Thursday, January 6, 2011

with child's sleep: no cry, some cry, or let cry?

It's a constant issue in conversations with fellow parents when it comes to their children's sleep; do we never if at all possible let the child cry, or just some, or do we have the child cry it all out and be done with it. What do you think? What works best for you, in your experience? Should the child be trained to self-sooth so as to fall asleep on his/her own? Or should we expect to be there for the child's sleep, even if it implies driving for-seemingly-ever to help the child nap. And is it ok to have your child collapse at night in your arms while you're watching a movie, because frankly, you're not feeling much like putting the child down for bed (especially if it implies lying there for a good hour or so).

I've set up a quick poll (see linked to the right) and would love to hear your opinion. And if you have the time, I would really appreciate receiving your comments in response to my questions for my Sleep Question book, which I will include below.

Since becoming a mom two and a half years ago, sleep has been a constant thing on my mind. How do I get my baby to sleep? And then to stay asleep? How do I find enough sleep? How do I handle this with my husband? And so on and on. I launched my current book project, The Sleep Question,  a collection of interviews with fellow moms (and some dads) of young children about their experiences with sleep a year ago or so, and I'm still looking for more stories. I've conducted in-person interviews with people I could reach, but would love to hear from more people, near and far away.

Feel free to respond either in the comment section to this post or via email to agsabo[at] I'll change all names in the final manuscript, but feel free to leave out or change names yourself in what you submit to me.

  • Please state the ages of yourself and your child(ren) and say a little bit about yourself (especially as you might find relevant to a discussion about the way you sleep/nighttime parent)

  • Did you have any preconceived ideas about the child’s sleep (sleep arrangement) prior to birth?
    [Had you thought about how you thought things would be, had you planned where the child would sleep?]

  • How did it go? What did you do? Naps, nights (where and when)
  • Then? Now? What have characterized different stages? Nap and bedtime routines?
  • Did you ever feel like a human pillow for your child’s naps? If so, under what circumstances, how often, for how long?
  • Have you nursed your child, if so, how has that affected your sleep arrangements? If you have not nursed, how do you think that has affected your sleep situation?
  • Has your child ever struggled to sleep (falling asleep, staying asleep)? If so, when and for what reasons, do you think? How long did the difficult stretch last, what helped you and the child get through and over it?
  • What different strategies did you try?
  • How has your own sleep been (from before pregnancy, through it, till now)?
  • How has the relationship to your spouse or co-parent been? Do you feel you can share the responsibility of sleep parenting?
  • How have you or how do you intend to balance work/staying at home/child care and how do you think that has or will affect your sleep parenting (has or will someone else be putting your child down for naps, night)?
  • What books have you read about this topic, and have they been helpful or not?
  • If you have two children or more, how have experiences with your first child affected the sleep arrangements with your other child(ren)?
    • Did you change anything?
    • Do the children seem to relate differently to sleep? If so, how?
  • What would you do differently (or the same) if you have another child?
  • What do you like, dislike about your sleep arrangements?

  • Do you remember the first time you paused to think about your child’s sleep?


  1. We did sleep training when our now-three-year-old was four or five months old. He did cry for a good while the first night, a fair amount the second night, just a little the third night, and thereafter he has never ever cried overnight. He falls asleep on his own without any problem, and he almost always goes back to sleep on his own if he wakes up overnight.

    It was hard that first week of sleep training, and the crying was impressive the first night, and it was hard to stick through with the "protocol" to the letter, but if you add up the total number of hours he has spent crying at bedtime or overnight and compare that to the total number of hours of crying for a typical non-sleep-trained child, I'm pretty confident that the non-sleep-trained child will be spending many, many, many more hours crying rather than relaxing and actually sleeping than our three-year-old.

    The only problem with sleep-training I can see is that parents should do it sooner than later--the later you do it, the more fraught with difficulty it will be. For instance, you can't really sleep-train and potty-train in the same phase of life. You can't really sleep-train a child that easily who can easily climb out of bed. Etc.

  2. Thanks, Simon! I appreciate your commenting. I think in our home it's the parents, and not our daughter, who at times end up on the verge of crying when she resists sleep. But it's an interesting proposition. I wonder what the experience of other parents who haven't sleep trained has been. Anyone?

  3. We sleep trained our daughter when she was an infant (she's now almost 3). It entailed less than 3 hours of crying total over two nights. In my experience parents who have sleep trained don't spend a lot of time talking about crying because there isn't any going-to-bed crying or getting-out-of-bed crying after the 2 or 3 days of training. I find it odd that the parents who don't sleep train keep dwelling on the crying issue.

    I think better questions (at least for my family and my sleep trained kid) would be: how long does your bedtime routine take at night before your child is asleep? Does the routine ever fail to result in a sleeping child? Do you ever resent your kid being up when you feel they ought to be sleeping?

    Because honestly, I can't answer for every parent of a sleep-trained kid, but in our case my daughter has a 1/2 hour bedtime routine (toothbrushing, pjs, books, hugs and kisses, singing). Then she goes to sleep. Sometimes during the singing, sometimes presumably shortly thereafter. But the routine only fails to result in her going to sleep about twice a year. Asleep by about 8pm every night. Earlier if she needs it. We never resent her being up past her bedtime, encroaching on our evening, because she never is.

    And on the rare occasion when she gets out of bed again there's always a good reason that we can then fix (bad dream, potty issue, needs another blanket, threw up, whatever) and kiss her and hug her and say goodnight and leave the room.

    I don't think crying is actually the issue. After infancy there's not that much crying. The issue is more like: how long does it take you to put your kid to bed and does it work and is it convenient and pleasant for all involved and maybe most importantly how often do you resent your kid for not being asleep or not going to sleep or not staying asleep.

    Just some food for thought. Good luck with your project.

    All the best,


  4. I love what Jacquie said here: "The issue is more like: how long does it take you to put your kid to bed and does it work and is it convenient and pleasant for all involved and maybe most importantly how often do you resent your kid for not being asleep or not going to sleep or not staying asleep."

    Because I think that IS the issue. Resentful parents aren't doing the family any favors. It's also interesting to me that Jacquie's daughter goes to bed great and she attributes that to sleep training and my kids go to bed great and I attribute that to NOT sleep training. Maybe most kids just mature into healthy sleep habits eventually. Or maybe it's got to do with other aspects of our parenting.

  5. yes, and different personalities. I agree that resentment is a key issue here and that different ways of parenting work for different kinds of people and what would make some resentful works for others. Thank you both for commenting!

  6. thank you for taking the time to contribute with your story to my project, Dawn!


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