The No Cry Sleep Solution

Introduction Excerpt

This groundbreaking new book explains the exact steps you can take to gently help your baby sleep through the night. So, prop your eyelids open, grab a cup of coffee, and let me explain how this book can help you to help your baby sleep — so that you can get some much-needed sleep, too.

How do I know so much about children and sleep?

I am the proud and lucky mother of four children who shine the light on my life, whether they’re asleep or awake. There’s my firstborn Angela, now 14, and leading me into the (so far) delightful experience of mothering a teenager. Not far behind her are 12-year-old Vanessa and 10-year-old David. And then there’s two-year-old Coleton…ahh, Coleton. Our little treasure of a surprise who reminded me of all the wonderful things I love about babies. And who also reminded me that with babies… come sleepless nights.

While I was in the process of convincing Coleton to go to sleep at bedtime — and stay asleep, all night — I discovered many wonderful, practical, loving solutions. As an author and parent educator, I take pleasure in sharing these with you, in hopes that you’ll get some shuteye, too.

How The No-Cry Sleep Solution can help you

Through months of research, personal experience, and working with 60 test case families, I have assembled and organized a wide variety of gentle ways to help your baby sleep through the night. The ideas do not involve letting your baby cry — not even for a minute. You will create a customized plan for your own family based on the ideas, all within a simple and easy-to-follow framework. It’s a method that is as gentle and loving as it is effective.

Let me tell you why I became passionate about writing this book:

Fourteen years ago, when my first child, Angela, was a baby, I faced your dilemma: She did not sleep through the night. On the contrary, she woke every two hours for my attention. As a new, inexperienced parent, I searched for solutions in books, articles, and conversations with other parents.

I soon discovered two schools of thought when it comes to babies and sleep:

  1. One side advocates letting a baby cry until she learns to fall asleep on her own.
  2. The other side says that it is a parent’s job to nurture the baby — all day and all night — and eventually, when your baby is ready, she will sleep through the night.

In a nutshell, the two methods can be summed up as “cry it out” or “live with it.” I wanted neither. I knew there had to be a kinder way, a road somewhere between nighttime neglect and daytime exhaustion that would be nurturing for my baby and for me.

Those many years ago, I felt guilty and selfish when I began to wish for an uninterrupted night’s sleep. To reconcile my own instincts regarding Angela’s nighttime needs with the fatigue that hampered my daytime parenting was nearly impossible. Time passed, and eventually my daughter did sleep through the night — but not until after her second birthday.

 “Cry it out” 

Advocates of this method make it sound so easy: A few nights of crying, and your baby will be sleeping all night, every night. If only it were so simple! My research has shown that very few parents experience this effortless success. Many deal with weeks of crying for hours each night (for baby and parent, in many instances.) Some have babies who cry so violently that they vomit. Some parents find that the nighttime crying affects their babies’ daytime personalities — making them clingy and fussy. Many find that any setback (teething, sickness, missing a nap) sends them back to their night waking problems, and they find they must let their babies cry it out over and over again. Many (if not all) parents who resort to letting their babies cry it out do so because they believe that it is the only way they will get their babies to sleep through the night.

My personal experience with “Cry it out” 

At one point during Angela’s period of sleeplessness, I did cave in to all the pressure from friends, family, and even my pediatrician, who recommended that “a few nights of crying” would solve our problem. (If you’re reading this book, you know this pressure, too.) So one dreadful night, I did indeed let her cry it out.

Oh, I checked on her often enough, but each return visit struck me with my precious baby holding out her arms, desperately and helplessly crying, “Mama!” with a look of terror and confusion on her tiny face. And sobbing. After two hours of this torment, I was crying, too.

I picked up my cherished baby and held her tightly in my arms. She was too distraught to nurse, too distressed to sleep. I held her and kissed her downy head as her body shook and hiccupped in the aftermath of her sobbing. I thought, “This approach is responding to a child’s needs? This is teaching her that her world is worthy of her faith and trust? This is nurturing?”

I decided then and there: They are all wrong. Horribly, intolerably, painfully wrong. I was convinced that this was a simplistic and harsh way to treat another human being, let alone the precious little love of my life. To allow a baby to suffer until she resigns herself to sleep is heartless and, for me, unthinkable.

I promised my baby that I would never again follow the path that others prescribed for us. I would never again allow her to cry it out. Even more, I vowed not to let any of her brothers- or sisters-to-be suffer the horrible experience we’d just endured.

And I never have.  

Thirteen years later: The more things change…

At 10 months old, my fourth baby, Coleton, was not sleeping through the night. Following in his older sister’s footsteps, and beating her record, he was waking nearly every hour for my attention. Now a mature, seasoned parent and professional parent educator, I found that my beliefs about letting a baby cry it out had not changed at all. I was certain that the intervening years would have produced new solutions. I thought I would find useful, concrete ideas in a book, and I began my search.

Nearly a month later, eyes glazed over with fatigue, I evaluated my finds. Before me sat a stack of articles and books — old and new — with the same old choice of two answers to my dilemma: Either let the baby cry it out or learn to live with it.

What experts say about the mutual agony of “cry it out”

I did find much new data that reinforced my abhorrence of letting a baby cry it out. Dr. Paul M. Fleiss and Frederick Hodges in Sweet Dreams: A Pediatrician’s Secrets for Baby’s Good Night’s Sleep Lowell House, 2000) have this to say about such training programs for babies:

“A child cannot comprehend why you are ignoring his cries for help. Ignoring your baby’s cries, even with the best of intentions, may lead him to feel that he has been abandoned. Babies are responding to biological needs that sleep ‘experts’ either ignore or deny. It is true that a baby whose crying is ignored may eventually fall back asleep, but the problem that caused the night waking in the first place has remain unsolved.

“The most sensible and compassionate approach is to respond immediately to your child’s cries. Remind yourself that you are the parent, and that giving your baby reassurance is one of the joyous responsibilities of being a parent. It is a beautiful feeling knowing that you alone have the power to brighten your child’s life and banish fear and sorrow.”

Kate Allison Granju, in Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child
(Pocket Books, 1999), writes:

“Babies are people, extremely helpless, vulnerable, and dependent people. Your baby counts on you to lovingly care for her. When she cries, she is signaling — in the only way she knows how — that she needs you to be with her.

“You know what it feels like to cry in fear or distress. It feels terrible. And it’s no different for your baby. When your baby cries he experiences physical changes. His blood pressure rises, his muscles become tense, and stress hormones flood his little body.

“Babies who are subjected to ‘cry it out’ sleep training do sometimes sleep deeply after they finally drop off. This is because babies and young children frequently sleep deeply after experiencing trauma. This deep sleep shouldn’t be viewed as proof of the efficacy of the [cry it out] method but rather evidence of one of its many disturbing shortcomings.”

Dr. William Sears, in Nighttime Parenting: How to Get Your Baby and Child to Sleep (La Leche International, 1999), says that letting a baby cry it out creates “detachment parenting” and goes so far as to warn parents against this approach:

“Parents, let me caution you. Difficult problems in child rearing do not have easy answers. Children are too valuable and their needs too important to be made victims of cheap, shallow advice.”

How does a baby feel about crying it out?

No one truly knows how crying it out affects a baby. After all, one cannot raise a baby twice and note the difference. And no one really knows how a baby feels when he is left to cry it out. Jean Liedloff presents a likely perception in her volume on anthropology, The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost (Addison-Wesley, 1977.) Here, she describes a baby waking in the middle of the night:

“He awakes in a mindless terror of the silence, the motionlessness. He screams. He is afire from head to foot with want, with desire, with intolerable impatience. He gasps for breath and screams until his head is filled and throbbing with the sound. He screams until his chest aches, until his throat is sore. He can bear the pain no more and his sobs weaken and subside. He listens. He opens and closes his fists. He rolls his head from side to side. Nothing helps. It is unbearable. He begins to cry again, but it is too much for his strained throat; he soon stops. He waves his hands and kicks his feet. He stops, able to suffer, unable to think, unable to hope. Then he falls asleep again.”

Renewed resolve, but tired nonetheless

So, reading all these books had strengthened my resolve not to let my baby cry himself to sleep. Nevertheless, with the perspective of experience, as a mother of four, I refused to feel guilty for wanting a good night’s sleep. I wanted sleep. I wanted answers.

There had to be answers. 

My research began in earnest. I searched the library and bookstores, and I took to the Internet. Observations and laments were easy to come by. But solutions? The same two schools of thought appeared over and over: “Cry it out” or live with it.

Parents, though, seemed to fall into only one category: Sleep-deprived and desperate. Here’s how one mother described her condition:

“I am truly distressed, as the lack of sleep is starting to affect all aspects of my life. I feel as though I can’t carry on an intelligent conversation. I am extremely unorganized and don’t have the energy to even attempt reorganization. I love this child more than anything in the world, and I don’t want to make her cry, but I’m near tears myself thinking about going to bed every night. Sometimes I think, ‘What’s the point? I’ll just be up in an hour anyway.’”

Leesa, mother of 9-month-old Kyra

At this point in my own research, I began thinking that other parents going through the frequent-night-waking ordeal would have ideas to share. So I sought out those parents. And there, in the bits and pieces of conversations of personal experience, articles, books, and other sources, along with my own experimentations with my little Coleton, I began to find solutions. There in the interpersonal exchanges between parents who have tried every conceivable method, I began to find ideas that did not sentence a baby to hours of nightly crying. I found the solutions that offered more peaceful paths to the rest so desperately needed by the whole family.

I also researched the scientific reasons that babies wake up at night and dissected truth from fallacy. I picked apart the myriad solutions I’d read about, immersed myself in whatever I could find on the subject, and kept in regular contact with other sleep-deprived parents. Slowly, from the middle ground between the misery of crying it out and the quiet fatigue of all-night parenting, rose a plan – a gentle, nurturing plan to help my baby sleep.

I know because I’ve been there 

Most books on babies and sleep are written by experts who, while well versed in the technical and physiological aspects of sleep, simply and obviously don’t understand on a personal level the agony of being kept up all night, night after night, by their own babies … or the heartache of hearing their little ones cry for them in the darkness. In contrast, I’ve experienced the foggy existence of sleepless nights. And having four unique children has afforded me the realization that, while it is possible for a very young baby to sleep all night, it is certainly the exception.

These “expert” books are typically complicated, difficult to read, and woefully short on solutions. I waded through stacks of books bursting with information about human sleep, but all lacked specific solutions to the sleeping-through-the-night-without-crying-it-out dilemma. Sure, the reader learns the mechanics …but still she’s left wondering one basic question: How does she teach her baby to sleep?

To show you how things were going for me when I began working on my sleep concepts, this was Coleton’s actual night waking schedule, logged on tiny bits of paper one very sleepless night:

Coleton’s Night Wakings
12 months old

8:45 P.M. Lie in bed and nurse, still awake
9:00 Up again to read with David and Vanessa
9:20 To bed, lie down and nurse to sleep
9:40 Finally! Asleep
11:00 Nurse for 10 minutes
12:46 Nurse for 5 minutes
1:55 Nurse for 10 minutes
3:38 Change diaper, nurse for 25 minutes
4:50 Nurse for 10 minutes
5:27 Nurse for 15 minutes
6:31 Nurse for 15 minutes
7:02 Nurse for 20 minutes
7:48 Up. Nurse, then up for the day

Number of night wakings: 8
Longest sleep stretch: 1 ½ hours
Total hours of nighttime sleep: 8¼ hours
Daytime nap: One restless nap for ¾ hour
Total hours of sleep: 9 hours

And I did this for 12 months! So, you see? If you are there now, you really do have my heartfelt sympathy, because I have been there too. And I can get you out of that sleepless place, just as I did for my baby and myself. That’s a promise.

I picked my way though ideas and options, experimenting and applying what I was learning. As my research progressed, so did our improvement. As Coleton began to sleep better, I was deeply involved in the research and writing of this book, so naturally, I continued to apply what I was learning. More time passed, and Coleton finally followed in his sister’s footsteps and began sleeping 10 straight hours without a peep. (At first, I would wake up every few hours worried. I’d place my hands on his little body to feel for breathing. Eventually I realized he was just peacefully, quietly asleep.)

This is Coleton’s log after using the strategies I’d learned during the writing of this book:

Coleton’s Night Wakings

7:50 P.M. Coleton lays his head on my lap and asks to go “Night night.”
8:00 To bed. Lie down to nurse.
8:18 p.m. Asleep
6:13 a.m. Nurse for 20 minutes
7:38 Up for the day

Number of night wakings: 1 (Improved from 8)
Longest sleep stretch: 10 hours (Improved from 1 ½)
Total hours of nighttime sleep: 11 hours (Improved from 8¼)
Naps: One peaceful nap, two hours long (Improved from ¾ hour)
Total daily hours of sleep: 13 hours (Improved from 9 hours)

Amount of crying involved: ZERO  

Here’s a footnote that will please many of you. Throughout this entire process, Coleton continued to breastfeed and to sleep with me. Through my own experience and working with other mothers, I realized that co-sleeping/breastfeeding babies can sleep all night next to Mommy without waking to nurse, contrary to popular thinking. If you are determined to continue breastfeeding and/or co-sleeping with your baby, you might be able to do so and get some sleep, too!

My “Test Mommies” 

Once I had found success with Coleton, I searched out other families who were struggling with their baby’s night wakings. I gathered a group of 60 women who were enthusiastic about trying my sleep ideas. This test group is a varied and interesting bunch! When we first met, their babies ranged in age from two months to 27 months. For some, this is a first baby, some have older siblings, and one mother has twins. Some of the mothers work outside the home; some work only at home. Some bottle-feed, some breastfeed. Some co-sleep, some put their babies to sleep in a crib, and some do a little of both. They are all very different from one another – yet they are all exactly the same in one important way: When we first met, they were all struggling with sleepless nights.

These mothers dutifully completed sleep logs every 10 days and emailed me on a regular basis to keep me informed of their progress. They asked questions, (boy, did they ask questions!) and as we worked through my sleep plan, they provided the information and feedback that helped me refine my ideas. Read their interviews here.

Proof! It works!  

At the start of our work together, none of the 60 mothers had babies who were “sleeping through the night” according to the medical definition of the phrase: sleeping a stretch of five or more hours without waking.

As the test group of mothers followed ideas in The No-Cry Sleep Solution:

By day 10, 42% of the babies were sleeping through the night.
By day 20, 53% were sleeping through the night.
By day 60, 92% were sleeping through the night.
Once these babies reached the five-hour milestone, they continued on with more sleep success, some achieving sleep stretches of nine to 13 hours.

You can sleep, too

There are no good reasons for you to live as a sleep-deprived martyr. There are ways to get your baby to sleep without resorting to all-night cry-a-thons.

In summary, I don’t believe babies should be left alone to cry themselves to sleep. Or even left to cry as you pop in every 10 minutes to murmur comforting words without reaching out to touch him. But I also know that you can — gently and lovingly — help your baby to sleep peacefully all night long. So give The No-Cry Sleep Solution a try, and plan on seeing some wonderful sleep results.

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Sleep Solution (McGraw-Hill, 2002).

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