Knowing what we now know about my daughter (almost 4 years old), at least once a week my husband and I say this to eachother since February...'imagine if we had let her cry it out all those nights over the past almost 4 years'! 

If ever there was an example of why babies and toddlers should not be left to cry it out, this is a good one!

Imagine the damage we would have done (this isn't some theory I have just made up myself by the way...babies left to 'self-soothe' (how I loathe that phrase) show raised cortisol levels i.e. stress hormone, in their blood despite outwardly appearing to be 'fine' and it sets the child and then adult up for high stress levels for life).

For so long we wondered what we, as parents, were doing 'wrong'.

Why would she not just SLEEP? This phrase would often include expletives!

Why was she waking angrily in her sleep from three to ten times a night even at age 3? 

Why would she itch her tummy in her sleep some nights and wake incessantly to do it?

Why was she complaining of a nauseous tummy for a few minutes every second day? 

FINALLY....we found out why in early February. My friend is a homeopath and she did a blood test via Cambridge University testing for antibodies present in her blood to detect for food intolerances. 

Turns out...Isobel is highly intolerant to eggs, gluten, potatoes, barley, cows milk, cashews, hazelnuts, oats, pineapple. 

Within two days of cutting out these foods, SHE SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT! We couldn't believe it. 

When we mentioned to friends that Isobel was waking lots at night, we received all the usual well-meaning advice...'oh she's playing you', 'she knows you'll get up to her every time', 'you're making a rod for your own back'. 

Frankly, the notion that babies, toddlers or preschoolers are capable of manipulative, cunning thought is absurd in my mind. 

Babies and children cry because THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG. Period. 

Whether this is a physical or emotional pain, it is a need nonetheless.

Thankfully we have always co-slept so getting up to her was never as issue. Often just an arm around her or some reassuring words would put her back to sleep albeit briefly!

Imagine the guilt we would have felt if we had let her cry for three and half years and made this discovery! 

So yes, I am entitled to feel a certain degree of smugness in the face of the 'cry it out' and Gina Ford brigade...we were right. Our daughter was in pain/discomfort. She needed us and we responded like we felt we should.

I thank God for having listened to that strong maternal instinct within and I thank God for having a husband with a heart who never believed in 'tough love' and that we were strong enough to listen to our child's needs. 

NOW AVAILABLE: My first ebook ''Healing the Pain of a Traumatic Birth Experience'' on Amazon. Only $4 to download to any PC/Mac/Kindle. 

P.S For anyone interested, I post my own tried and tested recipes cooking without many of the foods listed above on my Facebook page'What the hell can I eat?'



24/03/2013 4:41am

Great post, so true - there is always some reason for waking, even if it'as a need for comfort - that's a valid emotional need for a baby

24/03/2013 6:38am

Well done you guys. We had the exact same experience only we didn't work it out at all until our second child. Sometimes our instincts serve us well.

24/03/2013 6:39am

Thank you for this - we had a similar discovery in January - our 2 year old still wakes as a newborn and we discovered that she has sleep apnoea - the waking up and our co-sleeping has kept her breathing properly and alive for this time. She's now on the waiting list for tonsils and adenoids to be removed as this will open her airways and stop her desaturating every night to dangerous levels - I dread to think if we hadn't gone with our instincts

24/03/2013 7:25pm

Our 3.5 year old son has severe allergies and suffered from sleep apnea since a new born. Our Drs (incl paediatrician) 'offered' to remove his adenoids to ease the sleep issue, saying it ‘could’ help with his sleep. After I refused to do this his paediatrician then said 'that’s probably a good idea as they tend to get better after the age of three when their nasal passages grow'. He was right. We kept our son propped a little with a lg pillow on bad nights, but he is allergic to cats/dogs and we have both that we keep out of our bedrooms. We have a good air purifier in our room, where he still co-sleeps. Please consider waiting to see what happens with your child before booking him for surgery. Tonsils & adenoids serve a purpose... For life. Good luck & feel free to contact me with any other tips to deal with this subject. Take care... Lisa

Oxana Pyntya
26/03/2013 5:16am

For almost a year and a half I practically cried hearing my son sleep - snoring, difficulty breathing, coughing, sneezing out mucus every morning, puffy eyes...the works. We were also suggested to check whether it was his adenoids by putting him under general anasthetic and using the endoscope. I have had a baby in the mean time and just kept putting off the appointment. Well he's turned three and for at least 4-5 months he's been a great sleeper. He still wakes up for some bobbie time once or so, but hearing him breath clearly every night is a relief. I agree that glands have a purpose and they actually kind of disappear (the adenoids) by the age of 11 or so. What I think helped us was removing cow's milk from his diet (he is not big on cheese, but loved the milk), it builds up mucus, so it is either a coincedence or related but in either case a good nights sleep as a result. I know how hard it can be, but may be you CAN wait and see....

Charlotte Haddow
26/03/2013 4:14pm

My son had the same sleep apnoea too however he was so tired he didn't wak which was scary! We had a pad that sounded an alarm if he didn't breathe for 20 seconds and it did go off quite a few times before he was diagnosed I had thought it was because he had wiggled off it like my first son used to and then rolled bcak on when the alarm went off. Thank goodness we co slept. His adenoids are out at 2 now at 4 he is a lot better.

27/03/2013 12:45am

My two year old woke evrey 90mins for the nearly the first two years of his life. He had his T's and A's removed at 22months and we have never looked back. I won't lie it has taken a long time for him to sleep through and he still occasionally wakes crying as if in fear, but he settles much quicker when he does wake, but immediately he went from waking every 90mins to going three hours. I agree that Tonsils and adenoids serve a purpose as part of the immune system, but sleep apnoea is dangerous. It allows the oxygen levels in the blood to drop to a level under normal levels and therefore can affect a childs development (leaving aside the effects of sleep deprivation on both child and parents). There are risks to the surgery and it is no longer done to every child as it was in the 70's and 80's, in fact it can be diufficult to presuade Drs it needs do it. I was told that the only real indication for doing a T&A op was sleep apnoea.

I felt exactly the same way, thank goodness I responded to him and didn't leave him to cry. Continue to go with your instincts as to whether the op is right despite what others say (and their view is as valid as mine). Ask the Dr lots of questions about risks of the op and risks of not having the op and take it from there. Good luck.

27/03/2013 2:58am

I've had two "bad" sleepers, my first I battled with to try and get him to sleep alone (wasn't tough enough to let him CIO but became a walking zombie with the endless getting up to settle him). I ended up "caving" and cosleeping, turns out he has aspergers and sensory processing disorder, no wonder he was such a light sleeper!

My second had apnea as well, so increased risk of SIDS or sleep accidents. We had her T &A's removed just before she turned four. While I agree, if the apnea is mild it might be worth the wait and see approach, my babies little heart would race as soon as she fell asleep, no way worth putting that strain on her heart when we could relieve it. I think each parent has to decide for themselves based on the degree of sleep apnea.
So very glad I trusted my gut and didn't let them CIO in hindsight though! They both needed me

Kate Carvey
24/03/2013 6:59am

I think this to myself often. At 8 months my 3rd baby was taking hours to fall asleep and waking in the night screaming, although her eyes would be closed. I was close to my wits end when I went to a sleep seminar by Pinky McKay and she suggested salicylate intolerance as a cause of sleep problems. *Lightbulb moment!* I'm sensitive to them myself, why didn't I think of it? Within 3 days of cutting them from both of our diets, the night terrors stopped and within a week she was going down to sleep in under 30 minutes. Imagine if I had let her cry it out when her little system was overloaded already? I can't even bear to think about it!

Amber Boyt
25/03/2013 12:20am

What is sacilyate exactly? My almost two year old wakes like you describe. Thanks!

24/03/2013 7:39am

While I agree that babies cry because they want something, I personally believe co-sleeping is a rod for your own back (not in your case as there was something medically wrong)

Out of 4 friends that all had babies at the same time I was the only one who let my son cry, never longer than 15 minutes, he at the age of just over 1 year old learnt to go to sleep on his own and could re-settle himself when he woke in the night

All 3 of my friends still now (our children are 3) have major problems getting their child in their own bed and out of their parents, and there is no medical reason for these 3 children. Their children know that if they cry they will get picked out cuddled and taken in with mammy and daddy, im sorry but at the age of 2 children know how to get their own way in certain circumtances

I dont generally like topics like this (its like FF v BF) each parent does whats right for them at the end of the day and I believe neither is right or wrong, but I know which one I will choose when I have my next child.

24/03/2013 10:12am

I co slept with both mine and they are fab sleepers. 4 babies does not make for statistics. I also believe a crying baby needs something and should be attended to. What this mum is sayig is that maybe something horrible would have happened if she'd let her little one cry it out. It's a risk I would not take either.

24/03/2013 1:22pm

I agree!

24/03/2013 2:33pm

I co-slept with both my children , tended to every need and cry when my son was 2 HE choose to sleep in his own bed and is a wonderful sleeper 12-14 hrs a night ,my daughter is 20 months and still in our bed but also showing signs of wanting her own space and sleeps with us sound and comfy, Most children that co-sleep acually are better sleepers and wont grow up with anxiety issues and depression like some of the babies that were left to CIO , but thats just MO

24/03/2013 6:01pm

I have 6 children. Oldest is 17, youngest is 6 weeks. All co slept with us. All are beautiful sleepers. Never had any issues with nighttime stuff. Maybe it's because we wanted them there and always made them feel welcome. Your friends experiences are their own and can't be extrapolated to generalities.

Nitya Nixon
24/03/2013 9:57pm

Funny but I can't see how children at 3 (still babies really!) who want to cuddle up with the people they love & trust the most in the world can be a major problem! Anyone who has had their baby/toddler/child wake up next to them, cuddle up and say they love you knows what I mean - what a precious time! Western society puts so much pressure on children and parents to be sleeping in their own room and 'self settling', what rubbish! Follow the needs of your own child, completely follow the Mama instinct, forget about "shoulds", and before you know it, the co-slept baby will happily choose to be in his/her own bed because THEY feel safe doing so, not because they were forced to a young age. There definitely is a right and wrong in this situation and whoever chooses to have a child needs to understand that, perhaps give up some of their own stuff and do what's best for their child.

25/03/2013 5:05am

Since no one else is agreeing with Rachael, I will also agree. I slept with my 2 year old (now 10) whenever he'd wake up in the middle of the night. Not until I was pregnant (when he was 4/5) did I stop. It was incredibly uncomfortable and I missed *my* bed. He had a hard time getting used to his own bed, and I would do a nice evening bath, read, singing routine. We have co-slept with our two other children, but not past 9 months for the second, and 3 months for the third. They both fall asleep beautifully in their beds after bath, reading, singing. I need *my* time in my bed with my partner to read, relax, take up *my* portion of the bed. I get very little sleep as it is. I want it to be quality sleep. I am not a bad parent because I put my kids to sleep in their own beds, and I allow myself a peaceful nights rest.

25/03/2013 7:57am

I couldn't agree more! A parents sanity is important, and if co-sleeping doesn't work for some, then so be it.

I co-slept with my newest baby for 7 months. Then my husband got home from a deployment and it was either keep co-sleeping with her while he slept on the couch, or transition her to her own bed so I could have my husband back. He doesn't sleep well with children in the room, and due to his military deployments can startle awake abruptly, which would not be safe for a baby in the bed. We tried all sorts of ways to help her transition and had to resort to letting her cry for a few minutes at a time. I don't believe that she has any ill-effects because her needs are met, she's loved and knows it, and we all sleep much better. Instead if waking every 2 hours, she now goes for 4-5 hours without needing help to get back to sleep. It's not all night long - but much better than it was before.

semmy's mommy
24/03/2013 7:42am

Great post! I feel you, because the same thing happened to us when our little boy couldn't sleep night over night. It started when I stopped giving breast milk at 9m old and switched over to formula. After 4 months we started seeing a homeopath and a osteopath and started skipping cow milk, soja, gluten and oaks. Since then, everything is fine! We've never let him cry out, we even started co-sleeping at that time (wich is very rare here in Holland) and I'm so glad we did and still do.

Ashley Liotta
24/03/2013 8:29am

Amen for this!!! Thank you for taking the time to share this with others. Whether 10mo old or 4 years old, little ones have needs that they can't always express. Being plucked out of bed at age 3 and 4 is completely natural

24/03/2013 8:33am

WOW! Those symptoms you described with your daughter is exactly how my son has been. I don't know if his tummy bothers him often because he is just 19 months old and just starting to communicate. I have had a strong feeling that he is allergic/sensitive to soy and dairy because he has light eczema rashes on face. I was playing with the idea that it might have something to do with his sleeping issues, and you have me convinced that I need to follow threw with this. Thanks for sharing your story!

Molly A
24/03/2013 9:29am

Good lord that's a lot of allergies. I don't even know what you can feed her...

24/03/2013 9:44am

A parent always knows when something is wrong. I always knew when my kids were crying just because they didn't want to go to bed and when they were crying because something was wrong. That's why God gave mothers intuition. It's wonderful that you as her mother, knew the difference and knew that something was wrong. However, I would keep in mind not to be so smug (as you mentioned) because as this may be YOUR case it is not the case of every parent out there.

24/03/2013 10:09am

This article appeared in my Facebook feed and was very timely....we are going through exact sleep situation with our 2.5 year old.

I came across this information on the impact on food additives on various conditions including sleeping...

Yes I also hate the phrase "self soothe" because I don't really believe a toddler knows how to self soothe.

So glad you found some answers and more importantly, that you were able to improve your daughter's health and sleeping.

24/03/2013 10:20am

15 minutes to me is just plain scary. Ive been tempted to in the past (3kids) but so thankful I didnt after all the programmes and reading up.

24/03/2013 10:49am

So true, same story we had with our doughter allergic to cows milk, eggs, gluten, onion, tomatoes, fish, berries etc.....

24/03/2013 10:55am

Oh my... whatever will you feed her?? Because clearly there aren't millions of other food items available in nature not containing those 9 things.
I know not a day goes by when I don't ingest pineapple...

What a silly thing to say to someone who just found out their child has food allergies?!

There is a whole WORLD of food out there that doesn't involve cow milk, eggs, gluten and the rest. Vegetables galore... full of micronutrients. Beans and legumes... fruits... some of them even that aren't pineapple!

Nicola, if you want some links for some recipes or food ideas or groups with parents who have kiddos like yours with dietary sensitivities, feel free to email me or respond here. Good for you for listening to your mommy gut instead of the busybodies outside.

24/03/2013 12:59pm

I think that EVERYONE should have to read this!!!

24/03/2013 2:30pm

I see right from the title that this is an article based on imagination. Did anyone notice that what I guess would be characterized as "attachment parenting" or "sooth it out" did NOT solve the child's sleeping problem??

30/03/2013 11:57am

Your comment makes no sense. What the hell is "sooth it out?"

Did you perhaps notice that cosleeping allowed these parents a deeper insight into their child's problems while still granting the child some level of comfort during her pain and discomfort.

Obviously your attempt "2brational" isn't very successful.

24/03/2013 4:13pm

We had our son cry it out at one. With in a week he was sleeping through the night, and almost always does now until 5. before that he was up every two hours. Now, if crying out didn't work, we would not of done it every night for years! We would of found out why he wasnt sleeping. But like others pointed out, attachment parenting didn't help the child either until the figured out what was wrong, and that what good parents do, they try different things to help their child. I will not say that attachment parenting is wrong for everyone, nor would I want someone saying that crying it out is bad for every child! Kids are complicated, and the last thing a parent needs is some guilt thrown at them from someone they don't even know. I am very glad that you found out what was wrong so you all could get rest and some sleep. :)

24/03/2013 5:55pm

Just a thought on letting a child "cry it out," or "self-soothe;" Was it ever a question that after a period of time, using that kind of method, the child learned that his/her needs wouldn't be met under bedtime circumstances and therefore stopped for that reason? All three of my boys co-slept with us until they were almost five years old and my daughter, now two, still co-sleeps with us. All the children are independent and well adjusted. It's heart breaking to me that a child's cry doesn't warrant an immediate response to, at the very least, soothe and reassure.

25/03/2013 3:07am

I think you learn most by listening to your baby and responding according to your instincts. No prescriptive methods. If you feel comfortable letting them cry for a bit you shouldn't be demonised for that. If you co-sleep and pick them up all the time you shouldn't be told you are 'making a rod for your own back' (how many times have I been told exactly those words - unsolicited - despite being more than happy with my own way of doing it?!) I have 4 and sometimes one has been crying for longer than I would like because I was already dealing with another child. Sometimes the older one needs to know they are just as important as the baby and the baby has to wait. This wasn't policy, just what happened spontaneously day to day. We explained to the older ones that the baby crying is just the baby's way of saying "Can I have a snack/cuddle/song/change of scene?" etc - all the stuff that one day will become words. They get it. I always think, would I leave a distressed adult crying alone if I could offer comfort? But also I have lots of friends who went down the crying it out route and their kids are the same mix of jolly, shy, confident, thoughtful, cheeky, kind as everyone else's. There is so much more that goes into the forming of an older child and ultimately an adult than how long they were left to cry. Science researching one aspect shouldn't be taken as a truth about the whole picture. Relaxed, engaged and - above all - loving parents - whatever the details of their care have a good chance of helping their children grow up with a similar take on life.

25/03/2013 8:24am

thanks for sharing!i would never understand how many parents would let their babies/toddlers to cry it out!it makes me soooo upset and angry , and even some of the responses are completly non sesne! aswell as it will affect the child as an adult. My son is 4 years old and he was sleeping fine since earlier on, yes sometimes we cuddle, sometimes he was in our bed…we stayed each night telling stories, praying, snuggling until he falls asleep…we dont believe in letting him cry. it's cruel and selfish to do so, as well as rejecting his needs, his feelings. We love every single night with him, it has always been one of the fav part of the day!! when our second baby arrived, and my husband was at work and my hands were full nursing or rocking the baby…my son will go to his room, read a book and fall asleep on his owm. he has always been a great sleeper. no trauma, no tears, all happy!because if you soothe them whe needed, he lears to sooth himself when, how many of us adults have a bad dream and wakes up husband to tell them about? or wake up thirsty? or too hot? etc?does your husband lets you alone when needed the most?we must speak out for the little ones, it breaks my heart!

25/03/2013 9:20am

oh my, i dont know how i found this blog but let me say!! we let our son cry it out for way too long. under strict orders from our doctor to let him cry in his own bed in his own room. given book, and literature supporting such nonesense. we were so uneducated, told it was our fault. that the crying was a 'behavior'. it is one of my biggest regrets as a parent. listening to that stupid doctor. after a shamefull amount of time, dare i confess years, we gave up crying it out. started cosleeping. life has been blissful ever since. we now know that our son has terrible food allergies, sensory and spectum disorders. cosleeping has CHANGED OUR LIFE!

27/03/2013 3:15am

My "spectrumy" son was just the same, I'm a pushover though so I only persisted for a couple of tortuous weeks and then had to hide that he wasn't sleeping from our doc/echn. So glad my son taught me a better way, and so glad I found cosleeping! Btw, we coslept til he was 3 and he has always fallen asleep easily & slept well in his own bed. The only rod for my back was that I got to enjoy his precious snuggles!

25/03/2013 6:13pm

Glad you found out the problem. It isn't such a cut and dry issue though. My 2nd daughter will NOT sleep with us. She sleeps best by herself in her crib. While we were getting her on her schedule based on the natural circadian rhythms (90 min sleep solution for more info which includes tear free approach). Light fussing for 5 minutes happened for a few days, but she got better rest and was a happier child. The times when I couldn't get her down and insisted on rocking her she would cry more in my arms.

Also, my first daughter who did cosleep stopped napping before she was 1 and has poor sleep habits compared to her younger sister. I am not saying there is a cut and dry answer here, just lots of things to take into consideration. Your example is a good one to make parents think about the "cry it out" approach. It is so frusterating that more sleep advice is so polarized. Finding 90 minute sleep solution was a real god send as it can be used regardless of your approach.

26/03/2013 12:06pm

As others have remarked, the fact that you immediately responded to your child's cries (as opposed to letting them cry it out) didn't actually resolve the underlying issue. To use this rather exceptional situation as a banner to champion your cause is disingenuous at best.

27/03/2013 3:20am

I don't think she ever claimed that it solved the issue, she is saying that she is glad she didn't leave her child alone and in pain in the name of a sleep training program, instead she soothed and cuddled her. If you don't like her p.o.v why are you following her blog where she posts about her personal experiences?

26/03/2013 3:46pm

this could be my story. I am convinced night terrors are caused by intolerances i know when my dd has eaten something she shouldnt we are right back there with sore tummies crying screaming i didnt ever let her cry it out that would have been awful,

Claire Higgins
26/03/2013 3:54pm

So very true... My oldest screamed when awake if she was not touching me or I went out of her sight. Plus co slept in my armpit, and if I moved woke searching for me within seconds...

She needed me sooo much, yet I was constantly told I was ruining her. She also had terrible nappies and loads of yucky poos. Turned out she was allergic to dairy, egg and soya. Thank heavens I bf.

Shes 11 now, and still intolerant, but a very confident and bright young lady, who is off to France to Loudres for a week over Easter with a Childrens Charity, HCPT.

In those early days, I thought it would never end. Now I wish so much I could roll back time, and my children were tiny again. And I don't regret listening to their needs one bit.

Amanda M
29/03/2013 6:10pm

Did Isobel not display any other symprtoms of allergy? Rash, diarreha, constipation, etc?

04/04/2013 6:41am

Thank you for sharing this. Not only the allergy info (I'm glad to find your recipes!), but the very simple action of comforting a child in need of comfort. It's so important to break those cycles. I grew up not receiving comfort for fear of 'spoiling' me and it is challenging to go against that upbringing and find a new way. But the 'new' way is much more simple in so many ways.

11/06/2013 7:22pm

Love it, Love it, Love it! I wish this was required reading for every new parent / grandparent / babysitter! I absolutely love what you do Nicola and I'm so glad you're back! :-)


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    A little about me....

    My name is Nicola & I'm a mother to two beautiful little girls and an accredited psychotherapist working in private practice in Co. Limerick, Ireland. My passion is working with women antenatally & postnatally. I started blogging in 2012 about my experiences of birth and motherhood as a way of supporting other mothers, particularly those who have had a less than satisfactory birth experience. 

    For private mother-to-mother support/ counselling appointments you can call me on 087-6836922 (phone/Skype appointments available for those living a distance away) or send me an email.


    August 2013
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    November 2012
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    Attachment Parenting
    Birth Trauma
    Birth Trauma & Breastfeeding
    Co Sleeping
    Fathers & Birth Trauma
    Great Expectations
    How Homebirth Can Change Your Life
    Letting Go
    Natural Childbirth
    Post Traumatic Stress
    Post Traumatic Stress