He only sleeps when held


Written on Thursday, March 08, 2007 by Jessica

I don't know how this happened. Until very recently, he would fall asleep and we would put him in his crib. And he would stay asleep. Over the past couple of weeks, he has suddenly started waking up the moment we try to put him down.

I know some people will say we've spoiled him. That we should've started sleep training at four months (i.e., one of many variations of "cry it out"), but we decided that wasn't for us. We wanted him to know that we'd always be there for him and he could depend on us. We didn't want him to have to learn to soothe himself to sleep.

So the question is, am I now paying the price for bad parenting? Did I make the wrong choice? Should I have taught him to be able to sleep independently?

Or maybe this is just a phase. He was sick a couple of weeks ago when this all started, and I know that some babies' sleep patterns get messed up after being sick. In fact, many parents who opted for sleep training have to retrain after an illness.

I hate this -- being wracked with indecision. The sleep trainers say, "You have to teach him good sleep habits now. If you don't, he'll never learn how to fall asleep by himself. A little crying is better for him in the long run. It helps him grow into a healthy, independent adult." The attachment-parenting types say, "Babies have been rocked to sleep by their parents for millennia. If you let them cry, you teach them that they can't count on you. You negatively affect the parent-child bond. And don't worry about all those dire predictions from the sleep trainers. Your child will learn to sleep just fine, and without requiring harsh cry-it-out methods."

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  1. Joanne |

    I hate that part of parenting. I wish there was just one expert with the "right" answer. I have to say for us, trying to teach him to be independent has improved sleeping habits. Once in awhile he will go to bed after falling asleep nursing, but generally we try to follow a routine (diaper change, pajamas, story, turn music on) and put him to bed while he is still awake. (nursing usually falls either before or after pajamas depending on how tired he is) This has resulted in him waking once during the night and then in the early am, instead of every two hours. I think you have to do what is best for you but I think the experts are right, you have to start good sleep habits early. Just a thought, I don't remember my mother leaving me to cry it out-nor do I have issues with trust or dependability today as a result. It's tough being a parent!

  2. Joanne |

    Oh and we try to get him to bed within the same half hour time range every night, 8-8:30. We tried earlier and later times but 8-8:30 seems to have the best results. I'm sure you know all this, sorry to if I sound all know-it-all. I really don't and am not trying to be...it's been a trial and error, experiment in our house too. Just offering my 2 cents. Good luck!

  3. Jessica |

    Thx, Blue Girl.

    Actually, we haven't experimented much with sleeping. In the past, I nursed him, put him down, and he stayed asleep. That's all that mattered to me. If he woke up three hours later, I nursed him again, put him down, and he stayed asleep again. I was tired, but I was okay with it. (The frequent nursing helped to maintain my milk supply.) But this business with waking up the moment he's put down is really throwing me for a loop. The whole idea of setting up a routine worries me since I'm bad at routines. So often we're not even home, so how do you set up a routine? I'm frustrated, and Baby's Daddy is adding to my frustration because he just wants to "fix it." He doesn't seem to understand that there is no instant fix.

  4. Danielle/Brooke |

    How old is he now? Tommy would go through these stages where he would be sleeping fine (all night)then all of sudden he would stop and wake up every 2 hours and then wake up as soon as we tried to lay him down. He always seemed to do this on the 3 month intervals.

    We would have to do the crying thing for a couple days before he go back into his routine. If he didn't need his diaper changed we would lay him back down pat him and hum then leave. At first he would immediately start to cry. We would wait five minutes go back in reassure him we were still there (but would not pick him up)leave wait 10 minutes, if still crying repeat and increase the intervals each time. The first night it might take up to an hour but the next night maybe only 30 minutes and then usually everything was back to back to normal but night 3 or 4.

    Don't worry my husband is always wanting it "fixed" too. They just don't quite understand.

  5. Jessica |

    He's about eight-and-a-half months.

    I'm so wary about allowing him to cry. An hour?? I don't know how parents do it. I used to joke, "I'm not made of stone," but then I realized that I'm implying that other parents are made of stone if they sleep train. I'm not. I think other parents must just be stronger than I am.

  6. Christina |

    Jessica, remember that you are a good mommy and want the best for him. I know that I am not a mom but one babysitting trick I had was to put the baby in the crib if they woke up I would just rub their tushie or back and that would soothe them. Then as they were getting sleepy just walk out.

    I hope that this works for you.

  7. Christina |

    Jessica, remember that you are a good mommy and want the best for him. I know that I am not a mom but one babysitting trick I had was to put the baby in the crib if they woke up I would just rub their tushie or back and that would soothe them. Then as they were getting sleepy just walk out.

    I hope that this works for you.

  8. Unknown |

    When I had my children the "let em cry" thing was in full swing and everyone had no doubts.

    I did have doubts and found it impossible to just let them cry so I made sure I put them to bed at the same time everynight, with the same routine indicating bedtime was approaching. If crying started after I put them to bed I would tiptoe and listen at the door to determine what kind of cry it was.

    If crying continued for a few minutes or got loader I would go in, rub their backs, give them their favorite toy, maybe even sing to them without picking them up. They could usually be soothed this was if they couldn't I would pick them up for a few minutes and try again.

    My kids were all pretty good at sleeping in their own beds except when I was pregnant with the last one they all started migrating to mine during the night. It was kinda funny but I would wake up with a kid on each side of me and one across my legs. I finally had to tell them if they "had" to come into my room at night please sleep on the floor beside the bed.

    None of them migrate to my bed anymore so they do grow out of it and enjoy it while you have it.

  9. Valerie |

    Kiera went through a phase where she wouldn't let you put her down in the crib to sleep, but it was not too long. We did everything we could to encourage her, by extending our prep time before bed (i.e. bath, books, rocking, etc), then we would put her down and try to let her calm herself back down, sometimes staying in the room, sometimes leaving. Eventually we were able to put her down before being fully asleep, until now where she goes to bed fully awake.

    Hope this helps!

  10. Shana |

    I agree, most likely just a phase and will go back to sleeping normally soon.

    I would let him cry for 5 or 10 minutes at the most to see if he'll fall asleep on his own. After that pick him up again and cuddle or nurse or rock then lie him back down while sleepy, let cry a short period... lather, rinse, repeat, until he falls asleep. You won't be letting him cry himself into a fit but you WILL be giving him a chance to fall asleep on his own.


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