Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Look for a program that fits both your needs and your daughter's
Sleepless: I have a 16-month-old daughter who rarely sleeps through the night. I have discovered that neither my husband nor I have the stomach for "cry it out" methods. Usually it leads to all three of us crying it out.
Other than teething and the occasional cold/cough, there is nothing physically wrong with her. And during the day she is the happiest, most engaging thing ever.
Am I dooming her for a life of failure if I continue to comfort her, or are the "experts" right that I must "sleep train" her now before she becomes a serial killer?
Carolyn: Your tone suggests you think the cry-it-out proponents are fascists who would suck the joy out of your child just to serve their thesis on sleep.
If I've got that wrong, please do say so.
I can validate the idea that if you are all happy with the situation, parents and child, then it's okay to treat experts (and/or "experts") with some skepticism.
But I can also say that at some point, be it over sleep or candy or sleeping over at her friend's house while the friend's parents are away, you're going to need the backbone to say "no" and mean it, no matter how hard your child cries.
I'm not saying you're there or even headed there — you haven't given me enough to draw that conclusion — but I hope you and your husband can be honest with yourselves if you are in fact so tear-averse that you're headed toward obeying your kid.
Sleepless again: I actually don't hate the "cry it out" folks at all, and kind of wish I was one of them. I'm just not. At least at night.
We're not averse to saying no, even when it results in a roll-on-the-floor tantrum. To me, there's a difference between hearing her cry for the forbidden cookie and hearing her wail all by herself at night.
I think my angst over the "experts" comes from every book having that propaganda angle that their way is the only way.
I don't know what I'm looking for, really. I'm exhausted and just wondering if we're on a path to years of sleepless nights or if she'll just figure it out eventually.
Carolyn: That's such a common feeling — when the advice doesn't seem right but acting on instinct isn't working, either.
Next stop: Ask your pediatrician about alternative schools of thought on sleep training.
If you've tried and your doc hasn't been helpful, then hit the Web. You have to anticipate the knuckleheads and crank your skepticism to high, but: Parents love to brag about what books/experts/approaches worked for them.
Eventually, you'll read a few descriptions that resemble what you're going through now, paired with philosophies that align with yours — something based on, say, tapering your attention gently.
The argument for a program is to help you make decisions and remain consistent when you're out of your mind with frustration and sleep deprivation. Look for a program that dovetails with what you're already doing or seeing, but tweaks it for the better — and run it by your doc, just in case.