My Story

The chronicle of the journey from infertility, to miscarriage, to finally raising twin girls born in June 2012.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cry it out was finally tested

Ever since we decided that we were going to try the cry it out method, the girls have been falling asleep really easily and didn't put us to the test until last night.  A couple of things before I get to a recounting of how it went.

Charlotte has a cold, but it's really mild.  Other than seeming a bit tired, a little bit of goop in her eye, a day of green poo, and the occasional cough or sneeze, she's fine.  Doesn't even really have a booger situation happening which is awesome.  But yesterday she refused to nap.  I tried a lot of different things but any time I would put her down anywhere, she would screetch.  I had her cuddled up on the couch with me for about an hour and she would go back and forth between content and screetching.  I texted K about what was happening because I was frustrated and needed to complain, and because I like to warn him if he's likely to come home to an unpleasant household.  He texted me back that while it may be time consuming, a lot of cuddles might be the only answer.

This has been a bit of a point of contention around here.  At night, I rock and cuddle the girls, but not for very long.  I'm really trying to put them down when they are still awake like I've been taught by the books and by the sleep expert.  But when I get frustrated and walk away, K will cuddle until they are fully asleep.  I sent K the following email because I communicate better when I write than when I talk.

I think you're under the impression that I'm either cold, lazy, or both.  I'm not.  I'm trying to teach the girls something they need to learn.
Hours of cuddles to fall asleep are like feeding tubes to eating.  A feeding tube will get the job done, but they needed to learn how to suck and swallow so they could eat for the rest of their lives without it.  There are reasons why learning this skill are vital.   
1)  During the day, there's just me.  I physically can't spend an hour rocking and cuddling one girl to sleep because the other gets ignored.  If they are ready for a nap at the same time, one would simply get an hour overtired and we'd all be totally screwed.  Tina just went through an entire awake cycle where after eating and her diaper change, she was stuck alone on her playmat so I could do the bedtime routine with Charlotte (minus the bath) in a desperate bid to get her to finally fall asleep after 4 hours of fighting it.  By the time I finally got Charlotte down to the point that I could walk away, Tina was ready for her next nap.  Fortunately she's cooperating and calmly swinging while I pump, but what if I had to spend an hour with Tina now to get her to sleep?  By the time I did, Charlotte would be awake again.  And that's an hour of lost mommy interaction time that she just experienced. 
2)  At the moment, it's safe to allow one to be ignored for a while, but pretty soon, within a matter of weeks, they are going to be mobile and the only way to keep one safe while tending to the other one will be to strap her to something. [Editors note - I was referring to a swing.  I don't strap them to a desk or tree or anything.]  I don't want my kids basically strapped down or caged in a playpen all the time because someone needs me to cuddle them for an hour.  They HAVE to be able to fall asleep within a reasonable time frame for their own well-being.
3)  Insomnia is torture.  I don't think you've ever been an insomniac so I don't think you really understand this.  I don't know how to fall asleep.  It's a skill I never properly learned.  It's not just a matter of not getting a lot of sleep because it takes forever to fall asleep, but the falling asleep process itself can be awful.  I don't want the girls to have to experience that night after night.  If we program their physical rhythms now to understand that when you lie down to go to bed, you quickly fall asleep, insomnia will be a torture they won't have to experience much in their lives.  You don't know how lucky you are to be able to simply lie down and be asleep within a few minutes.
I want the girls to learn how to lie down and drift off to sleep of their own accord.  It's a skill I don't have and it sucks not having it.  And it affects every aspect of our day and the amount of time they can spend with us learning and playing.  Every time we give in and pick them up and rock them to sleep, we are teaching them that they are incapable of falling asleep without our help or by just lying down in the crib.  When they fall asleep, it must be in the crib so they learn that when they lie down, they can fall asleep.  Ok, so rock and cuddle until the stress is gone and they are in a mental place to be able to fall asleep, but the falling asleep itself needs to be in the crib.
I do want cuddles even if it seems like I don't.  I can't wait until they are old enough to snuggle in bed with me for bedtime stories as part of their bedtime routine.  Or crawling into bed so we can all watch Saturday cartoons together.  Or wanting to cuddle on the couch when they don't feel good.  But now is not the time to overindulge myself because my desire for cuddles would undo the teaching of the vital lesson they need to learn. 
Please stop making me feel like I have to defend myself when I don't want to do endless cuddles at night. I will be a cuddler, I love the mornings with Charlotte when she wakes up an hour early and will cuddle with me before the family gets up.  [Editors note - the last few mornings, Charlotte has been waking up but it's not time for her to eat or anything so I've been dozing with her in our bed while K gets ready for work.  I'm somewhat anti-cosleeping or bedsharing due to the dangers that have been pounded into my head, but when K is still around to keep an eye on us and she's wearing her Snuza alarm, well, I've been bending the rule a bit while she's not feeling good.]  But I won't sacrifice teaching them what they need to learn in order to get those cuddles for myself or by using endless cuddles to make falling asleep for one night a little easier.   
We need to bite the bullet, soon, and go through a rough week where we don't allow them to fall asleep while being rocked or cuddled, but only by lying down and drifting off on their own.

So after reading this, he apologized and said he didn't realize he was making me feel like I had to defend myself.  I really have been feeling like he must think I'm just a cold bitch or something because I get frustrated when cuddles take too long.  But after reading this, we got on the same page and committed to trying cry it out and to putting them down while still awake enough to be aware of their surroundings so they know they are in the crib when they do drift off to sleep.

And now, here's how last night went.  All times are approximate.

7pm - Bottle.  They aren't eating as much right now because they don't feel very well and don't have a major appetite.  We've been making 3oz bottles instead of the usual 4.5 or 5.5oz bottles so we're not throwing milk down the drain.
7:30 - I see a yawn and they are slowing down.  Time to start bedtime routine.
7:45 - Bedtime routine of bath, calming lotion massage, lullaby and cuddles, then in the crib with the soothing mobile lights.
8:00 - Asleep

7:55 - Wakes up from the 2.5 hour nap that I finally got her to take.
8pm - Bottle.
9pm - Gets tired really fast so we skip the bath but do the rest of the bedtime routine and put her down.

Tina woke up shortly before Charlotte fell asleep.  We cuddle Tina, sing her the bedtime lullaby and put her back down.  After only 20 minutes, Charlotte also woke up.  

Starting about 9:30pm, here we go.

Screaming babies, wait 5 minutes, go in and soothe them in the crib, sing lullaby twice, turn the mobile back on and leave.  Wait 10 minutes, repeat process.  Wait 15 minutes, repeat process.  We did not successfully soothe them mind you, but rather we limited our contact to hands on the chest in the crib for comfort and only 2 songs and then leave whether they were soothed or not. Reason being, I don't want them to learn that if they pitch a fit, it will be rewarded with endless attention.  Once they are down for bed, that's it.  Limited soothing.  

15 more minutes go by and K says "that's 15, let's go." and I tell him no.  If we continue to go in every 15 minutes, they will learn that if they scream for 15 minutes, they'll be rewarded.  It's time to teach them they won't be rewarded.  We grit our teeth and sit.  I start considering caving and asking if we're doing the right thing, is this really teaching them what they need to learn and K holds strong and says yes, this is the way to teach them.  No we aren't teaching them bad things, this is good.

We let them scream for I'm not sure, about 45 minutes to an hour.  By now, it's about 3 hours since they've eaten and we determine that they're crossing over from angry to hungry and we can't expect them to fall asleep hungry.  Besides, I wanted to double check that Charlotte wasn't crying herself into having a snotty nose that would make breathing difficult.  

11pm - diaper change (in the crib) and a bottle (also in the crib).  Sing the lullaby once, turn on the mobile, and leave.  Trying to show them that we'll be there for their needs, but not their wants during the night.  Also gave them a dose of Tylenol in case they were achy from being sick and because I know I always have a headache when I've been crying.  We only picked them up to burp them, didn't interact or look them in the eye, we just facilitated their eating.

About 10 minutes of quiet fussing and then asleep.  By 11:20, we were convinced they were solidly down and I started the sleep clock in BabyESP.  


We were prepared to go all night, only going in to feed and change diapers every 3 hours.  And I seriously thought it was going to be an all night thing.  But it wasn't!  It succeeded so much faster than I expected!

Both slept about 5.5 hours before they woke up K and he fed them and Charlotte woke me up about 8:45 this morning, very happy and lively with no sign of being sick.  Big smiles when I went to get her up.  She is now taking a nap and Tina is still asleep (it's shortly after 11am) which seems to be the pattern.  I've got a bottle warming because Tina should be up any minute now.

A month ago, I was totally against the cry it out method.  At the time, they weren't ready for it.  Some might say they are still too young, but they've demonstrated that they are learning and that the night time crying is somewhat for manipulation.  Tina will stop and practically pass out the moment she's picked up.  That's why we've decided now is the right time.  Anything we do now is what they are going to learn and unlearning a bad habit is harder than starting off with a good one.  While it's not fun, I think we're doing the right thing.  That it worked as quickly as it did last night (didn't feel like it at the time) further convinces me that this is the right thing at the right time and it should create good habits much faster than I thought it would.  Hopefully, we aren't going to have a week of sleepless nights like I anticipated.  

I see open eyeballs on the baby monitor.  Time to get Tina up and starting her day!


  1. I also have sleep trained four of my five kids, and I love it. I did not sleep train my first son and he did not sleep through the night till he was over a year old.
    My youngest are identical twin boys that just turned a year old. I so know where you are at.
    Also you may want to keep an eye on the sicky babe. I have always found with all of mine that if they have a cold and are fussy at bedtime it means and ear infection. Laying down puts more pressure on the tubes causing more pain.

  2. Insomnia isn't something you get taught...It's related to depression, stress, over using sleeping aids, or it's a sign of a sleep disorder.

    36% of women suffer from Insomnia, in women like almost everything else in our bodies it's ruled by hormones. Men don't produce massive amounts of hormones so only around 25% of men suffer from it.

    Following maternal instincts worked for thousands of years, a parent knows their baby better than some stranger.

    It's a shame people these days believe anything someone in a white coat and "Dr." at the start of their name says, without proof that it's healthy or it actually works.

    Rather than reading two books from a quack quick money doctor with a University of Phoenix PhD and believing it right off the bat because it's more convenient for them and supposedly "worked" for their mom's sisters cousin...

    Mother's should actually take the time to compare parenting styles by also reading research studies done in Anthropology and Psychology that have YEARS of research and evidence backing them.

    1. Well aren't you just dripping with condescension! Clearly you haven't been reading my blog very long or you would know that I am following my maternal instincts, not just following the first quack book I read, I am talking to other parents, including parents of twins every day to get their thoughts and experiences but ultimately going with what I believe to be the right thing, I don't have the normal flood of feminine hormones to blame for my insomnia issues, and most of all - I take all the time in the world to watch my kids, interpret what they are telling me, and to cater to what is best for each of them according to what they show me they need.

      Hell, if I followed the books, I wouldn't do this for another month, but since I take the time to watch and interact with my kids, I can see that one is starting to learn bad habits and is ready to be taught the right ones.

      Get over yourself.

  3. I don't agree with CIO so take my comment for what it's worth.

    I did CIO with my oldest (now 15) and he is still a horrible sleeper (most likely due to his autism). The more kids I've had, the less I like CIO. My youngest, #5, didn't do ANY CIO. I nursed her to sleep, naps and night, until she was 2 1/2! Sure, she didn't sleep through the night until she was 20 months but she was also tiny for her age (still is) and she probably just needed the extra feeding. Now she's 4 1/2 and has absolutely NO problem falling asleep and staying asleep. My 2nd baby slept through the night at 2 months without CIO. It all depends on the kid.

    I also believe that babies cry when they NEED something and sometimes those needs include comfort and cuddles, especially for infants and toddlers! And, sometimes, one baby needs to hang out by themselves for a period of time while you tend to another, more needy at the moment, child.

    I don't think that people who CIO are ruining their babies, but it does break my heart to think of a helpless infant who can't express what the problem is, being left to cry with no understanding of when, or if, help is going to come. For example, one night, when my youngest was 9 months old, she would NOT go to sleep. She was driving me INSANE and I had been walking, rocking, nursing for 5 or 6 hours. I was beyond exhausted, to the point of tears! She would fall asleep when I held her but wake up screaming as soon as I laid her down. I thought I was being manipulated but just couldn't bring myself to let her cry herself to sleep. I even gave her Tylenol just in case it was teeth or some other pain I couldn't see. It was about 2 am when I realized how quickly she fell asleep when I had pressure on her tummy. So, I folded a blanket in the middle of the crib and laid her on it on her tummy and she stayed asleep! OMG! That whole time she had a tummy ache! When I held her it went away enough that she could sleep but when I laid her down it came back! She couldn't tell me her tummy hurt, she could only just cry. At that moment I realized just how against CIO I was. Even 4 years later, remembering this brings tears to my eyes. What if I had assumed I was being manipulated and left her, in pain, to CIO for an hour? Or longer? Just the RISK that I could leave my baby to CIO in pain is enough to keep me from EVER doing it, no matter how badly I want to put them down. No matter how tired or frustrated I was. In the end, I was the one that chose to have a child and I am the one that needs to make sacrifices to the very ends of my abilities. And beyond. With 5 kids and a husband who is often gone for days at a time (he's a truck driver) there have been MANY days when I was on my feet and functioning simply because I had no other options.

    1. CIO was not my first choice. We tried the endless cuddle thing and that often results in everybody in the household crying until 2am or later.

      Tina has been crying for manipulation. When we walk in, she stops crying, smiles and giggles. She's not in pain, she wants attention. I'm not going to teach her that if she pretends to be upset, we'll come in and play with her.

      A month ago, they were too young. But they have demonstrated that they are now actively learning and that they have figured out that crying means we'll give them attention. It's now time to learn that at night time, we'll be there for their needs, but that they need sleep and not attention. Giving in to what your child wants when it goes against what they need is easy. Actually teaching your children how to get what they need even when it's not what they want is difficult. As a parent, I have no intentions of taking the easy way out, I intend to go through the difficult teaching processes of life's lessons. This was the first. Ok, taking them off the feeding tubes and making them learn to suck so they could properly eat was the first, but this is close.

      We didn't do anything dangerous or unhealthy. We checked on them at first to make sure they weren't hungry, needed help getting out a burp or fart, or had crappy diapers. They simply wanted attention. We watched the monitor to make sure that everybody was breathing just fine and to make sure it was an attention cry and not a pain cry. As soon as it had been a while since they had eaten, we went and fed them (it was really about 2hr 45min, not a full 3 hours).

      If they learn to go to sleep quickly when put in the crib, both of them will get far more happy interaction time during the day because the going to sleep process for naps won't take very long. It's important for their health and happiness.

  4. I'm glad it worked! I have mixed feelings about CIO but if they are happy and sleeping then that is important :) At 2 months I am already doing something like this, except not limiting the chest rubbing and singing - I rock them a bit to calm them, then put them down in the crib at the same time with their eyes still open, and rub their chests and sing until they are both relaxed. I don't wait for them to be asleep but I do wait for them to stop wiggling and grunting for at least a couple of minutes before I walk away, and I am still singing as I walk away so it's like gradual fading out of mommy instead of abrupt mommy leaving. Sometimes I have to go back a second time for more chest rubs and singing, but I don't pick them up again unless they actually cry, which almost never happens because they are almost asleep.

    My husband, like yours, prefers unending snuggling until they are totally asleep before putting them down. This seems fine to someone who doesn't spend all day with the babies. But I routinely put them down for naps with their eyes open because I cannot physically cuddle two babies to sleep all day. The only time I cuddle them to sleep is if they are obviously physically uncomfortable.

    One day they will be big enough to cuddle outside of nap time, and then OH YES THE CUDDLES!!

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  6. CIO makes absolutely ZERO sense, strictly from an evolutionary standpoint. Similar to other posters, I too have five children. We did CIO with my oldest, and to this day he is still our most insecure child. My other children have done quite well without CIO. Babies, tiny infants, are NOT capable of manipulating you. If they are crying, it is because they have very genuine needs. Do you want to be left alone and not heard if you have a complaint that you want your husband to at least hear? When you feel sad or lonely, don't you want someone (even if it's total strangers on the internet) to hear you out? It's the same with babies. They aren't out to get you, I promise. They don't have a plan to ruin your life. If a baby is crying it's because they have needs that have to be addressed. It may be that all they need is to see your face and make sure you haven't been eaten by a wild animal, it may be some cuddles, it may be a diaper change, it may be they are hungry (babies go through random, unscheduled growth spurts). Babies don't know they are supposed to abide by any books written by "experts". They only know what babies knew so many thousands of years ago. They know they need to survive. I apologize if I sound condescending, I'm not trying to be. But you need to do some more research, and listen very carefully to your instincts. Do what makes sense. Many people have dealt with insomnia, and it has nothing to do with CIO. My mother did CIO with me, and I'm a huge insomniac. Not everything is written in stone for everyone. Good luck with your efforts. In the end, you have to do what you feel is right for your family. But please, don't dismiss what warnings and advice other mothers with experience have to offer you.

    1. I've heard from a lot of mothers. For every one that has an issue with CIO, another one had success with it. Look at my timeline, they are not left to endlessly freak out. They were reassured very regularly.

      Sleep is a need, but very few infants recognize it as one. I'm not so sure about Charlotte, but Tina has definitely demonstrated that sleep is a need she will sacrifice to satisfy her desire to see me. I've tried keeping in view while she drifts off or keeping my hand on her, but she'll seriously watch me sit there for more than an hour even though she's exhausted.

      I'm trying something that many have said works. Last night it felt like the right thing to do. I don't know if it will feel that way if we're put to the test again tonight.

      This morning, both of them woke up, very well rested, happy, and lively.

  7. Rachel deleted her comment but I get emailed so I saw what her comment was. She said that 45 minutes is cruel, not healthy at this young age and they can't distinguish between their needs and wants, and she asked if I was prepared to let them go all night. Then I think she unfollowed this blog.

    From the research that I've done, if you go the full extinction method (absolutely no intervening), you can generally expect the first night to last about an hour, the second night about 20 minutes, and then you're pretty much good to go. We're not doing that method. The checking on them portion lasts about an hour, and after those three checks, we go as long as we can stand it and we know they're starting to get hungry. Which means 45 minutes is probably about our limit. We were lucky that the first night, they fell asleep after that first feeding so we didn't have to go another full round.

    I don't know if letting them cry for 45 minutes is unhealthy. I do know that not getting much sleep is unhealthy so I took the known over the unknown on choosing between the two.

    Charlotte is a pretty honest communicator. Her noises genuinely match her level of distress. Tina on the other hand, she knows that noise equals attention and she'll scream bloody murder even if she's only mildly annoyed. She knows full well what she's doing. I watch her on the monitor as we get closer to the door. When she can hear our footsteps, she will quiet down and look towards the door for us to come in. She'll even smile knowing that she's won. She doesn't NEED anything, she just hates going to sleep. Always has. She almost ALWAYS fusses for about 7 minutes before dropping off.

    Was I prepared to go all night? In theory, yes. In reality, probably not. If they hadn't dropped off after that first feeding, I likely would have abandoned ship and given it a couple more weeks before trying again. I have no idea if I'll be able to do it again tonight if we need to. I'll report on that tomorrow. But if we had gone all night, we would have done the same cycle over and over again. Wait 5 minutes, soothe, wait 10 minutes, soothe, wait 15 minutes, soothe, wait as long as we can tolerate it (probably less than 45 minutes) and do a full needs check with feeding and diaper change. We were also only prepared to try this for about 3 nights. If things weren't improving, we would have stopped and tried again in a few weeks.

    I'm not trying to be cruel here. I'm not trying to just make my life more convenient all though that is a by product. We've gone a whole lot of nights of trying other things and they would go nights of getting very little to crappy sleep. I know for certain that's not good for them. I don't know for certain about this. So again, I'll take not knowing if it's unhealthy over I know it's unhealthy when those are my choices.

  8. Do what you think is best. I support you. You guys love your girls and that alone is miles ahead of what some babies get. Trust your gut and screw what everyone else says! That's my sage piece of advice that I have learned so far being a new mom. I'm not perfect but that's ok, I learn as I go and do what I think is best for me and my family! Good Luck!

  9. Update - night number 2. The girls were asleep by the time we got to our own bedroom to turn on the monitor at 9pm. Coincidence? Cause and Effect? Quit telling me to do what I think is right while at the same time telling me that what I think is right is wrong? (not you Anonymous #4. Thanks for not hating on me)

  10. Sorry, but having 5 kids only makes you an expert in YOUR kids. All babies are different, which I'm sure is something you have learned along the way. Alex, you're doing a great job. It's obvious that you love your daughters and have put a lot of thought and effort into doing what is best for them in the long run.

  11. Whether this is the age for "teachable moments" for them or not, it's important that *you* learn that they can soothe themselves to sleep by providing them a supportive opportunity to do so. Opinions are plentiful on the subject of CIO, but in the end you have to do what works for your kids and for you.

  12. Alex, I'm sorry there are so many hostile comments in her! 1- I'm so proud of you, I am sure that listening to your babies cry was really really hard! But you stuck to your plan and it sounds like it worked really fabulously! 2- like you said each theory has good stories and horror stories. IMHO I think you have put a LOT of thought and research AND listening to your gut

    1. Sorry, my phone fritzed and wouldn't let me finish typing! (That's why I rarely comment, the damn thing! It hate's blogspot blogs, don't know why) ANYWAY- IMHO I think you have put a LOT of thought and research AND listening to your gut into coming up with a plan, trying to anticipate future problems and habits ahead a time which makes you a wonderful, thoughtful and loving mother! It saddens me that SO many parents "fly by the seat of their pants" or "unintentionally parent" without considering the long term consequences of their actions. NO ONE is a perfect parent, and any parent who tries to tell you you're wrong/a horrible human being is full of crap. You're going to make mistakes, but EVERYONE does. We do the best we can, and at least you are trying to make a plan and be intentional and I have SO MUCH respect for you for that!!! (This is Tulip BTW... damn computer wont even let me reply as me!)

  13. I'm not a CIO fan, but everyone has to do what works for them as a mom and for their babies. You seem like you're willing to keep an open mind and do what works. That shows you really are trying to do what is best for your babies and will continue to adjust accordingly. Good luck!

  14. Ahh - I'm sorry, I don't agree with you. You write a great blog and I really enjoy reading it but I feel your inexperience as a first time mom - and I say that with the upmost respect.

    I have 4 children, oldest is 10yrs and youngest 5 months. The CIO method is usually a 5 -10 minute burst ( at the most) certainly not 45-1hr, that's way too long. Did your Dr agree that was okay?

    I think at 5mths the girls are too young to learn any lesson, their needs are simple and immediate (hungry, too hot/cold, soiled diaper, bored, ill, etc..). It could be that they weren't feeling well from their colds and needed a small dose of baby Tylenol. Or, like my daughter, they are still hungry and want more. Babies don't cry for an hour unless there's something wrong. And it certainly wouldn't be because they're just being fussy or want comfort. I would place a bet on them wanting more food. I'm finding my 5mth old daughter still hungry even after 8ozs so we're starting the baby rice tomorrow.

    Of course, I can only base my opinion on what you've written. Perhaps there were extraneous circumstances going on. I just felt compelled to add my 2 cents. There is so much conflicting information out there, it can be hard to know what to do.


  15. I did CIO with my first who is now 2. It was so hard to hear her cry like that and it seemed like every four months or so she would go back to wanting/needing to be held to sleep. This is my 2nd and a couple days ago my husband who is much more CIO than I, decided it was time with our son. I just couldn't do it this time. And I don't think I will at all this time around. I don't know if it is the difference in children or experience as a mother it just doesn't feel right this time. I would be interested to know statistics on how many who use CIO use it with subsiquent children. Interesting. At any rate, Alex I know how hard it is to hear your babies cry and know you could stop it with your prescense/comfort. I'm glad your girls got it the first night.

  16. I did CIO with my 2.5 year old. It took hours to get him to sleep. He is an awesome sleeper now, people are amazed by how easily he goes down. My daughter is about the same age as your girls and we are starting it. Doing things a little differently just because she is easier to put to sleep than her brother was at this age. I hate the claim that it is bad for babies and its a new theory. My fad is a twinno other siblings, and his parents were stone cold deaf. You think they didn't cry for hours?!?! Good job! Don't let the 'perfect' parents get you down!


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