Category Archives: Don’t let the bedbugs bite

Magnum opus

You might quite reasonably have assumed that my long absence from here was due to post-NaBloPoMo burnout, but you'd be wrong.  I was actually working on the first post written specifically for the Parenting Myths and Facts blog.  And, good lord, was it ever a project.

The topic was one I'd been meaning to write about for several years, but never tackled due to its sheer enormity – a summary of the research on the safety of sharing a bed with your baby, and why different factions reach such completely opposed conclusions on the subject.  (I was originally going to title it 'Why almost everybody in the bedsharing debate is wrong', but decided that might be too contentious.)  I was finally kicked into action when Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction came up with the idea of a blog carnival on safe co-sleeping, and I figured I'd have a shot at getting it done in time to submit it.  And, after days of frantic rewriting and doubting whether I had a hope of making it, I finally got it finished the day before the Carnival and edited (when I woke up on the Carnival morning and remembered a study I'd omitted) about five minutes before it went live, which it did a week ago.  It was worth it – if I say so myself, I'm proud of the finished product.  Do please check out The truth about bedsharing risks – and why it may not be what you think.



Filed under Don't let the bedbugs bite

Why I don’t believe that sleep training is incompatible with children’s rights

Mothers for Women's Lib regularly host a Carnival of Feminist Parenting.  Every month (recently reduced to every two months) they post links to a selection of posts about various diverse topics on the general themes of feminism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination, and about how parenting is affected by these issues (both by discrimination and by the need to fight against it).

A few months ago, one of the featured posts was an anti-sleep training polemic.  Just Let Her Cry started out with a fictional first-person tale of an ill and depressed woman shut in her room by her husband every evening when it suited him regardless of whether she was hungry, in pain, or just not tired.  The author then drew her analogy between this and controlled crying or other forms of cry-it-out (CIO) sleep training, which she referred to as 'neglect with a different name'.  She claimed, inaccurately but ominously, that scientists everywhere knew the short and long-term consequences of CIO to be 'vast', and was scathing in her condemnation of parents who've tried sleep training: 'They aren't setting out to harm a
child, but that doesn't change the fact that they are.  Argue with me
all you want.  Say "I let my baby cry it out, and he/she is fine".  I
don't believe you.  I believe you broke your child like an animal.  I
believe they gave up.  They didn't magically learn to "self-soothe",
they just figured out that you suck at being a parent at night time.'  This wasn't a discussion of feminist parenting; this was a no-holds-barred shot in the Mommy Wars.

I enquired as to the appropriateness of this post as a carnival submission.  One of the site's authors replied 'We are advocates of children’s rights as well as women’s rights and
believe the two are very much intertwined.'  So be it; their Carnival, their choice as to what they consider appropriate, and I wouldn't even want to go down the road of telling people what views they can or can't express.  But I disagree with the implication that a belief in children's rights automatically means a belief that controlled crying is always wrong, and I think it would be a shame if that particular post was the only view a site supposedly for anyone interested in feminism and parenting had on the matter.  So this is my explanation of why I do not agree with that poster's analogy, and why I do not agree that a belief in children's rights is incompatible with a belief that sleep training may be a perfectly reasonable option for a parent to consider.

First off, some background explanation of what sleep training actually is, what it's not, and what purpose it serves:

A little-known fact that's important for understanding sleep training is that all babies wake up multiple times each night.  I'm not talking just about the sleep pattern of very young babies or about occasional bad nights in older babies (although it's important to recognise those as facts of parenting life as well); I'm talking about what happens in every baby, every night, including all the ones whose parents think of them as sleeping through the night.  The parents of those babies aren't lying; the key is not that those babies don't wake up, but that they get back to sleep again right away when they do wake up.  If, on the other hand, the only way a baby can get to sleep is by being rocked or nursed or what-have-you by someone else, then the someone else is going to have to wake up several times every night to do this; and that's where it becomes a problem.

One way of dealing with this is simply to have the baby in bed with you, thereby meaning that you can cuddle or nurse them or whatever without waking up.  As long as the parents are also happy with this and have taken proper safety precautions, this can be a perfectly good solution.  However, there are various reasons why this is not a universal solution for every situation, and so the other option is to teach the baby to go back to sleep alone.  (Older babies, that is; babies in their early months still need to feed every few hours and so trying to get them to sleep through an entire night can actually put them at dangerous risk of dehydration.  For this, among other reasons, sleep training methods are not recommended for babies in the early months.)  Sleep training is the term used for the various methods used to do this. 

Sleep training is not meant for use in situations where the problem is actually that the baby still needs night feedings, or isn't well, or has had a nightmare, or some other need for help or comfort.  (I'm not trying to claim, here, that nobody has ever ignored a baby in such situations and mistakenly referred to that as sleep training; I'm pointing out that
this is not why sleep training methods were designed or how they are
appropriately used.  From what the author said in this post and others
on her blog, it is absolutely clear that she was not merely warning against
misuse of sleep training – in which case I'd have agreed with her – but
was lumping all sleep training in under that description and condemning
it wholesale.)  Sleep training is for teaching the baby to be able to get back to sleep in situations where nothing's actually wrong.

The method usually recommended a few decades back was simply to leave the baby crying for however long it took to fall asleep alone, cold turkey style, but this method was pretty distressing for everyone (including the neighbours), and hence a variety of modifications were introduced.  The first of these was the advice to come in at regular intervals to comfort the baby briefly before going out again, extending the length of the intervals as time went on; this is the infamous controlled crying method, also referred to as Ferberisation after its inventor, Richard Ferber.  He advocated a fairly rigid schedule for going back in and very limited
time in the room/interaction with the baby.  Most of the other suggested methods are just variations on this initial method with different advice about intervals for which the baby is left and/or the amount of time spent comforting the baby.  There are a couple of others which don't involve leaving the baby alone at all; Ferber had an alternative which I think of as Ferber-lite, in which the parent stays in the same room but moves further and further away from the baby's cot, and Tracy Hogg of Baby Whisperer fame had a version to which I personally am very partial called PU/PD, standing for Pick Up/Put Down and referring to doing precisely that with the crying baby until it gives up and falls asleep.  (By the way, if you go looking for that last then a) the full description is in this book, not this one which is a near-complete waste of time, and b) be prepared to grit your teeth, because she was one of the most annoyingly patronising baby experts on the market.  But I still think the method's a good one.) 

The plethora of methods can seem fairly bewildering, but makes a lot more sense when you think of them all as just being different ways of getting from point A (baby needs cuddling or rocking or whatever to get back to sleep) to
point B (baby gets back to sleep without any sort of requirement for
parental help).  The trick, as with an awful lot else in parenthood, is in finding a method that's not unduly harsh yet is firm enough to get the message across.  I don't think there's any such thing as a 'best' method because it will depend on the baby and the situation and what-all else; in any case, most methods will work perfectly well for most babies at the end of the day.  But the point of all of them is not to neglect babies who are hungry or wet or frightened, but to teach babies how to get themselves back to sleep after normal night wakings where there aren't any other problems.  Penelope Leach nicely summed up the principle behind sleep training when she said that the idea was to show the baby that you were
always available but after bedtime you were very boring. 
As the delightful Libby Purves comments, it is possible to get very
boring indeed by three in the morning.

So, if the neglected-wife analogy in this post was rewritten to reflect the way in which sleep training is actually supposed to be used, how would it look?  Something like this:

There was a time, not so long ago in my life, when I had some major problems with getting to sleep.  The only way I could get to sleep was to have somebody hug me and rock my body back and forth in their arms, which would relax me enough to drop off.  As well as needing this at bedtime, I was waking up several times a night and needing the same thing each time.  Everything else in my life was going fine – I was happy, healthy, and had no other problems.  I just couldn't get to sleep by myself, that was all.

Fortunately, this wasn't a problem for me, as my husband was there to help.  Whenever I woke up during the night, I just woke him as well to rock me back to sleep (or, if he hadn't gone to bed yet and was trying to do something else, I'd just interrupt whatever he was doing and call him up to the bedroom to rock me).  That, as far as I was concerned, was the problem sorted out.  Oh, sometimes the disturbed sleep made me grumpy and grouchy during the daytime, but my husband could handle that.  And I didn't see a problem with calling on him at any hour of the night that I wanted to, every night.  After all, he loved me and was very attentive to my needs by daytime; I didn't see any problem with expecting the same intensity of service during the night-time hours.

It seemed not everyone saw it the same way.  At one point I heard my mother-in-law talking to my husband about the situation.  "You have to put your foot down.  You can't go on like this.  You haven't had a decent night's sleep for months!  You're going to make yourself ill with exhaustion – and for what?  She doesn't really need anything.  She should learn to get back to sleep by herself."  I didn't understand what she was talking about, and, even though my husband was looking haggard and was also becoming a lot more snappy during the daytime, I didn't see what that had to do with anything I was doing.  Even though I love my husband more than anything in the world, I didn't really see him as a person with his own needs.  I'd never seen any reason why I shouldn't expect him just to give me everything I want when I want it, or how this could have any sort of impact on him.  This wasn't my fault – I certainly wasn't intentionally being selfish.  It's just that, at that stage of my life, I wasn't yet mature enough to be able to think that way.  I wanted my husband's help to get back to sleep every time I woke up, so I called out expecting to get it.

But things changed.  My husband told me it was time for me to learn how to get back to sleep on my own.  I wasn't happy about this in the slightest, and burst into tears when he walked out leaving me alone to get back to sleep, but he stood firm.  He didn't leave me alone for long at a time – every so often he would come back to comfort me, check I was all right, and speak reassuringly to me – but he absolutely refused to stay in the room for long enough to help me to get back to sleep in the way I was now used to.  I was bewildered, upset, and furious at being left awake and alone, and at first I would lie awake for long periods of time, crying with frustration and upset that my husband had stopped doing things the way I wanted. 

Fortunately, it didn't last long – I found that, eventually, sheer tiredness was enough to overcome my difficulty in falling asleep, and, the more often I fell asleep without my husband there, the easier it got.  Within less than a week of this starting, I found I had reached the stage of being able to get back to sleep easily when I woke up without needing to call out for help.  If ever anything was genuinely wrong, my husband was quick to help out; but on most nights I could now get by without him.  He was as attentive as ever during the day – in fact, if anything, he seemed more attentive and less snappy than when I was waking him up multiple times at night – and it wasn't long before the new night-time pattern had taken over as the norm in our house. 

Does that still sound like an appalling story of a cruelly neglectful husband?

Also, do bear in mind that a baby may cry at bedtime simply out of annoyance that it is bedtime.  Babies are as capable of adults of wanting to stay up and have fun rather than putting everything on hold for the night to get some sleep, and rather less capable than adults of recognising the possible ramifications of this.  Have you ever had a friend wanting you to stay up and boogie the night away with her when you had to work the next day and knew that you – and, for that matter, she – would end up regretting it if you did?  If you said no, was that a shockingly neglectful act on your part that was likely to traumatise your friend so deeply that she would never be able to trust you as a friend again and would possibly suffer lifelong psychological damage into the bargain?

Babies cry when they need something.  But they also cry when they want something, and it is a really big mistake to assume that if a baby is crying for something this must mean that they need it to the point of risking psychological damage if denied it.  (One obvious reason why this is a really big mistake is because it would rapidly lead to you giving your baby sharp knives and live electrical circuits to play with.  Babies are totally capable of crying for things that they very much need not to be allowed to have, thankyouverymuch.)  I don't believe that setting limits on the extent to which you can meet a person's wants violates that person's rights in any way, regardless of their age.

One other point worthy of mention here, which is technically not sleep training but is very frequently mistaken for it, is that some babies actually need to cry for a few uninterrupted minutes as part of their wind-down into sleep, and attempts to soothe and settle them can backfire and keep them awake.  My daughter was like this; I've heard of other babies who are.  If your baby is one of these and you're locked into a rigid dogma of never leaving a crying baby alone, you're in for some problems, because all your efforts are actually going to be keeping your baby awake rather than settling them and what they really need is for you to back off and leave them alone while they go through the wind-down process.  In which situation, leaving your baby alone to cry is meeting his or her needs.

I wish I didn't even have to make the next point, because it seems so obvious to me, but… absolutely none of this is meant to try to persuade any parent that they should use CIO.  Believe it or not, I'm all in favour of avoiding CIO methods wherever feasible; not because I think CIO violates children's rights or damages their psyches, but because it's simple common sense that if you have a choice between equally effective ways of solving a problem it's good to go for the one that doesn't cause upset to anyone.  And I'm all in favour of minimising the amount of crying involved where crying does have to be involved, for the same reason.  I believe that parents should set limits gently, sympathetically, with full regard for age-appropriate behaviour, and with careful consideration of what limits really need to be set in that particular household and what limits don't actually matter.  I don't, however, think it a good idea to confuse any of that with the notion that we can get by without ever setting limits or
ever causing at least some upset to others by doing so.

So, if you've found an alternative method of dealing with the sleep situation in your household that seems to be working out all round, more power to you and go for it.  If you've found that that doesn't work and that, for whatever reason, your baby does have to be left alone for a bit as part of the process of getting them to sleep, then do that.  Either way, don't assume that whatever it is you're doing would work for every other family as well, and don't resort to scaremongering, guilt-tripping, or poorly-informed parent bashing to try to get others to fall into line.  I'm not trying to replace the anti-CIO polemic with a pro-CIO polemic;
I'm trying to replace it with an anti-Mommy Wars polemic.

Instead of the Mommy Wars, I'd like to see a widespread willingness to trust parents.  To trust that parents, if given information about different options (which is not code for 'scare stories about the options we don't like), are actually pretty good at making decent choices for their children.  To trust that even if a parenting choice isn't what you would choose/what would work for your child, it doesn't automatically follow that that parent did something terribly wrong and harmful to their child.  To trust that parents know their own children and that if a parent has done something that happens to go against your particular dogma but they genuinely believe their child is doing fine then it might just be that it's your dogma and not the parent's knowledge of their child that's wrong.  A feminist parenting site strikes me as a very good place to eschew the Mommy Wars and promote that kind of trust.


Filed under Don't let the bedbugs bite, Grr, argh, Sacred hamburger

Buh beh

It's apparently International Comment Leaving Week in the blogging world (OK, it was at the time I started this – by the time I get it posted, it'll probably be IComLeWe 2010), so it's a touch ironic that I'm not making the comment I was initally going to make on this topic because I've decided to make a post out of it instead.  However, I really could do with getting a post up (I've resigned myself to not getting to do NaBloPoMo this year, but it would be truly sad not even to get one post up this month), and Annie happened to ask about something that's a topical issue in our house right now, so here we are.

Annie asked: 

  • How do parents transition their kids from the confined space of a crib to a big kid bed?
  • Is it a difficult transition?
  • When and how does this happen?

Everyone tells people who parent to sleep
start out staying with their kids while they fall asleep that their
kids will never learn to go to sleep on their own. I won’t pretend that
it is easy. But to me, it seems like it would be easier to go from
being parented to sleep to not being parented to sleep
having a parent in the room to not having a parent in the room than it
would to go from being confined to sleep to not being confined to sleep.

I've already written about my experience with Jamie (near the end of a long post – keep skimming down and you'll find it); here's the story on Katie.

Some weeks back, Katie started swinging one leg up and over the side of the cot with the expression of one trying to figure something out.  While she didn't get as far as making the small shift in her weight that would have brought her up and over the edge, we knew it could only be a matter of time; she was already fractionally older than Jamie was when he figured out how to climb out.  In Jamie's case, however, we had had a spare bed ready and waiting for him to be moved into once the cot no longer fulfilled its function as a baby-confiner.  I decided we'd probably better make similar arrangements for Katie, so that, when wooden bars no longer a cage made for her, we could put her straight into the big bed without further ado. 

Like many parents before me, I decided the obvious solution was to get bunk beds and thus preserve our current amount of floor space.  (Like many parents before me, I have now discovered just what a pain bunk beds are to change the sheets on, or when it comes to lifting a protesting and sleepy child out of the top bunk because he absolutely has to get ready for school.  Oh, well.  The kids love 'em, and it is nice to have the floor space.)  As it happened, a local shop had some nice bunk beds on sale, so we went ahead and bought them and Barry spent a busy evening assembling them, to the enthralled fascination of both children.  Jamie insisted on a full count of all the separate pieces that went into making them; Katie just bounced around squealing "Buh beh!  Buh beh!"  We got some bedding a week or so later, and there we were, all prepared for Katie's anticipated and possibly imminent Great Cot Breakout.

Having done that, we'd intended to leave it at that until Katie actually did learn how to climb out of the cot; when you have two energetic children with a tendency to egg each other on to greater and greater levels of over-excitedness, it's a major advantage to have them sleep in different rooms.  Katie, however, was not having any of this plan; we had singularly failed to take into account the level of fascination that a bunk bed would hold to a toddler at the stage of wanting to do everything the big people around her were doing.  (Her most common utterance these days is a shout of "Me me me me MEEEEEE!!" in response to anyone announcing their intention to do, well, anything.)  When the bunk bed was first assembled she would run through and lie down on the bottom bunk while we put Jamie to bed in the top bunk, but at that stage she reluctantly accepted being taken back to our room to be put in her cot.  However, once we got the bedding and Barry made the bed up, that was it.  Her lullaby that night was punctuated by howls of "Buh beh!  Buh beh!" as she struggled to get away from me.

So, the next night, we went ahead and put her in the bunk.  I then did what I usually do on Friday evenings, which is to go and lie down for a bit in order to muster the energy for the evening chores after a long hard week, zonk out, and surface three hours later wondering how the holy hell it got so late, so my conscious awareness of the next bit is limited to a very foggy memory of Barry coming in to tell me that I might find a lot of toys on their bedroom floor the next morning.  Apparently, it went something like this:

Jamie hurtled down the stairs and into the living room to squeal with the particular note of enthusiasm only reached by small children reporting on the misdeeds of their siblings "DAAAAAddy!!!  KAAAtie's not in BED!!"

Barry herded him back upstairs to find toys strewn across the floor and Katie scrambling hastily back into the bottom bunk with a huge and innocent grin.

Barry settled both children down in their respective bunks again with instructions to stay there, and went back downstairs again.

Jamie hurtled down the stairs and into the living room to squeal… etc.  Every few minutes.

(This, by the way, wasn't a totally unexpected outcome – the reason we
left the transfer to a Friday wasn't because we were particularly
trying to drag our feet about the matter, it was because we thought
that, if the kids did take ages to get to sleep, at least it wouldn't
be on a school night.)

After over an hour of this, Barry took Katie downstairs so that Jamie could fall asleep uninterrupted by a playing toddler.  Once he'd done so, he took her back up so that she could fall asleep uninterrupted by a smug older brother.  Since this actually seemed to work, on subsequent nights we've bypassed the first part and moved straight onto this method.  After their night-time stories, I take Jamie to settle him to bed while Barry takes Katie downstairs, then I get some jobs done while Katie plays happily in the living room for a half-hour or so, check on Jamie to make sure he's sound asleep, and take Katie back up to settle her in the bottom bunk.  Despite this being so absolutely contrary to the advice of almost every parenting book ever written on what a child's bedtime routine should be that I spent the first week expecting a posse of parenting experts to materialise in my living room and tell me off, this seems to work just fine; after her half-hour of playtime downstairs, Katie settles down perfectly happily when taken up to bed.  So that's our current bedtime routine, and that's the story of how we transferred Katie.

When I first read Annie's question, I thought she was asking about how you got a child to accept being put to bed in a big bed instead of a cot, something which has been among the all-time easiest things I've ever had to do in parenting, both times around.  As I read further down the comments on her post, I realised that her question had in fact been about how you got a child who was used to a cot to stay in a bed, and, of course, my story is not exactly a sterling example of the ease of that particular endeavour.  But the question was a bit more than that, when taken in context; she was talking about parents who feel that they need a cot because their child would escape if left unattended in a bed (either the parents' bed or a separate child bed).  So I guess the question was: what happens to change a baby who won't stay in a bed without bars to a child who will?

Well, partly the fact that my children both woke up a lot more during the evening as infants than they do now; neither of them went into a bed until well settled into a pattern of falling asleep and staying asleep when put to bed for the evening.  But, also, I'm just not as worried about the thought of a two-year-old getting out of bed as I would be with a baby or even a younger toddler.  Partly, that's due to their level of physical capability – I'm more confident that an older toddler can climb down off the bed without falling.  And that we can safely put a pile of pillows next to the bed to cushion their fall if they roll off the bed in their sleep.  If I tried that with a baby, I'd worry constantly about the possibility of him smothering if he rolled into the pillows.  Partly, it's their mental capacity.  While 'common sense' and 'two-year-olds' are not words I ever expected to be using in a sentence that didn't also contain the phrase 'utter lack of', I do think it's fair to say that a two-year-old does have more common sense than a one-year-old when it comes to staying safe for brief periods of being left awake, unconfined, and unattended.  They just don't put things in their mouths as often.  And one final minor but not insignificant detail is that I'm happy putting a child in the two-ish age range to sleep in a separate room whereas I wouldn't want to do that with a one-year-old or a baby, and I do prefer the thought that, if either of my children wakes up up and starts roaming around getting into things before I can get him/her, at least it's going to be their things they get into and not mine.


Filed under Don't let the bedbugs bite, Here Be Offspring, How quickly they grow up

Eleven Months – Evolving

Things that Katie learned how to do in her eleventh month:

Cruise.  For those not familiar with the lingo, this refers not to holidaying on expensive boats but to the sort of sideways shuffle babies do while holding onto furniture.  She rarely actually does this, preferring crawling as her means of locomotion, but she has cruised a few steps from time to time and thus gets to count it officially as a milestone. 

Stand unsupported for an approximate half-second before folding in slow motion down to the ground. 

Pincer grasp.  She is not yet deft at this, but can manage it well enough to supplement her diet with lots of crumbs and the odd bit of carpet fluff.

Drop things.  She has reached the stage where this counts as a lovely game.

Sleep for more than forty minutes at naptime.  The forty minute thing is, apparently, very common in babies, due to this being the length of one sleep cycle (the time it takes a baby to go from wakefulness down through increasingly deep levels of sleep and back up to light sleep again) – many babies wake up too far as their sleep cycles crest the surface, and can't drop back off to sleep again easily even if they really need to do so.  This, of course, then means that you have an awake, overtired, irritable baby instead of a peacefully asleep followed by awake well-rested happy baby; so you can imagine that I was particularly pleased about this particular achievement.  Katie is now taking two naps of an hour or more each day.  (Exact duration varies hugely, but the point is that she now actually seems to be getting the sleep she needs during the day, rather than waking up from her naps far too early.)  As to why it happened now, I think that's down to the recent night weaning.  That, plus the extra formula supplements we gave her during the day, got her settling more easily at night and sleeping for much longer stretches, and, after a few weeks, this eventually had a knock-on effect on her daytime sleep.  

Possibly saying her first word or two.  Maybe.  Sorry to be vague on such a particularly important milestone, but the problem is that The First Word just isn't the same kind of clear-cut event in real life as it is in all those books and films where a previously non-verbal child suddenly comes out with a clear "Mummy!" or "Dog!" or "President!" or whatever happens to suit the plot development.  What actually happens in real life is that babies spend months babbling merrily away with any old random syllables which, every so often but no more than would be expected by sheer coincidence, happen to approximate to the beginning sound of whatever or whoever they happen to be looking at at the time.  Then you start thinking that maybe this is happening a bit more often than coincidence would suggest… or maybe not.  And it just gradually goes on from there until it eventually becomes pretty obvious that they are in fact using "Ma-ma!" to refer to their mother, or whatever, at which point you realise that they have, in fact, probably been doing it for months.  This is what's happening with Katie.  She says "Ma-ma!" a lot, usually with apparent randomness, but there do seem to be a lot of occasions on which it's connected with her looking at me or hearing my voice on the phone or looking around in a lost kind of way when I'm not there… enough to have Barry convinced that she's doing it deliberately, and me thinking, hmmmm, maybe, maybe not.  I'm a sceptic when it comes to milestones – I like to have clearcut evidence.  Similarly, she did once look at her brother and announce "Jay-jay!" but doesn't seem to have done that on any subsequent occasions, so, well, who knows.  But the babbling is going beautifully.  She can now chat away very happily about life in a variety of random syllables.

She now has almost seven teeth (top right incisor now through, top left incisor lurking coyly just beneath the surface).  She is still breastfeeding two or three times a day.  (I did also go back to breastfeeding her once at night as well for a bit during her eleventh month, but have now dropped that again.  Long story which I may or may not go into at some point, time permitting.)

She has been to her second restaurant (the first being when we were at the Convention and went to a superb Birmingham restaurant called the Spicebuffet, which does a wide variety of different types of ethnic food; I collected a plateful of appropriate bits for Katie, and she munched away very happily while I ate).  This latest restaurant visit was for the small party Barry's parents held to mark their ruby wedding anniversary.  I approached the evening with a certain amount of trepidation (get two small children into smart clothes and keep them looking appropriately presentable at least until after the first round of photographs?), but it went rather well – everyone cooed over Katie and she managed not to spit up on her party dress.  Barry took charge of Jamie during the meal and I gave Katie the toast-and-paté starter and a selection of vegetables from the serving dishes, the combination of which kept her happily occupied for long enough for me to eat a quick meal myself before rushing off to take my turn following Jamie, who had, as usual, decided to wander around the place once he finished his food.  All in all, it was a pretty good evening.

So, she is now taking steps (literally and figuratively) in the general areas of upright locomotion, use of opposable thumb, and possibly expressive spoken language.  That seems to be the three major evolutionary landmarks that separate humanity from other animals, right there.  Pretty impressive going, I'd say.

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Filed under Don't let the bedbugs bite, Here Be Offspring, How quickly they grow up, Milky milky

The night weaning story

On the basis that I'm probably not the only person who finds it
useful, or at least interesting, to read about how other people have
handled various parenting problems, I'm posting the detailed
night-by-night record I kept of how the night weaning went.  If you're not interested in such things, this will be a long dull post to plough through; by all means skip.

backstory: Although I always tried, with general success, to avoid
nursing Katie to sleep (because that's the sort of thing that sets up
the dreaded Sleep Associations and thus ultimately makes it harder for
children to learn to get to sleep on their own, which then makes them
poorer sleepers overall because they can't get back to sleep themselves
when they wake up in the middle of the night), I did nurse her into an
appropriate state of drowsiness prior to each nap and bedtime.  I also
had a low threshold for offering her the breast whenever she woke up (I didn't want to be spending ages trying to put her back to sleep if all the time the problem was actually that she was hungry, and it was a simple enough thing to check),
so she was getting nursed several times each night. Thanks to co-sleeping, this wasn't actually anything like as bad as it sounds – when she woke up after I'd gone to bed,
I'd just hoik her out of the cot, haul her into bed with me, park her on my nipple, and go back
to sleep myself.  However, it was nevertheless becoming a mite awkward; even without nursing to sleep, it seemed that the nursing was having an
effect on how well she slept.  She was waking more often in the evenings and I was spending more and more of each evening nursing and resettling her.  In the daytime, her naps were far too short because she couldn't get back to sleep when she surfaced before the end of the nap. 

All this was something of a nuisance for me.  For Barry, it was rather more than just something of a nuisance; he had to deal with her during the day without benefit of breasts, and the problems he was having with getting her to nap properly and with dealing with the moodiness that resulted from her not napping properly were making his life miserable. Eventually, a week and a half before she turned ten months old, I got home one evening to find a very irate husband issuing me with an ultimatum; Katie was becoming impossible to look after in her current state of sleep ability, and I'd better wean her.  Now.  I hastily suggested night weaning as a reasonable compromise, Barry agreed, and we started that night.

My night weaning method is simple enough; give baby a bottle at night instead of breastfeeding so that I know how much they're taking, and then cut down at a reasonable rate so that I can feel confident that any upset they feel during the process is only due to annoyance at the change of normal procedure and not due to actual hunger.  (The latter I figure I'm obliged to do something about; the former I don't.  Therefore, I like to be able to tell which is which.)  This is how I night-weaned Jamie, but it was a whole lot easier in his case for two reasons.  Firstly, he would happily drink milk straight out of the fridge and thus I could simply put the portable fridge next to my bed, put a bottle in it prior to going to sleep, and still feed him at night without needing to get up; secondly, switching him to the bottle confirmed that, as I'd suspected, he was hardly taking any milk at all, and thus I could simply cut the feeds straight out.  I tried giving him a dummy instead, he accepted it with a minimum of sleepy fussing, and that was that.  I think I probably have one of the easiest night weaning stories of all time. 

Of course, things weren't so easy the second time around.  Katie, as I'd thought, was indeed taking a substantial amount of milk during the night.  What's more, she insists it being served warm.  So, two children down the line, I got to find out just what I'd been avoiding by breastfeeding and thus not having to get up and warm bottles during the night.  It wasn't actually as bad as I'd anticipated, once I gritted my teeth to the necessity of it all – I held her against my shoulder while the bottle heated, sat on the bottom of the stairs for a rather nice snuggly quiet few minutes of feeding it to her, and then took us both back to bed – but I'm still glad that I wasn't doing this for months of her babyhood.  So, if you happen to be trying to decide whether to breastfeed or formula feed an upcoming baby, I have no intention of getting all preachy on you but I can definitely recommend breastfeeding from the practical viewpoint as well as the health viewpoint.

Since the whole point of all this was to break the feeding/falling asleep associations, I also stopped giving her any feeds in the bedroom (I've loosened up on that one since, but this was what I did at the time).  Prior to this she'd had the first side of her bedtime feed downstairs so that I could spend some time with Jamie and the second side upstairs in hopes that this would help relax her and get her ready to fall asleep, but I started giving the full feed downstairs and going upstairs after that.  (Which meant that this was a useful point at which to start brushing her teeth after the bedtime feed, as well, which I'd been thinking I should probably do; so that worked out well.)  For night feeds, I took her downstairs (hence the sitting on the stairs as mentioned in previous paragraphs).  Paradoxically, this meant that I was actually doing stuff that was possibly counter-productive from the point of view of getting her to sleep, but I figured I'd worry about one thing at a time and I'd concentrate on getting her off to sleep without the incessant feeding first.

So, the lengthy and tiresome night-by-night details:

Monday 15th September
(Night 1)

I put her to bed around 8-ish after having given her her night-time feed downstairs.  She settled fairly quickly.  She woke up some time after 9 p.m but settled with me giving her a cuddle, turning the musical star on, and
sitting with her for a bit.

She woke again around
11.20 and I did the same, which seemed to work at first.  However, by 11.40 she was awake again.  By that time we'd made some formula for the next day, so Barry gave
her a 7 oz bottle.  After a bit of turning her head into his arm in a futile attempt to nurse, she accepted the bottle and
drank all but the last few drops, then settled after only a minute or two of crying.

She then woke up around 4 a.m. and I tried taking her into bed with us to settle her.  However, after five minutes of screaming I gave up, got
up, & gave her the 6 oz bottle I'd prepared earlier.  (This was actually watered-down cows' milk – I hadn't expected she'd need any more formula than the 7 ounces.)  She took the lot and, although she was still a bit squeaky and unsettled afterwards, she was calm enough to settle down in bed with me and fall asleep until 6.05.  At that time, since there wasn't any more milk prepared, I tried taking her downstairs to nurse her, but she only seemed to be comfort sucking rather than actually taking any milk, so I took her back upstairs again and back to bed and got her to settle for about another half hour.  She woke up at 6.38 and seemed quite awake, so I just went ahead and got both of us up.  End of Night 1.  Grand total of milk consumed: 13 ounces.

Tuesday 16th September
(Night 2)

After a day of trying to ensure she ate plenty of solids (it was my day at home with the family), I put Katie to bed around 7.00 – this was a bit earlier than normal (bedtime is generally from 7.30 onwards depending on how late I get in and how long the bedtime routine takes) but she was looking exhausted.  I'd already misjudged things once with her nap and accidentally nursed her to sleep because I hadn't realised quite how tired she was – not, obviously, something I wanted to be doing at this point.  As it was, she was nearly asleep when I put her in the cot for bedtime, though not too asleep to wake up and scream when I switched the musical star on.  I don't know whether she was just annoyed at being disturbed when she was so close to falling asleep, or whether she'd worked out that this was the signal that all parental presences were about to remove themselves from the vicinity.

She had a very unsettled evening, drifting in and out of sleep – she woke up half an hour after going to sleep although I settled her again fairly quickly, kept crying out in her sleep every so often while Barry was showering, woke up again at 8.45 (I tried taking her downstairs for a feed that time in case she was hungry, but she didn't seem that interested and settled quickly when I took her back upstairs) and at 9.20 when I brought a bag of laundry in.  That last time, although I tried to settle her by sitting by the bed with my hand on her, I eventually did have to leave her alone for a few minutes of screaming (six, in case you were wondering), to get herself off to sleep.  At 10.45, when she'd woken up yet again and this time wasn't showing any signs of settling down after a few minutes, I tried her with some milk again and this time she took 3.5 ounces.  After that, she eventually settled down (it took a while) with me sitting next to her. and slept through until 3 a.m., when I took her into bed and she settled down again within a couple of minutes.  At 5 a.m. she woke up and seemed hungry, and I went ahead and gave her 7 ounces of milk.  Total milk consumption during the night: 10.5 oz.

Wednesday 17th September (Night 3)

When I got in from work, Barry reported that Katie had drunk three ounces more than usual of formula during the day.  Although this might or might not have been a coincidence, this was almost exactly the amount by which she'd cut her milk intake on Tuesday night compared with Monday night; I hoped this was a sign that she was shifting her intake from night to day.  Her napping, unfortunately, was as bad as always, with her waking up from both her naps after only 45 minutes and refusing to settle again.

I put her down to sleep at 7.30.  It took a while to get her to settle (I spent twenty minutes sitting with her and resting my hand on her, lying her back down again every time she tried to sit up, then tried leaving her for about eight or nine minutes to see whether she would settle more easily without me there, then went back in to comfort her again as she was screaming instead of settling) but, when she did fall asleep, she slept through to 12.45 a.m.  At that point I came out of the en-suite bathroom after my shower, and the snick of the door woke her.  She had slept through more disturbance than that during the evening, so presumably she'd been close to surfacing anyway at that point.  Anyway, I gave her a bottle and she took 3 oz and then took around 20 minutes of me sitting by the bed for her to settle again.  She woke up again just before 2 a.m. (I think that was actually the waking-at-45-minutes thing, since that was about how long it had been since she'd gone to sleep) and I took her into bed, which settled her down.

She woke up again shortly after 4 a.m.  I had a 5 oz bottle prepared, as I wanted to start to reduce the amount she took, and she drank it all (she looked a bit taken aback at finishing it, but settled down after a few minutes of me walking around with her).  She woke up again at 5.50 and seemed upset.  I thought she might be hungry and took her downstairs to nurse her (I didn't have any more formula prepared) but she just seemed to be comfort sucking; I brought her back upstairs and put her on the bed with Barry (I was up and getting ready for work by then).  Total milk consumption during the night: 8 oz.

Thursday 18th September (Night 4)

Again, she drank around 23 oz
during the day. Barry was too fed up even to tell me about what her napping had
been like, which was presumably an answer in itself.  That set the tone for the night.

I tried sitting with her as usual to get her to settle, but she was obviously in a mood to keep fighting off sleep and trying to play with me as long as I was there.  In the end, I went out and let her scream about it.  She settled down within a few minutes of me leaving.

She woke up forty minutes later.  I went in and sat with her for ten minutes.

She woke up around 10.45 p.m and I sat with her for nearly an hour before she settled.  (Some of this was due to Barry, who'd just had a shower, drying his hair and getting dressed – that did make it harder for her to get back to sleep.)

She woke up at 12.45 a.m.  I offered her a bottle, but she didn't want it.  When I tried to put her back in her cot, she screamed; that one-note waah that babies do when they're tired, that Tracey Hogg calls the 'mantra cry'.  As usual, I tried sitting next to her with my hand on her to settle her, but it didn't seem to make much difference to her – she went on crying.  In the end, I left her for just long enough to get a quick shower and by the time I got back to her fifteen minutes later her crying had tapered off, but she Just. Would. Not. settle down completely.  I sat with her for over an hour, trying to get her off to sleep; she kept seeming nearly settled and then waking up and sitting or standing up.  In the end, I lay down on the bed with my hand through the cot bars holding her, mumbling "Bedtime, Katie" at her when she stood up again.  In that way, I managed a quick doze for around 25 minutes before waking up to see her wide awake and very cheerful about what an excellent game this was.

By this time, it was around 2.35 a.m.  I tried taking her into bed to settle her down, whereupon she gurgled happily and grabbed at my face while I tried
to sleep. I tried taking her downstairs for her bottle, but she still didn't want it.  Finally Barry, who was coming up to bed at this time (this is not unusual for him – he is a complete night owl), offered to take on the job of holding her while at least I got some sleep, and I finally dropped off around 3.20 the sound of Barry struggling to keep her lying in one place rather than crawling round the bed and playing.  He told me the next day that she'd stayed awake for ages after that, struggling and screeching when he tried to keep her still.

She did in the end fall asleep some time before 5.00; I know this because that's when I had to wake up to get ready for work.  When my alarm went off, she was peacefully asleep in the crook of Barry's arm, looking quite angelic.  She woke up again at 6.15 and I gave her a 6 ounce bottle; she drank it all and settled down without a whimper when I put her back on the bed next to Barry.  Total milk consumption during the night: 6 ounces.  Total parental sanity consumption during the night; practically all of it.

Friday 19th September (Night 5)

Things fortunately started to improve.

Katie settled to sleep just after 8 p.m, after only a few minutes crying.  The phone rang around 9 and woke her up, but she settled again within a few minutes and then slept all the way through until 2 a.m.  At that time, she seemed quite happy just to be picked up, but I gave her a bottle then anyway, figuring that if she was going to need some milk during the night (I didn't quite have the nerve to expect her to go all the way through without a feed at this stage) then I'd rather she take it earlier than later so that it didn't have a knock-on effect on her breakfast.  Besides, if putting her back down was going to be the same kind of hassle that it
had been the previous night, I wanted to at least be certain
before I started that hunger wasn't the issue.  (I can only assume that that last reason made some sort of sense at 2 a.m. after a night like the previous one.)

But this time it all went smoothly.  I gave her a 6 oz bottle, she
took nearly all of it, I put her back in her cot, and she drifted back off to sleep without a murmur.  She woke up again
sometime around 6, and I think I just took her into bed (by then, I
was in a sleep-deprived fug), and then she slept through until 7.35.  Total milk consumption during the night – around 5 oz or so (yes, I'm sure in retrospect that I could have reduced it further compared to the previous night, but I'm also sure you'll understand why my priority that night was to get both of us the hell back to sleep as quickly as possible, even if that wasn't the best way to obtain longer-term gain).

Saturday 20th September (Night 6)

(This night I didn't get a chance to write up until more than 24 hours later, hence the vagueness on some of the details.)

Katie woke up twice during the evening, which was a bit awkward as Saturday is one of my nights for putting Jamie to bed and thus I was occupied.  The first time Barry went to her and she settled down fairly shortly, but the second time Barry was in the shower and I had the choice between going to her with Jamie leaping around in the background or leaving her alone crying.  (Going to her while Jamie stayed in his room was not, I knew from experience, going to be an option short of applying physical restraint.)  As it was tired whingy I-need-to-get-back-to-sleep crying rather than frantic I-need-help crying, I opted for leaving her, and just tried to finish off Jamie's stories reasonably quickly.  It took about 30 – 40 minutes before I could get to her, but when I sat with her and rested my hand on her she settled down fairly quickly.

After that, she slept a nice long stretch.  She woke up around 5.15 or thereabouts and at first seemed to settle when I took her into bed, but by around 5.40 she was getting restless and squeaky and seemed hungry.  I gave her a 5 ounce bottle of formula and took her back into bed with me, and she settled down until morning.  Total nocturnal milk consumption: 5 ounces.

Sunday 21st September (Night 6)

On Sunday, it occurred to me to try giving her a formula top-up after her evening breastfeed.  She took 3.5 oz, settled after the usual few minutes of crying, and woke up three times during the night.  Once in the evening, when I was able to settle her as usual; once some time after 2 a.m., when I took her into bed and she settled; and once around 5.15, by which time I was up and getting ready for work and thus left her on the bed with Barry.  I went downstairs and switched the bottle warmer on in readiness, but it wasn't needed; by the time the water had warmed up, the sounds from the baby monitor had settled.  She'd gone back to sleep, and she stayed asleep through until morning.  Total nocturnal milk consumption: zero.


Looking back on that account now, my main thought is that I was probably quite excessively soft-hearted in how I went about it.  I daresay that she would have been fine with me cutting down the milk more quickly, and I think, with the benefit of hindsight, that all those lengthy attempts at settling her gently to sleep were probably what was keeping her awake for so long.  I suspect she'd actually have gone to sleep far more quickly if I'd just walked out and let her cry for a few minutes.  (Which is, in fact, what I now do when putting her to bed; I can't remember when I finally started doing that, but now, when it's time for her to go to sleep I put her in the cot, kiss her goodnight, and walk out.  She cries for less than ten minutes, of which a few seconds is indignant yelling and the rest is whingy tired crying.  I've tried going in during the whingy tired crying to see whether that comforts her, but invariably it makes things worse – going in wakes her up just when she's dropping off, and that gets her more upset.  Sometimes she just seems to need to cry for a few minutes before she goes to sleep, and I've learned that we're both better off if I just leave her to it.)

However, I'd rather err on the side of excessive gentleness than otherwise; and the way I did it did accomplish the goal.  In the subsequent weeks, Katie's sleep has improved considerably.  Not so much her night sleep (that improved as well, at first, but then it got worse again and has now reached the point where I'm once again taking active steps to improve matters; but that's a whole other story, and a longer one than I've got time for here) but her daytime and evening sleep.  She's now settling far more quickly and easily, sleeping through the evening, and taking two long naps a day.  And we're all happier for it.


Filed under Don't let the bedbugs bite, Here Be Offspring, Milky milky

Ten months – Stand up clap hands

Katie can now pull herself to standing.  She will imitate us when we clap our hands for her (a cute milestone for any parent to see, but with extra significance for us; Jamie never did this, and the fact that Katie does is another indication that she probably isn't on the autistic spectrum).  She loves her baths and howls disconsolately when it's time to be lifted out and dried.  She likes helping me pull the cord on the light switch in the bathroom and, when I say to her "Can we switch the light on?" she understands me and looks round for the switch.  She has a grand total of five toofy-pegs – all four of the front ones and the bottom right incisor.

She has started in Gymbabes (the baby version of Tumbletots).  This involves a certain amount of awkward timing; Gymbabes/Tumbletots classes run throughout the morning in age group order, starting with the Gymbabes class and moving on through progressively older groups of Tumbletots.  Therefore, we now have two children to get to two different classes at different times of the morning.  We work it by splitting up the children (fortunately, the classes are on my day off each week); I take Katie while Barry stays home with Jamie (both of them normally still in bed at the time I leave), and, later on, Barry takes Jamie while I stay home with Katie.  Since this is also Barry's day for going shopping, he does this between the two classes, while I stay home with both children.  The effect is a bit box-and-cox, but rather fun – I get a bit of uninterrupted time with Katie at the class, and then, since Jamie's class pretty much coincides with one of Katie's somewhat erratic nap times, I get a bit of uninterrupted time to myself at home.  That really is good, even if I do spend most of it emptying the dishwasher and putting the laundry in the dryer.  Katie, meanwhile, took a while to warm up to the idea of the classes, but rapidly got to like them.  Especially the ball pool and the giant green ball that's bigger than she is.

The other adventure of Katie's tenth month was night weaning – cutting out her night feeds.  I started writing all about the whys and wherefores of this, but it seemed to be taking over this whole post and in the end I decided to consign it to the vast mental heap of Things I Really Will Write A Post About Some Day, Honest.  The how was simple enough – I switched her onto the bottle for night feeds so that I could tell how much she was taking, and then reduced the amount gradually over several nights while increasing her daytime intake, so that she wasn't actually hungry at night during the transition. This was, of course, a complete and utter pain – instead of simply hauling her into bed with me and nursing her when she woke up, I had to get up and warm bottles – but it avoided all the crying that seems to happen in most of the accounts of night weaning that I've read, and it worked.  A week after starting – four nights before turning ten months old – Katie made it through from bedtime to breakfast without sustenance, and has done so on a regular basis ever since.  (She does still occasionally need a few ounces to get her through, but that's now the exception rather than the rule.) 

She does still wake up each night, but that's not a big deal – I still take her into bed with me, only now without the feeding.  I shall change that too, in due course, if she doesn't grow out of it spontaneously in the near future (which is quite possible – Jamie did, within a week or two of me night weaning him, and Katie has been waking up progressively less often since being night weaned and has been noticeably easier to settle when she does wake, so I shall see how it goes), but I'm happy to wait a bit on that one and rest on my laurels for now.


Filed under Don't let the bedbugs bite, Here Be Offspring, How quickly they grow up, Milky milky

Now We Are Six (Months)

Katie's fifth month was really the stage in which she moved away from the cute-but-dull newborn period and started actually doing interesting stuff.  I meant to write a lengthier Katie Update Post to mark this, but, as usual, didn't have time until now.  So I'll make this an update on the whole three-to-six months stage, achievements therein, and hope I actually get it finished before needing to write whatever update I'll want to write at seven months.  And, just for the record, I'm at least starting this on the day she turns six months.  Half way through her first year.

I've already written about the rolling over (back to stomach is something she can still only manage with luck and a following breeze, but stomach to back is mere trivia for her now) and the reaching out to grab things (by the end of her fifth month she could get her hand straight to whatever she was reaching for without all the recalibration and rechecking, and, although she's still mastering the finer details of getting hold of whatever-it-is, she's getting pretty good at that as well).  She can also now, if carefully positioned in a well-balanced sitting position, maintain it for a few seconds before she slumps.  Here are a few more milestones from the past three months:

Being enormous.  Well, in relative terms – last time we actually got round to getting her weighed she was only just above the fiftieth centile, so as babies of this age go she's pretty average in size.  However, after having my mental parameters for her set on 'tiny baby' for so long, by the time she was around four or five months I was finding it quite startling to look at her and realise how big she was getting.  And she is longer than average – not drastically so, but when I last measured her, a few weeks ago, she was on the 91st centile for length.  This was no great surprise – Barry had already had to get the 6 – 9 month bag of clothes down from the attic a month early as she could barely fit into her Babygros.  It was just the length that was the issue – she was still OK with any outfits that didn't require getting everything from her neck to the soles of her feet into a single garment, but she did have to go into the next size of Babygros a month early.  She'll probably take after her father (6' 4") and end up towering over me by the time she's a teenager.

Eating solids.  This is yet another item for the 'so much more relaxed second time around' list.  With Jamie, I obsessed over following the WHO recommendations (six months!  Six months!  Not a day earlier!  Got that, neurotic new parents?  Six months!) until I actually read the report, realised they were based on bugger-all evidence, and moved on to obsessing over what I should feed him once I did start, feverishly researching the relative merits of different smushed vegetables and wondering just where the hell one got sweet potato in baby-sized amounts.  With Katie, I noted the approach of her sixth month-ness in passing, so to speak, absently made mental notes that I probably ought to be starting some solids some time soon, and, when she got to around five and a half months (close enough, I figured), handed her a few random pieces of food as and when I remembered to do so.  After I'd done this a couple of times, she tried tasting the piece I'd just given her (a broccoli floret, for the record), and was fascinated by the whole experience.  Hey!  When I put this object in my mouth bits of it come off!  And it has a not-milk taste!  Since then, she's had a go at eating bread, toast, rusk, courgette, banana, and plate (she had a very determined go at the latter before someone managed to point out to her that she was actually meant to be directing her efforts at the rusk sitting on it). 

I'm really pleased that she's taking to solids so well – I'd assumed she'd be one of the reluctant babies who just didn't want to know and took months to be willing to try anything.  This assumption was based on the always-unwise practice of comparing siblings, though in a reverse sort of way; she's been Jamie's opposite in just about every other way imaginable, Jamie took to solids really well as a baby, and from those two pieces of information I'd extrapolated a belief that Katie would drag her metaphorical feet on the matter.  It's good to know that this does not, so far, appear to be so; and I have hopefully learned my lesson about making such assumptions in future.

Being on a routine.  (For naps, that is – feeds she still has at any old time, usually often.)  I started this when she was three and a half months old, the week before I went back to work, largely because I happened to have a few days when I wasn't planning to do much else other than hang around the house and I figured that I might as well try putting her down for her naps at the standard baby times and see how she got on.  (For those unfamiliar with babies of the routinisable age, 'standard baby times' are – with usual disclaimers about variation between individual babies – a shortish nap two hours after wake-up time, a nap of a couple of hours at the beginning of the afternoon, and sometimes, for younger babies in this age range, a very short nap in mid-afternoon, with bedtime around twelve hours after wake-up time.  Different baby books give slightly different routines as examples, but that's basically what it boils down to.  A very nice summary, from Moxie, is the 2-3-4 rule – babies tend to be ready for their first nap two hours after getting up, then their second nap three hours after getting up from the first nap, then their bedtime four hours after getting up from the second nap.)

I read somewhere – probably Weissbluth – that, when babies start moving out of the phase of just eating and sleeping at all kinds of odd times of the day and night and into the phase of having a proper body clock and needing naps at fairly specific times, the development of their body clock starts in the mornings and only extends to the rest of the day later.  I was fascinated to see that this was exactly what seemed to happen with Katie.  She went into the morning and lunchtime nap routine like a hand into a glove – you could set a Gina Ford clock by her.  The mid-afternoon nap and bedtime were a lot more hit and miss for the next couple of months.  In fact, for some weeks the only predictable thing about her bedtime was that it would coincide with our dinner.  Given the variability in our dinner time, I felt this was quite an achievement – I still don't know how she managed it, but, no matter how early or late dinner was on any particular evening, it always seemed to clash with that crucial window between 'not yet tired enough to have much chance of falling asleep if put to bed' and 'tired enough to go into horrible meltdown if kept up' and I would have to excuse myself from the table to sit
upstairs feeding Katie and trying to settle her.  I say 'trying' because she seemed to have a much harder time getting to sleep at bedtime than she did at naptime and, with a baby that young, I struggled to know when this was just due to her having difficulty dropping off, when it was hunger, and when she genuinely wasn't sleepy.  So I spent a lot of time going back and forth between nursing her more (and then changing her clothes when the extra milk that she hadn't, in fact, actually needed made her spit up) and trying to settle her without nursing, frequently ending up bringing her downstairs again just in case lack of tiredness was the problem (and, almost as frequently, discovering that this wasn't the case and that I now had an overtired and fractious baby to deal with).

Going to sleep at bedtime.  The journey from the state of affairs described in the above paragraph to this particular milestone took place at my instigation, not Katie's.  After a couple of months of muddling along as described above, I felt it was time for a change.  Besides, her body clock development seemed to have reached evenings (at any rate, the chances of her
seeming tired and irritable rather than pleased when I tried the
bring-her-downstairs-again strategy were much higher than when this
process first started).  So, when she was five and a half months old, I started what probably wasn't organised enough to count as sleep training, but comes to about the same thing; like it or not (she didn't), when it got to bedtime, she was now expected to stay upstairs and go to sleep in her cot.  I was quite happy to stay with her and comfort her through as much of this as feasible, though this did have to be balanced against the fact that I have another child (not to mention a husband who appreciates my occasional presence), and so I did often leave her for a few minutes at a time while I went downstairs to see how the other members of my family were getting on, but I tried to keep those periods brief.  When I was with her, I alternated between picking her up for cuddles, bending over the cot to snuggle with her, and doing other things like the laundry.  (Fold one T-shirt, pick Katie up, put her down, fold one T-shirt, pick Katie up, put her down…) 

Sure enough, after about a week or so of this, I had a baby who would mostly sleep through the evening.  (Well, she usually wakes up for a feed or two at some point – what I mean is that she'll sleep through the bulk of the evening, settling back to sleep quickly and easily after her feeds.)  I've always found this to be a far more important milestone in practical terms than the much-touted Sleeping Through The Night.  Although Katie isn't even close to sleeping through the night, that isn't even an issue any more – she's now old enough for me to take her into bed with me without worrying about increasing the risk of cot death (in the interests of public safety I had better point out that this is only true because both Barry and I are non-smokers and because I'm careful about doing things like keeping the duvet away from her, so don't try this at home until you've read up on safe co-sleeping), and so I simply do that and go back to sleep myself while she feeds.  But getting a bit of baby-free time during the evening so that I can do stuff like wash the pump parts and have a shower without having to juggle these activities with soothing a fretful tired baby – now that's a milestone I like.

Doing without Mummy during the day.  Oh, boy, did she not like that one.  For weeks and weeks, she screamed her head off nearly every afternoon when left with Barry.  (I work all day, but she seemed mostly OK in the mornings – she was obviously prepared to put up with a certain amount of my absence but by afternoon had had quite enough of that business and expected Mummy to put in an appearance again.)  This was, as you can imagine, just a mite stressful all round.  We stumbled on the solution purely by chance; we had some of those little cartons of ready-made formula and I noticed one of them was about to run out of date in the next couple of weeks and mentioned to Barry that he might as well use it up rather than waste it, and, thus, Katie had an afternoon and a following morning of drinking formula instead of the milk I'd been assiduously pumping for her, and Barry discovered that it made a remarkable difference.  She actually seemed happy without me.  So we bought a tin of formula and tried it a few more times, and, again, it seemed to work wonders.  So, now, she's on formula during the days that I work.  (Deliberate formula-feeding and leaving my baby to cry?  I look forward to seeing how much controversy I get in response to this post.)

One last mention-worthy milestone was discovered by Barry on the day after she turned six months, when he let her grab his finger and suck on it.  "She's got a tooth!" he exclaimed.

"Really?"  I stuck my finger in to investigate for myself.  "Two teeth!" I amended a second later.  Two teeth, poking through the middle of her lower gum.

So, that's Katie six months down the line from the day she emerged.  Toothier than on the day she was born, more than twice as heavy, with a body clock and a rudimentary collection of skills that she didn't have then. (And I finished writing this when she was only six and a half months!  Good going.) 


Filed under Don't let the bedbugs bite, Here Be Offspring, How quickly they grow up

The Houdini Chronicles – This Time It’s Exhausting

Jamie has now learned to climb out of his cot even without using my nightstand as a foothold.

Remember when I said that if this happened, we could be in for some really interesting evenings?

(I know you know I meant ‘interesting’ in the Chinese sense, but I’d better clarify at this point that it’s actually ‘interesting’ in the sense of really boring as a post topic, to anyone who doesn’t happen to be a doting family member of the child in question.  I mean, this is the kind of post that makes me cringe when I read it through as I picture my meagre readership running screaming for the blogrolls so that they can delete my name.  Oh, well, the hell with it – everyone else can skip this post.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

On Wednesday evening, when the getting-out-of-the-cot really turned into a problem, I started with the ‘Just put him back in his cot as soon as he gets out and he’ll you’ll eventually get bored’ technique.  Jamie found this to be such a wonderful game that by the time I decided my tolerance for it was lower than his and moved on to Plan B (my husband’s suggestion of ‘Just hold him on our bed until he settles down and goes to sleep’), he was thoroughly awake and remained so through the next hour of us lying there with him (we took turns so that each of us could gulp down a hasty and lonely dinner).  While this method, unlike the first, was actually rather a pleasant and peaceful experience – he did settle down even though he didn’t go to sleep, and I enjoyed the feeling of that little body snuggled against mine as I lay down and relaxed for the first time all day – I could see that it was going to pall fairly rapidly as the days/weeks/months (delete according to Jamie’s endurance level.  Hmmmm.  Let me think…) went by without me getting any time for my husband or myself in the evenings. 

So, after over two hours of all of this plus repeated resettling attempts on the part of Barry, who is usually pretty good at getting him to calm down, we eventually moved on to Plan C – CIO, The Sequel (a.k.a. The Point At Which Attachment Parents Start Having Apoplexy).  Barry took one side off the cot so that we knew he could climb back into it, put him down to sleep yet again, went out, shut the bedroom door behind him, and held it shut forcibly so that Jamie couldn’t pull it open again.  I went in after a couple of minutes and then again after a couple of minutes more to check him and resettle him again, and, after about seven or eight minutes of furiously enraged screaming, he simply climbed up onto our bed and fell asleep there.  Looking, I might add, unbelievably adorable.

After he’d been there for about fifteen or twenty minutes, I made the mistake of moving him back to his own bed.  Once Jamie does get to sleep, he’s normally a very sound sleeper, but I think on this occasion he’d stayed up so late that he was just too overtired to settle properly.  So we went back to Plan A.  By this point he was half asleep and only summoning up the energy to get up at intervals, which made it doable (I could sit outside the door and read in between replacing him, so I did at least get a smidgen of my eternal journal backlog cleared), but it was after midnight before he was finally conked out enough for me to get away with taking a shower and going to bed myself.

So, on subsequent naptimes and bedtimes, we saved a lot of time and a lot of exhaustion (his and ours) by moving straight to Plan C.  Jamie screamed for three or four minutes at Thursday’s nap, ten or twenty seconds on Thursday evening, and by Friday was back to going down without a peep, which, as you can imagine, has been an enormous relief. 

However, we are having some practical problems with the whole half-cot-half-bed thing (it still has one side on and one side off).  Jamie is a wriggler.  He doesn’t move around as much in his sleep as he used to (we used to find it highly amusing checking when we went into the bedroom in the evenings to see how many degrees he’d managed to rotate/which corner he’d wriggled into since we left him), but he still rolls around enough that it takes a full set of cot sides to keep him from rolling right off the bed.  Not having said full set of cot sides is having the rather inevitable result.

On the whole, he’s doing an impressive job of taking the experience of suddenly waking up on the floor in his stride.  On one occasion he woke up after a bit of rolling around bouncing off my wardrobe and simply climbed sleepily back up onto the cot; on another, he just slept through the rest of the night there and woke up in the morning, giving the slipper next to his face a blearily puzzled look before pressing it happily to his cheek with a look of "Oh!  A slipper!  Well, that’s all right then."  Or, to put it another way, my child is adorable to a world-imploding level.  But we could still do with improving the current situation somewhat.

We were, as it happens, on the verge of moving him into his own room anyway, so the obvious plan at this point is simply to ditch the cot altogether and move him onto the single bed that’s already in the room that we’ve used as a playroom/second spare room since we moved in, but nevertheless refer to, in optimistic anticipation, as "Jamie’s room".  (All right, I know this doesn’t have a cot side either.  The point is, it’s wider than his cot-bed, so we’re hopeful he’ll stay on it.  Although, of course, it’s also higher, so if he can’t stay on it he’ll have further to fall). 

If this had all happened a few days later we could have moved him straight away, but the in-laws are down here this weekend for Barry’s birthday and my brother-in-law is going to be sleeping in that room.  Since moving Jamie for a night only to move him back again for two nights and then back again sounded somewhat confusing for him, we’re hanging in there with the half-cot-half-bed for the moment.  On the plus side, all this does at least mean that I no longer have to worry about moving the nightstand out of his reach every evening.

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Filed under Don't let the bedbugs bite, Here Be Offspring

CIO and sleep training – the debate continues

When I brought the CIO debate over here from Hathor’s site, I hoped other people would also be willing to come over and continue, but resigned myself to the fact that everyone else would probably have got bored and moved on to the next thing – after all, I’d taken my usual sweet time about actually getting my post up.  However, fortunately, Heather from Tucson has been patient enough to keep checking, and she’s now responded.  Thank you.

I do, as a matter of fact, believe if I have a problem in the middle of
the night that my dear husband should get up and help me deal with it,
just as I do for him. Whether it be a nightmare, cramp, or what not. I
believe that that is what it mean to be married to someone.

I believe that being married to someone means that you take their needs, and their wishes, into account as well as your own; and you find a balance as best as you can.  My husband has a need to sleep, as well as some other things he needs to do during the day (most of which are actually for the ultimate benefit of me and Jamie as well as himself).  Sometimes my needs will take precedence over that and I’ll have to interrupt what he’s doing.  But that doesn’t mean that everything I want, no matter how large or small it is, should take precedence over his needs.

I believe that the same sort of balancing act goes on between parents and children.  I believe that if children need something in the middle of the night – a drink of water, a clean nappy, comfort – they ought to get it.  If it’s just that they want company or want playtime or want someone to rock them because they find it easier to go back to sleep that way, then sometimes Mummy’s and Daddy’s needs are going to be more important than Baby’s wants.

Plus why is it that two adults can sleep together all night long, but a baby gets the boot?

Different families are going to have different answers to that question (for example, if you asked Beanie Baby, presumably she’d answer that this turned out to be the only way that her baby could sleep herself, as well as being the only way that she could get enough sleep to be functional enough during the day to be the responsive, caring mother that her daughter needed).  But it’s actually not a question that relates to CIO, as such.  It’s a question that relates to co-sleeping.

Some people seem to see this as all one debate – CIO vs. co-sleeping, as though those were the only two ways that a parent would ever be dealing with a child’s sleep issues and the question is about which you should choose.  It’s typical of the way that mummy debates get polarised into The Right Way and The Wrong Way.  In actual fact, of course, it’s nothing like that simple – some families do neither CIO nor co-sleeping, some do both at different times or at different stages.  The question of whether or not to co-sleep obviously has some overlap with the question of whether or not to do CIO, but it certainly isn’t just the same question phrased in a different form.

In our case, for example, ‘all night long’ was never the issue.  Whenever Jamie woke up during the night, I took him into bed with us and we both went back to sleep – simple and straightforward.  What this totally failed to solve was the problem of how to manage the evenings before we went to bed.  This was the time of day when Jamie needed to sleep, even though he still wanted to play; when I needed dinner; and when Barry needed some adult company and conversation after a day looking after a toddler.  Eventually, after trying various other ways of dealing with the situation with various degrees of success, we used a version of CIO, and that was what worked beautifully for all of us.  And we went on co-sleeping during the night until Jamie started sleeping through the night several months later.  In fact, since his cot is still in our room a few feet away from our bed, I believe we’re still co-sleeping, if I’m remembering the Official Attachment Parenting Definition correctly.

And you never answered my question reguarding what would you like to be
done to you if you were a helpless adult.

I did, in fact – you just didn’t want to accept my answer.  If somebody had to look after me 24/7, I’d want them to get whatever breaks they needed to recharge and be physically and emotionally able to keep going.  Even if that meant I didn’t always get company when I wanted it, that would still be better, long-term, then being looked after by a carer who was so exhausted and burnt out that he or she had become resentful and just couldn’t be that caring any more. 

The difference, of course, is that I’d be able to recognise how important this was and a baby can’t.  But that doesn’t mean it’s any less important to the baby, as well as the mother.

Would you really want to be
left alone, all night??

I doubt if I’d notice – after all, I’m usually asleep.  I suppose it’s possible that I might have insomnia one night and want company, but I wouldn’t expect someone to wake up purely for that reason.  But as for going to sleep at the beginning of the night, I usually do prefer being alone for that.  It’s a time when I like to get a bit of space and think my own thoughts.  Having someone else there trying to put me to sleep would probably just keep me awake.  I can understand why the same seems to be true for at least some babies, and why, for those babies (not for all babies), sleep training actually seems to work better than the ‘gentle’ methods.

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Filed under Don't let the bedbugs bite, Sacred hamburger

CIO, sleep training, and evidence or the lack thereof

The sleep training debate has, to no-one's great surprise, popped up again in Parentland.  In the red corner, Rosa Brooks: hell, yeah, stick in those earplugs, sling 'em in the cot and let 'em howl!  What harm could it possibly do?  In the green corner, Hathor, the Cow Goddess Of Attachment Parenting: heresy!  Don't you realise this will traumatise your child and damage his or her trust?  What caring mother could ever do such a thing?

I've commented previously on my opinions on both sleep training in particular and OneTrueWayism in parenting in general, but, as it happens, what drew me into the debate this time was another favourite bugbear of mine – the spot-the-difference game between what the evidence on a contentious topic says and what people with strong opinions on the topic claim it says.  What Hathor claimed, you see, is that her anti-CIO stance had been proved right by scientific research.  Years of study and reams of inquiry, she assured us, all consistently maintain that it is harmful to force your child to cry it out.  Indeed, Ferber himself had been proved wrong on the subject and had recanted his claims as a result.

Now, I can totally understand being anti-CIO – even its strongest proponents admit that it can be a pretty unpleasant experience for everyone concerned.  I'm a lot more sceptical about the belief that it's likely to cause long-term emotional damage – personally, I think babies are a lot more resilient than some of us give them credit for, and I don't think a child who's getting plenty of affection in his life overall is going to suffer permanent trauma as a result of a few bedtimes and naptimes crying alone – but it's a big old world and there's room for a lot of different opinions out there.  But claiming that there's scientific evidence for the supposed harmfulness of CIO – well, that's where things leave the realm of opinion and get into the realm of ascertainable fact.  Or, as it may be, fiction.

I've spent a lot of time looking at what different parenting forums and websites have to say about CIO, including a lot of the CIO-is-the-work-of-the-devil sites, and I've often come across this claim before.  Invariably, the 'evidence' presented (when the person making the claim actually does present any evidence instead of just assuming that the existence of evidence is so obvious as to need no further comment) falls into one or more of three categories:

1. Opinion.

2. Anecdote (often of cases where a number of other things were changed in a child's life at the same time.  "This two-month-old baby was left to cry herself to sleep and her parents stopped spending as much time with her during the day and she was fed less often and, guess what, she didn't thrive.  Obviously the sleep training!")

3. Actual research that isn't actually into CIO. There is a huge amount of research out there to show that regular positive attention and affection is crucially important for children's emotional development, and one of the few issues in parenting that just about anyone with any glimmer of a clue can actually agree on is that prolonged, regular neglect during childhood is liable to cause children problems; sometimes huge problems.  However, sleep training isn't prolonged, regular neglect.  It involves leaving children for short periods at specific times, while giving them just as much loving care as normal at other times (possibly more, since responding lovingly and affectionately to another person tends to be rather easier if you're not going insane with sleep deprivation).  Pointing to studies on the desperate harm suffered by Romanian orphans left abandoned in their cribs all day and every day as evidence of what a Bad Thing sleep training is is about as valid as pointing to studies on starving, malnourished children in the Third World and using them as support for a claim that you're doing your child terrible damage by expecting her to wait an extra twenty minutes for her dinner now and again.

Since no-one from the anti-CIO-for-sleep-training brigade ever seemed to cite any actual studies on the use of CIO for sleep training, I searched Medline to whether any such studies had ever actually been done.  (The technical term is "extinction", if you want to do the same thing.)  There are no long-term studies that I could find, but I did find two studies that looked at the psychological status of children shortly after sleep training.  Both of these seem to have passed unnoticed by the very people who are supposedly most fascinated by the psychological status of children following sleep training.  Call me cynical, but am I wrong in thinking that this might possibly have something to do with the fact that both studies actually showed children to be, if anything, somewhat more secure following CIO?

So, I replied to Hathor's claim with a quick summary of the above.  Since the list of references she gave in reply was fairly typical of the kind of stuff that gets presented as evidence in these debates, I'll go through them.

One reference to a speech by James McKenna in which he cited primate studies into short-term mother-infant separation.  Now, I can't comment directly on how these studies might or might not relate to CIO, because direct references weren't given in Hathor's quote or anywhere else on the 'Net that I could find.  However, a Medline search on "mother-infant separation" shows that, while lengthy separations do indeed appear to be harmful to infants, infants separated from their mothers for brief periods of time only were actually less fazed by separation when older than primates who hadn't undergone such separations.

One newspaper article about Margot Sunderland's new book, The Science Of Parenting.  I haven't read the whole book, as yet, but I've read the section on sleep training.  No references to studies on CIO.

Two articles about the infamous Commons and Miller paper.  I call it infamous because it gets mentioned in tones of reverence all the time in CIO debates.  It is, according to popular legend about it, a study by two Harvard psychiatrists that showed CIO to be harmful.  The only part of that that's correct is that the authors do indeed work at Harvard. 

The Commons and Miller paper wasn't a study and wasn't about CIO.  (And the authors are psychologists, not psychiatrists.)  It was a discussion of the many ways in which child-rearing practices differ in two different societies (the USA and the Gusii tribe of Kenya) and what kind of long-term effects this might have on children reared in the two societies.  It's a fascinating paper, but it isn't a study.

One reference to a study stating that all of 186 hunter-gatherer societies looked at in one study practiced co-sleeping.  Which tells us, um, precisely zero about the effects of CIO.

One webpage on the general evils of leaving babies to cry, devoid of any actual references.

And one article about a study showing that infant rats who received plenty of affection from their mothers were more secure than infant rats who received little maternal attention.  Which, as I discussed above, adds to the already sizeable body of evidence that giving your child little attention overall is A Bad Thing, but tells us nothing about the effects of a specific short-term intervention such as CIO.

My dissent on the issue of whether this constituted adequate evidence of the evils of CIO caused, as you can imagine, some debate.  Since there are now quite a number of questions for me in the second comment thread still awaiting a reply, I decided to move the discussion over here and answer them in this post.

What exactly are you looking for for something to be a study?

Well, not wanting to sound tautologous or anything, but a study involves studying something.  When someone says that CIO is harmful but doesn‘t actually provide any evidence to back this up, that’s an opinion.  When someone speculates on whether CIO may be harmful, that’s a theory.  When someone makes an attempt to assess the state of children following CIO, that’s a study.  (Whether or not it’s a good study is, of course, a whole separate and important question.)

Or to have compelling information for you to see that CIO is not a good thing for babies?

I’m not trying to claim it’s a “good thing” (although I believe that, for some babies, it’s a better thing than the alternative).  I’m objecting to the claim that research has proved it to be a harmful thing.  But, to answer your question: if well-conducted studies into the psychological state of children following sleep training showed them to be psychologically worse off after CIO, then that would be compelling evidence.

If I may be so bold as to ask, what exactly are you doing on a site that is pro co-sleeping trying to defend CIO?

Objecting to misinformation.  I don’t object to people being anti-CIO; I do object to people claiming the evidence states something that it doesn’t.

Or at least trying to say that there needs to be studies to prove that co-sleeping is benificial (sic)?

I haven’t said that.

I guess it all comes down to doing what works best for your family, taking into consideration that babies/children are people too, and that they have needs that they can not meet themselves do to their age.

Doing what works best for your family is exactly my philosophy, as well.  However, my experience is that when that statement is followed by that sort of qualifier in this sort of debate, what it actually means is that you don’t believe CIO is ever going to be what works best for anyone's family.  And, having read a lot of different stories from different people with different experiences, I can’t agree with that.

There are may ways to help a child learn to sleep that do not involve them having to cry for extended periods of time.

And I’d like to see them much more widely known (by which I do not just mean the blanket “Co-sleeping will solve all your problems!  What more could you possibly need to know?” recommendation that seems to be all that some attachment parenting advocates have to offer).  I’d also, however, like to see it more widely recognised that – like everything else in parenting – they aren’t universal solutions that work for all children and all families.

But I think we need to remember that there are a lot of parents out there who might well have tried alternative solutions to sleep problems with their children if they’d known about them, but who didn’t know about them and thus tried some form of CIO.  Now, leaving these families thinking “Damn, if only I’d known about that at the time!  Could have saved us an unpleasant few evenings” is one thing; leaving them thinking “Oh, no!  There’s scientific evidence that the way I handled things was actually damaging for my child!“ is another.  If we’re going to do that to parents, we ought to be damn sure we have our facts straight first.  If there isn’t any actual evidence that CIO is harmful then we shouldn‘t be claiming that there is, no matter how vehement our personal opinions on the subject.


Touche on the Harvard study, I haven’t seen the actual paper the article was based on.

Well, if you want to, you can read it here.  Right where I said it would be, in fact.

But a comparative multi-disciplinary investigation of different societies is not necessarily less valid than lab-controlled experiments. It’s what anthropologists do.

It's a valid research method for some things, although I don't think it would be a good way of studying CIO – there are so many differences between different societies that it wouldn't be possible to single out one specific brief episode during childhood and pinpoint the effects of that.  However, the objection I was making is not that their paper is an anthropological study, but that it isn't a study at all.  It's a discussion of previous research into the topic, and it doesn't contain any actual information on how the different methods of child-rearing affect children.  It simply theorises on how the differences might affect children, and suggests this as a topic for further research.


These [the children in the first CIO study] are 6-24 month old children they studied. How would you guess they rated the security and anxiety of these children?

They used a modified version of a scale called the Flint Infant Security Scale, filled in by the parents.  The second study I cited used the same scale, and also visual analogue scales to measure the parents' impressions of how depressed and how anxious/insecure their children seemed.

I personally can’t see how being left alone to sleep can make anyone more secure.

I've found that dealing successfully with a situation I originally thought to be beyond me usually leaves me feeling more secure.  Knowing that I can deal with it leaves me with more confidence in my own abilities.

It's also worth remembering that children who have difficulty getting to sleep and wake frequently in the night are often sleep-deprived themselves.  If adults find it easier to cope with life's stresses when well-rested, why shouldn't the same be true of children?

To me this abstract is pretty unconvincing.

That's fine.  I'm not out to bang a CIO-is-wonderful drum here – that isn't the way I feel at all.  What I'm trying to point out is that the existing evidence doesn't show it to be harmful.

I don’t believe in CIO.  Sarah, you obviously do to some extent

What I believe in is finding solutions that work for individual families, individual children.  I believe that sometimes, that solution is going to be CIO.  And I believe that though another method could potentially have worked just as well or better in most (not all) cases where CIO is used, that doesn't mean that using CIO in those cases was actually harmful.


Anyway, people also used to widely believe in ’spare the rod spoil the child’ and were full of evidence of how spanking led to better children.

And stories like that don't tell you that we should be extremely careful about not claiming that the evidence supports a particular way of doing things purely because that's what it suits us to believe?


I just don’t see how a three or six month old baby for example can know the difference between just having been left in his safe nursery and having been abandoned completely.

Well, when his mother turns up again, I think he's going to figure out that it was the former.


And how do you really know that a three month old really isn’t hungry, or that something isn’t really bothering him?

In fact, I don't know any experts who advocate using sleep training for a baby as young as three months.  But, assuming that you didn't feel that to be the crucial point of your question: By knowing your child and by using common sense.  For example, if you've just nursed your child and he isn't taking any more milk then it's a fair bet that hunger isn't the problem.

And besides that, why are only physical needs valid when speaking about babies? Certainly judging by the numbers of relationship gurus out there, all the books, all the Dr. Phils and beyond, we in North America believe that we have emotional needs that deserve to be met.

Certainly.  But that doesn't mean that someone has to be available to meet them every minute throughout the day and night.  I don't expect my partner to drop absolutely everything he's doing to talk to me whenever the fancy takes me, even if it's 4 a.m. and he's in a sound sleep.  I know that he has other things to do that are important; and I know that that doesn't detract from his love for me or his ability to be supportive and available to me overall.


Why is it less valid for a baby to be lonely than it is for an adult to be lonely?

It isn't.  But, similarly, why should it be so much more valid?  If a friend staying with you was regularly expecting you to come and keep her company regardless of what hour of the day and night it was or what else you might need to do, how long would it be before you started saying no some of the time?


I mean no offense by this, but I don’t really need you to answer these questions. I know what the answers are for me.


Which is good.  The point at which I start having a problem with these sorts of discussions is when people start deciding that they know what the answers are for everybody else.

I think ultimately all there is to this topic is to follow your heart, as Julinda and Serendipity said above.

And if your heart leads you to the conclusion that CIO is the right answer for your baby?


I hope these articles make people think about this issue a little bit more, to reconsider, to tune into their heart and see what is right for *them*.

I'd love it if there were more articles that did that, but I don't think either Rosa Brooks' or Hathor's had that aim.  What Hathor, like Brooks, really wants other people to do is to tune into her heart and do things the way she thinks is right.  That's the problem I have with this issue, as with so much else in parenting; so many people think they've got the one right way that's going to work for all children, just as though children weren't individuals as much as the rest of us.

But that's not why I wrote the reply I did to Hathor's post.  I replied to it because I believe that she was not correct in claiming that the existing scientific evidence proves CIO to be harmful.  And I hope I'd have had the guts to say so even if I was passionately anti-CIO on a personal level.  Judging the evidence on the basis of what we want it to show is a temptation that's impossible to avoid altogether – but we should be willing to be as honest as we can be about what it actually shows.


Filed under Don't let the bedbugs bite, Sacred hamburger