Tension decreasers

So let's talk about tension decreasers today.

For those of you who don't have one, a tension decreaser is a person who needs to tap it off somehow by ranting. In babies, that can manifest itself as needing to cry to fall asleep. OK, "need" may be a strong word, as plenty of tension decreaser babies have fallen asleep without incident in a stroller or car or even accidentally while lying in a crib. But often the regular routine of falling asleep involves some crying or fussing.

I think two things could be going on, either separately or together:

1. The baby cries to create kind of a white noise and block out other stimulation to be able to fall asleep, and/or

2. The transition from awake to asleep sparks tension that the baby needs to get out before s/he can relax enough to fall asleep.

If you're reading this and it's making zero sense to you, let me tell you what my second son did so you can get what a tension decreaser/releaser acts like. Remember that I'd nursed/rocked my first one to sleep with enormous success. So somewhere in the second or third week of the second one's life, I was nursing him to sleep, and not only was he not falling asleep, but he was also moaning and crying WHILE HE WAS NURSING. And it seemed like he'd almost be calming down, and then I'd shush him or something and he'd get angry again.

Since he was the second kid I wasn't afraid of a little experimentation, so I said to him, "I need to go get a drink of water. I'll be back in a few minutes, love." (What I really wanted to say was "WTF? How are you not falling asleep??" but that wouldn't have been helpful.) So I walked out of the room and got a glass of water and stood there outside the door drinking it and taking a bunch of deep "was it really a good idea to ahve a second one?" breaths, and listened to him cry. First he wailed at the top of his lungs, but by the time I was halfway through the glass he started deescalating and then wimpering and by the time I put the glass in the sink and went back into the bedroom he was asleep.

Mind…frantically..recalibrating… So I tried it out a few more times, and it seemed like he would not fall asleep when I nursed him. Instead, he wanted to be nursed, and then I'd put him down and walk away and he'd wail for 4-5 minutes and then fall asleep.

He is still this way in many ways, at 5 1/2 years old. He can go to sleep without crying, but if he gets agitated or too excited or feels unacknowledged with no avenue for expression he gets into a tantrum and can't be calmed or ignored out of it. The only thing to do is escalate and let him go through the full cycle, and then he relaxes and is happy again.

He is also really, really good at calling people or situations out and getting very emotional about them and then letting it fade away.

Some thoughts about having a tension decreaser/releaser baby (because I have no real strategies, either, and had very easy kids who told me what they needed):

* In some ways it was like winning the lottery because I didn't go through the backbreaking hours of rocking and nursing to sleep, and then the toddler sitting-by-the-side-of-the-bed phase. I'd do the routine, put him down, and he'd cry and then go to sleep.

* But, and this is personality, not something innate about tension releasers, if he didn't fall asleep after crying, I was out of luck because other techniques did not work with him. My older one could always eventually be comforted to sleep. My tension decreaser either cried himself to sleep, or he was awake and we were just looking at each other wondering "what next?"

* His crying cycle was in the 3 to 12 minute range. I have no idea what I'd have done if he cried longer than that, because I don't think I could have stood it, and I'm not convinced that crying for long periods of time is good for people. (Certainly not good for me in the Great Ankle Panic of Sunday evening.) It would be so tempting to make up some arbitrary time and say "they should only cry for x amount of time," but we're looking for the truth of our children, not rules. It just makes me feel lucky that I never had to confront that, and sad for those of you who have had to puzzle out longer crying.

Parent of tension decreasers and adult tension decreasers: What do you think? What have you done? What works with you?

47 thoughts on “Tension decreasers”

  1. My second child (Bobo, now just over 2) is a tension releaser (decreaser). Every night, I say night-night, put him in his crib, turn on the mobile, hand him 15 stuffed animals and 3-22 books, he looks at me as though I’ve cast him out of our home FOREVER, starts crying, I leave, and shortly thereafter, he’s reading the books to his stuffies and somewhere in there, he falls asleep.This is a far cry from my kid (Chuckles) who had to be comforted to sleep (but he wasn’t a tension increaser, he just needed help going to sleep). It took some figuring out. The first several times Bobo started crying when I put him in his bed, I thought something must be wrong, but no.
    Oh, and to really drive home the part about all kids (even the same kid at different points in time) are different, Bobo could be nursed to sleep as a baby. Sometimes. But sometimes he needed to fuss (and we had no idea that’s what was going on, so I would get up overnight, feed him, and he’d be looking at me awake, and I was thinking, I just nursed you, you should be sleeping). I usually went back to bed and let my husband handle it since my part (the nursing) was done.
    Now that I know Bobo is going to cry for 30 seconds to 5 minutes, I just roll with it. Usually, as soon as I leave his room and he’s crying, I go straight to the basement to do laundry (where I can’t hear him cry). By the time the laundry is in the dryer or folded or in the washer and I come back up, it’s over.

  2. We figured out our daughter was a tension decreaser by accident when I just hit the wall one day. I set an arbitrary number of seven minutes and just let her go. Right at the tail end of six minutes she had one really loud cry and then nothing. Best nap of her life after that point.Since then, we were totally on board with the “cry it out” strategy since at worst it was seven minutes and 90% of the time it was less. The only issue we had was that I invariably needed a new shirt/bra afterward (tears do wreck a nursing mom).

  3. Both my girls were (are) tension decreasers. So, with both, the routine would be nurse and cuddle until they were dropping off, then I’d put them in the crib (or bassinet, or our bed, or wherever our Best Scenario was at that particular time—usually bed or bassinet up to about 6 months, then crib after). Baby would wake a little and fuss. We always had a rule that we would allow 10 minutes of fussing. So we would then sit in the living room, perched on the couch, and listen. We’d be evaluating the type of cries. Sleepy cries? Clock winding down cries? Or real cries? 9 times out of ten it would be like a… clock… winding… down…zzzzz. That tenth time, it would be real cries, so one of us would go in, cuddle, rinse, repeat. Eldest now, at 7 knows how to go to sleep just fine. Younger, at 4, will still cry if she’s overtired, and then drop right off.I think articulating this difference (increasers vs. decreasers) is SO helpful in helping parents understand other parents methods and motivations. And it also helps parents have the confidence to *listen* to their babies and gain confidence translating what their cries really mean.

  4. Sam was definitely a tension decreaser for naps–but it took a LONG time. 20 minutes of crying was normal, and when we first started putting him down for naps it was usually 40 minutes to an hour. As a result, I didn’t really put him down for naps until he was 8 months old because I couldn’t let him cry for that long. But when he was 8 he got a double ear infection and he was acting so unbelievably tired–and I knew he needed the sleep much more than I needed to not hear him cry. So my husband and I just huddled on the couch in misery listening to him scream for an hour. I knew from experience that if I went in and tried to soothe him he would just start from square one again. It was a brutal experience, but nothing anyone says can ever convince me that he did not need the sleep to heal his body–and I had tried nursing him down, wearing him down in the Mobywrap, everything I could think of.

  5. I don’t know what mine was… she could not fall asleep in my arms after about 6 months of age (and not all that well before then) but she cried a LOT falling asleep. 20 minutes, 40 minutes, 10 minutes, and not in a consistent pattern. Since I really couldn’t get her down while holding/comforting, we let her cry, but it never felt easy or inevitable. Not sure what do to with that one…

  6. Both of my kids are this way, and I feel very lucky. I have always been able to put them down and walk away and sometimes there was crying, but most of the time there wasn’t. My older is a little more “finely tuned”, and would go through phases where he would cry at bedtime (probably around developmental leaps). I would make my husband set his watch for 10 minutes, and if he was still crying in 10 minutes I’d go in. But 90% of the time he’d stop at minute 6 or minute 8…hardly ever getting to 10. If he did, I’d just go in and do the bedtime routine all over again – nurse, story, song, bed – and then he would be fine. I feel very fortunate in both of my kids’ sleep habits – my sister was not so lucky and had to sit by both of her kids until they fell asleep – usually up to 2 hours per night. It can be hard, so good luck to all.

  7. This is so interesting, thanks for sharing and starting the discussion. My son is a tension decreaser for naps and at initial bedtime. As I am an adult tension decreaser (and have been this way pretty much my whole life) it makes so much sense to me! Even if there is no crying involved (and thankfully at 19 months it is rare) he needs to be laid down in his bed with books and/or stuffed animals to “decompress” for a while before actually falling asleep. Sometimes I get so frustrated because it takes him awhile to go to sleep but when I try to rock him longer or remove a comfort item from his bed that I think is distracting him, it’s just worse. As I process this, it makes complete sense as I need a long time to “decompress” before falling asleep at night as well. Now, if my son wakes up in the middle of the night (again, thankfully not very often at 19 months old) he morphs into a tension increaser. I’ve tried to ignore the mild whimpers and such but very rarely does that work. If he starts fussing, we need to rush in with a quick remedy (reinsert paci, pat on the back, short snuggle….) before he gets going good or we are cooked! Our 2nd baby is due in a few months and I’m anxious to see what she will be like. Thanks to your website and thoughtful discussions, I hope that I will be better able to allow for differences and therefore avoide unnecessary frustrations!

  8. My 2nd and 3rd kids are tension-decreasers, which was a surprise after having a tension-increaser with our first. I found out by accident with baby #2 when I had to leave him in his crib for a few minutes to attend to his older brother. I felt like the worst mother listening to him cry… until he petered out and was asleep in less than 5 minutes. I was completely shocked!I finally understood my friends who kept telling me with my first– “You just need to let him cry a little.” Not that it would have worked with him AT ALL, but I realized that letting kids cry at bedtime can be a really helpful sleep tool with the right personality. And I realized that CIO isn’t heartless and cruel, it just doesn’t work for every baby.
    For me, having more than one child has been a huge lesson in humility and tolerance. When you have one child, it’s so easy to think that what works for parenting that child is THE ANSWER. For everyone. Figuring that one out has made me a better friend, for sure.

  9. Petunia (my second) doesn’t generally need to cry to go to sleep- she likes to be rocked to sleep, but it takes a very short period of time (maybe 10 minutes, tops, if we’ve timed her bedtime right). If I had ever gotten Pumpkin (my first) down after just 10 minutes, I would have danced a jig of joy. When Petunia was really little, I didn’t even have to rock her. It was nurse, burp, down- often with her eyes open. I was sad when that stopped working, but I sort of like rocking my snuggly baby, so I don’t really mind.But Petunia went through one phase when she was about 8 months old where rocking and snuggling didn’t help her relax. In the end, she cried herself to sleep because nothing else worked. It only took a few minutes, but it still killed me because I hate hate HATE to hear my baby cry. I am weak! Anyway, then she hit the 9 month separation anxiety phase and that stopped working- she wanted me back. And we’ve been rocking her to sleep ever since. My husband and I trade off nights.
    Petunia is 15 months old now, and not nightweaned. We’ve had a run of colds recently, so our sleep patterns are all messed up, but before that she was waking up once to nurse at about 12:30, and then coming in to bed with us and sleeping the rest of the night. I’m hoping we go back to that. Right now, she nurses twice- at about 11:30 and 3:30. If she wakes up at 10 or earlier, we can usually get her back down in her crib without nursing, and she’ll let Hubby or me do that. Once she’s ready to nurse, though, she’ll scream at him until I come in. It isn’t so much that her tension is increasing, just that she’s not getting what she wants and nothing except what she wants is going to calm her down.
    Sometimes we even hear her cry out the self-soothe in the hours right after she’s gone down. This gives me great hope, since her sister didn’t learn to self-soothe until she was 2, and still isn’t that great at it at 3.5.
    So I don’t know how to categorize Petunia. A “she knows what she wants/needs and will scream until she gets it and then stop right away” baby. God help us when she hits the 2.5 yo tantrum phase.

  10. My older son is one of these, as is his father. I lost my temper at the baby at seven months (the huge sunny smile after biting me was the icing on the cake of bedtime fussing), and had him ferberized before my anger cooled (less than 45min) and that was the first night he slept through the night, and woke up happy.I find that if he and his father set each other off (and both get angry) at bed time I have to go in there and talk the child down. Likewise if there’s been a really big tantrum. In either case, I leave him alone until the peak has passed (he will still be making noise) and then I go offer to talk to him (he’s four now and “talk about snakes” is what he always requests). Pure waiting-it-out can result in an hours-long tantrum, so I try to always throw him a line after things are starting to resolve.
    I do notice that sometimes he wants the conflict, and as a result sticker charts/rewards/incentives are a dicey business; he is already very motivated, and dangling another potential motivator can precipitate a tantrum.

  11. My kid a tension decreaser, and I’d like to start a sub-topic here: Tension decresers and the dreaded 18 month sleep regression. Because he is waking to cry four or five times a night. Going in there makes it worse 90% of the time (last night I went it, and he was actually happy to see me, drank some water and then went back to sleep quietly).I am at my wits end. He obviously needs to cry, doesn’t (usually) want us in there, but the sleep deprivation is killing me. Seriously.

  12. DD is/was definitely a tension releaser. Even now at 4 she needs to have a bawl when she is feeling frustrated and then she is ok again. In fact she can articulate this really well. She will get unreasonable and uncooperative and start picking on someone ( either bro or her dad) and that is the sign she is feelling ‘frustrated’ ( read, ‘tired’)as she says. A cry and she will admit she is feeling ‘tired’ or ‘grumpy’ and ask for kisses and hugs and calm down again.Travel was always nightmarish thanks to her need to cry. Car trips, plane trips. I am so thankful that is all behind us.

  13. My daughter is 100% a tension decreaser. When she was really little we use to rock her to sleep, or just put her down and she would fall asleep. At 5 months she started screaming, arching her back and generally flipping out for hours and hours and hours as we tried everything to help her to fall asleep. So one night we put her down in her crib and walked away. She cried for about 45 minutes and then fell happily asleep. For the first week or so she would cry for 30-40 minutes or so… but I think we made it worse by constantly checking on her… just as she would calm down she would get all riled up again when we came in to try and comfort her. Now her crying range is somewhere between 2 minutes and 10 minutes now. Many times she doesn’t cry, but many times she still does. (She’s 21 months now).I was so glad I found your blog when she was little … it helped me understand my tension decreaser!

  14. Both of mine are tension releasers. With DS, I didn’t discover this until I reached my wits end at the 4 month sleep regression, and then ferberized successfully in ONE night. Even now, at 3.5 I see this coming up. If he is headed down the tantrum road, talking/reasoning/cuddling does nothing to help and can drag the tantrum on for hours. What do we do? We send him to his room and tell him he can come out when he’s ready – no set time or anything. I’ve heard him shriek in there for 15 minutes and then walk out all smiles, as happy as can be, like he just returned from a stroll in the park. It’s bizarre, but I really believe it’s what he needs.The first clue that DD is a tension releaser was that I can not nurse her to sleep (even when I want to) and the longer she is hanging out in my arms before nap/bedtime that fussier she gets. Confirmation received when, like @Laura, I had to let her cry a bit while I attend to DS only to find her asleep by the time I got to her 5 minutes later.
    Sometimes if I put DD down her crying does escalate (rather than wind down) but I find I can reset her with a quick cuddle and kiss, or some back patting, and then back into the crib, and then she’s good.

  15. @CamillaWhat is it with tension decreasers and their dads? Same here. I think our problem is that DD and her dad are so damn similar (hubby is such a tension releaser it is not funny). Terribly pig headed and both have to be right. And yeah, if I don’t intervene when things have gotten out of control, that’s it. I will have Zoe waking up contastly all night long, becasue her feelings have been hurt and only mummy can confort her.

  16. This is so fascinating. I had an aha moment after reading this. Now, I have no scientific proof that this is true. But it did happen in our house, and the correlation seems accurate.I had one tension increaser and one tension decreaser. I knew nothing about tension decreasers or iincreasers when I had my boys 30 yrs ago. I guess I’m older than I think, another casualty of age!
    Taller, #2 son, hated being nursed to sleep. He was never able to discharge his pent up energy. Until he was about 10 months old. At 10 months the Dr. insisted that I try letting him cry. No one in the house was sleeping because this tiny child was waking every 20 minutes, ALL NIGHT LONG. Seriously, every single night since birth! The first night I let him cry for 5 minutes, he slept through the night!
    Taller, #2 son, the tension decreaser grew up needing to deal with his feelings much like he needed to deal with going to sleep. He wanted his emotions out there. He was an emotional guy who would get really angry if he was cut off from going through his entire emotional cycle. He needed to cry, wail, be sensitive, and be acknowledged for his emotions. Then, when HE was ready, he would get over it and go about his business like nothing happened!
    Tall, #1 son, the tension increaser loved being nursed to sleep. We thought we were the only ones in the world that had to lay with our 4 yr. old and slowly roll off the bed once he was asleep. This is how we found chiropractors!
    Tall, #1 son, the tension increaser was sweet and tender-hearted too. But he was unwilling to deal with his emotions unless Mom or Dad were right there. He would follow us around the house as HE processed his emotions. He wanted our help, our input, as he discovered what he wanted to do.
    They are both still like this to this day. I never linked the way they fell asleep and the way they handled their emotions before. Fascinating. Having gone through the entire process I can say, I couldn’t have changed these things about them, if I tried. And believe me I did try!
    I would say the way a child handles sleeping “may” be a link, a clue to their their future emotional needs?
    Let’s all meet in 10 years and compare notes. LOL!

  17. Very interesting. My daughter (now 3.5) cannot go to sleep if I am in the room with her. Never has. I think I’d have to put her in the tension decreaser category.

  18. I was thinking about this post as I nursed my 5.5 month old down for her nap. We were laying in the bed, and she would nurse, pop off, cry, nurse, pop off, cry, etc. It reminded me of when she was younger, and I was trying to nurse her to sleep (the only way I knew to get a kid to sleep because that’s what worked with her brother). I had been trying to nurse her and she was getting more worked up. I lay her down to switch sides, and she fell asleep while I was undoing my bra.I have yet to try CIO, but I am definitely more open to trying it with this kid.

  19. @Therese – my 17 month old DD is very similar to your son — tension decreaser for naps and at initial bedtime, but major tension increaser during middle-of-the-night wakeups. Letting her cry when she is put down for naps/bedtime results in < 5 minutes of crying before she falls asleep, but letting her cry if she wakes up at night results in her (and I) being up for hours. I've learned it's best to respond to her middle-of-the-night wakeups right away, as that seems to result in both of us getting back to sleep within a decent amount of time (although there are always exceptions...teething seems to result in both of us being up for several hours in the middle of the night).Anyway -- it's nice to hear that others have a "hybrid model".

  20. I’m having an “aha moment” too. My 3.5 year-old DD used to be a tension increaser as baby, but has definitely turned into a decreaser. You let her get her crying (or screaming) fit out of her system and she’s fine. What is really interesting is the father/child dynamic! I’m just realizing that DH is a decreaser too, and the two of them set each other off so often! That’ll be interesting when she’s 16…

  21. @Betsy, do you use a baby monitor at night? Can you turn it off? I have two tension decreasers and I have stopped using the baby monitor when I am sleeping. They are just down the hall, and I will definitely hear them if they get really worked up. But I don’t need to sit silent vigil to the 4 or 6 wake ups that the 9 month old has every night, each lasting approximately 30 seconds to 2 minutes. He wakes up, fusses, rolls over, and then goes back to sleep. If I went in there I would have to rock him for 45 minutes to get him back down. He, and the older boy, will let me know if I am truly needed. You know, by screaming and stuff. I only use the monitor if I am on a separate floor. This has changed my life.

  22. My son is definitely more on the tension decreaser side of the scale. We had to do some sleep training (Baby Sleep Boot Camp!!!) last winter when he was 6-7 months old and waking every. single. hour. to nurse! And that’s when I learned that he calms down pretty well with a little crying… as long as he doesn’t think someone is about to come in.And he goes through some phases of needing comfort, like when he’s teething. Generally if he cries for more than 5-10 minutes, and depending on the type of cries, he needs someone to get him. He may or may not fall back asleep for a long time, but letting him wail after 10 minutes means a long time getting him calmed down.
    But he really is a tension decreaser because usually he fusses/cries for less than 5 minutes and falls back asleep.
    The other variable however for actually bedtime and naptimes (and not middle-of-the-night stuff) is whether it’s me or my husband putting him to bed/nap. If it’s my husband, especially at naptime, he pretty much has to be put in his crib and cry a little and then falls asleep. He does NOT want my husband walking or rocking or cuddling him to sleep, again especially for naps. But Mommy? OF COURSE mama’s little boy wants me to hold and rock him to put him to bed or down for a nap. Once my hubby and I figured out that he truly needs different things from each of us, we were much more understanding of what the other was doing in there. (So I stopped giving him grief for not getting the boy to sleep, and he stopped giving me grief for not letting him just lie down and fuss a little.)
    @Moxie: This: “we’re looking for the truth of our children, not rules” is one of your best phrases ever! Are you still selling t-shirts, onsies and mugs? Because I would totally buy that on something!

  23. @Betsy – I was basically going to write what @eep did. My boy is going through teething and 18-month regression stuff. He also cries every few hours, but falls right back asleep. When he’s going through a night like that, I turn the monitor off. We leave our door open and his shut, and we can absolutely hear him when he is really crying for someone to come and get him NOW ALREADY!My SIL would use ear plugs, which had the same effect but her room was farther away from the kids. It muffled the sound enough to let her sleep but still hear if either of her twins was really crying for her.
    And remember, it’s just a phase. We WILL get through this! Minus some sanity, but we will get through!

  24. Okay – so our 5 year old is definitely a tension releaser, to the extreme. From about 6 months on, she always fussed herself to sleep, and most nights she still insists on arguing or creating some kind of drama at bedtime. If she feels even mildly ignored or that her needs are not being met 100%, the tears and screaming tantrums are epic. I am completely at my wits end (likely because I’m a tension decreaser too, and I get amped up as well) and don’t know how to handle the hours-long screaming and crying. You can’t hold her, talk to her, soothe her in any way but she begs for interaction screaming my name and refusing to stay in her room. She’s not just pitching a spoiled brat tantrum, she literally can’t stop herself.Spending lots of time online looking for strategies to help her handle her emotions better and help me keep my cool when the screaming is drilling holes into my brain.

  25. @eep and @caramama – he’s actually right across the hall from us so we don’t use a monitor – we can hear him loud and clear!I have been contemplating ear plugs, but it seems wrong somehow.
    He just went through several rounds of crying already (goes to bed at 6) so part of me is hoping he’s gotten the worst of it out of the way for tonight!

  26. My #1 is definitely on the tension-decreaser side of the scale. We used to let him cry and just listen to the patterns of his crying. It wasn’t as quick as Moxie described for her son, but followed a similar pattern. Loud crying followed by a drop to a whimper, and then back again. He would follow this rhythm until falling asleep (once we finally figured out that we needed to just leave him alone – and then he started sleeping through the nights at 8.5 months). There are times we go in to him – like the 18 month sleep regression, or any time he’s really crying (like sobbing). I’ve noticed now that he’s 2.5 he has a lot more tantrums/ fits of crying, and as part of that it’s like he gets stuck in one bad pattern of behavior (some kind of “naughtiness” – throwing toys, slapping at me, etc) and can’t get out, until he starts screaming and crying. He needs the release. Then I take him into a quiet room, and he’s instantly better. But it’s not just removal, and not just touch, but also the crying – so the three together are his solution to “tantrums.”

  27. @Betsy Try the earplugs, or something else that will muffle the noise a little. Put a white noise machine in your room, just to take the edge off of the fussing. My bedroom has a bathroom attached and I have been known to turn on the exhaust fan when I am trying to nap and the kids are downstairs with daddy. I can still hear a lot, but the fan cuts down dramatically on incidental noises.Also, I clicked through to your blog, and I am totally making bread pudding this weekend.

  28. My son is a tension decreaser, and I so wished I would figured it out sooner. My husband and I realized it by accident when our son was 4 or 5 months old, and he was having a terrible time going to sleep. One night when it was really frustrating we decided we needed a break for a few minutes, placed in him in is crib and went downstairs to take deep breaths…a realized that the there was less and less crying, and then silence. We tried it the next and then next, and suddenly we had a sunny happy baby, probably because he was finally well-rested. I had never heard of babies that need “alone time” before my experience with him, and thank you Moxie for spreading the word!(By the way–at six years old, our son still needs a little down time each day. It’s not before bed anymore, it’s right when we get home from school/work, but it clear to me that he needs this to rewind and recharge).

  29. My kid was a tension increaser until 2.5, and has flipped completely! But it was difficult for his first two years. It seems like everyone I know was telling me to ferberize him – but I KNEW that CIO wasn’t right for him then and I have loads of problems w/ it philosophically, especially the hardcore way some folks I know practice it.But now, as long as we follow the routine, he goes to bed w/ his story and three songs and we leave. He cries for about 45 seconds to 2 minutes or so and is out. But this never would have worked for him before now – we did the “by any means necessary” thing til 2.5- cosleeping, musical beds, rocking to sleep (and I do miss that!), rubbing his back, holding his hand until he was asleep, responding quickly to every single wakeup (or he’d be up the rest of the night), etc. But because we are very attuned to what he needs, we were able to see pretty quickly when he started needing to be left alone to fall asleep by himself – we didn’t force it on him before he was ready.
    And I should say that wrt to things like tantrums and frustrations, he still needs a lot of help handing those overwhelming feelings. But as far as sleep goes, it’s a lot easier now!

  30. First son was (and still is at age 4) a tension increaser. Second is a decreaser. I have found something awesome though. If I can get the decreaser to laugh before bedtime – really laugh a big laugh then that seems to release his tension and he will nurse to sleep or to drowsy so I can put him down without crying.

  31. My son had colic and I had to get used to the sound of him crying, a lot, very early on. Still, I had planned to co-sleep and hated the idea of CIO. Eventually we realized that this is a kid who needs his own space to relax before he goes to sleep. He slept about a million times better when we transitioned him to his own room c. 5 months (we slept a lot better, too). Even after that, it was apparent he still needed to fuss a bit to go to sleep and that the more I tried to soothe him, the more worked up he got. We finally let him cry around 7 months… first night 20 min, second night 5 minutes, about 2 minutes thereafter, and he slept through the night pretty consistently after that. Anytime we had a sleep disturbance (regression, vacation, late night) we’d go back to routine, early bedtime and a little crying and it all seemed to resolve itself pretty quickly.Just had my daughter Wednesday, no clue how she’ll turn out; I would love another tension decreaser, but time will tell.

  32. The only problem with a tension decreaser/releaser is that after they’ve released it and feel better, the rest of us don’t. What to do about that?

  33. Thanks for the congrats! Baby’s doing well; birth was easy, but I came down w/ mastitis on day 5! Never had it before, can’t believe how awful I felt. Thank goodness for antibiotics. Feeling much better today :-)Sorry for the non-sequitir in the thread.

  34. This blog has been a godsend as I try to figure out why my 4 month old baby is a catnapper – thank you, Moxie!! Anyway, I’m not sure if I have a tension decreaser with #3 because she shares a room with her 3 year old sister and we don’t like to let baby cry or fuss too long for fear of waking up her sister. Any suggestions?

  35. This post is a total light bulb moment for me and I am thankful to my friends who directed me to it this week.You’d think I’d know what I was doing by now, baby #4, but I sure don’t. I recognize my baby in your post and really appreciate it.

  36. As per my opinion no one can change habits and particular beliefs of someone. Tension comes habitually so no one can help to decrease it but can help to solve the problem so tension will automatically be decreased.

  37. My 2 month old is also a tension decreaser. I have figured this out very quickly, as he does not nurse or rock to sleep. In fact, he starts fussing I’d I hold him too long after I sing my 3 songs to him. It bothered me at first, but now I am at peace with the fact that he is going to cry before going to sleep. At this point, I stay in there with him since he is so young. My older son nursed to sleep until he was 10 months, so it was a shock to me that this one didn’t!

  38. Nancy Kirk–I’m a tension decreaser adult, and let me tell you, it really stinks being the one who makes everyone else miserable. I recognize the cycle, but I have a hard time changing my ways. I was never taught to redirect that nervous/angry energy as a child, and so I found other methods including self-harm and perfectionism.
    Now at 31, I’m a highly functional depressive who is pleasant and easy to work with as long as I take on all of the responsibilities. This makes me popular at work, but all that extra tension leads to huge blowups with my partner (or self-injury). Exercise helps. Oh, and I have a tension increaser toddler son.

  39. Hi Moxie,I read this post and it does ring a few bells for me – I would be happy if I can genuinely call this an “aha moment”, but something is missing for me….
    So I tried to find more information about tension increasers and decreasers on the internet and basically every link for about five pages on Google is either to this post, to one of your related posts, or to someone else linking to one of your posts. (And a few links to absolutley un-related material.)
    So, hey – interesting theory. I am genuinely curious. But do you have any other studies or related information you can recommend or link to? I would like to learn more.

  40. Wait, before you start to post comments about how you need to go strict, how beneficial it has been for you. Hear me out. If I’ve got you all hopped up, then that means I have touched a nerve, made you defensive about something. That means we need to talk

  41. Baby monitors are useful during times when you have something to do around the house and you have no choice but to leave your baby playing or sleeping in his or her room. It can also be used during the evenings when you sleep in your bed and leave the baby in the nursery.

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