Not a Fan of CIO (Cry It Out)? Try ATP Instead

Posted December 8, 2014

Recently I had a call from a mother who began by saying "I'm not a fan of CIO. But I think we are going crazy here."

She had tried other strategies. She mentioned Weissbluth, Ferber Baby Whispering ,"shhh", "pick-up-put-down, etc.  She was hoping there was something else to try that would be gentle, compared to leaving her baby to "cry it out."

My feeling is that whatever version of sleep training a parent chooses, it needs to be done gently.  I mean gently in the sense that the parent isn't angry, gently in the sense that the parent sets the stage well for the changes that need to be made and gently in that the parent gives the baby a clear message and offers optimism about the baby's ability to be successful.

I think she meant she didn't want her baby to cry in order to become a good sleeper - which is an impossible goal, really.  Babies who have been nursed to sleep, rocked to sleep or had someone else lie down with them until they sleep - aren't going to give up those habits without a fight.  Crying is the form their protest takes.  Advice to "Never let your baby cry" is supremely unrealistic and not even fair to say to a parent.  Babies cry when they are born, they cry sometimes when we give them to someone else to hold and some cry during a doctor's exam.  Since we are changing sleep habits they've gotten used to why shouldn't they be allowed to protest? 

CIO should be renamed.  It should be called something like  ATP. As in: "We are all too tired in this family; we need to figure out the best plan that will help our baby learn to put him/herself to sleep for bedtime and naps and back to sleep during the night.  We'll need to Allow The Protest." ATP. 


Both of my sleep programs, Sleep from the Start and Sleep from Now On are rooted in Attachment Theory.   Nurturance and responsiveness are among the prime sources of attachment. Parents initiate a secure attachment with the unspoken promises we make when a child is born: "I will keep you safe; I will make sure good food is available and I will be sure you get the sleep and rest you need."  And finally, "I will take good care of myself  so I can keep these promises."

Children need to know they can rely on us to be gentle and consistant and know what we are doing.  If we waffle on something as important as sleep, giving one message tonight and a different message tomorrow night, the messages are mixed and confusing for an infant, toddler or older child. If we take a toddler back to their room for the 25th time (following one sleep theory) and it's  obvious we are getting angry by now, or if we choose a sleep training method which takes weeks instead of three nights, to accomplish, we can't claim it's "gentle" any longer. 


So whether you're a "fan" of CIO or not, you realize that your child does need to be allowed to cry as he/she protests being put into bed awake for the first time or won't any longer receive milk in the night as a way to get back to sleep. Similarly, you know that your baby may cry when the doctor checks his ears or because mom has handed her over to dad when the baby prefers mom.   Crying happens.  Allow The Protest.   You can say to friends that you aren't a fan of CIO either.  You've chosen ATP instead.

When our children need to cry because of something they don't like but is not harmful, they gain strength from seeing that we, the parents, do not fall apart.  We don't get mad and we don't rescue them from needing to learn their own self-calming skills and we don't make the doctor stop his examination.  We know crying is normal in these situations and we know recovery will begin soon, with our gentle help.  We need to trust a baby's capabilities to learn to sleep and we need to give the baby reason to trust us as parents.  We'll feel confident that we are parents who will keep those promises even in the face of protest.

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Filed under: Sleep and sleep training, Interesting Parenting Matters


Developmental Advances that Interrupt Sleep

Posted November 25, 2014


Your baby has been a good sleeper up to now.  Not a full 11 hours yet, but getting closer.  You've left been offering one overnight feeding "just to be sure" she isn't hungry.  Suddenly, seemingly overnight, she begins to wake up twice, then 3 times and last night she woke up and cried five times!  What's going On?  Is this "sleep regression?"

Well, "sleep regression"  may be a handy term used among parents to explain what happens around 4 months of age, but it's not accurate.  It implies your baby is moving back to an earlier stage of development, or "regressing." 

In fact, what happens around 4 months to cause a baby to wake up more frequently is actually a developmental advancement.   Babies around this age have a rush of social development.  They are suddenly aware of  who is around, how much they adore the sight of your face and the taste of the milk you bring.  If you've been arriving with milk once during the night, your baby's fast-developing brain asks why not four times? 

This new cleverness catches most parents by surprise.  Many wrongly assume it could be one of the famous "growth spurts" they've been warned about.  So they feed, get up every time and feed some more.  And for many babies sucking on breast or bottle  is the only way they know to get to sleep, so parents become caught in the trap of starting to doubt the hunger theory, but don't know any other way to get their baby - and themselves - back to sleep. 

Periods of developmental advancement nearly always disturb a child's sleep to some degree.  Parents need to be prepared for these temporary, predictable sleep problems. A baby who is learning to crawl will feel "inspired" to wake up in the night to practice!  He'll crawl around in his crib and then realize he is still tired and need to cry a bit to calm his excitement and get himself back to sleep.  He doesn't need his parent's help to do that.  Just a little crying to relax, and he'll be out like a light. 

The first time a baby rolls onto his back in the crib his sleep will be disturbed until he teaches himself to sleep on his tummy.  When he learns to up pull to stand it's so exciting - but exhausting, and he needs to teach himself to melt back down and get back to sleep.  He doesn't need your help, he just needs time and your patience and your trust in his ability. New language development can also disturb sleep as your baby may wake up and talk to herself in the middle of the night before she remembers how to get herself back to sleep.

How can you help your baby during these normal disturbances?  Babies who have  been given the chance to design and practice their self-calming strategies (fingers, thumb, rocking themselves, moving to the corner of the crib, groaning rhythmically, etc.) early on, will be ahead of the game and fully able to return to sleep in the least possible time.  Babies learn self-calming skills when parents remember not to rush in to help when a baby has an accidental wake-up.  This is good parenting.  It leads to good sleep for everyone in the family.

Need help in assisting your baby or toddler as sge learns self-calming strategies?   Set up an appointment.


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Do You Fit With Your Friends?

Posted November 16, 2014

I can remember pretending I did.  I went to the YWCA for a swim class with my 2-month old baby.  My reason was that thought I was lonely all day at home with no car.  Mostly, I wanted to look at other people's babies and see how mine compared.  Of course that meant I had to be with the mothers of other babies in the class, and that's when I started pretending.

"Oh, you're OK" said  one mother (loudly) whose baby was crying after having been dunked.  I wasn't comfortable with dunking - it didn't seem fair to an unsuspecting baby.  The teacher told us it was important so I did it even though it didn't feel right. But as my baby came up sputtering, I heard myself say "Oh, your're OK" as I glanced and smiled at the nearby mom I was trying to fit with. 

I didn't last long in that class.  I thought it was me being too picky but looking back, I think probably some of those moms were just trying to figure out their own place - and how to behave - in the new, new-baby world.  For me, it felt like being back in high school where I first mastered pretense.  I laughed when other people laughed and complained about the irritations my friends were so vocal about but all the while I didn't like some of the humor and hated the sense of competition.

I never really did find a new-baby friend.  Maybe you would say I was a loner parent. I spent most of my days at home with my baby, preparing the cute stories about her to tell my husband who came home wanting to hear every detail. 

What got me thinking about all this is an article I read today in Huffington Post: "What To Do When You Don't Feel Like You Fit In"  I think you'll like reading it.  It talks about having the courage to stay true to who we are inside and not pushing ourselves into uncomfortable territory just to "fit" with friends. 

Let's talk about this on facebook.  raymondparentingnews

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Filed under: Interesting Parenting Matters


Two Products for New Parents

Posted November 2, 2014

I like to keep my blogs commercial-free, so generally I avoid recommending one product over another.   I'm making an exception today as I recommend the Grobag company's Gro-Egg.  Many parents already have one in their baby's room - yet I get questions from some of you about how to keep your baby warm enough overnight, without blankets.  It's true that blankets are not rrecommended, particularly fluffy duvets.  For the most part, either swaddling or using a baby sleeping sack can eliminate the need for blankets.

But the SIDS research tells us that your baby's room temperature should be kept between 16-18' overnight.  This is cooler than most parents would have guessed.  (Expect your baby's hands to feel cool to the touch in the middle of the night. This is normal and doesn't cause wake-ups.) Overheating while sleeping in a too-warm room or with a cap on the head or under blankets - is something to be avoided for the safety of all babies.  The Gro-Egg will put your mind at rest. 

The second type of product I recommend is a small, washcloth-size cloth your baby can grab ahold of while playing and perhaps sleep with at night.  It can become a lovey, or transition object.  Here is one example. It should be small enough not to create a concern if it goes on the face, and made of material which is safe for sucking.  You can also make one yourself out of a very light-weight, small receiving blanket you won't mind cutting up.  Cut the receiving blanket into four equal squares.  Tie each square - right in the middle - with a shoestring.  Leave both ends to fan out.  Wear it around for half a day next to your skin, then offer it to your baby as you put her into bed awake.  She may toss it aside, and that's OK.  Once she takes to it, assuming she does, you have four of these comfort clothes (lovey dolls) and can put them through the wash as often as you like. 

If you have a comment or idea to add, please do so through my facebook News page here.


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