3 Baby Sleep Strategies
Cry it out vs. Soothe to sleep
STEPHANIE: My husband and I tried letting our daughter, Sara, now 9, cry it out once when she was a baby. It was agonizing: She cried for so long and worked herself into such a tizzy that she eventually threw up all over the crib. That's when I (literally) threw the parenting book I was trying to follow into the trash can and decided to do whatever was going to allow both of us to get some sleep. As a working mom, I was away from my baby five days a week. Cuddling with her and nursing her to sleep at night was the perfect solution. We both fell asleep quickly and easily and got some much-needed time to snuggle and reconnect.
SARA: If you'd asked me when I was pregnant with my first child if I'd let her cry it out, I would have gotten on my high horse and said "Of course not!" My vision was to rock my baby to sleep, gently place her in her crib, and tiptoe out of the room. But I soon realized that my vision was a fantasy, not the reality of motherhood. No matter how hard I tried, sometimes my baby girl (Anna, now 9) would not fall asleep, despite the fact that her tummy was full, her diaper was dry, and it was the middle of the night. Then my husband and I read Touchpoints, by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. His theory is that if you always respond immediately when your baby wakes up, she won't learn to get back to sleep on her own without help from Mom or Dad. It made sense to us, so we decided to try (wince) sleep training. It was difficult, I'll admit. It's not pleasant to listen to your baby wail. But I'd check on her every five to ten minutes -- which felt like an eternity -- and rub her back (but never pick her up). And you know what? Within half an hour, she was asleep. The next night, she was asleep in about 15 minutes. It didn't take long at all before she was a much better sleeper and could fall asleep quickly on her own. Aah.
What you need to know, no matter what you choose:
Don't attempt any sleep-training method before 4 months (it's important to respond quickly to newborns). And rule out other causes of tears (fever, a dirty diaper, pain) before letting your tot cry for any length of time. Some parents prefer to go cold turkey (letting your child cry on his own until he conks out). But most experts prefer a gradual approach: Soothing every five minutes at first, then increasing the interval time each night. Check out the methods developed by Richard Ferber, M.D., or Kim West (aka "The Sleep Lady").