“Hug it Out” vs “Cry it Out”

Did you see all the articles today about how sleep training kids won’t harm them for life?  The Huffington Post covered it, so did Yahoo News.  Here’s a link to the actual study– or at least its abstract, since the full article is behind a paywall- by Price et. al. in the journal Pediatrics.

It couldn’t have come at a better time for Mac and I.

Nemo sleeping peacefully.

Unlike a previous opinion piece that masqueraded as a scientific study to frighten parents (I wrote about it here), this is an actual, bona fide, peer-reviewed randomized trial!

Their results?

There was no evidence of differences between intervention and control families for any outcome, including (1) children’s emotional (P = .8) and conduct behavior scores (P = .6), sleep problems (9% vs 7%, P = .2), sleep habits score (P = .4), parent- (P = .7) and child-reported (P = .8) psychosocial functioning, chronic stress (29% vs 22%, P = .4); (2) child-parent closeness (P = .1) and conflict (P = .4), global relationship (P = .9), disinhibited attachment (P = .3); and (3) parent depression, anxiety, and stress scores (P = .9) or authoritative parenting (63% vs 59%, P = .5). Price et al.

Their conclusions?

Behavioral sleep techniques have no marked long-lasting effects (positive or negative). Parents and health professionals can confidently use these techniques to reduce the short- to medium-term burden of infantsleep problems and maternal depression.  Price et al.

The take home message- cut yourself some slack, sleep train your kid, and get some rest, guilt-free.

Our experience?  Just like happened when Mabel was an infant, Nemo started sleeping through the night all on his own!  Be jealous new parents!  My kid did it all by himself by about 3 months.

Not so fast.  As you can probably guess from the study quoted above, just like Mabel, Nemo also STOPPED sleeping through the night right at the 4 month mark.  Damn you cursed “4 month wakeful period”!

With Mabel, we suffered with frequent nighttime wakings (and nursings) for months and months.  Finally, when she was 7 months old and I was getting ready to start a new job with less flexible hours, a longer commute, and more demanding schedule, Mac and I bit the bullet and sleep trained her.

In a nutshell, we were sharing a bedroom with her (it was a 1BR apartment) so we never left her alone, and when she started crying we would go to her, check her diaper, lay her down, shush her, and get back in bed.  A few times she cried for 20-30min.  However, within a week she was back to sleeping through the night.

We gave Nemo a week-plus of waking up at 2am to nurse and then be awake and lively for over an hour.  Then last night he would be sound asleep in our arms, but the moment we laid him in bed, he was awake and screaming bloody murder.  We tried burping, we changed his diaper, tried nursing, etc, etc, etc.  He was not happy.  So I said to Mac, “I think it’s time.  I think we need to go for broke and let him cry himself to sleep.”

So, after 2 hours of trying to ‘hug it out’ and get him to bed, we let him ‘cry it out’.  We sat on the bed in our bedroom, with Nemo in the pack n’ play next to us and waited for him to fall asleep.  I hated it, but I was not going to wait for months like we had with Mabel.

It took him about 12min from the time we laid him down until the time he fell asleep.  Then he slept straight through for 7 hours- 10:30pm to 6:30am.  I really hope that he’s a fast learner and he’s gotten himself over that 2am hump and can sleep through.

Did you sleep train your kid?  What age?  How did it work for you?

Note:  I am of the parenting school of do what you gotta do, do what works for you.  I don’t think sleep training is for every kid.  I don’t think my way is the only way.  If you’re a parent on the fence- here’s my experience, hope it helps you make a decision that’s best for you and yours.

ETA:  I just had to crack up when I saw this drivel from The Stir blogger Michele Zipp entitled, “It’s Okay to Let Babies Cry It Out if You’re a Cold-Hearted Scientist“.  Thankfully, I am a cold-hearted scientist, so I’m in the clear.  However, Michele makes the the same mistake I railed about in this blog post using a blog post with little to no data as a reference for how letting kids “cry it out” will damage them for life.  Great work.


Filed under Mother, Nemo, Scientist, Wife

6 responses to ““Hug it Out” vs “Cry it Out”

  1. I am a new Dad. My wife and I debated this too with our child but ultimately used other tricks to help them sleep and calm down. After 3-1/2 mos, we have not had to let them “cry it out.” Here are some other tips for new Dads – http://bit.ly/Rycv3z

  2. (I’m from Jenny F. Scientist) We did sleep training with Kiddo at 10 months. He wouldn’t sleep for more than 2.5 hours at a time. I was exhausted, Dr. Man was exhausted, and we were sniping at each other. The first night we let Kiddo cry/fuss and we’d go in and check on him at 3/5/7 minute intervals. He cried for 17 mins total (and this was more fussing than crying) and he slept for 8 hours in a row. In the end, I feel awful that we waited so long to let Kiddo get the sleep he needed.

    Also, I get annoyed really annoyed with this debate. How could martyring myself and destroying my marriage be best for Kiddo? It’s not.

  3. ks

    We did the CIO method at 6 months… Our little one was a preemie and a really good sleeper,but we hit that trouble zone you speak of! Not at night but for scheduled naps! I needed a routine … She needed a routine! It took 13 days of he!! but she finally figured it out and we have had zero troubles with naps or night waking since! She’s now 15 months and my champion sleeper! Now if I could just figure out how to get her to sleep past 6:30! Lol!

    • I hear ya. Nemo wakes up around 5 or 6 every morning. However, I can him into our bed (enter another heated debate about co-sleeping!!!) and nurse him then and he’ll go back to sleep. Mabel we’re lucky if she sleeps until 7am.

      Mac is great and gets up with them during the week if they get up particularly early. On the weekend, we switch off so each of us gets at least one morning to sleep in.

  4. Elisabeth

    Child psychologists will tell you differently. So will other studies that have been done. Common sense and mothers intuition when your child cries to communicate not to ignore your child.

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