Friday, October 15, 2010

Babies Aren't Soldiers

By Melissa Cline
Read in Spanish here

Melissa and her beautiful son.

Back in the day when our baby was colicky, my dear husband (who spent 10 years in the Army and National Guard) commonly suggested that because we had tried everything we knew to do to help him, we should just put our son in his pack-n-play and shut the door. (He thought that this would help me to be less upset about not being able to stop our baby's crying.)

When our son was 8 months old I finally figured out a way to get my husband to really understand why I was so opposed to forcing our baby to cry-it-out (CIO).

Here's how our conversation went:

Hubs: I figured our son could cry in your arms, or cry in his bed - there's really no difference because nothing else is working.

Me: There is a difference to me and to our baby. All that a little baby knows is whether or not someone responds to his needs. I wouldn't want to teach him that it is of no use to ask for help because no one will come anyway. We don't even teach SOLDIERS that! We tell them that someone will always come for you - we don't leave a man behind.

Hubs: Babies aren't soldiers.

Me: Then why would we ask them to be tougher than soldiers?
Hubs: Hm. I never thought of it that way. Good point.

Thank you for all you've done at peaceful parenting to help me get to the place where I feel so confident trusting my parenting instincts.

"Cry-it-out does not lead to 'sleeping through the night' - it results in learned helplessness."


  1. That's a fantastic way of looking at it! I'll keep this in mind if ever someone challenges me on why I won't be using CIO on any of my kids :)

  2. Is there no way to lessen an infant's crying and help them sleep alone a little bit? I have 10 children-most of whom I have held quite a bit, slept with occasionally, carried in slings, and rocked or nursed to sleep. Only one did I attempt the Ezzo way, but not for long. I can't bear allowing my infant to cry it out!

    Right now, with my 10th, he never sleeps during the day more than 5 minutes outside my arms. I have slept with him, nursed him on demand and used a wrap extensively since he was born. He sleeps well at night-in our bed, which is fine. He wakes once, maybe twice to nurse. I just turned his crib into a co-sleeper.

    But, I cannot get him to take a nap. He is exhausted-red eyes, crying, screaming in my arms, but will not go to sleep for long. Do I keep him in a wrap all day long? He is 6 months and 22 pounds-that gets heavy! And, while I like to carry him in wrap frequently, it does hinder any work that needs doing.

    I am exhausted. I would give my right arm to get him to take at least one nap a day, out of the wrap, that lasts at least an hour. Am I being selfish?

    1. No your not being selfish I learned that,with my son who sounds very similar I would have to go lay in the bed nurse him to sleep and then he would nap for about 45 min. remember if you nap to you will feel better

  3. So short and so awesome! Right to the point.

  4. What do you think of being there with them when they wake up and putting them back to sleep by being there with a hand on their back or chest when they wake up crying (like the Sears method)? My baby is used to nursing to sleep every time unless she dozes off in the car or in our arms. She is almost 9 months and still wakes up 4-7 times per night. We practice AP and co-sleep. We are exhausted...

    Any suggestions?

  5. TammiK-

    10 kids? Wow. No wonder you need some free hands! My youngest also always needed to be held for naps.. The wrap worked very well, but it got hard to reach dishes or laundry and just plain heavy after a while. We tried a couple things, but as crazy as it sounds, swaddling was the thing that helped her the most. She felt more like I was there, I think. And usually, I am... But I do need two hands occasionally :) Good luck!

  6. @TammiK
    My daughter was like that, she only slept in a wrap or in my arms at that age so I know how exhausting it can be. We found that the problem she had sleeping during the day was that her room was too bright. I put a dark shade behind her curtains that I could close for her naps and combined that with nursing her almost to sleep and then letting her fall the rest of the way to sleep with my hand gently resting on her chest. We also put an inclined wedge in her crib under the mattress to help with her reflux. Within a day or two she was sleeping well for 45 minutes and now will nap for as long as 3 hours which is wonderful for both of us. Good luck!

  7. TammiK - Have you tried to wrap him on your back? I know for a period of time it was the ONLY way my DD would nap.

    Also you said he was 6 months old. At 6 months old there is a BRUTAL growth spurt, where one would swear your milk supply dried up over night and baby is getting nothing, and that they never ever want you to put them will pass....I PROMISE!!!! The best suggestion I would give you is to make sure you have a proper baby carrier (Woven Wrap, Mei Tai, Sling, or Soft Structured Carrier [ergo/beco]), and put him on your back, so that you can be hands free, and still have space in front of you.


  8. For the mamas having trouble with non-sleeping babies - have you tried "The No Cry Sleep Solution"? (Elizabeth Pantley). I know it's not all for everyone - in fact, some of it is completely useless to me - but we've used some of the techniques to great success, and some with some success. (Others we just skipped entirely - there really are a lot of suggestions.)

  9. TammiK -- Have you considered having your child seen by a chiropractor or osteopath for possible alignment issues which might be causing pain? Cranial manipulation was necessary for 2 of mine due to the trauma of their births and is a simple and non-invasive method for addressing some things that might be causing discomfort, pain and yes, sleep issues. Further, if there is a history of breastfeeding preferences or difficulties (ie, preferring one side, only) this might give more weight to an alignment issue.

    eatpoopsleep: unless you are weaning, there is no reason to stop the nursing to sleep/comfort with breast. Mine is weaned now (21 mos) and the hand on the back, chest, patting the bum and lightly stroking arm, leg, back is how we get him back to sleep.

  10. Love this! Will post it to my Facebook group. Thanks for sharing your lovely thougths.
    ~ Elizaabeth Pantley,
    Author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution

  11. Tammi: have you tried bundling him up in a blanket? (folding the three sides over into a taught lil cocoon?) That worked for my son, he liked to feel cradled too, so I would bundle him and he slept like that in his crib for naps. and the baby swing, he napped in that as well!

  12. That was great - I love it.

    TammiK - I'm so sorry you are so tired! I know every baby is different, so I don't know if this will help, but when mine fall asleep in a sling/wrap, I wait about 15 minutes and can lay the baby down. If I don't wait at least that long, the baby will wake up when laying him down. If I wait too much longer, the baby will also wake up. Between 15-20 minutes is the window of opportunity and has been true for all four of my kids.

    Someone else mentioned swaddling...great suggestion. My baby (4 months) has to be swaddled.

    Sometimes I put her to sleep in my wrap carrying her around, then I lay her in her swing, and swaddle her, and the swing keeps her asleep. At night, she sleeps more deeply and I can lay her in her bed. She has to be swaddled, though.

    @eatpoopsleep - I think what is important is that you are there for the baby. If it means you are there teaching, touching, comforting, then I think it's great whatever you do. I think when you lay baby down and walk out and let them scream, it's so wrong. If you are sitting there trying to teach them to fall asleep, I think it's fine. Also, listen to your gut. I can't emotionally do cry-it-out. But if I know if I sit and pat my baby and she'll go to sleep in a few minutes, I would do it. If she is going to scream for an hour, then no way...

  13. Thanks for all suggestions! I have him seen by a chiropractor fairly regularly and tried carrying him on my back. That's my preference when trying to get any housework done, that's for sure.

    I never tried swaddling, though. I usually quit that around 6 weeks or so. But, as I think about it, he startles so easily that I usually try to pull something over his torso to help keep him asleep, so swaddling may be worth a try.

  14. @TammiK
    Since I haven't seen this suggested yet, I'll tell you what worked for my kids (3 out of 4 b/c I didn't figure it out until the 2nd), is cuddling them up with my clothing. My 2nd needed to be w/ me ALL the time. She put my arm to sleep more than once overnight sleeping that close. Instead of a blankie or stuffed toy to snuggle, my kids prefer my shirts. Soft 100% cotton t-shirts that I've slept in are in highest demand, but any shirt I've recently worn would work. My 2 yo still sleeps with one of my shirts. Maybe your baby wants to be able to 'smell' you as well as feel tightly held, so perhaps that would be something to do in addition to swaddling.

  15. I love this, it is soooo TRUE!!!! I am also anti-cio.

  16. @TammiK-- I am wondering if your little guy is having intolerance to something in your diet? My son would cry all night -being held, rocked, nursed, anything we could do to try to sooth him was inffective until I stopped eating dairy and then he was totally better.

  17. TammiK- have you considered whether it is food related? My son was inconsolable until I stopped eating dairy and then he was totally better.

  18. I. Love. This. Post. That is all.

  19. I heart this post.

    My two cents on sleeping more and being a less exhausted mommy--for our second we did the swing. I would place him in it (after nursing him down) during the day. It would buy me some time...sometimes! When he was 18 months I decided I needed him to have a consistent bedtime so we put a railing on our guest bed and now I nurse him to sleep and cut him off til midnight--meaning if he cries before midnight my husband goes in & comforts him back to sleep. The first couple tries took a while but now my husband can put him down way quicker than I can. After midnight I bring him in with us for the rest of the night. We are working our way toward a 6 am cutoff, and toward my being able to put him back to sleep without nursing. He's not a hurting baby, but he is intense, and high needs, and as with any kiddo it's a process.

    Another thing that was counterintuitive to me but worked for him--a good friend started watching both my kids for a few hrs a week while I work from home. My little high-need boy fell in love with her and has gotten a little more comfortable away from me, and a little less needy in general. So I guess I called in the village for some help from folks I knew I could trust.

    Good luck everyone--glad I'm not the only hippie out there! =)

  20. I co-sleep with my 16 month old and have done for since he was about 6 months old full time! Its only now that I have accepted that this is the right choice for me. And that i should ignore the comments people make such as 'when will CJ's room be finished?' when will you do this, when will you do that. No my baby is NOT a soldier and my partner, thankfully, is supportive of this choice and we love nothing more than waking up with us inbetween us. Im sick of having to justify myself and 'pretend' that im not happy with our sleeping arrangments just so i look 'normal' in front of other people. yes sometimes its hard but its deffinately rewarding and i love that my little boy knows im there for him xxx

  21. This was SO encouraging, as well as the other replies. I am so grateful for this community.

  22. I too am a Soldier and thought the same...more so from being exhausted initially...I even read some materials called tough love that insinuated the same, however wife, mother, and mother-in-law thought otherwise and weren't having it...took a while, but I changed and glad I did. My son is now 6 and I fell that I can never hold/hug him enough. He is somewhat insecure and I wonder if it was because of my efforts of tough love when he was an infant. I now teach him that he can come to me for anything and everything because daddy is always here to help. He knows and likes this because he even says it all the time or if he is feeling tired, anxious, or irritated, he just asks for a hug and then he feels better after.

  23. Love it! My husband would do the same thing...unfortunately we both gave in the CIO for a time, but eventually I couldn't deny my mommy instincts anymore, and now both he and I know its the right thing to comfort baby and hold a crying child- even if it doesn't stop the crying.

  24. mum to a fluffy bum x
    You made me laugh saying "Im sick of having to justify myself and 'pretend' that im not happy with our sleeping arrangments just so i look 'normal' in front of other people." I was the exact same way with co-sleeping and breastfeeding once he was past a year! Finally I started thinking, why am I lying? YES I breastfeed a 20 month old and YES he sleeps with us, deal with it! lol

  25. TammiK, wow, 10 kids trumps my 7! As far as packing your baby interfering with chores, I never thought it was much of a problem... maybe my arms are longer than yours? I usually was wearing the baby on my front & often a toddler on my back to balance the weight. Even rode my bike wearing the two with another preschooler in the toddler seat behind me, the older kids riding their own bikes beside or ahead of me. When wearing just one, however, once baby finished nursing & fell asleep, I could just unlatch a shoulder buckle & swing the baby from front to back. Really the only job I didn't do with baby packed in front was cooking. I was afraid I might burn them. My dh, even has a pic of me hoeing the garden with a baby packed on! I often wore my babies (& nursed them) at school, work, church, everywhere!
    Ezzo's ways are very detrimental to baby's! His own kids have grown up to resent him & speak out against his methods, telling people of the emotional damage they suffered because of it.

  26. Regarding the need for a baby to be swaddled because they are so easily startled----please try to find a practitioner of the Masgutova Method. This sounds like a non-integrated Moro reflex, and this can be helped. Of course, I haven't met your baby and can't say for certain what is happening, but a good reflex evaluation would be in order.



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