.
  2. Beloved, you are here and I am happy.” We do this having already established a strong and healthy attachment and bond.
  3. “Beloved, you are suffering and I am here.” We do this by offering acknowledgement, empathy and reassurance.

The fourth aspect is said to be the most difficult for the adult human.  It is because we have fear and pride. Perhaps we have fear that we will not be helped and are therefore too prideful to ask, or perhaps we have been trained to only think of the other:

  1. “I suffer…help ME.” We satisfy this as parents every time we sit in a RIE class and share our experience, struggles, parental guilt and fears. We do this with our mommy sisters, partners and husbands. And at every age we can be honest with our children by modeling humanness…”Sweetie I know…I hear you…this is hard for me,  too.” Because we also know what loss and grief are made of. And we know that no one can fix it…and no matter how painful it is…the feeling is meant to be felt.


Eileen Henry, RIE Associate
Compassionate Sleep Solutions



(Isn’t this the best photo ever?! It’s by Sellers Patton on Flickr)


Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. Interested to know how you see controlled crying (the Christopher Green method) fitting in with this model. It seems to be a bit of a ‘dirty word’ these days, but it worked brilliantly for me- and in my mind it fits perfectly with what you’re saying.

    Many people write controlled crying off as ‘leaving a baby to cry’ but it’s not that simple (or callous). After making sure my son’s physical and emotional needs were met fully, I returned to the room just as a reassuring (but not interfering) presence repeatedly, but at gradually longer intervals until he succeeded in self-settling. I used words and reassuring voice tone, but not touch.

    So- what’s the difference between this and what you suggest? I ended up with a baby who self-settled and, to this day, a very attached and loving son.

  2. we know there are no wolves at the cave door but we don’t know what is going on inside the baby. we never know if they have a headache or a stomach ache or if they feel nauseous. plus, if they can’t see us, they have no reason to believe we exist. object permanence doesn’t kick in until later. they feel alone in the world. you don’t want them to feel that way, i’m sure.

    1. Elizabeth says:

      I agree with you Margaret. I found this post very unilluminating and a little troubling. Quoting a Buddhist monk doesn’t make it OK to abandon a crying baby. Great if we have evolved beyond wolves, a baby’s brain has not. The same stress hormones that were released 10,000 years ago are being released now. And the only message an infant brain can interpret from being left alone crying is that no one is coming.

      1. I am so sorry if I made it sound as if “we are not coming”…we do come and offer love and support. Once we have established ourselves as reliable we continue to be so. Abandonment is a serious situation and at no time would we abandon. There is good evidence that object permanence is beginning to be learned as early as 8-weeks of age. Please refer to Alison Gopnik’s work on how competent and capable the infant brain is and the understanding that is being formed early on in development. We (the parents) do not cease to exist when we leave the room…especially if we return in a reliable and consistent manner. The brain is a miraculous organ and designed to handle incremental amounts of stress (struggle inherent in development) in order to later deal with the bigger stresses of development and…life.
        We are allowing a little struggle…much less for an infant than a toddler…but at no time would we abandon or just not come back and offer assistance if assistance is needed.

      2. Stephanie says:

        I agree with both of you Elizabeth and Margaret! I mean, what is she implying? That if a parent tells a non-verbal child that “I’m here for you” but then stands away and doesn’t respond with physical comfort- then that is going to soothe the child emotionally? What? I’m so sorry to hear that she is a sleep consultant. Poor babies 🙁

  3. I used a method similar to that described above by Aunt Annie to “sleep train” my little one around 4 months. I basically followed Ferber’s method – putting her down sleepy but awake, leaving the room but returning at intervals to sooth for about a minute each time. I soothed by using a reassuring tone and with touch, but I didn’t pick her up. This method worked great for us. My daughter has always needed more sleep than the average baby but was having a hard time getting enough before she learned to go to sleep on her own. Within a few days of this method, she was sleeping for longer periods at night and for naps, and she was a much happier baby. (As a consequence, I think I could be a better mother.) For me, it was very important that she be getting enough sleep, because I know how important it was for her learning and her mood during the day.

    I also think she had a real problem settling when I was present, which was very frustrating for me at the time. I tried to let her cry in my arms, but she would cry for an hour this way and we’d make no progress from one sleeping period to the next. When I allowed her to settle herself, she cried less and really seemed to learn to self soothe- as she would cry less and less each night. To be honest, it actually wasn’t as hard for me to listen to her cry at the time as I thought it would be. I’m a very gentle and loving mother, but after having her cry in my arms for hours, unable to fall asleep (and then waking up as soon as I set her down), I was ready to try something different. I would not have kept doing it if I didn’t see that she truly had so much progress from night to night. I do believe she was really learning to self-settle. She knew I wasn’t abandoning her, because I returned to quietly reassure her over and over until she fell asleep, and I always came to her if she woke up to nurse during the night. What we had been doing previously – rocking, walking, bouncing until she fell asleep, and then trying to “sneak” her into her bed – didn’t seem respectful to her at all. At 12-months, we now have happy, quiet bedtimes, with kisses and smiles and singing – and no crying. I see my well-rested baby 12 hours later when she wakes in the morning.

    So – it worked for us – but I’ve recently become interested in attachment theory and Attachment Parenting, and I’ve met Attachment Parents who liken my sleep training method to child abuse and say that I did real harm to my baby by leaving her alone to cry. I’m interested in reading the research behind their statements myself and coming to my own conclusions. In hindsight, I do wish I had found gentler way, but what we did was respectful to our baby’s need to sleep. While it may have been hard on her for a few nights, I think the long-term benefits of good sleep were tremendous. I plan to write about this topic on my blog soon, once I get a chance to read the research on crying and sleep.

    1. I encourage you to check out the work of Allan N. Schore of UCLA and his work on Attachment Theory. An interesting thing I have learned in my study of this theory is that novel experience for an infant is as stressful for the brain as a disturbance that can lead to crying. Laughter can lead to cortisol in the brain…but because we view the child as having a “positive” emotional response we are o.k. with that. The specific example of passing an infant to a stranger is used in this reference. This novel experience for an infant can result in either laughter or tears…and both send a little shot of cortisol coursing through the brain. I thought that interesting since “passing the baby” is a topic of discussion in many a RIE class.

      Staying with an infant through any disturbance is a fine solution to helping them learn a new skill such as sleep. However as many parents soon discover…staying actually increases the crying. You observed this, did a combination of going and returning to offer support and you ended up with a child who slept. And I am quite sure as the contributor above (Aunt Annie) mentions…she is a well attached and loving child to this day. Right on!

      Eileen Henry, RIE™ Associate
      Compassionate Sleep Solutions™

      1. Thank you for your reply – you have reassured me a great deal. I’m looking forward to reading Dr. Schore’s work and learning more about infants’ response to stress and crying. Thanks for referring me to that. I think much of the fears around allowing babies to cry as they struggle to go to sleep is based on research that is perhaps taken out of context. My goal is to learn enough that I can parent without fear!

        1. Ah…parenting without fear…what a wonderful world that would be. And yet fear is part of the parent/human condition. I am finding that a combination of continued education and acceptance is very helpful in this ongoing practice of parenting.

      2. Eileen,

        Could you give me more links/information on the study that laughter can lead to cortisol in the brain? Previous to reading your statement, I understand that laughter can result in the reduction of cortisol level.

        1. Grace, I believe what’s being said is that stress can be expressed in any number of ways, including crying or laughing. We’ve all experienced inappropriate laughter in cases of discomfort, for example, or the urge to weep in frustration. Both serve to release stress and thus lower cortisol.

          We faced the “infant witching hour” thus: when even the feeling of air moving in and out of your lungs is new and blinking is a skill yet to be mastered, being alive is a stressor, so letting your child cry that out so they can relax into sleep may be the most respectful thing you can do.

    2. Alice, I did the exact, and I mean exact same thing with my daughter who is almost two. Like you, I have also begun to feel guilty about my methods because of recent conversations with AP’s. Between this blog and hearing how similar our stories are with our daughters, I feel reassured and hope you do to! We did what was right for us, for our families, and we love our daughters with all our hearts. I enjoy putting my daughter to bed at night; we read a story, we sing a song, we give good night kisses, and she goes to sleep. I don’t know about you, but my desire is to raise a strong, independent, secure in herself, little girl!

    3. Alice,
      We had the same experience. A 12 month old daughter who would not (or could not) fall asleep. We would rock, breastfeed, bounce, put her in the Ergo and walk around the neighborhood, with her crying the entire time–sometimes for hours, before she would finally zonk out. We were all exhausted. We tried a method similar to what you did, and after 3 nights she was able to put herself to sleep, and sleep through the night with no fuss. I have a co-worker who continues to make comments about how it causes brain damage to let babies cry it out. It makes me mad that she is insinuating that we would harm our baby. I think we helped her, by letting her figure out on her how how to fall asleep–a skill that we all need. I know that I would not be as good of a parent if I were continuing to not get a full nights rest.

  4. Not sure if anyone will read this but, I have a 13 week old and naps and bedtime are getting to be extreme ordeals of me laying with him (the whole time for a nap) or two hours at bedtime (nursing of course!) I have tried letting him “cry” a little but I dont’ feel confident i’m not doing harm. Are there any other pages I could have recomended to help me wrap my brain about how to go about helping him to sleep?

    1. I wish I had seen this one earlier since I do not know how old your child is now. For infants (0-4 months)I would recommend staying close and being present for struggle that results in crying. This is a time where being in contact can help. You may try to put your hand on him or pat him in helping him sooth. Over time your baby will become more and more capable of self soothing.

  5. why do you have to leave the baby alone to cry? What is gained out of doing that? I don’t understand, the quote ‘beloved I am here’ is not even accurate because the caregiver goes out of the room. Clearly by going out of the room the parent is trying to manipulate control and train the baby. Aletha Solter, who is quoted in the 7 reasons to calm down about crying, ALWAYS advocated in arms crying and never to leave the child alone.

    1. We are always honest with the child. When we are physically there we strive to be 100% present. When we leave the room we tell the child…”I am leaving now so you can sleep.” The child always knows ahead of time what “I am here for you” looks like. And coming and going gives them the support and reassurance.

      “Clearly by going out of the room the parent is trying to manipulate control and train the baby”…this is not the goal or the outcome in what we are discussing here. However it is a common criticism of this process. For parents interested in this kind of sleep support for their child I would re-frame that in this way…we are allowing the child to learn a developmental skill and lovingly supporting them in the struggle necessary to achieve that. Because we are practicing this in the waking hours it does not seem so foreign to the child. They have experienced us leaving the room…they do not want us to leave…they cry…we assure them we will return…we do so…they trust this.

  6. I don’t understand how leaving a baby alone in a room is compassionate?
    I don’t like sleeping alone so why would I want to train my baby too? I always think that people who advocate babies sleeping on their own should spend a week sleeping seperatly to their own husband/wife. How does it make you feel? How does it effect your connection?Why you want to inflict that on a tiny baby?

    1. Ali, I know this is Eileen’s post, but I have to say that I’m always stunned when parents ask for help and are then met with criticism from other parents. If you have a better solution to offer this parent, please do so. Otherwise, please save your criticism and your narrow agenda for another blog. I’d like parents with questions to feel safe here.

      And, by the way, even Dr. Sears, the founder of Attachment Parenting states in his sleep tips that some babies sleep better in the own beds. Many parents do, too.

    2. Many of us would prefer to be next to a loved one but what do we do when that is not possible? You ask an important question…how does it make you feel to be separate? How does it affect your connection?

      And to take it a bit further and make the challenge even greater I would ask…and what am I willing to tolerate (or not tolerate) in order to avoid (or not avoid)the reality…that part of life is being alone and separate from our loved one. Can this be OK? Can this take place without triggering anxiety or panic? And if being separate triggers a response of anxiety…then what? What if being separate could actually strengthen the connection? What if one answer isn’t the right answer for everyone? What if my answer is incompatible with my partner’s answer? How will we negotiate being together and apart?

      Personally or in my work I do not treat thes questions as if they have a right or wrong answer. I work with individuals who have their own answers. And these questions ARE for the adult. I am not advocating leaving tiny babies alone to cry at length. If that is what is coming across in this discussion……oh well.

      There are many reasons and circumstances in life that make constant connection not possible or perhaps for some individuals not even desirable. I am not sure that once anyone is in relationship, especially intimate relationship, that there is a guarantee of constant connection.

      There is a possibility of achieving healthy intimacy where there is togetherness AND separateness. Some would argue that being able to negotiate both is an aspect of a healthy and balanced relationship.

  7. This is the first time ever I post a comment on a blog! But this is not any blog, it is your blog dear Janet.

    Thank you for your wise and poised advice that is so very reassuring and positive.

    I feel grateful that I discovered RIE while pregnant of our little boy who is now almost 5 months old. He has so far always been a good sleeper at night and for naps during the day (he has been sleeping in his own little bed from day 1). He has however recently lost his oh so wonderdul habit of playing a bit in his bed and quietly falling asleep after a little bit of “grizzling”. He now plays and as he comes close to falling asleep cries and.. does not fall asleep as he goes on crying. I have tried staying close to him reassuringly and then leave the room, etc but he ends up crying a lot more and that does not seem to end. I noticed that when I put him in the bassinet (smaller, much more confined and darker than his bed) or his stroller he gets back to his old habit of playing a bit and then falling asleep.

    My real question (on top of a request for any comments or advice on the current situation I described) is how the advice above from Eileen and you works together with Dr. Laura Markham’s article on the negative impact of not picking up a crying baby ( I know her article specifically refers to the Ferber method but I am concerned when she says: “sustained, uncomforted infant crying causes increased heart rate and blood pressure, reduced oxygen levels, elevated cerebral blood pressure, depleted energy reserves and oxygen, interrupted mother-infant interaction, brain injury, and cardiac dysfunction”! I would appreciate your thoughts on how your advice (compassionate presence without picking up the baby) ties in with Dr Laura’s paper.

  8. Hi Eileen/Janet –

    I sometimes feel like my son is abnormal. Since the day he was born he has despised/loathed sleep and any association with it. As soon as he starts to get drowsy, he will fight like the dickens to stay awake. He makes all kinds of noises – raspberries, moaning, whining – sometimes he will shake his head back and forth as if to ward the sensation off. He rubs his eyes and yawns, so I lay him down. He screams. He screams just as I’m approaching his bedroom. He screams if I just lay him down to change his diaper. He screams even if I put him in my bed next to me. He screams if I lay him in his stroller or in the swing – any form of laying down. He stops as soon as I pick him up. If *he* happens to end up on his back while playing, he does *not* scream. It’s not an issue of equilibrium, of being horizontal versus vertical, although I have wondered this before. He has no problem crawling or laying on his belly, or even being on his back of his own volition.

    So, I have tried everything, rocking, walking, talking, rolling, patting shushing, swing, stroller, car, music, getting him evaluated for a physical problem – EVERYTHING. They have not identified anything wrong with him. When I hold him and walk around with him, he stays awake – he is alerted almost and looks around in spite of himself, refusing against all odds to quietly rest on my shoulder and make his way into Shangri-La. It seems almost as if by holding him and walking him around, it takes the extra effort off of his body so that he has *more energy* to stay awake and alert for a longer period of time! I’m telling you, this kid will do anything to stay awake. He’s a smart, attentive, and very interested kid. He loves the world.

    So, what do I do? This article doesn’t really tell me what might work…it just hints at a philosophy. Here are my options:

    1. Walk around with him indefinitely. Even if it takes hours. He will squirm and he will even cry when he ultimately realizes he can’t fight the sleep demon. But at least he knows I am there and I understand his need. ?? Will he ever fall asleep? (He hates being smothered, by the way…doesn’t like the moby wrap and gets all “claustrophobic.” He will even push on me if I hold him too long.)

    2. Lovingly, calmly, gently walk him around for a bit, then slowly, gently put him down in his crib. As we approach his bedroom, he will turn from it and start to whine, then cry. When gets put into his crib, he will scream and try to hang on. Desperate. At that point, I can tell him I love him and I want for him to be happy, but unfortunately we all have to sleep sometimes, but I will be back in the morning to take care of him. I can tell him I’m right on the other side of the wall. He doesn’t understand any of this, and even if he did, I can honestly say he probably wouldn’t care…because he just doesn’t want to sleep. Period. But, then I will walk away and sit on the other side of the wall and listen while he *completely freaks out.*

    I have tried to do option 1, but I always end up putting him down – probably fatigue, or could be my mind playing tricks on me. I always end up doing option 2.

    But maybe I’m missing an option 3?

    1. I could have written this post. Now my son is 4.5 years old and although it is better, it is far from perfect. A low dose (0.0125 mg) of melatonin does help greatly. Ask your peds about it.

    2. Sydney Chaikin says:

      Oh my Mindy!! This was my 4year old son and is now my 14 week old son!!!!!

  9. After searching and searching for a good fit for myself, my husband and our 10 month old son, I came across your site yesterday. I read and read about sleep solutions and the note about compassion really stuck with me.

    I felt like our situation was really different than any I’d read – although I’m sure most moms do feel this way. Since my son is 10 months old, he’s at the age where he likes to pull up and hold on to the side of the crib when he wakes up, and won’t lay back down on his own. I’ve also nursed him to sleep since he was born, which definitely created a habit – and while not a bad habit, necessarily, his dependence on this has been wearing on me. And if something isn’t working for both of us, it’s gotta go.

    So, last night, I made sure he’d had his fill of milk after following our regular nighttime routine – jammies, book, milk – and then took him to lay him in his crib. I explained to him from dinner on that he would be sleeping in his own bed tonight and that he would have as much milk as he wanted in the morning. That we all needed to rest because it’s important for our health. I laid him down, still awake but sleepy. He cried, but I stood with him, giving him pats and talking in a soothing voice about how I knew this was different than normal and how it was hard to go to sleep on your own, but that I had confidence in his ability to go to sleep.

    Each time he rolled over, sat up and pulled up on the side of the crib, I laid him back down and kept up the patting/talking to him. After about five minutes of fussing, the next time I laid him down his eyes started to close. It took us about 30 minutes this first time. Once he laid down and stayed there, without crying – just making his “I will not go to sleep” noises, you know the ones – I stopped patting but told him to have a good rest and that Daddy and I were just in the next room. It took ten more minutes for him to fall asleep – and two or three more lay-downs. But he went out.

    Each time he woke up overnight, I did the same routine. Lay him down and pat and talk. The hardest one was at 4:30 this morning, when it took 30 minutes again. But the other times were less than 10. But I knew we could do it – and we did. Something I read here really hit home with me – that it would be hard for him to lose the old routine and gain a new one, but that it was our job as parents to give him the right environment for sleep – not to make him sleep. That’s what I did last night and I’m hoping after a few nights of the same, he’ll be putting himself back to sleep overnight unless he *really* needs me – in which case, he knows I’ll come to him.

  10. Stephanie says:

    I’m a mother of 4 and every single child has been SO different in sleep behavior. The judgmental criticisms above are not elevating the discussion at all. Do some babies need to cry to discharge off energy before sleeping soundly? Some might. Others might not. The most respectful sleep solution I have found is to 1.) Set the routine after reading about common sleep times (the Weissbluth book mentioned in the original post is very good for that) and paying close attention for your child’s sleepy signals 2.) Have a rock-solid sleep routine for naps and bedtime. 3.) Understand that there might be crying and know that you can select how to respond. 4.) Try to hold back and listen when baby makes noise during sleep. Don’t rush in all agitated and anxious at the first whimper. Take a moment to listen, center yourself, and decide how to respond. …… If I had to pick four words to describe sleep solutions it would be “Be calm, be consistent.”

  11. Just keep in mind there is actually scientific research regarding cry it out and that when babies are left to cry themselves to sleep, even once they stop crying, cortisol levels remain high, so the babies are inwardly stressed. I believe as mothers we are meant to nurture our babies to sleep; through the night etc. we have been doing it since the beginning of time.

    Unfortunately it is modern society that doesn’t fit with this natural model of parenting. We want our babies to sleep through the night, unaided, in their own beds because it suits us but is not very realistic or respectful of the babies needs.

    1. It is most respectful to babies’ needs to help them get a restorative night sleep. In the beginning of time, babies needed to be shushed so that the family wouldn’t be attacked by wild animals. And in those days babies had boring, predictable days… They weren’t in stores and restaurants, overstimulated, etc. They weren’t placed in electric swings or bounced to sleep on balls. Prehistoric parenting is not helpful to children or their parents today. All it does is perpetuate emotional repression and keep the therapists in business. There is no longer a need to stifle or stuff our babies emotions because we fear hearing their feelings. With our help, children can clear their feelings, as needed, and sleep more deeply. We can do better.

      1. Sarah Beth Shapiro says:

        This is simply not true. We have lots of resources that indicate babies will sleep as much as they need to sleep on their own. The charts about how much sleep they need are essentially pro sleep training propaganda to use fear and guilt to push parents towards sleep training. There are so many neuroscientists and PhD‘s who advocate against sleep training. But it is a multi million dollar industry at this point. If you look at the hashtag #babyledsleep you’ll find so many passionate and highly educated advocates for biologically normal infant sleep. You are putting the patents first but pretending you’re not. That is my opinion, though obviously you in disagree.

  12. Help! I have a bright, aware wonderful 9.5 month old who I have not managed to get to go to sleep on her own because she goes BALISTIC, eventually, when lying down in bed still awake. Even if she is right next to me. She insists on falling asleep in my arms, whether by nursing or bouncing. Or in her car seat, stroller, or ergo/sling is the only other ways she’ll fall asleep. I’ve resorted to driving her around and sitting in the car while she sleeps, which I vowed to never do because I don’t believe it’s good for them on many levels to sleep in car seats. The teacher of my mommy and me class says that this type of method can work for babies that cry, fuss, whine, etc, but those babies that get hysterical, it just doesn’t work for and we have to find other ways. When she gets hysterical, it goes on and on, I’ve waited up to 30 minutes but simply can’t sit there and allow my baby to scream for that long. I honestly don’t know how she hasn’t destroyed her vocal chords. She does the same whether I am there in the room or leave and come back… Currently she sleeps in bed with me – I’m a single mom and so that’s ok, she wakes to nurse 2 or 3 times a night, and that’s ok with me. But getting her to nap, and sometimes even at night, can take hours sometimes, if she’s fighting it (sometimes she goes right to sleep wither on my boob or in my arms). I just don’t know what to do. I want to support her needs and to establish a good relationship to sleep, independence. Please help.

  13. This definitely helped in NO way – any us full information?

  14. Hello!

    I am writing this close to tears and in my car with my baby asleep in the car seat.

    First of all, he is an average sleeper I would say and so far, me or my husband always respon to him crying or waking. He is about to turn one and I am noticing that he is not getting enough sleep and I need to find a way to help him.
    At night he wakes 1-3 times and each time we go in, pick him up and walk back and forth until he is asleep and then gently put him down. Sometimes he wakes when up back in his bed, sometimes he doesn’t. When he wakes sometimes he fussed and goes to sleep but mostly we need to pick him up again and walk until he is asleep again. Sometimes he is hungry and we give him a bottle (until two weeks ago I would always nurse him back to sleep but I had to wean for medical reasons).
    If we don’t pick him up he will sit up and crawl to us and pull on our legs crying.

    For naps I give him a bottle and walk with him and then sneak him into his bed. He doesn’t take very long naps. Most days he naps at 10:30 for 1 – 1.5 hours and then struggles to nap again in the afternoon (hence me sitting in the car again). I feel he needs one longer nap and a solid 12 hours at night but I have no idea how to help him get there. How do I make him nap longer? He wakes and fussed and if I don’t come in he will distract himself and play but not go to sleep again, even if he is tired. I want to be respectful and I get that sneaking him into his bed is not that. I also understand the importance of self soothing but for his naps I have no idea how to get there. Should I just work on nights for now and then hope he will use the self soothing skills for daytime as well?

    Thank you in advance for your help!

  15. This is a really touchy subject for many people.
    While I live this blog the sleep ones I’ve found really hard to get on board with.
    Unlike some others I realise Eileen isn’t advocating cry it out but the research I find behind the developmental stages of a babies brain to cope with what she is suggesting seem to be incredibly early here compared to other research.
    I have a fantastic non sleeper but at 2 years she has taught herself how to start to self sooth with my gentle presence but right from her first day on this Earth I was not able to put her down for sleep. Slowly we transitioned to that but it was all within what she was happy with.
    I feel like to be respectful parents isn’t it the most respectful thing not to push our babies/children before they are ready? And I believe they are capable of letting us know that rather than a predetermined age. Much like every child is different development rates are also so different.
    While I agree with Janet about the prehistoric risks are not the same and exposure for babies is so different there biology is still basically the same for those baby and infant stages.
    I love this blog and Janet has been such a help with my toddler. But as a baby I would have found it a lot harder to reconcile with.
    Isn’t that how we learn and adapt though, to challenge what is said when something doesn’t sit well with us.

  16. Hi Janet thank you for such wonderful response from a sleep specialist, I have recently had a lot of trouble with my 5 months old little girls sleep specially night time, as she is my third child and presence of two elder brothers(8 and 4) Kees her over stimulated.. she goes to sleep on her own as I put her on bed(we are co sleeping) but when she wakes up during the night and finds me next to her she just couldn’t go back to sleep without nursing on me.. I’m trying to figure out how frequent a feed she needs during the night and as currently don’t have an option to move her in her own room/nursery what could I do which can make it easier for her to get back to sleep.

  17. Sarah Beth Shapiro says:

    I am very disappointed that you advocate any form of sleep training. I disagree wholeheartedly, and most of us and the attachment parenting community believe in truly baby led sleep. I just hope I don’t have to question all the rest of the vice you’ve ever given me because I was really a big fan.

    1. I agree. I’m saddened to see this (and truly hope she has since changed her mind after reading into what modern infant neuroscience says). I’m absolutely shocked that someone who claims to respect babies would let them CIO in any form… So disappointed. Let’s be the change and start a nurture revolution, friend.

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