Sheryl Jesin

Parenting a child to sleep


I’ve written a number of posts about the joys I’ve experienced nursing my son Dylan to sleep.  But getting him to sleep is not just about nursing, it is about parenting.  I’ve deeply valued the time I’ve spent parenting my son to sleep and plan to do the same with baby #2 who is due in December.

I find it quite disconcerning that anywhere I turn in the “mainstream” parenting world, I encounter people talking about “sleep training”, “controlled crying”, or “crying it out (CIO)”.  It sometimes seems as if many parents think they have no choice but to put their children in a crib, leave the room, and hope they fall asleep crying.  There are so many “sleep experts” writing books or websites touting the magical solution to getting your baby to sleep through the night through a variety of different methods that usually involve a baby falling asleep on their own in a crib – no wonder so many parents think they need to sleep train!

Dr. Sears warns about the dangers of sleep training for breastfeeding mothers:

Beware of using someone else’s training method to get your baby to sleep or get your baby on a predictable schedule. Most of these methods are variations of the tired old theme of letting baby cry it out. Before trying anyone else’s method, run it through your intuitive wisdom. Does this advice sound sensible? Does it fit your baby’s temperament? Does it feel right to you?With most of these baby-training regimens you run the risk of becoming desensitized to the cues of your infant, especially when it comes to letting baby cry it out. Instead of helping you to figure out what baby’s signals mean, these training methods tell you to ignore them. Neither you nor your baby learn anything good from this.

For us, it never felt right to leave Dylan alone to fall asleep.   It felt right and it felt natural to be there right beside him as he drifted off to dreamland.  Some of my most precious memories of Dylan as a baby and toddler involve watching his eyes slowly close and observing the peaceful, angelic look that comes over his face once he is asleep.  Sometimes we’d have crazy, hectic, tiring days, where I’d lose my patience or just feel fed up.   Seeing Dylan’s sweet sleeping face at night always bring back tenderness to my heart and is often just what I need after a long day. 

I believe that parenting Dylan to sleep each and every night has helped him become the independent, fiesty and loving child toddler that he is.  I wouldn’t give up all those hours that I have spent lying beside him for anything.   I’m so glad that Jake and I decided to listen to our hearts rather than listen to “sleep experts”. 



6 thoughts on “Parenting a child to sleep

  1. I think the more we co-sleep the more independent Dylan is. I’m just waiting for any day now when he asks me for the keys to the car.

  2. I love nursing my boy to sleep too… We didn’t plan to cosleep but it soon became very clear that it was the best thing for Oliver, and I loved it from the first night too.

    Unfortunately my husband (who agrees that cosleeping with me is best for Oliver)doesn’t feel comfortable sleeping in the family bed, so when I start missing my husband I sometimes feel pressure to move Oliver to his own bed.
    But I know I couldn’t. Neither of us are actually ready to sleep apart, so for now I just sneek out to the other room sometimes after he’s asleep 😉

  3. I nurse to sleep/co-sleep with my 15 month old. I could never let her CIO it out no matter how much people tell me to let her. My husband and I will co-sleep with her until she lets us know she wants her own bed and is ready for it.

  4. I don’t cosleep, at least not in the same bed, but I definitely mother my baby to sleep. A bit of nursing, a bit of burping, a bit of rocking, and we’re good to go. If he’s really wired we take a nice walk around the neighborhood … the bouncing in my arms sends him off to dreamland. And of course I’m there for him when he wakes up at night too.

    Parenting is a 24/7 job, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  5. I definitely agree with you and Dr. Sears. It just doesn’t make sense to ignore your natural God-given instincts to respond to and nuture your baby, including at night! We co-sleep and breastfeed to sleep every night and I get a pretty good night’s sleep. Other than waking up enough to get him latched back on a few times, I get to sleep for about 10 hours if I want to (that’s how long my son sleeps, but I usually sneak away for a bit at first to wash dishes and brush my teeth and such)

  6. Thank you for sharing this! I am starting to struggle a little with putting my 15 month old to sleep. I know that I need to continue to be patient and appreciate the time that I have with her, but I really appreciate knowing that other parents spent time “parenting” their children to sleep as well!

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