anxiety, babies, books, classical conditioning, comfort object, cry it out, infant sleep, insomnia, lovey, music, no-cry sleep solution, operant conditioning, over-thinking, parenting, psychology, sleep, sleep routines
Hi, I’m Carol and I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
I am using the above as a disclaimer, because this is going to be some classic Carol inconsequentiality.
I’ve read and re-read (parts of) The No-Cry Sleep Solution and I am satisfied that it will meet my needs. As a dog trainer, part of me was hesitant about this book, because the one thing I couldn’t really by-pass in my brain was the little voice that says “cry it out relies on operant conditioning. What could possibly work that does not use operant conditioning, and consequently, CIO?”
After all, how do you teach puppy to sleep in his crate? Let him whimper. The whimpering behaviour is not rewarded and he learns to stay quiet in his crate. Simple.
But Babby is a lot younger than a puppy. He doesn’t even have his milk teeth yet. If he were a puppy he’d still be snuggling at his mother’s nipples, not whimpering alone in a crate. A puppy, by the time it’s old enough to come home, is developmentally much more like a two year old.
So here I was, trying to find a way to violate basic principles of psychology, and feeling pretty stupid about it.
Then I read the book and wanted to smack myself for being such a moron.
You know, Pavlov’s dog? Ring a bell and it drools? The form of conditioning that was “discovered” first and the principles of which must be thoroughly understood before operant conditioning (reward/punishment learning) can even be attempted?
FORGOT ALL ABOUT THAT.
The really stupid thing is that I have insomnia.
All the recommendations for people with insomnia are based on classical conditioning:
- Build positive sleep associations (don’t force yourself to lie awake and miserable because that will make you hate sleep more; just get up for a while before lying back down and trying again)
- Create a soothing bedtime routine (dim lighting, warm bath, quiet time with a book)
- Avoid doing things which aren’t sleep (or sex) in bed (so you don’t associate bed with homework, worrying, arguing, stress, etc – actually, I bet they’d rather you don’t have sex in bed either, but I guess they had to draw the line at certain practicalities).
I even read Stanley Coren’s book about sleep years ago and he even talked about how the best way to get babies to sleep well was to build positive sleep associations.
So, yeah, The No-Cry Sleep Solution tells you how to classically condition your child to fall asleep at certain sleep cues. She talks about bedtime routines (we have one, but it isn’t long enough), weaning baby off of the booba (a definite sleep-association which needs to change if the baby is to learn to self-soothe), and creating other cues that the baby associates with going to sleep, such as a “lovey” (don’t have) and special sleep sounds (we only have “shhh”).
I have been hoping and hoping that Babby would turn into a thumb sucker, but it just doesn’t seem to be happening. So I am still his nighttime soother and this results in him needing to nurse every time he wakes up. I know perfectly well that he’s not actually hungry, but he screams like a banshee without it. The author explains that Babby’s sleep association with booba is so strong that he thinks he NEEDS it to go back to sleep, which is a problem because people naturally wake up every couple of hours. Most of us just roll over and go back to sleep, but if you think you need a booba in order to sleep, you might get upset. She has some tips on how to wean him off of booba, namely popping the booba out of his mouth as soon as he starts to fall asleep, so the association at least doesn’t get any stronger.
In the meantime, I am to introduce a lovey to take my place as cuddle-object, and some cue-music. If I keep the lovey with us whenever he is nursed to sleep, it will smell like me and he will associate it with being nursed to sleep. If I play the same music every time as he is falling asleep, he will associate that with nursing to sleep. The goal is to get to the point where the presence of the lovey and the sound of the music kick-off the sleeping process, while I slowly reduce the amount of nursing he gets before sleep until eventually he falls asleep at the sound of the music/presence of the lovey.
While she never once uses the term “classical conditioning” or allude to Pavlov, her instructions are clear. Pair the conditioned stimulus (lovey/music/bedtime routine) with the unconditioned stimulus (however the baby normally falls asleep, i.e. on the booba) so that it is associated with the unconditioned response (sleep). Eventually, the introduction of the conditioned stimulus (lovey/music/bedtime routine) will result in a conditioned response (sleep). It worked for Pavlov in getting a dog to drool on command. It worked when I taught Beloved Dog how to pee on command. Why didn’t I think of it as a way to get Babby to sleep on command??
All of this is totally psychologically sound, and now that I think about it, is more psychologically sound than the cry-it-out operant conditiong approach. After all, none of the insomnia tips I have ever read have said “cry frustratedly and miserably in bed until you finally fall unconscious.” So if they don’t recommend it for adults, why do we think it’s the best strategy for babies?
Because I’m me, and I overthink everything, I now need to pick exactly the right bedtime lovey and music. After careful examination of all Babby’s age-appropriate toys, I have selected our Eric Carle brand Very Hungry Caterpillar that we picked up in New York, and which you can find pictures of on my Flickr page. It’s a nice, long, huggable baby shape and I approve of its message.
For music, my only option is a hand-me-down lamb that my Boy Cousins used to sleep to, which plays Mary Had A Little Lamb with a wind-up key. Babby already enjoys this music box, although it’s a little sprightly for sleepy time. However, PH is worried about it because the toy is over 20 years old and has metal turn-key. It doesn’t look super safe for a tiny baby. Better for a slightly older child who doesn’t poke himself in the eye when trying to put something in his mouth.
So THAT sent us to the internet to look at other musical options.
Now. I could get a music box or one of those crib-aquarium things that plays music, and use it in combination with the caterpillar lovey, or I could get a glo worm or similar which is music AND lovey all in one.
I’m agonizing over it. Because I am me.
On the one hand, I like the idea of a combo-lovey. If he could trigger his own sleep music, that would be fantastic. Talk about self-soothing!
On the other hand, I’m an old-fashioned gal and I’m not big on the lovey-needs-batteries idea. When I was a little kid I had (okay, still have) a blankie. My blankie didn’t need no stinking batteries. My blankie didn’t need no flashy lights. I like the idea of my child hauling around a Very Hungry Caterpillar which PH and I bought on our baby-moon in New York. Feels delightfully literary and there’s a family story to it. But it doesn’t play music or give off a comforting light in the darkness.
So, folks, what to do?
Low-tech but literary lovey and music box that I would need to turn on myself at night, or fisher price gadget that plays music for Babby when he hugs it?
The pathetic thing is that I won’t get really serious about sorting out Babby’s sleep associations til I have figured out this important issue.
This made me laugh because it *is* classic Carol. Back, for one night only! It’s like a Guess Who reunion tour, or something. xoxo
I don’t like the crib music things that aren’t cuddly, because it’s not practical to take them with you if, say, you are going on a long car trip, or staying overnight somewhere without an actual crib.
I do like loveys that play music though. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m a big fan of babby controls the music at sleep time. Right now, I have in the nap room a sound-activated music player thing. All of the kids love it, except for one (the 8 month old). He actually can’t sleep while it’s playing, and I always have to remember to shut it off when I put him down. In a quiet room he babbles himself to sleep, but if I forget and leave it on, he will scream blue murder – I assume if he could speak words it’d be “dear god woman, how do you except me to fall asleep with all that NOISE?”
We have the gloworm, it’s much loved. By everyone. Even me. When I hear it, even I start to feel drowsy.
Just whatever you choose, buy at least two of it.
I wouldn’t necessarily get too worked up about the “lovey.” My kid never took to his and some kids just don’t. And sometimes you pick a lovey for them and they choose something else instead.
For the record, though, we had that exact little seahorse that plays music, it was a gift. He seemed to like it. Sometimes he’d wake up in the night and we’d hear him turn it on, which was sweet.
It seems to get good reviews, that seahorse.
We bought a Twinkle, Twinkle Little Violet (also comes in Twinkle, Twinkle Little Scout) because it got some rave reviews on my birth board for positive sleep associations and our baby is called Violet. It hasn’t made it out of the box yet because my husband doesn’t like the songs. I told him it’s not for him, so why does he care. Plus, it’s on the loud setting right now so of course it sounds obnoxious. But then again, the baby seems to be doing okay without it for now, so maybe it will go back to Target after all (she has plenty of other lovies to cuddle with, espcially Blabla dolls).
I’m an overthinker too and analyze everything. I should be a seasoned pro by now as Violet is my third baby, but for some reason, I’m finding it hard to go with the flow with her and let her lead the way. Maybe it’s because I’m back at work already, or because I have two older kids who can actually tell me what they want and need. I’ve forgotten how to parent a baby!!!
ps Babby might surprise you with the thumbsucking and rely on it once you start the sleep training. Violet loves the pacifer but she actually sucked her thumb for one minute the other night. I was so excited (brother and sister were well accomplished thumbsuckers by this age and I think that is why we avoided sleep regressions with them both)!!! And last night, she had a coughing fit that surely woke her up, but she never cried looking for her paci like she usually does. Maybe she found her thumb after all (just as I have bought a whole bunch of pacis in the next size – typical).
Babby just won`t take a binky. We keep popping one in his mouth, but he just removes it from his mouth and examines it.
Does the music *have* to be something associated with the lovey – that is, actually an integral part of it? It doesn’t seem like the music is something you intend Babby to be able to turn on himself.
What worked for all of my nephews* was a lovey, but also a specific mix CD (later iTunes playlist) that was bedtime only. It started with Nessun Dorma and worked its way through The Beatles, Elizabeth Mitchell**, a few Billy Joel, and a recording of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Eventually my youngest nephew was trained to fall asleep at the first few bars of Nessun Dorma. (By the age of three, though, he’d learned to turn OFF the stereo when it started…he knew the music meant bedtime!)
The advantage of having the music play from a stereo system/external iPod speakers was that their parents could turn the music on without having to go into the room…so if the baby woke up, the music could be turned on from outside the door. (Of course, if the baby didn’t go back to sleep, they’d go in.) Plus, there was enough variety in the music that the parents didn’t get tired of the same tinkly tune over and over and over and over…
*It works for me, too; the playlist was one I originally created after I had trauma-related sleep difficulties. But I’ve gotten lazy about using it. I should start that again…
**I highly recommend pretty much anything by Elizabeth Mitchell. Actually, I’d be happy to send you her CD’s. I love her music.
The music doesn`t have to be associated with the lovey, but it would be handy to have him control it. That way, he could be in charge of his own soothing.
I don`t think I`m familiar with Elizabeth Mitchell. I`ll have to look her up
You are my little Bird is the best Elizabeth Mitchell CD. It’s soft soothing music and she has a lovely voice. It’s what Alex listens to at night.
We put the music on an ipod and got one of those cheapo music docks for his room (cheapo one because he can reach it). We put it on repeat and it plays all night. This is to dampen the noise of the Noisy Upstairs Neighbours.
They make Mp3 players for babies it’s called the Sweet Pea Mp3.
There’s also another product called the Sleep sheep (there’s a sleep giraffe or dolphin too). It plays nature sounds, white noise and something that sounds like Mom’s heartbeat. It plays for either 23 minutes or 45 minutes then turns itself off.
Babby might take to a lovey but he might not. A friend and I tried with the loveys but our boys never took to them. I even tried wearing the damn thing in my cleavage during the day to get my scent on it.
I hate to bring this up but Babby might only sleep through the night when you wean him. I hate to bring it up because I’m very much pro-breastfeeding, and did so for 14 months with Alex. He started sleeping through the night a week after I weaned him.
Becka beat me to it! I was also going to ask about creating a bedtime/lullabies CD or playlist. I’m confused by the desire for a toy that plays music — they only play for, what, a few minutes, tops? Wouldn’t that keep a baby awake, trying to get the music started again? I would think you’d want at least twenty minutes of music, to really fully lull them into sleep. But perhaps I’m naive! My brother listened to music to fall asleep, but it was a tape that would sometimes even need to be flipped before he’d get there, so I guess I’m just thinking you need length for these things…
Don’t forget about white noise as another option. What does Pantley think about that? Maybe she’s against it. Personally, I need it to sleep, so that’s what my kids are now used to, too. (Liam has one in his own room now. He also has a “lovey” that he attached himself to that I wish he hadn’t — it’s a freaking HUGE bear! I had to stuff it in it’s own duffel bag when we flew home to visit. What a waste of one precious piece of checked luggage. :P)
Nice thing about my blankie was that it folded up nice and flat! Is Liam’s bear the shrinking-bear? Because Babby isn’t getting Timothy from me!
A playlist of music would be nice, but probably unnecessary. I’ll try to explain. Let me know if I’m clear as mud :-p
The way classical conditioning works is that you pair a physiological response to a certain stimulus, like a sound or a light. The stimulus doesn`t need to last very long. It’s like a post-hypnotic suggestion – you just need a key word or the sight of a card to trigger the Manchurian Candidate. You don’t need to use the whole Gettysburg Address.
Pavlov rang a bell just before feeding time every day. After a while, the sound of the bell made the dogs drool, because they associated the ringing of the bell with food. The bell only needed to ring once. It didn`t need to ring for 20 minutes. In fact, a longer bell would have been less effective, because the sound of the bell might have lasted longer than the meal, thus reducing the association. Or it may have been necessary to play the bell for the full 20 minutes (much the way your brother needed to flip the tape and finish it before he could fall asleep) before the dog would start drooling, which is just a pain in the butt .
In the same way, clicker trainers use a short, quick sound (a click) to represent getting a treat. My cue for Beloved Dog to go pee is also quick (“go pee”).
Something that plays music for a few minutes, like a music box or a Glo Worm’ is ideal because it is a short-lived, oft-repeated sound which the baby could associate with falling asleep. If I played 20 minutes of music, presumably there would be different songs on there. Which song is the one which is supposed to trigger the baby’s sleep? If it is the last song, wouldn’t it be faster the eliminate all the preamble songs, and if it is the first song, wouldn’t the subsequent songs be unnecessary?
White noise is good, and in fact we’ve had a fan running in the bedroom for months and months for just that purpose. But since it runs throughout the night, it doesn’t have that key “fall asleep… NOW!” association that I want to create.
The goal is to have a key sound that makes Babby fall back to sleep when he wakes up every two hours (the normal human rhythm for waking). I don’t want to create a background noise that he thinks needs to keep running in order to stay asleep, because then the absence of the sound could actually wake him up and then he might not be able to sleep without music playing all night long, which could be a pain when travelling. Also, it makes me think of a young man I once knew, whose inability to sleep without a tv blaring all night long damaged his relationship with his girlfriend (although you could also argue that her inability to sleep to the sound of explosions at two in the morning was what damaged their relationship!).
I admit, some of this is extrapolating from what Pantley says, because she is not trained in psychology and is largely self taught. She probably doesn’t know that her methods use classical conditioning. Nevertheless, they do, and I am taking what *I* know of classical conditioning and applying that to her methods to see why and how they work.
Okay, cool! I get it now.
Yeah, definitely give it a try, ’cause booba every two hours all night gets pretty old by, oh, say sixteen months? 😉 Really, really old. Good luck!
Especially when he’s screaming at the top of his lungs because he’s teething!
Hi, I'm Natalie. said:
Our washer/dryer is right next to Frances’ room – it’s the best bedtime “music” out there!
(The No-Cry Sleep Solution worked wonderfully for us – Once we learned her sleep cues, she was a sleep superstar. As of the last couple weeks, all we do is ask her if she’d like to go to bed when it’s nap/night time, she says yes & walks up to bed. It’s amazing. And she decided on a lovey, a knit blanket that we got as a gift, all on her own – we didn’t really have anything to do with it! =)
I hope that’s how it works out with us!
Maybe I do have some GAD issues…because I TOTALLY understand your conundrum. 🙂 Glancing at it, I’m like “oh, whichever she chooses will be great” and then I actually put myself in your place and am like “but, knowing that either will be great, which one would I choose? This is important.” Cue my own over-analyzing.
As an outsider looking in, I say if it makes your heart happy to think of the caterpillar being his special companion, then go with the caterpillar. You’ll make it work, and can get around any potential complications. He isn’t actually going to lose out on anything because he doesn’t have a glowworm playing music on command.
You’ve done your research and thought it through. Either way, it will be a good decision.
I’m glad I don’t sound crazy to you, at least 😀
I think I will get the seahorse, but also continue to keep the caterpillar in evidence, and let him choose for himself. There’s also a blanket that my brother and sister in law sent us with “friendly” monsters on it. He might pick that, in the end.
This post cracks me up.
I think some kids never take to a lovey. Mine didn’t.
Oh, isn’t being an overthinker fun? My husband usually asks me to stop talking because I overthink OUT LOUD.
So, here’s what worked for us (and I say that knowing, obviously, that it won’t work for everyone):
We’ve always had a sold nighttime routine. At first it was bath, baby massage and then we’d play a lullaby CD while we fed her. She’d fall asleep and we’d put her down. Eventually, I didn’t want the food in her right before she fell asleep so we swapped things so now the routine is dinner, bath, massage, a short song that I’ll sing (which she’ll often skip because she’s so tired) and she’s out. There was ONE night when she was 2.5 months old where she slept 10 hours – skipped her usual 3am feeding. And I thought, “that’s it. Now I know she can go all night, we’re done with night feedings.” After that, if she’d wake up, I’d go in, change her diaper and rock her for a few minutes. Soon afterward she began sleeping 10 hours straight and now she sleeps 12. Did the book say anything about not FEEDING him at night when he cries? Doing the comfort/diaper change thing and see how that goes?
Oh, and her lovey is a satin-y blanket. We have two of them, big enough to cover her when she sleeps. They’re both a little different, one is trimmed only in satin and the other one is completely satin on one side. She LOVES it. She’ll suck her fingers and hold her blanket to her face while thumbing the satin. They’re easy to wash and easy to bring everywhere and they keep her warm.
OK! That’s my two cents! I hope something works for you soon!!
Yes, the book talked about that. The thing with breastfeeding is that the nursing isn’t really feeding so much as comfort – since Babby won’t take a pacifier, he needs to suck on me to soothe back to sleep. It’s not a food thing, and breasts produce less milk at night for that very reason, so he doesn’t get much to eat when he does it. But if I don’t let him suck, he gets worked up into a screaming fit. Being denied nursing by his living soother (me) makes him angry, not sleepy, and that can damage his attachment pattern.
So the idea is to pop him off of the breast just as he falls asleep, then slowly do it earlier and earlier in the falling-sleep-sequence while introducing other sleep crutches than sucking (noise, etc) so his sucking-sleep association decreases while his sleep-sounds/lovey-sleep associations increase. Eventually he’ll fall asleep without booba.
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I know this is an old post, and I’m sure something HAS to be sorted by now, but I just wanted to say an amused ‘thanks’. In a desperate late-night effort to break the association between nursing and sleep, I had a brilliant idea: classical conditioning! Why should my psychology degree go to waste when I could use it to manipulate my child? I’m also surprised at the lack of Pavlov related baby sleep Internet posts, which is why when I found yours, I felt validated. Anyway, I also overthink thinks. I also have been searching for the perfect music, cues, etc. I think I will try a seahorse. Any other tips appreciated.
Hurray for neediness! If you search seahorse in my blog you’ll find that he developed an irrational fear of the seahorse, which is pretty funny. Still, worth a try!!
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