Why This Attachment Parent Let Her Baby Cry It Out |

Why This Attachment Parent Let Her Baby Cry It Out

whitney February 26, 2013

By Joanna Rodriguez, Contributing Writer

I love attachment parenting. Co-sleeping, nursing on demand, baby-wearing, baby-lead weaning…it all just makes so much sense to me. Or at least it did. Until my daughter was born nine months ago.

Our Son: The Perfect Candidate for Attachment Parenting

I was about as gung-ho as an attachment parent could be with my son, Caedmon, who is now three. From the start, his strongest need has been for physical contact. He slept with us, on us, or near us for every nap and nighttime until he was two. He nursed to go to sleep, nursed back to sleep, nursed to wake up, nursed when he was healthy, nursed when he was sick. He didn’t want solid food until he was one, because his on-demand nursing was filling him up plenty. Even now, he says several times a day, “Mommy, I need you,” which really means “Pick me up and give me a hug, mommy.”

He is and was the perfect candidate for an attachment-style of parenting. I think now that he was also what Dr. Sears describes as a “high-need” baby. Thank you Dr. Sears, for giving me the perfect tools to parent a child like Caedmon!

Our Daughter: A Different Story

As much as we love our son, we were hoping, maybe, that #2 would be a little less demanding of physical contact. I didn’t want to throw AP completely out the window, but I knew that with two children I just wouldn’t have time to wear her and lie down with her all the time.

It did not take us long after meeting our daughter to realize she was a completely different kind of baby. From the start, Esther did fine with a little more personal space. She would go to sleep on her own, some of the time, just by being swaddled and laid down in the co-sleeper. She even slept “through the night” (I hate that phrase) without any “sleep training” (I hate that phrase too) at 6 weeks of age! We were thrilled!

But a couple months into her little life, things started to break down. She would not fall asleep easily on her own anymore, so we tried walking, patting, rocking, swinging, and wearing. She would eventually fall asleep, but not until our arms and backs were ready to collapse. We pulled out all the tricks in our attachment parenting bags, with the assumed knowledge that we would not leave her to cry. Nothing was working and we were exhausted.

I called my mom crying one day when Esther was about 4 months old. “Mom, I can’t do this anymore! She just won’t nap. We’ve tried everything. She eventually falls asleep and then wakes up after five minutes. I’m exhausted!” My mom, a wise, wise woman, said, “You just haven’t figured her out yet. Every baby is different. You just need to figure out what works for Esther.”

Exhaustion. Desperation. And Letting Her Cry.

One sleep-deprived day soon after, out of desperation, we laid her in her crib and let her cry. It was hard. Dr. Sears was in the front of my mind, telling me that she needs me. That babies need to be parented to sleep. That I was doing her harm. That she has a need that is not being filled but rather is being pushed further down into her, to a place where she will no longer hope for it to be filled.

I tried to ignore that voice. It didn’t work. So I argued with it instead: “But we’ve tried everything! We’re exhausted! We can’t do this anymore!”

While this internal dialogue was going on, Esther was learning how to fall asleep by herself. The first night, it took about 20 minutes. And then she slept for 8 hours straight.

The next day, I felt like a new woman! I was not a weepy, sleep-deprived emotional mess anymore. I could do this mom thing, oh yes I could! So we kept at it. The next night she only cried for 5 minutes, and her crying was not “the bad cry,” as I call it, but more of a whimper. She was just calming herself down. This pattern continued, and Esther can now put herself to sleep for naps and nighttime, usually quite easily.

cry it out

It Hasn’t Been Easy

Now, I am not about to tell you that it has been smooth sailing the whole time. Every time Esther’s sleep gets on track, either someone gets sick or we go out of town to visit family, and everything gets thrown off. She is a child of routine and familiarity: she loves her own space, with her white noise and dark curtains, and does not sleep well away from home.

After a sleep setback, we sometimes hear a little more crying than we would like while she re-familiarizes herself with her sleeping space and normal schedule. If the crying is going on for longer than we feel comfortable, or she’s crying hard instead of whimpering, we go in and see what she needs. Sometimes she hadn’t nursed enough, or she has a dirty diaper, or her room feels cold. We make sure all her physical needs are met, give her a hug and a kiss, and leave the room again. And she goes to sleep.

We have also found that she does best in her own room. If we sleep in the same room with her, she does not settle easily. This resulted in co-sleeping for awhile, which resulted in no-sleeping for me. She is not attached to me in the same way Caedmon was: he just melded right into my body. No, she is her own presence and we really cannot sleep well together. Since we only have two bedrooms, for now this has meant that we share a room with our son, instead of Esther. He loves having us close by at night, so it’s a win-win. (Though we are looking with longing toward a potential move in a few months to a home with three bedrooms!)

No One-Size-Fits-All Parenting

It has been odd, and surprisingly difficult, to realize that what Esther really needs sometimes is for me to step back and give her some space, instead of snuggling, comfort nursing, and baby-wearing her. I had to throw away some of my one-size-fits-all notions of attachment parenting. I thought all babies slept better near their parents. I thought all babies could be comforted by the breast. I thought all babies loved being worn for many hours a day.

And I thought making babies cry it out and having them sleep all alone was cruel.

Until my sweet Esther was born. She has taught me so much. She has taught me that what matters most is not being a loyal follower of the AP religion, or any parenting style, for that matter. She has taught me that what matters in parenting is finding out what your child’s needs are, and doing your best to fulfill them.

She has taught me all this, and she is only nine months old! Imagine what I will have learned from her by the time she is eighteen.

What have your children taught you about parenting? Have they ever forced you to question your parenting philosophy?

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  1. Joanna,
    First, let me say I’m proud of you for talking about this. It seems there’s such a stigma around “crying it out” that no one wants to talk about it working only the harm it (does/might do). Most people I think, as you admitted, dismiss it as cruel or for parents who don’t really want to parent and, as you’ve learned, that is not the case.

    We let our son, who is now 28 months teach himself how to fall asleep. He was about 4 months old and from that time forward he slept constantly. He’d still get up for nursing/feeding but when he learned to put himself to sleep he also became more regular with his feedings/wakings.

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m sure there’s a mom contemplating this who hopefully reads your words and is given some confidence to change things up and figure out what will work for the child in question.



  2. I LOVE this post! My first baby was totally like this! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It will help many parents feel better about what they end up discovering their child needs. : )


  3. We raised four children and when they were around 2 months old, we let them cry themselves to sleep. My husband and I are light sleepers and could never sleep with our children. It took about a week for them to sleep through the night but after a week, all 4 were great sleepers all throughout their childhoods. They loved their beds and would almost dive in when we put them in. They are all happy, well-adjusted adults now so it worked great for us!


    • Great to hear the perspective from a parents of adults! Thanks for sharing!


      • 2 months is a tad young to try this… just being honest… If they are that young waking or crying they’re probably hungry…. Most babies don’t really develop a sleep pattern until about 4 months or so because they lack the melatonin to stay asleep and I think that it should be more talked about.


  4. I wanted to be pro-AP with my kiddos and loved the philosophy, but my first two wanted nothing to do with baby wearing (although they did want to be held), nursing on demand (did better with a schedule) and none of us got any sleep with co-sleeping. My son was a little bit more relaxed and wanted to nurse more into the night and such, but in general it was just not what worked for my kids! Thanks for the balanced perspective…the issue isn’t always right or wrong:)


  5. I went through something very similar with my son at around 6 months old (only a month ago). He’s my first child, and going into it I was very sure that I would *never* let him cry it out. However, due to a lot of travel and disrupted routine, his sleep deteriorated until (at its worst) he was waking every 40 minutes at night needing to be rocked or nursed back to sleep. During the day he would only nap for 20-40 minutes, and that isn’t counting the “aborted” naps where I’d think he was asleep and put him down, only to have him wake screaming 5 minutes later. The edges of my sanity were quickly fraying, but what really convinced me that I needed to do something different was the change in his disposition. He wasn’t happy anymore. He woke up in the morning tired and cranky and stayed that way throughout the day.

    So, with a lot of anguish, I let him cry it out. I was blessed to have the support of my husband and mom, because I doubt I would have been strong enough to do it on my own. Thankfully, it worked! Within a day I could already see a huge difference in his sleep and mood. He still doesn’t “sleep through the night,” but now we both have a healthy and sustainable sleep schedule that still allows plenty of time for rocking, singing, and cuddles.

    Thank you for writing about this. It seems there is so much judgment in the attachment parenting community toward anyone who lets her baby cry that people are afraid to even bring up the subject. I certainly haven’t been brave enough to talk about my experience openly, but as Danielle said, talking about it can only help moms who are struggling to find what works for their children.


    • I feel your pain Kelsey! Esther did exactly the same thing – waking every 40 minutes, being put down for naps asleep and waking after 5 minutes. Those were the days when I called my mom crying…I was a mess! I’m so glad you are in a better spot now. And YES, you can still cuddle and nurse and do all those “attachment” things as much as is beneficial! That’s the beauty of it. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope this gives you the courage to talk to others about it!


  6. Interesting post! I had the same type of situation with my kids. I wore my daughter (my first) everywhere, and she she would sleep practically anywhere. My son (second child) was not interested in being worn and would not sleep well anywhere but his bed, even as a very young infant. Both kids learned to put themselves to sleep around 4 months old (on the recommendation of Marc Weissbluth in Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child). It’s so distressing to hear them cry. I would keep myself busy or else I would go in to check on them, and they’d have to start the whole process over. It was easier, however, with my son because whenever I went in, he wouldn’t be consoled by cuddling or soothing. It’s like it would wake him up even more, and he’d have to start over trying to settle himself down. His need was for sleep (not me), and I couldn’t do it for him.

    I resorted to Healthy Sleep Habits when my daughter was 4 months old and was having napping problems. I can’t say enough how helpful the information was! I found out how long I should expect my baby to be awake before getting tired (1-2 hours) and to start soothing her for sleep at the first sign of tiredness. His recommendation was to wait until 4 months to let your baby learn to fall asleep on their own. For both my kids, that was about when I noticed their cries changing from the distressed “Mommy help me!” to the frustrated tired cry. I appreciated that Dr. Weissbluth allowed for different parenting practices including co-sleeping (which many doctors seem to write off).

    Thanks for sharing your experience!


  7. Very wise…I’ve had to learn that you can’t be too loyal to any particular theory of parenting exactly because every kid is different. My first baby was very independent (like your second) and did not want to be held; in fact, he got fussy if he was held too long and was immediately happy if you put him down. He’s still like that…very independent. On the other hand, our second was very physical-touch oriented. Wanted to be held all the time, so I bought a sling so I could carry him around with me. Everyone is an expert before they have kids, declaring what they will and will not do. And then you have kids. And realize that they don’t work that way. We only have a limited amount of control over what they will do. And so you just do whatever you need to do to survive/thrive, regardless of which “camp” that practice falls into, for the good of you and the child.

    For the record, I also think that both “camps” exaggerate the “damage” that will be incurred from crying it out/not crying it out. AP says that you’re damaging your baby if you let them cry it out and the other side says you’re creating a monster if you don’t let them cry it out. There’s got to be a reasonable balance between the two.


  8. With my 1st who is now 6 NOTHING worked for getting him to sleep. I was told he had colic and it would pass soon. By 6 months of age I had barely slept, when I did often in 15-20 minute increments at best, and on the floor. I was working full time, going to school, keeping up with the house, teaching Sunday School at church, I was about to pass out from sleep deprivation and almost fell asleep driving to work on mulitple occasions, and I lived in walking distance of my job! It was THAT bad. Finally I took him to the doctor and cried my eyes out and held him up and said “I think, something is really really wrong. He just won’t sleep!” My doctor smiled and calmed my nerves and told me to let him cry it out. I told him that was the worst thing I could think of and he asked what was worse…..him crying it out or us being killed in a wreck because I fell asleep at the wheel. I waited until Friday night and we tried to let him CIO. It took about 30 minutes of him crying…and if we went in to check he got worse, so we had to just shut the door and walk away. My husband had to hold me down to keep me from going back in and I think I cried worse than he did. The next night it was about 15 minutes of crying and not as intense, the 3rd it was 5-10 and more a cooing or “singing” himself to sleep. We finally got sleep, all felt better, and he is just fine and normal as can be at 6. It did NOT permanently damage him in any way. He’s a loving, cuddly, sweet boy. My 2nd child, it was almost a repeat. She didn’t sleep, nothing worked, sure enough by about 5 months we let her CIO. She’s 3, and just fine. Our youngest is 1 and she was a snuggler and went to sleep easily after nursing and shared a room with us for quite a while. Bottom line, every baby is different, every parent needs to do what is best for them and their family. Parents need to do what is best for ALL involved. If mom and dad aren’t getting the basics in life (sleep, food, water, showers) then it starts to impact how they can care for their child. It’s not selfish, you have to take care of yourself to take care of others. People need to respect that every child is different, what works for each family is different, and not judge. My older kids are in no way damaged from doing the CIO way of getting them to sleep.


  9. Thank you for sharing this. I, too, had a very “normal” snuggly, co-sleeping, nursing to sleep son… and a very space-needing daughter. I think I can count on one hand the number of times she nursed to sleep! She’s 5 now and always wants to cuddle for a few minutes before bed. Then she tells me that she loves me (usually she tells me that she loves me…) and that it is time for me to go now!


  10. Recent studies show a host of problems associated with CIO, including health problems that could possibly last into adulthood. Even a majority of mainstream un-AP doctors will not recommend CIO before six months of age. I’m a little disappointed that this is posted on this site.



    • The point is not that CIO is good. I don’t let my kids CIO, personally. The point is “know your child” and do what you need to do to help them sleep. If your child needs a little quiet fussing to fall asleep (not outright screaming), perhaps that works in your home. No parent should be so dedicated to a theory or philosophy that they forget to be in tune with their child. And that is the important point here.


  11. You are right about certain attachment parenting things not being suitable for all. AP is really about following your baby’s cues, and for the majority of the time ‘attachment’ is the right word. If baby prefers to sleep alone, I think that it’s more ‘AP’ friendly to let them. If they prefer the pushchair to the sling, same too.

    “And I thought making babies cry it out and having them sleep all alone was cruel.”

    This is NOT comparable

    Babies cry as a way to communicate. It is their only way of expressing an unmet need, Having a need being ignore is NOT suitable for ANY baby.


  12. Thank you so much for writing this!! I went through almost the exact same thing with my second son. It is good to hear another person talk about it.


  13. I really hate the concept of CIO too, but had to do it with my daughter because she did not sleep for months straight, until I put her down and let her go to sleep on her own. Thankfully then we found out more was going on, and that she was intolerant to corn, and life got a LOT better. 😀


    • Debra brings up a very important point.

      In general, babies don’t cry for no reason, it’s simply the only way that they can communicate and it’s up to us to figure it out. Allergies/sensitivites (food and environmental), GI issues, undiagnosed lip and/or tongue tie, nutritional deficiencies, etc can cause major sleep issues.

      Before deciding to use CIO, dig deeper (yes, it will take time) and find out if there are other factors involved that could be causing problems for your baby.


  14. Michel either never had kids or needs a grip on reality. My first child cried over 20 hrs. of every day for a few months. Colic, blah, blah. Tried everything and had to let him cry many times as I NEVER got any sleep. I did do AP as it wasn’t spomething one did over 28 yrs. ago. Holding him didn’t do it. Only thing that worked was a wind up swing but it lasted 15 mins. and you had to carefully wind it up every 10. How do you sleep or get anything done? Finally by 4 mos. he quit so much crying. I did BF also. Second child was much easier and BF longer opposite what the first was. Third was even easier and BF longer. All 3 were baby led weaning, couldn’t get them to nurse longer like I would’ve but I did waht they wanted. There wouldn’t have been a thrid if the second would’ve been like the first. Like the post and I agree with their decisions 1000%. That is excluding Michel’s post.


    • My second child cried for 20 hours a day, as well. Actually, she screamed for about 12 hours, and cried pitifully for another 4 to 6. Every day, day after day. I walked her, carried her, rocked her, slept with her, and walked her some more for months and months. We couldn’t go out to anyplace inside, because she was so disruptive. My husband would walk her around the block so I could take a shower, and I could hear her crying around the entire block.

      We never let her cry it out. I don’t think I could have if I wanted to, but I never tried. I believe if you think of AP as a parenting method, like a dieting method, then you can decide that parts of it aren’t working and put them aside. I believe in the principles of attachment parenting as basic values, truly as principles to guide my parenting and the way I relate to my children. I could care less about AP as a parenting fad, or as some competition between moms to see who can do it the best. I embraced those principles as guides to respecting my child and building our family into a unit that would also embody those principles.

      We later learned that my daughter had an eye defect that required surgery when she was 11 months old. What had doubtless begun as colic had continued as she most likely experienced severe headaches. After surgery her endless crying diminished quickly, although we continued to co-sleep and nurse for a couple of more years. She remained a much more shy and anxious child than any of my other children, and we continued to support her and encourage her, but not force her out of her comfort zone, for many years.

      I went on to have three more children. Some were more independent than others, some wanted more space, some needed more contact, some nursed for longer. In the same way, some were taller, heavier, got teeth a different ages. The truth is that their differences, physically and emotionally, did not change the attachment principles we believed in, and lived on a daily basis. The needier kids ended up being an early barometer of how all the kids were doing. For example, when the needier ones signaled that we were running too much, and caused us to slow down and spend more time at home for a bit, we found that all the kids were happier. The tolerance level was different, their needs were not.

      If a person needs to fill their own bucket in order to parent effectively, or just get through the day, then that is what must be done. It seems unfair to me to lash out at someone for struggling through personal discomfort in order to do what she feels is right simply because she chose a different way of dealing than you did. I would be the last one to criticize the author or anyone else for choosing to let her child cry, because a mom has to do what she has to do. However, I would also hate for a mom who is drowning in fatigue, struggling to care for her child or children the way she thinks is important, to feel that what she is working for isn’t important. All these years later I don’t have one regret for those endless walking, rocking, crying nights. And I remember them in vivid detail, still to this day.

      My screaming baby is now 24. She has blossomed into a outgoing, compassionate and competent woman. She was probably 11 when she decided she was done with being shy and she has worked successfully on comfortably meeting new people and embracing new situations ever since then. Our acceptance of her feelings and personality enabled her to move forward at her own pace, with the full force of our love and acceptance no matter what.

      Do I think my children would have grown up to be less happy and successful had we let them cry it out, or sleep trained them? No, not really. Parenting is much more than the result of one decision about one issue. However I do think that our absolute determination to meet their needs ( which we considered to be universal needs), regardless of the inconvenience to us, had a good deal to do with the compassionate, caring adults most of them have become. (They aren’t all adults yet. 🙂 ) At some point there is a line where the choices of the parents do make a difference. I was determined to never start down a slope that might lead to that line. It isn’t true that someone who has chosen to sacrifice personal comfort in order to meet the needs of their child in a way that follows the principles of attachment parenting doesn’t have a grip on reality. For some of us reality includes doing whatever it takes to walk our talk.


  15. When my son was 5 months old, we were co-sleeping, and he still woke up every 2 hours to nurse. He and I were both very light sleepers, and my husband snores very loudly! I knew that he’d sleep better in his own room and crib. I hated the concept of CIO, so for weeks, I tried every gentle method that I’d read about. I dreaded evenings, because I knew I’d spend 2-3 hours trying to convince my son to fall asleep. When the holidays came, I used that as an excuse to take a break, because we had guests staying with us (and in our son’s room) Thanksgiving-New Years. When January rolled around, I KNEW I couldn’t go through the nightmare again. I slept with him in his room for a few nights until he was used to being in there again. I started moving him to the crib in the middle of the night. After about a week, I laid him in his crib first thing at bedtime. He cried for 45 minutes, and I hated it. I went in several times to pat his back, hold him, soothe him, and just make sure he was okay. The next night he cried for 30. The third night he cried for 20. By the fourth night, he was down to 15 minutes. Now, if he cries at all, it’s until I walk out and shut the door. As soon as he can’t see me, he stops.

    We had guests stay with us last weekend, so I moved him into our room again for two nights. It was horrendous! He cried for hours before falling asleep and woke up at least 4 times each night. He WANTS to be in his own room and own crib now. Also, he used to wake up 3-4 times a night to nurse. Now it’s usually just 2 times. He sleeps better alone.

    It’s very true that there’s no one-size fits all answer for parenting, because all babies are different.


  16. Judgement like Michel’s is why parents like me are afraid to talk about it. My son needs his space, and I was the one who wanted AP, not him. I’m not a bad parent because I adapted to his needs, in fact, that’s what makes me a good parent.
    Thanks for this article! Taking care of your children the way they need is much more important than following a book. As great as Dr. Sears is, he doesn’t know your baby the way you do.


  17. Exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right time! Thank you!


  18. Great post! So encouraging to see this up on MAM. My daughter (our first) is extremely un-cuddly. She likes to explore and is super nosy but hates hugs and baby wearing. She’s a super light sleeper too. I had her in a co-sleeper in me and hubby’s room up until she was about 4 months and then her 4 month wakeful period hit. Aaand didn’t go away. It got to the point where I spent 3 hours every evening just trying to get her to sleep and would be up every hour and half throughout the night. Finally it got to the point where I, who’d sworn I’d never let my baby cry, *gasp* let her cry it out. And it was exactly what she needed. Within a few days she was sleeping through the night, finally having figured out how to put herself back to sleep because she’d been given the chance. And that’s just what worked for Maggie. I’m sure our future babies will be different. No matter how much experience a baby expert has, there is only one expert on your baby and that is YOU!

    Just as a side note, I’m not a fan of the term “cry it out”. I think for most parents it ends up being more along the lines of “fuss it out”. Because mom knows when baby has just had enough and needs her. Again it all goes back to the fact that you are the expert on your baby.


  19. I swore I would never do it either. My oldest daughter, I didn’t know better and I had twins. My husband and I had our hands full and let her CIO. It only lasted 2 days and she was the best sleeper. My second daughter sounds just like Joanna’s daughter. Nothing we did worked and the longer we tried the worse it got. We finally had to let her cry. I shouldn’t say cry, she screamed at times. She has had some reoccurances of screaming and now my older daughter sleeps in the same room and they comfort each other.


  20. I am so grateful for this article. Thank you for sharing, Joanna! As a first time mom to triplets, I was overwhelmed with three differing personalities and 100x this much parenting information and suggestions flying our way AT ONE TIME. Out of sheer necessity, we taught our 4.5 month olds to fall asleep by themselves. Similar to your experience, there was very little crying and they now sleep beautifully. Our children are happy, healthy 17 month olds and know how to fall asleep if wakened by a sibling or some other noise. I do not agree that my children will have negative issues as a result of this – how cruel would that be for God to give me more than I can handle and so cause harm to my children when we so desperately want to love and care for them? It doesn’t make sense. No the damage comes in as a result of *many* contributing factors. As in all things, we trust God to give us wisdom in how to care for our children. If others choose not to parent this way, that is their choie. This is how we best felt to parent and it is GOOD for our children. Thank you for your story. I hope it helps moms to see they have a choice based on the needs of the family and child. :o)


    • Your perspective of God’s goodness in the midst of our parenting is great. I am so thankful that at the end of the day, my children’s future is held in God’s hands and is not entirely up to whatever parenting model I am trying to follow!


  21. I’m sure this wasn’t easy to write and wouldn’t be popular with various crowds, but I think what you are saying here is important: be in tune with your child and find the right solution to meet his or her needs. What you listed as what you did sounds quite different than days on end of crying at any and all times. You meet her needs; she just needed a little winding down time. I’m sure there’s an argument to what I wrote there, but, as her parent I’m sure you are doing the best you can with what you have, so, way to go!


  22. Moderation in all things, right? CIO gets bad rap bc of the parents who refuse to change parenting and cuddle that higher needs baby. The kid screams every day at every nap and bedtime. It is stressful and crazy making. And the parents honestly have to harden their hearts to listen to it.

    Your child crying for 20 min and then only whimpers AND sleeping happily and longer, is not BadRapCIO. It’s AP at its best! What works for the child and you…

    PS. You may notice a 3.5 – 5 mo old theme in parents who try this. Babies go through a lot of transition around 3 – 4.5 mo. You know the Fourth Trimester?


  23. I do happen to have two young children, for the record, and have never CIO. Yes its stressful at time, and nap times aren’t always the easiest, but doing what’s best for my children is more important than taking the easy way out. My youngest is 22 months and we still bed share, but she will out grow it when she is ready, and will be able to put herself to sleep when she is ready. My previous comment was not to judge, merely state scientific research on the subject, and express how unfortunate that a site thats touts itself as natural and against the mainstream society would post something such as this.


    • I just want to say that Joanna did not take the “easy way out” – she did what was best for her baby and the rest of her family. And she met her child’s needs – her daughter obviously needed less stimulation than AP style sleeping gives and wasn’t getting proper rest. I know sleep deprivation can be just as harmful to a child and family as extended crying can be, and what is more natural than responding to your baby’s cues? Isn’t that what attachment parenting is all about?


  24. This is an important lesson for all of us. I have seven kids and they are all unique. Some are more alike than others, but each has his or her own personality and needs. I think most of us have our philosophy about how parenting is supposed to work and there are certainly principles that apply to all children, but most of us have to learn to be flexible. Sometimes the bravest thing we can do is re-examine what we know to be the”right” way to parent.


  25. Amen! This was me!! My son was 9 months old and waking every hour and a half for a half hour and not napping well! We tried everything and when CIO methods were mentioned I was made to believe it was evil and damaging. I finally couldn’t take it anymore, we had to try it. We chose the Sleep Easy method and after 15 minutes of crying he slept 11 hours straight, and has ever since! Our family was better for it!! Would I recommend it for everyone? No. Would I set it out as a valid option among the others? Absolutely! Thanks for talking about something that is considered abuse in the Attachment Parenting community!


  26. I’m so grateful for my mom who was very open about parenting with us! Me and my siblings were all different, all had different needs and sleeping styles – and we’re all happy, well-adjusted adults. So now we’re expecting our first baby and all I can say is this: my parenting style is just going to develop with the baby. There’s no one philosophy that will work for all my babies and that’s okay. Every person and situation is unique, and as long as baby gets all the love we can give, I think the baby will be just fine. Kids are more resilient than we give them credit for.

    As to CIO …. There’s a difference in babies’ cries. It’s one thing when your baby obviously needs something and another when they’re throwing a fit and “calming themselves.” And as many have already stated, some babies just need to cry themselves to sleep for a few minutes for the best results.


  27. Ahhhhh!!!! A breath of fresh air in a world that idolizes attachment parenting. Real life sometimes requires that a child cry a little. Most of us who subscribe to attachment parenting can be a little hard on ourselves to our own detriment. The first time my son cried it out was when, out of fatigue, I slept through his tears. Since, he has been able to sleep without crying. I still feel guilt over that night, but also I recognize that we both desperately needed the sleep. A year of no sleep is no way to live. Thank you!!!!


  28. I gues if I had children that cried with needs, diaper, feeding, cold or warm then I wouldn’t have let them cry it. And it absolutely is GREAT to point out that doesn’t always work unless you’re a person that cna live on 4 or 5 hrs. sleep in 24 hrs. My children didn’t scream just needed nothing else except to sleep. Some kids resist thst and get so tired they need to cry and then sleep. It DOES NOT harm children irreparably. I wonder how folks come up with these things to mess with new parents’ minds.


  29. Thanks for being brave enough to post this.

    We NEVER let our first CIO and let him sleep in our bed until he was about 2. He wasn’t so precious when he was knocking us out of bed and we weren’t getting any sleep. It took 3 LONG years of transitioning him to a big kid bed…finally at 5 he started sleeping through the night.

    We planned to do the same with our 2nd kiddo (who came when our first was 3), but after 7 long months of no sleep, CONSTANT nighttime nursing and two 15 minutes naps/day we knew we had to try something different. So, we let him cry. The first night he cried for about 45 minutes, but slept all night. Each night was progressively less crying until he peacefully went to sleep and slept all night long after about a week. Let me tell you right now…that child changed OVERNIGHT. He used to be a VERY cranky, always crying, behind on milestones…after getting a full night sleep and naps he began to thrive! He was bright, cheerful and started passing milestones with leaps and bounds. The poor child was in a constant state of sleep deprivation! Now (at 3), he is an excellent sleeper and his younger sister (who we also let cry when she was around 3 months) is as well.

    I used to look down my nose at parents that let their babies cry, but now I understand and am thankful that God gave me a challenge to humble me.


  30. Twenty minutes of crying once isn’t CIO. You have a really, really easy baby. Don’t kid yourself. You need to do what you can and base your parenting style on your needs as an individual and a family. I just wanted to say (as a mother of two very high-needs kids) that Dr. Sears is perfectly fine with CIO-in-the-parents-arms. He just doesn’t want the kid alone. I highly recommend this approach or Ferber if you can’t stand it any more. ( Four months, though? Really??) This is more for others, but please don’t just let the baby cry themselves silly for an hour or two with no soothing at all. That is cruelty and parental stupidity.


    • Jojo, as I said, we do have setbacks after illness and travel that sometimes involve some crying. Never for too long and we always make sure her needs are met as much as possible. She is an easy baby in some ways, yes, but the fact that us being near her or in the room makes her sleep worse has not been easy! That is why crying in parents arms does not work for us.

      Also, a parent’s sense of time may be distorted when they are sleep deprived. I hear you and others telling me I should have at least waited longer and that four months of no sleep is not so bad, but when your child is not napping or sleeping at night and is taking every ounce of energy from you (and you have another child and other stress in your life) four months is a long time. I knew for my health and hers that something had to be done.


  31. I’m so glad you wrote this. Very, VERY well said. My number 3 is almost 3months old and thanks to my mom (who has 8 kids), and a husband who is very supportive and strong, my kids have learned to sleep in their own beds and I haven’t lost my sanity yet. 🙂 We’ve done different things with each kid (although never tried co-sleeping-our bed isn’t big enough) and have realized that what is good for the parent is ultimately good for the child. My daughter nursed to sleep, my first son sometimes nursed and sometime fussed himself to sleep and when he woke up in the night he ALWAYS wanted to nurse (my daughter sometimes just wanted snuggles). Now at 2.5 he still wakes up in the night to drink a glass of water and often begs to take a snack to bed. My 3rd loves going to bed and is almost always awake when I lay him in the crib. He’s never cried himself to sleep (well not at night-we’ve had a few naps in the car that were unpleasant)… You really have to get to know your child and realize your own limitations. No one can live with NO sleep. Again, thanks for a great post.


  32. Wow, you could be describing my own son and daughter! Before I had my little girl, I thought that parents who said their child slept better in his/her own bed were absolutely full of it, lol. With my son, co-sleeping, holding, wearing, constant nursing were just the rhythms of our life together. My daughter has different ideas. She likes to co-sleep at night, but at naptime, forget it. She doesn’t want to be held, she doesn’t want to be nursed to sleep, she wants her crib, and she wants it now! She also fusses to sleep sometimes, and the weird thing is: she wants to fuss…when she is fussing before her nap and I pick her up: she screams. I put her down and she fusses a little bit longer and then falls asleep. This was shocking to me! But in the end, being AP is being responsive to who your kid is, right? Meeting their needs, not our ideas of their needs. 🙂 Thanks for your post!


  33. What a beautiful post. My oldest son nursed for 27 months. I was so proud of our nursing relationship and what it said about us, and about me as a mother. When my second son was born, I expected him to nurse even longer. As a seasoned extended breastfeeding mom, I knew who I was, and who he was. All of that changed when he went on a nursing strike at 11 months old.
    Sadly, I my attempts to bring him back to the breast failed. I had to redefine myself as a mother. As a person, really. I didn’t know how to parent without nursing. It taught me so much about myself. And about how to celebrate my youngest son as an individual. It is one of the best gifts he has given me.
    I did blog about it, which I woud like to share. Thanks so much for posting this part of your parenting journey!


    • I understand how you feel about nursing — my oldest two weaned at 4.5 and 3 years (actually within weeks of each other, nearly at the same time, as they are 18 months apart). I was a little sad about the 3-year-old weaning as “soon” as he did. I had suspected it would happen that way, although I didn’t plan it.

      But then, my then 14-month-old began to nurse less too. He is almost 19 months now and nurses 2 – 4 times per WEEK, sometimes less. Typically only upon waking in the morning, if no one else is up yet or nothing else is going on. Otherwise he wants to be involved in what the other kids are doing. The older two nursed 5 – 6 times a DAY at this age so it has been weird to have a little nursling who’s not so interested. But you have to follow their lead, even if *you* aren’t ready for it, as you say. 🙂

      My fourth little one is due very soon and I’m curious if my 19-month-old will continue to insist he is a big boy, or if he will want to nurse more often like the new baby. At any rate I’ll have a new little nursling!


  34. After four kids, I’ve come to understand that their needs are all different. Whoever said that babies don’t cry for no reason is right, but that reason isn’t always that they need to be held. Some babies get overstimulated easily and need to let off some steam – WITHOUT input from the parents – before they can relax into sleep. A baby like that is not actually helped by all the holding and walking and singing. It’s the last thing she needs, because that just stimulates her more.
    I’m not a fan of CIO any more than anyone else here, but you can’t say “this works” and “this is always cruel.” Babies are people, and people are wildly different.


  35. My first child, London, sounds very much like your Esther. I thought I was the worst mom in the world for awhile because all the things I tried to do to form a bond and go by the AP textbook crashed and burned. We eventually were left in the same situation, of learning that parenthood philosophies are good, but anything can make us a slave, even those. What London wanted/wants is her bed, her space, her room. I’ve tried forcing that child into my bed so many times when she was sick, scared I wouldn’t hear a raspy cry but she’d lay there and cry until I took her back! I had to sleep in her bedroom floor! What’s funny is that she’s a much clingier affection loving child than my second whom we did AP more. She wants to be held and cuddled and talked to still, just not when she’s sleeping lol. She’ll look at us like we’re crazy and be like….it’s time for sleep, mommy. Yay for parenting individuals and not mass numbers of children. It sure keeps you on your toes


  36. I am not sure how I feel about “crying it out” I absolutely agrre that there is no one size fits all method for parenting and each child (like every grown human) is different so different things will calm them. I read a really intersting article: http://www.psychalive.org/2010/07/what-is-your-attachment-style/ and basically i walked away from it seriouslt thinking about how I attached to my parents and how that now affects how I attach to my children. Maybe your style of attachment was different for your son then for your daughter?


  37. This is one of many “controversial” articles I have read about this subject. Let me say that I am dead-set against CIO and I have two kids. Let me also say that crying for 20 minutes and then sleeping for 8 hours straight is not CIO. It means you won the lottery for the easiest kid on the planet. You shouldn’t be writing this article. You have no idea what you are talking about. Try listening to your child weep for hours on end hoping and praying that they will fall asleep because you are losing your mind. This is insulting. Get a life. I speak from experience. You let your kid settle down for 20 minutes and you think you are doing something controversial? Count your blessings.


  38. In order to practice true attachment parenting you need a very connected support network. Most parents are at a disadvantage in this respects as they may live many miles away from family, their family is toxic or due to the “individualistic” nature of our society they haven’t cultivated a close relationship with them. AP is about meeting your baby’s needs. Did it ever occur to people that it takes more than one person to meet another’s needs. Have any of you ever worked in the healthcare field as a nurse or CNA? You have 10-16+ people you wait on hand and foot for 12 hours. That, my friend, is WORK. Even at that level people fuss because you can’t move fast enough. It is really something babies outgrow? It is the same deal with a baby except it is 24 hours. When you’ve done everything you can possibly do for your child and you have minimal help from others just what are you supposed to do? The child’s basic needs are met, they are fussing because they don’t understand a new routine and you’re hungry/exhausted/etc. I don’t see how any one has much of a choice. Some people may argue just what are you teaching your child.- that you won’t be there for them- well yes, when it’s just mommy, it’s going to take me a little longer to meet your needs. At the end of the day the most important thing is that their needs are being met. It is also important to realize that sleep is an IMPERATIVE part of development. All that love can only go so far when your little one needs to sleep.


  39. I had the same internal dialogue last night! My two babes are very different, and I’ve been through the same thing.
    It’s so important to treat each child differently and based on their individual needs. This has been my philosophy as a teacher for a very long time.


  40. Im glad you wrote this. My first was not a cuddlier either, so cosleeping was not happening. She was way too fidgety from day one. And when it came time for the 4 month sleep regression (we also vaccinated her at the time which i also think interfered with her sleep and sleep regression) her experience was much like many of the other commenters – almost no naps and waking very hour at night. She is two now. Super loving and needing attention… but still not a HUGE cuddlier…but she sleeps 12 hrs straight a night, and takes a hefty afternoon nap. she LOVES to sleep, and she sleeps well.

    One day, a gal from one of my parenting groups said this, “At what point do the risks of sleep deprivation out weight the risks of CIO?”. I thought it was a great point. We, as attachment parent-ers, read all the studies on the harm CIO has on our developing infants and children, but have we ever thought to look into what sleep deprivation has on them? Do we look into how much sleep an infant actually needs? After researching both, i felt like CIO was the lesser of the two evils. infants and toddlers need a loT of sleep! much more than adults need.

    My second child, (now 4 months and has had NO vaccines) still hit sleep regression but not at all in the same way as my first. We did cosleep with her from day one, and it worked fantastically until she started becoming more aware of her surroundings. I would often wake to her cooing at me and smacking me in the face to look at her. ANd when i would finally wake up, she would just coo and smile. As much as i adored it, sleeping started to diminish for both of us – so i knew it was time for her to learn to sleep on her own. Her training was super quick, she adapts well to change. As well, naps were becoming shorter because she would wake more easily if i tried to slip out of bed after putting her down for a nap. I just couldn’t continue to do this with a 2 year old running around. (being babysat by the tv as i tried to put our infant down for a nap) I HAD to have a baby i could just lay down and drift to sleep, for the safety of my toddler, too.

    Anywho, i wrote a blog about our experience and what I’ve learned, for anyone interested.



  41. Thank you for this post and your boldness to go against what may be the norm in this setting. I’ve read all the comments and can tell that for the most part, people are on the same page. Kids are different and so are their needs.

    I have three kids, (4, 2, 9mo), and I have learned so much with each one. It was a major learning curve when my second child did not fit into the same mold as his older brother. Honestly, I just thought it would be the same. Following a lot of exhaustion, tears, and prayers I finally figured out what worked for him. Now, my third baby has been the least stressful for me because I’ve been so open and flexible through it all. Sleep is important, for sure, but babies will be older before we know it and all the anxiety we put on ourselves over these routines will be a thing of the past. (Traded for new anxieties, I’m sure 😉 ).


  42. Thank you so much for this article.
    First let me say about 5 minutes ago I let my 7 month old son cry it out…while I hysterically cried.
    Now on to my story
    I’m a very avid attachment parenting believer. My daughter who is 8 was the “perfect baby”
    She nursed on demand, self weaned a little after she was two. Wouldn’t even sleep in a co sleeper. She’d fall asleep attached to me every night and it worked for us. She wasn’t really a crier at all. Took her naps during the day when she felt like it with out a problem. And she is a bright and amazing 2nd grader with no diagnosed emotional problems (adhd, slow development, ect)
    My son being born was a huge reality check that no two people are created equal. He is a completely different baby.
    So since about 2 months is when it got bad. He would take 10 min naps at a time and would just fuss and fuss, even at the breast! The breast was always the perfect cure for my daughter! I just couldn’t understand!
    My son is crazy, we must stand and walk or sway with him or he is so upset. And forget putting him down for any reason( my house has been a horror to look at for about 5 months)
    So today was especially bad. He would not stop crying and I am so against crying it out. I feel like it breaks his trust in me.
    So that being said, I was crying and he was crying and I couldn’t take anymore. So I laid him down and told him I loved him and walked out. It took almost 30 minutes for him to quiet and fall asleep! The whole time I was crying with him in the other room. And I felt like I must be the worst parent in the world and how could I do this to my son?? But honestly, I couldn’t handle it anymore, I had to do something. As I was crying and waiting for his cries to slow I came across this article and let me tell you, you just made me feel so much better. Thank you so much for sharing this because I don’t know if I would have forgiven my self if I hadn’t read this.
    He’s now sleeping finally and I’m going to do much over due house chores.


  43. This has really put my mind at ease with the whole “should we CIO or not?” dilemma that I have been going through. It seems as though everybody I ask says “you have to let her cry it out” (especially my mom). So we were willing to try anything, and gave it a shot. No sign of calming down after an hour or two of crying. My husband and I were hating every minute of it and brought her in bed and she went straight to sleep. My mom’s voice of “now she got what she wanted” was in my head, of course. We tried it again and same results, and we decided that night that we were never going to do it again. I have had friends tell me it took their child 20 minutes of crying in one night, and now their child sleeps through the night. So I just felt like we were doing something wrong, and why isn’t this working for us like it did for them. It is nice to be reassured that some children are just more independent then others and respond to that and some just don’t, like my daughter. I am not going to have her cry for an hour plus every night for weeks or however long they tell you it can take. Maybe number two will be different, like yours!


  44. Thank you for writing this. My daughter is JUST like this. I don’t think nursing has ever successfully put her to sleep. She detests being rocked and isn’t much for being held either. We ended up doing cry it out and she actually cries way LESS now than she did when we were trying to soothe her to sleep. Thankful to know I am not the only one. Every baby truly is different!


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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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