Allergy Moms & Sleep Training: 10 Reasons Why We Say No CIO

I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea of letting a baby cry it out (CIO). But, for many allergy moms, this form of sleep training isn’t an option… even if they wanted it to be. In many cases, our little ones are diagnosed with a food allergy when we are first introducing solids — at around the 6-month mark, right about the time that sleep trainers begin to tell exhausted mamas it’s okay to leave your babe to cry.

I know that the term “sleep training” means different things to different people. There are indeed gentle ways of instilling good sleep habits in your little one while simultaneously responding to their needs. I am not talking about those ways in this post. I am talking about CIO specifically.

I don’t know about you, but ever since my son was diagnosed with multiple food allergies, I find every excuse imaginable to check on him “one last time” before I head to bed myself. I mean, is it normal that he’s almost 3 and I still sneak into his room to see if he’s breathing, like I did when he was a newborn?

I may not be worried about SIDS anymore, but I do have other life-or-death concerns on my mind. So there are days when I wonder if I’ll still be doing this when he’s a teenager, you know, like an allergy mom version of Robert Munsch’s classic, Love You Forever.


2030: Future me, crawling into my 15-year-old son’s room to check his breathing

Speaking of that lovely, lovely book — as the mom of a baby-turned-toddler who has always been a difficult sleeper, do you think I would EVER pick him up to rock him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth when he was ALREADY ASLEEP? Nuh uh. When I sneak into my kid’s room at night, I barely give myself permission to breathe. I tiptoe in and swear internally at every creak. If I my husband sneezes from the living room, I fantasize about throwing ice cold water over his head while he’s happily snoring away that night. And when I lay my hand on my son’s back, it is with such a light touch that I wonder if I’m just imagining the movement beneath. So then I feel for his warm breath and let out a huge sigh of relief. But I digress…


2018: Current Me (Do you see the focus & the fear in my eyes? DON’T WAKE UP THE BABY!)

To give you a bit of context, this blog post was inspired by a sad story I read about a sleep training school in Australia (trigger warning: It is a very upsetting read and I literally cried through the second half of it). It got me thinking about how, as an allergy mom, I go running to my babe (now toddler) at the first sign of distress. When I’m in Allergy Mom Mode, the possibility of an anaphylactic reaction is never far from my mind, and it is one of the reasons I will always, always respond to his cries.

Sure, the likelihood of my child having a severe + random reaction in the night is very low. But I’ve read enough stories — some with tragic endings — to know that there IS a possibility. I also know from having lived it myself that a child with allergies can have an anaphylactic reaction with no known ingestion of his allergen (damn you, mystery reactions!). And, of course, there’s always the chance that he could develop a new allergy to a previously safe food. So yeah, I answer my kiddo’s nighttime call. Every. Single. Time.

But here’s the thing: It’s not just a me thing. It’s an allergy mom thing, I’m sure of it. And to prove to myself that I’m not the only ‘crazy’ one, I compiled a list of 10 scenarios that explain why allergy mamas respond to cries in the night:

1. What if that new brand of flour I used doesn’t list “may contains” and he’s reacting to something we served him at dinner… right this very minute?! Did I hear him cry out? On it!
2. I was sure I noticed a few hives on her face after bath time… and I just heard her sneeze. That’s a second system! Is she reacting? Must go in to investigate. Grab the EpiPen!
3. Did I remember to wash his hands after that dog licked him at the park tonight? Sh#t, I don’t think I did. He just called out in his sleep — On it!
4. What? He coughed? Is he having an asthma attack! Grab the inhaler!
5. There’s a weird noise coming from the monitor. Is she struggling to breathe? Better go in and check!! (Yes, again.)
6. Sure, he passed his oral challenge 3 months ago, but I’m still not 100% convinced he grew out of that particular allergy… and we had some at dinner tonight. Oh, god. That cry could be a strangled breath. On it!
7. (ear to monitor) What? Is he wheezing? Does his breathing sound raspy?! I better go and see if any other symptoms are presenting. Pause the movie, honey. I’ll be back in a minute.
8. That cry sounded different than usual. Is her throat swollen? I better go in and see if everything is alright. Hold that thought, honey.
9. She said she a tummy ache after dinner tonight — Maybe she ate something she shouldn’t have. Did I just hear her squeak? I don’t care if she sounds like a cute little mouse. On it!!!
10. Our typically terrible sleeper has been sleeping unusually long — with no wake-ups… not even one!! What was that? A snore? On it!

You know it’s bad when you need to go in and check on your kid because they are sleeping too peacefully. (I do this more often than I’d like to admit.)

And while I am kind of making fun of myself here, there’s a truth to this list. As allergy moms, we worry incessantly, which means we go above and beyond* to keep our kiddos safe during the day — so of course this level of care doesn’t stop at night!

*By the way, I know ALL moms go above and beyond. But allergy moms are the annoying ones who won’t let your kid take a peanut butter sandwich to school, remember? We win. 😉


Friendly. Supportive. Encouraging.

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4 thoughts on “Allergy Moms & Sleep Training: 10 Reasons Why We Say No CIO

  1. Glen Ferguson says:

    Not a mom here but an allergy dad who rarely sleeps anyway. My wife and I work in a shift like system where she has the early shift and me the late night shift. To this day though the slightest noise on the monitor still sends us running. The concessions we make to let him sleep in our bed between to be able to keep an even closer eye on him when he has even the slightest cough/sneeze/hive/itch….whatever really. I have no doubts that one day we’ll have a teenager sleeping between us whenever he’s sick…..and you know what, oddly enough I’m ok with that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • KathleenO says:

      So glad that this post speaks to allergy dads as well! Makes me really happy when I learn about couples who are on the same page when it comes to nighttime parenting (as I know it can be an issue that causes struggles in some marriages). From one allergy parent to another, we can do this! And coffee is our friend, lots and lots of coffee. 😉 Good night! 😉


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