Still trying to get into the swing of things here. Little Man's schedule has been all over the map. If we hang out and do things when he wants to, it means sleeping all day and partying all night.

We've been discussing how to help Little Man start developing some good sleep habits. We have been reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth. I've had friends rave about it, and the method's prescribed there which includes letting the child self-soothe at bedtime. That means you put them in the crib and leave the room after your bedtime ritual. If they scream, you just let them do it.

I'm not sure this is the right answer for our family, for a few reasons. First, I'm not comfortable with letting him scream! Everything the book says about children learning to self-soothe makes sense, but I was finding it a bit scary. I really love rocking him to sleep, but I recognize that he needs to learn to put himself to sleep too.

My bigger concern is that if we put him to bed in the crib before he was asleep and he cried, he would feel deserted and alone. We aren't dealing with a kid here who has confidence that adults are always there for him. His life experiences have been that people you love might be here one day, and gone the next. How is he to know that if we are out of sight, we aren't gone forever? Will letting him cry it out hinder our bonding process?

A few nights ago, during one of the middle of the night wake-up sessions (happens about 11:30 and 3 p.m.) we figured we needed to try something different. We changed his diaper, gave him a bottle (he is used to being put to sleep with a bottle, but we'll tackle that problem in a little while) and put him in his crib.

We walked out of the room, closed the door, and expected to listen to a wailing, hysterical child for the next few hours. But he completely shocked us! He didn't cry. He spent about an hour hooting and making noises, sounding like he was having a grand old time. And then he finally went to sleep. And he stayed asleep! We were so proud, and felt happy that we had figured out how to handle the middle-of-the-night situations.

But the next night when he awoke, we changed, gave him a bottle, put him to bed and listened to him happily hoot for about an hour.

And then he started screaming.

And screaming.

I tried really hard not to go in. But all I could think about was that he was scared and didn't know why we weren't coming to help him. He hasn't been with us long, so how could he know that we were only in the next room? That we would be there for him when he awoke?

I ended up going in after 45 minutes. I felt terribly guilty that we had let him cry that long. Turns out that he was wet (again!) and we changed him. We spent a few minutes together, and then I stepped out. This time he only cried about 15 minutes. And then he crashed.

Now, I'm not sure what the best answer is. When he cries at night, I want to run in and make things better (which means he'll get very awake and want to play). I want him to know that the people he's getting to know are still here and can meet his needs. I worry that playing sleep hardball and letting him cry it out might have some abandonment and fear issues for him. Am I putting too much weight on the adoption when it comes to this?

I have other adoptive parent friends and many are still co-sleeping with their children after a month or two of coming home. Are we pushing Little Man too fast? About 75% of the time, he handles his new system well. He goes to sleep without crying and stays asleep longer. But those middle of the night things...I don't think I can let him cry it out.

For me, this issue illustrates the crossroads we are likely to come to many times in Little Man's development.  At each difficult juncture, we'll likely ask ourselves, "is this an adoption issue or something else?" and I guess all you can go with is your best guess. Because the truth is that you'll likely never know.

For now, we are doing our own modified version of the Healthy Sleep Habits protocol. We try to keep him from becoming over-tired, which can make things difficult for him to settle down at nap and bedtimes. We've become total naptime Nazis, hitting his twice-daily (or three times when needed) right on schedule. It's inconvenient because we have to plan things around nap times, but hopefully it will help us all feel a bit more normal around here.
At least a new normal.

And about those middle of the night wake-ups...my new plan is to give him 15 minutes to try and work it out himself. And if it is taking longer than that, I'm going in his room, and sit in the rocking chair to let him know I'm there, but not interact with him at all. Not sure how that plan is going to work, but it's worth a shot.

For you APS, if you have any tips about how you made this adjustment, please share!


  1. It's hard to offer advice on this subject because it's your choice as a parent, but most attachment books suggest waiting a month or two before starting sleep training and self soothing work. I haven't read any attachment books that suggest the cry it out method before the timezone and attachment issues have been resolved. It's hard to see the implications of what could happen right away as our kids are exceptionally resilient, and for many there are no implications, but it's just what the books say.

    BUT, like I said, respectfully, you are the parents and you need to do what you feel is right for your child. If this is working for your family, that's great! I would just kick up the attachment games and immediate response to crying during the day.

  2. We did modified Ferber and it worked well--basically bedtime routine, put him down with lots of I love you's & sleep wells, leave the room. If he cries, wait five minutes, then go in. Sing another lullaby, more comforting words, stroke his head, but don't pick him up (unless you think diaper needs to be changed). Try to keep these check-ins to around a minute. Once you leave the room, if he cries wait 10 minutes, then check on him again. Then 15, 20--we've never gotten beyond 20 minutes before he soothes himself to sleep. I liked this because it let him know that we were nearby and there if he needed us, but also enabled him to self-soothe. He took to this very quickly and has been a great nighttime sleeper ever since! However, we adopted him locally and at birth, so there were no timezone issues, and he hadn't left previous homes (since he came straight home from the hospital with us), so by the time we sleep trained at 6 months, we were thoroughly bonded. I do think it's important to establish a sleep routine, but giving him even a month of adjustment time first might be good--but I don't know, it all really does depend on what feels right for your family. Good luck! He will start sleeping better eventually, one way or another :)

  3. We co-slept for 3 weeks to a month. Now I put him down in his own bed but stay in the room until he's asleep. I plan on doing this for a few months still until I feel he's sure that I'm always there for him (bonded). After that I will start leaving the room before he falls asleep.

    The Baby whisperer indicates that children who are left to cry will learn to self-sooth but often at the expense of trusting their parents. I've read a lot of adoption literature that also says to always be there (like within 15 seconds of crying) in the beginning. So I feel more comfortable staying in the room. Sometimes I fall asleep waiting for him to, sometimes I read a book. I rarely have to do her pu/pd thing, mostly if he gets upset, I just tell him he's tired and should lay down and he does.

    Anyway, that's what I'm comfortable with so that's what I'm doing.

    After a year they usually go down to one nap so it's not too long until things are easier. I schedule our day around his naps too, I think that's fairly normal. Your little guy is still adjusting to the time change too so be patient (and consistent) and he'll get his nights down!

  4. I can so sympathize. We were going *crazy* a couple of weeks ago. I was ill in the mornings from being up so much overnight (my husband was back at work, so he needed to sleep at night), and I was in tears or near tears in the middle of the night. On top of that, it was becoming more and more difficult to soothe Calvin back to sleep. It went from simply rocking him for a few minutes to standing up with him, letting him spend 5-10 minutes getting settled in my arms, then slowly swinging back and forth without making any other movements until he was completely, totally out - then slowly putting him in his crib and holding my breath that he didn't start screaming. If he did, we had to start it all over. It. Was. Awful.

    Our solution was to sleep in his room (one or both of us) anytime he's awake and upset in the night, including when we put him to bed and during naps. We let him cry it out, but he can see us right there on the floor so he knows we're close by. We have a couple of sleeping bags beside his crib, and they've gotten some good use. For the first few nights we did this, we just both slept in his room all night, because he was awake so much. But we've moved back to our room now, and we're not in there more than once a night. Once he's asleep, we leave.

    The first night was awful. He screamed and screamed and screamed. But the second night was much better.

    I'm not saying this is the right solution for everyone, but it has worked beautifully for us.

    And as a sidenote - we tried co-sleeping in the beginning, and that didn't work either. None of us was sleeping well.

    Hope you guys can get something figured out soon. The sleep thing can really get to you, I know.

  5. we did something similar to elizabeth and dena...i slept in c's room for the first 5 weeks or so (our monitor broke some time before then, so we had to wait until it was fixed before i could comfortably leave his room).

    c wanted to sleep in his crib (thankfully!) and i slept on the floor so he could see me if he needed to. when we woke up (several times a night at first) or had a hard time falling asleep, i would just say, "umma yuh gi eet ssuh" (mommy's here), but not get up off the floor and that was enough for him to know that i wasn't leaving.

    after the 5 weeks, i would sit in the chair in his room while he fell asleep and every 2-3 nights or so, i would position myself further away from the crib and closer to the door. after a week, i was sitting outside his door with the door open so he could still see and hear me. i did the same with the moving away further and further down the hall so he couldn't see me any more, but could hear me. i probably did that for 2 weeks or so. once he was comfortable with that, i'd close the door and stay outside...again, did that for a week or so until he was comfortable.

    and now, at almost 5 months home, we do our routine, put him in his crib, say goodnight, close the door and go downstairs. c has gotten to the point where he'll blow us kisses and say "bye" as we close the door and leave. he reads some books in his crib or rolls around talking to himself and falls asleep within 5-20 minutes, depending on how tired he is.

    now, c was 15 months old when he came home, so he was at a different place developmentally than LM is, but this system worked really well for us and we are so relieved at the way c is so comfortable with going down by himself now.

    i'm with cori...most attachment books tell you to hold off for a bit on the sleep training and work on meeting the child's needs quickly until he is secure in knowing you are his forever caregiver, but you know LM best and you will find what works best for your family.

    good luck! sleep deprivation is NO fun!!!

  6. Your instincts are right - you are still establishing that you are his parents and will be there for him when he needs you. And you are trying to tackle many things right now - changing time zones and all of you adjusting to life together.

    The thing is this - you all need sleep. And you also know what you are comfortable with. Use the book as a place to get ideas, figure out what feels right to you, and remember - you've only been home a week!! I have three kids who sleep great at night, but the first couple weeks were really rough. Natalie was up a lot at night - that is when she mourned. We always went in to soothe and comfort during those first couple weeks - but after that, waited a bit longer before we went in to see if she was going to soothe herself to sleep or not. And if not, we went in. We also found that sometimes it helps to not pick them up - just rub their back, or if you play music when putting him to sleep, we put the music back on to tell them that it is still sleeping time.

    Sounds like you are figuring it out - one day at a time!! And isn't it amazing how quickly your schedule changed to make sure naps get in??

  7. Great post, I love reading how everyone has approached this.

    Grace, thanks for explaining how (and when) you transitioned into not being in the room! I've been wondering how to approach that when the time comes.

    We use music too, as Yvonne mentioned. And like she said with her kids, our guy also does better if we don't pick him up (unless it's a real cry) he does this sleepy cry and either voice or 10 seconds of rubbing his back seems to calm him if it sounds like it's escalating to a real cry. It took me a while to figure out the difference between a real cry and a 'mantra' cry as the Baby Whisperer calls it but once I did, things got way easier. It took me a while though to figure out the different cues and cries etc and some days I'm still a little unsure and I practically cheer when I realize I was right about him actually being tired or wet or hungry!

  8. Oh ladies, thanks for all this wonderful information! I am feeling much more confident now, about making our own decisions and learning to go with my gut. You just start doubting yourself, and wondering if you are being a pushover, or avoiding making tough parenting decisions.

    Last night, the 15 minute thing didn't work. After 10 minutes of crying, I went in and sat with him. I sat in the chair and talked to him for about 15 more minutes, which still wasn't calming him. I finally picked him up and he quieted immediately. We snuggled in the chair and he just looked me in the eyes and patted my face for a long time. I think he just needs to know that we are here for him and will be forever. There's plenty of time ahead of us to work on sleeping better, but for now, when he's having these very upset middle of the night issues, it's gonna be snuggle time.

    I loved learning all the different ways that you all have tackled this issue. It's something I hadn't really read a lot of real-life experiences on from a wide range of APs. Thanks so much for sharing your advice!

  9. Good luck. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. No one way is the right way. We did a modified version of what you are describing when Jonathan first came home. I would do 5 min, go in, 10 min, go in, 15 min, go in. That was usually all it took. As he got used to it, I would only have to go in once. The other thing that complicated sleep for him was that he had night terrors. Not fun times. Just keep trying. :) (BTW, thanks for letting me follow along your journey!)

  10. I don't know that I can really add much beyond what everyone else has said here. Being an AP has soooo many challenges. It feels like every parental decision is charged with emotion, potential consequences, and a whole heap of worry.
    I really think all of parenting is personal feelings and choice, coupled with a bunch a research. I think you really have to go with your gut on all this. And if, after you've tried something, you find it doesn't work, you change it! That's the beauty and the curse of being a parent - you're in control of a lot. (Note I didn't say 'everything.') :)
    I think the important thing is to be very aware of the choices you make and the things you do as a parent, and to *constantly* reevaluate and decide what's working and what isn't. In my opinion, that's what makes an amazing parent - someone who is receptive to their child's needs without ignoring their own, and being open to changing what "worked" before and adapting to the constantly changing needs of their family.

  11. It has been great reading everyone's answers here as I have been wondering what we will do when ShiHyeok is home. My sister was recommending some self soothing books, but our psyhcologists from our adoption semminars have told us to throw all those books out the window when it comes to adopted children. We are told to take it at the child's pace not ours. Very difficult when you need your own sleep!

  12. First - CONGRATS!!! I've been out of the bloggy world the last few months, but check in from time to time and am so excited for you that Little Man is home! I bet after such a long wait, its still a bit surreal to see him walking around your house!

    As for the sleeping, I think every AP can understand exactly what you are going through, exactly how exhausting it is and exactly how it can make you doubt your parenting abilities.

    The IA pedatrician that conducted our adoption training said to stay away from sleep training books for at least the first several weeks, possibly months, home. He said that the main focus for the beginning weeks home should be attachment and bonding and that responding immediately to our children's cries at night is a great way to teach them that we are the people who will care for and comfort them.

    That being said, everyone needs to get some sleep and here's some things that helped us:
    *Set up a mattress next to the crib so you can sleep in there. I spent many nights w/my hand through the crib bars and I think it was really reassuring to my son to see my husband or I the minute he woke in the night. (We only had to do this for the 1st few weeks; then we moved to our bed & responded to his cries quickly for the next few weeks & then we started working on self-soothing).
    *Stick to a predictable routine both for day and night time. This helps your child become more comfortable and secure, reducing the stress & fear that oftens comes out at night.
    *Going w/the above, make sure your child is having consist nap and bedtimes that match his sleep needs and not an arbritary time you select - being overtired makes kids more likely to have night wakings and nightmares. We found if we moved bedtime up a half hour from what we wanted it to be, our son slept much better.
    *When your child wakes up in the night, keep your voice soft, don't turn on lights, start playing games, etc. This way he knows its not playtime.

    If you are interested in a sleep book that doesn't use the cry-it-out method, try The No Cry Sleep Solution. It has tons of great ideas.

    Also, email me if you want to talk more about sleep. Our oldest son had/has lots of sleep issues and we've consulted multiple sleep and adoption specialists, so I'd be happy to share what we learned.


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