I have never been one to ascribe to the school of crying it out. It just isn’t my style, or my personality. I have friends who swear by it, and wouldn’t do it any other way.
For me and my family though, it is just not an option.
So, what do you do when you use cry it out? It is not an option we see very often in media. I often think of watching the TV show, Mad About You, when I was in College. Paul and Jamie had their baby and they were sitting outside her bedroom door as she cried and cried and cried. Jamie wanted so badly to go in and they just sat in the hall holding each other.
I thought then that it was just stupid. Why wouldn’t she go in and comfort her daughter? What was the harm in that?
I was 22 and had no idea what the future would hold for me, but I knew without any doubt, that it was something I could not and would not do.
Here is what sleep looks like in my house. My children do not sleep through the night until they are about 2. Some nights we have 1 or all 4 in our bed at once. There are sleepless nights. And some nights, everyone but the baby sleeps in their beds all night long.
They sleep with me until they are between 15-18 months old. That is when they are night-weaned, and then moved to a room with a sibling. When we do it, this is what it looks like. I nurse the baby/toddler and then Daddy takes him/her to bed. He sits with the baby until s/he is asleep. This takes hours at first. Slowly, he works his way out of the room until he can go in, sing a song, give a kiss, say goodnight and leave the room. This can take up to 2 months. It is gentle though, and it works for us.
Until that time, we nurse to sleep and through the night.
People wonder and have asked, why don’t I do Cry it Out? Plain and simple, I believe it is not healthy for the child. Children learn trust in the first 2 years of life. If we stick them in a room, turn off the lights and leave them to “self soothe” what are we teaching them? What would we do if someone did that to us? What if someone put you in a room and despite how upset you got, they just left you there for 12 hours?
When I was pregnant with my 2nd child, I read the article, Crying for Comfort by Althea Soltera, in Mothering Magazine. In it she said,
“…there is no doubt that repeated lack of responsiveness to a baby’s cries—even for only five minutes at a time—is potentially damaging to the baby’s mental health. Babies who are left to cry it out alone may fail to develop a basic sense of trust or an understanding of themselves as a causal agent, possibly leading to feelings of powerlessness, low self-esteem, and chronic anxiety later in life. The cry-it-out approach undermines the very basis of secure attachment, which requires prompt responsiveness and sensitive attunement during the first year after birth.”
I also believe that there is a reason why it is so hard for Mother’s to hear their babies cry. This is because it is not natural. It is not natural for us to be separated from our babies. It goes against our primal urges to protect our young.
Finally, the reason why I don’t let my babies just cry it out, is because I don’t believe parenting stops when I go to bed. I am a parent 24/7 and with that, comes nighttime parenting.
I have heard the argument that if Mama doesn’t get sleep and she is not happy, then no one is happy. That is true to an extent, but this, like all parts of parenting, is about being there for my children. There will come a time when I will get more than 5 hours of sleep at a time. That time is just not right now. That is something I knew (kind of) when I first signed up for this Parenting gig so many years ago.
I am not going to lie to you though, I have been tempted from time to time to “Ferberize” or let my babies cry themselves to sleep. Sometimes I get just SO tired that I would give anything for one of those mythical babies that sleep all night long at 6 months old. But, I know that it comes at a price, and it is a price I am not willing to pay.
So, I don’t let my babies cry it out. I don’t let them cry unnecessarily. And while that may result in me having bags under my eyes for the next 2 years, in the long run, it will be totally worth it.