Study on drugging infants to sleep better - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 38 Old 11-05-2004, 12:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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http://daycare.com/story/sleepstudy.html

When I saw this I was shocked as I had never heard of medicating infants to get them to sleep through the night. I wrote to the researcher suggesting that the more logical place to begin his study is with determining whether or not frequent night waking is an actual problem - ie does it cause health or developmental problems. Since so many children wake frequently, maybe it is, in fact, normal. My DD wakes 6 - 10 times a night still at 16 months old, and yet shows no ill effects. She's alert and active during the day, takes one 1-2 hour nap a day, is healthy and bright. Of course it would be nice for me if she didn't wake so often during the night, but if she's not ready for that, I assume there's a reason.

Does anyone else feel this way? Oh, and the researcher wrote back that by 6 months of age 80-90% of infants wake 1 time or less per night, so those who wake more are not normal. Is it just me, or does that sound just wrong to anyone else?
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#2 of 38 Old 11-05-2004, 12:50 PM
 
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It depends on a person's opinion of "sleeping through the night". It technically means sleeping for 5 hrs straight--not 8 or 9! Wow, that is so wrong to use benedryl on a daily basis just for convenience. My friend was just telling me of recent cases of infant death from parents overdosing their children!
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#3 of 38 Old 11-05-2004, 01:34 PM
 
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OMG, that's disgusting. :

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#4 of 38 Old 11-05-2004, 02:04 PM
 
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I don't know that that has been substantiated, that so few children are still waking. There is after all a difference between waking and waking your parents so they know you are awake!

If you email him again, instead of the word "normal" I'd use the word "pathological". is frequent night waking pathological, i.e. does it cause disease.

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#5 of 38 Old 11-05-2004, 02:16 PM
 
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Here is what I wrote to him:

Dear Dr. Merenstein,

I just read about your study on daycare.com. I wanted to write to express my concerns to you. I am an anthropologist and the idea that all babies should sleep through the night by six months of age is entirely a cultural concept. Other societies around the world do not expect this of their babies. It is only here in English-speaking countries that people are so obsessed with babies' sleeping habits. I personally find it odd when the first question I am asked about my baby is "how is he sleeping?" I never know how to answer. In the !Kung San tribe of South Africa, no one is expected to sleep through the night, not even adults. If one wakes up in the middle of the night, one simply goes out and talks to the other people who are awake. In Italy, parents do not obsess over sleep habits, but they do obsess over eating. They force their babies to eat a lot from a much earlier age than we do here.

Is night waking pathological? Does it harm the child? Do you have proof of this? I suspect that this is an inconvenience to the parents but not harmful to the child. My child is 8 months and he wakes a few times a night and suffers no ill effects. If it is not harming the child, why prescribe drugs? Isn't it wrong to medicate a child for the parents' convenience?

In addition to the fact that your study is examining a cultural issue rather than a medical one, I also feel that it is a very dangerous study to do and to promote. First, I have heard anecdotally that Benadryl often has the opposite effect on little children - it makes them hyperactive rather than sleepy. Second, babies do not sleep through the night for an important physiological reason - their neurological system is not developed enough to stir them out of apnea episodes. That is why we are told not to put them to sleep on their bellies - a baby sleeps sounder on its belly b/c it cannot flail around and wake itself up. The problem is, they need to learn to restart their own breathing, and repeated waking helps them to keep breathing before their nervous systems have learned how to do this. To keep a baby asleep with drugs goes against the neurological development. For more on this, see James J. McKenna's research which has been published in Pediatrics, Early Human Development, and other journals.

Thirdly, I feel the issue of infant sleep is one enormous way in which most mainstream parents are going against their children's best interests. Babies are completely helpless. They cannot do anything for themselves, and they do not understand their world. They cannot understand adult reasoning and motivation. All they know is that they hurt and they need their parents to fix it. That is why they cry. If a baby wakes frequently, the parents should search for a cause and try to help, not try to stuff the symptoms into a box. Babies wake up for many reasons, even as they get older: they are wet or poopy, they are hungry (esp in small babies, their stomachs cannot hold enough milk to keep them through the night), they are teething, they have acid reflux, they are sick, they are practicing crawling or standing... to not try to find the cause and help the baby but to drug the baby to sleep is irresponsible, selfish, and cruel. We put a lot of emphasis on independence, and this is misguided. If we wanted to have independent babies, we should be reptiles, but we are not. We are mammals and primates - we heavily invest in one offspring at a time. Night waking may be upsetting and stressful, but it is a fact of having a baby, and it will pass. If people are not ready to make the adjustments that a baby demands, they should not have one.

Anecdotally, focusing and stressing about infant sleep leads to poor sleep habits and abilities as adults. I slept with my parents until I was about a year old, and was free to come sleep with them whenever I wanted to after that. I have never had sleep issues and am able to realize when I am tired, lay down in bed, and think quietly until I fall asleep. My husband was a cry-it-out crib baby, and he still is afraid to sleep. He denies he is sleepy even when his eyes are closing and always has to trick himself to sleep with a book or the tv. I have heard exactly this from many other adults. We sleep with our son and it works wonderfully - I breastfeed him when he stirs at night, and it doesn't wake any of us up. I have gotten more sleep since my son was born than I ever have in my life. The AAP and Consumer Products Safety Commission may say that it is unsafe, but there have been no controlled and valid studies about this. People have always slept with their babies, and it is better for the baby. See James McKenna for this. The idea that a parent could "overlay" and kill their child was invented in early modern Europe. Often times people could not care for another child, so they allowed it to die, but to avoid punishment, especially from the Catholic Church, they reported it as overlaying. A mother always knows exactly where their baby is and would not roll on it. Even a newborn would struggle if this happened. Newborns have many reflexes designed to clear their breathing space. Anyone who is very overweight or on drugs should not sleep with their child, as they may not sense any trouble. Also, the bed must be safe - no heavy blankets or spaces between it and the wall that the baby could roll into. Many more babies die in their cribs than in the family bed, but the Juvenile Products Manufacturers' Association actively lobbies to prevent this from being widely known as it would hurt their sales.

I really hope you will reconsider this study. Drugging babies and children is a terrible idea.

Sincerely,

Lilli

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#6 of 38 Old 11-05-2004, 02:42 PM
 
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As someone who does "drug" her 16mo to sleep everynight, I have to agree that this guy is a totally nut. Routine use of sedatives for normal children without medical or neurological problems is ridiculous and counterproductive to them eventually learning to sleep on their own. i know from experience with my dd that all of the sedating meds alter the sleep cycle and depth of sleep, so the child usually has less restful and neurologically productive sleep on sedatives anyway.

(If anone is wondering, my dd has serious and complex neurological and medical sleep issues. We work closely with a sleep specialist, neurologist, and physiatrist to get her to sleep. Without meds (Ativan now), she does not sleep at all. With meds, she wakes up about 4 times a night. Usually one of these times she is up for 2.5-4 hours, even when co-sleeping or being held. For her, sleep deprivation causes seizures as well, so I have to get her at least 8 hrs. total sleep to keep her seizures at only 10 or so a day instead of 30-100 when really sleep-deprived. So there is a use for medication in SOME children, but it should be done only in extreme cases and under the supervision of specialists.)
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#7 of 38 Old 11-05-2004, 02:46 PM
 
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OMG

I know some folks do this for plane trips. But, for sleeping at home in bed?

:
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#8 of 38 Old 11-05-2004, 05:51 PM
 
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Yuk. What a nut. I wrote him an email about safe co-sleeping and the absurdity of medicating children to sleep (but I didn't use the word "absurd").
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#9 of 38 Old 11-05-2004, 09:52 PM
 
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yeah, and in the 40's and 50's many people gave their babies opium to get them to sleep. doesn't make it ok
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#10 of 38 Old 11-06-2004, 12:10 AM
 
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I too, think that main problem with this study is the term "sleep disorder." The use of drugs for sleep is certainly a poor research topic but the entire study is further flawed, if the basis for the research is falsely based on a purely Western or American idea of "normal" sleep.
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#11 of 38 Old 11-06-2004, 01:04 AM
 
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#12 of 38 Old 11-06-2004, 01:16 AM
 
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I wrote:
Your website has some good ideas for those in the daycare profession. But two of the things I read (there may be more) really bother me.

If you think Dr. Dan Merenstein has a good idea to start medicating babies perhaps he should start with adults who can give their consent for his study. I think drugging a baby to sleep is child abuse. http://daycare.com/story/sleepstudy.html

Prescribing sedatives for babies so parents can get a good night sleep is a wonderful way to insure the child will always need some type of medication to be considered normal. The parent will learn to medicate any problem with the child and the child will accept this because it's all they know.

I am not surprised by your support of this study considering your idea of a family vacation includes leaving children with total strangers. http://daycare.com/story/mammoth.html

"You can leave your child there all day and know he or she is in a nice, safe and caring environment." Who goes on a family vacation so they can leave their kids with strangers!? Leave them at home with someone you know if you need to get away from them. Or better yet, put them up for adoption so a grown-up who won't drug them can raise them properly and take them on a real family vacation.
=========

If a child, like yours srmina, needs medication to live and function, great! We are lucky to have so many ways to help ourselves get well or even just cope. But to use drugs routinely with no other reason than convenience is scary.
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#13 of 38 Old 11-06-2004, 01:45 PM
 
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I received a reply from Dr. Merenstein. I asked his permission to post it; if he agrees, I will. In summary, he said that he agrees with us, but that mainstream people and doctors do this Benadryl thing all the time, and to simply say that they are stupid and not to do it won't get anywhere. He wants to make scientific data that they will accept showing that Benadryl does not help. He is pro-cosleeping and anti-CIO. So yay!

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#14 of 38 Old 11-06-2004, 01:52 PM
 
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Could you ask him why co-sleeping is the only solution, which he includes a warning then? I mean you've got CIO, and sedatives but he only warns agains co-sleeping, yk?

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#15 of 38 Old 11-06-2004, 02:29 PM
 
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#16 of 38 Old 11-06-2004, 02:38 PM
 
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Lilli, I love that letter!
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#17 of 38 Old 11-06-2004, 03:54 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IdentityCrisisMama
Could you ask him why co-sleeping is the only solution, which he includes a warning then? I mean you've got CIO, and sedatives but he only warns agains co-sleeping, yk?
I will ask this when he gets back to me about posting his reply. Good question. He may not have made that daycare.com page. We'll see.

Thanks for all the kudos.

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#18 of 38 Old 11-06-2004, 04:01 PM
 
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that is horrible

i think like adults, children vary greatly in thier sleeping patterns.

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#19 of 38 Old 11-06-2004, 04:05 PM
 
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So here is the text of his original response to me:

Dear Lilli,
I know you will find this hard to believe but I am
almost in total agreement with you. This desire to get
out children to sleep through the night is more based
on our societies obsession with adults and getting our
children to conform to our desires. I have read Dr.
McKenna's and others research and think that the AAP's
recommendation on co-sleeping is not really based on
great science.


But... The reason I undertook this study is that as a
doctor I see lots of parents using Benadryl (50% of
pediatricians recommend it and I figure as many Family
Docs do and parents take it without asking) or letting
their infants cry for 1-3 hrs. If you go to Borders
you will see 2 book shelves full of ways to let your
child cry themselves to sleep. So I have two choices
as a scientist, to say as you say that this is all
crazy and we need to stop or to study it and see if it
works or doesn't. I choose the latter, primarily
because I don't think our country is really ready to
accept that we are obsessed with controlling our kids
sleep. Thus, I would like to study both of these
methods and then once we have good science to back us
we can go to docs and patients and explain that these
maybe aren't the best ways to get our children to
sleep. I hope this helps. Dan



When I asked him if I could post this, here is what he wrote back:

yeah, I hate to think I have a group of woman out
there hating me. I really do respect your point of
view but think we need to realize that people are
doing this and at least they deserve to know if it
works, because now they are really in a study of their
own without anyone watching or helping. Also to answer
a question I forgot, about 7% of kids do become
hyperactive on Benadryl. Thanks, Dan


I asked him your question, IdentityCrisisMama, and will post his answer.

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#20 of 38 Old 11-07-2004, 01:21 AM
 
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I may sound like a terrible mother, but I have given my 3yo Benadryl at night sometimes. She has Sensory Integration Dysfunction, which means that among other things she's a very poor sleeper. She has a hard time turning off at night and will often stay awake for hours in her bed. At 2AM I will find her playing in her bed still! Which makes her very grumpy the next day and unable to function and grow and learn.

So yes, I have "drugged" her, but only started that recently, and only as a last resort after several bad days of sleep. I would think that for a normal baby this would be totally unacceptable but my kids break all the rules. My baby has severe reflux and SID and also is a poor sleeper. I have been known to push a little Hyland's teething gel down her tube to get her relaxed enough to sleep off. I save it for the worst nights, but after being sleep deprived for *years* I forgive myself.

BTW I take Nitara out of her crib and to my bed when I go to bed at around 10 PM and she sleeps so much better next to me! Even Abi finds it helpful to come and sleep next to us in the sleeping bag, but often she will just roll around and sigh and start to play or sing. Which gets old when it's at 3 AM and threatening to wake the baby.

That being said, I think it is appalling to drug a normal, healthy baby or child!

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#21 of 38 Old 11-07-2004, 01:48 AM
 
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Well I just read his request for participants and it seems to put giving Benadryl on an equal footing with parental education, co-sleeping and CIO. Pretty different from what he wrote to you, Lilli.

He is really giving the wrong message in his quest for participants, you know? If he thinks that Benadryl is potential harmful (7% of children becoming hyper is a pretty bad stat!) then how can he request that parents give it to their children for the study?

It's a pretty serious ethical issue, eh?

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#22 of 38 Old 11-07-2004, 09:53 PM
 
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I wrote Dr. Merenstein again:

Thanks, I will post your response. They have another question, though. We all saw this on daycare.com. On the page, you mentioned several ways to get kids to sleep: cry it out, benadryl, co-sleeping. However, co-sleeping was the only method that included a warning about safety. We think you should either remove that warning or put warnings on all of them. Inexperienced/confused parents may see that and take the wrong lesson from it.

Thank you so much for attending to our concerns on this. We are always pleased to hear of doctors who do not condemn us for our parenting practices.

Lilli


He responded:

thanks, once again i agree with you but the lawyers
who saw it got REAL nervous and said well the American
Academy of Pediatrics says co-sleeping can cause
deaths and if you list it as a common method and don't
say that you are opening yourself up. Don't even get
me started about that. Just realize that if you are
going to co-sleep, have a more child centered
approach, etc you will never get the mainstream to
give you their blessing but until they can prove their
methods are better just be comfortable knowing that
they are throwing stones living in a glass house. Dan


So there you have it. He agrees with us.

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#23 of 38 Old 11-07-2004, 09:56 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lilli78
thanks, once again i agree with you but the lawyers
who saw it got REAL nervous and said well the American
Academy of Pediatrics says co-sleeping can cause
deaths and if you list it as a common method and don't
say that you are opening yourself up. Don't even get
me started about that. Just realize that if you are
going to co-sleep, have a more child centered
approach, etc you will never get the mainstream to
give you their blessing but until they can prove their
methods are better just be comfortable knowing that
they are throwing stones living in a glass house. Dan


So there you have it. He agrees with us.
I'm glad he agrees, but this doesn't really answer the question of why he can't include warnings about CIO and drugging your kids. After all, while your covering your butt, why not make sure it's really, really covered?
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#24 of 38 Old 11-07-2004, 09:59 PM
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One of my good friends teased me once for being aghast that she medicated her child at night. She ragged me and told me that everyone did it!

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#25 of 38 Old 11-07-2004, 10:13 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by captain optimism
Well I just read his request for participants and it seems to put giving Benadryl on an equal footing with parental education, co-sleeping and CIO. Pretty different from what he wrote to you, Lilli.

He is really giving the wrong message in his quest for participants, you know? If he thinks that Benadryl is potential harmful (7% of children becoming hyper is a pretty bad stat!) then how can he request that parents give it to their children for the study?
I am guessing this has to do with preserving the scientific integrity of his study. He cannot acknowledge bias in his request for volunteers for it to be considered a representative sample.
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#26 of 38 Old 11-07-2004, 10:54 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by srmina
I am guessing this has to do with preserving the scientific integrity of his study. He cannot acknowledge bias in his request for volunteers for it to be considered a representative sample.
Okay, but couldn't he do it like this: "Has your pediatrician recommended that you use Benadryl to help your baby sleep through the night? For a study of the efficacy of different sleep strategies, I would like to communicate with people who have used benadryl and the following other strategies..."

then he's not encouraging the use of benadryl as though it were completely neutral.

I'm not even sure why this is a good idea. I saw benadryl for kids in the drugstore today and it doesn't say anywhere on the package, "this is safe as a sleep aid." I don't get what dosage would be safe for a child under two. It just seems like a kind of crazy study.

It's sort of like, "My doctor recommends that I use chloroform." and the scientist thinks, "hmm, chloroform, I wonder if that really works." Of course it works! Why not just hit the poor kid with a hammer!

Okay maybe I'm overreacting. I'm in a mood.

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#27 of 38 Old 11-07-2004, 11:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the responses, it's good to know I'm not alone in my thinking! Drugging healthy kids for parents' convenience is just not right. But on the other hand, I'm grateful there are drugs available for children with conditions like your Karuna, Susan.

Lilli, thanks for sharing your correspondense with Dr. Merenstein with us. On the daycare.com page he mentions that his kids (including his 17 month old) who were "terrible sleepers" now sleep through the night. I'd be interested in what methods he used with his children. Even though he says he's against drugging kids to sleep, I still have to question this. Doing the study will encourage those participating in the study to drug their kids, and what if the results do show that kids do sleep better with drugs? It still doesn't answer the question of whether or not it's for the benefit of the children. There could be long term health risks, is he going to follow these kids for years to determine that? I just think it would make so much more sense to first determine if there's a problem with waking frequently, besides sleepy parents. I've even read somewhere that children who wake frequently might be intellectually advanced due to more periods of REM sleep which is like the brain exercising. If that's the case, or something similar, then a study that proves that would be as valuable to parents of "terrible sleepers" as a study that says drugging them helps them sleep longer.

Okay, I'm just rambling now, and not making much sense. Time for me to go to sleep.

Just saw this:

Quote:
It's sort of like, "My doctor recommends that I use chloroform." and the scientist thinks, "hmm, chloroform, I wonder if that really works." Of course it works! Why not just hit the poor kid with a hammer!
captain optimism , I love it! I totally agree with you!
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#28 of 38 Old 11-07-2004, 11:28 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Castle
Okay, I'm just rambling now, and not making much sense. Time for me to go to sleep.
Better go take your Benadryl. Just kidding!!

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7yo: "Mom,I know which man is on a quarter and which on is on a nickel. They both have ponytails, but one man has a collar and the other man is naked. The naked man was our first president."
 
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#29 of 38 Old 11-07-2004, 11:44 PM
 
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Yuck!! I'm just browsing, but had to put my two cents in here. Who could possibly condone drugs, antihystemines(SP?) to get babies to sleep. Of course it works because their drugged!!! What a pill popping society! Poor little babies who just want to be near their mamas. I have three very active children who all co-slept without incident. The only time they ever didn't sleep was when they were sick. It seems to me this country is full of unnessisarily sleep-deprived parents and now drugged babies. I can't believe any parent could let an infant CIO alone in a crib, helpless and terrified, but this beats all. I'm disgusted.
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#30 of 38 Old 11-08-2004, 12:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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brusselsproutgirl , I agree with your CIO-digust, but I just wanted to let you know that not all children who wake frequently at night are left alone in their cribs, and not all co-sleeping children sleep soundly through the night. I have co-slept with my DD since birth, she's 16 months old now, and she still often wakes every hour in the night. Browse the other threads in this forum and you'll find many, many sleep-deprived mamas who don't find it unnecessary. We're sleep-deprived because we are there for our children when they wake.
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