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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Crying to Sleep Works for Me

Well, not me. My baby.

This is a fairly controversial topic, I know. If Dr. Sears and his 'attachment parenting' philosophies were to read this post, he would probably disapprove. But I'm going to go out on the proverbial limb here and say that it is GOOD for babies to cry themselves to sleep. Not FUN for the mommy. But GOOD. Just like vegetables. Let me tell you about my recent learning experience with letting my son (now nine months old) cry himself to sleep. Keep in mind that every baby is different, and since I only have one so far, this whole idea is based on my single just-nine-month experience in baby-rearing.

After I had Z, we had help here for the first two and a half weeks or so. My parents were here for a week, and then Hubby's parents were here for a little over a week. It was wonderful. I got sleep, and baths, and food prepared for me, and Z got held & loved on constantly. He was hardly ever allowed to cry for more than 30 seconds without being picked up. I actually didn't know that babies have to learn to lay by themselves sometimes, and I thought that parents were supposed to pick them up anytime they made a peep. Anyway, after our parents left, I was trying to hold Z constantly, and get things done around the house, and get some sleep occasionally...and I was exhausted and totally overwhelmed. Of course, that's normal for those first couple months, but really. It was terrible. At night, Hubby and I would take shifts. Z would eat, then he would get changed, and then he would need to be held until he drifted off to sleep. Sometimes he needed to be held for between twenty minutes and an hour. And then, if you THOUGHT he was all the way asleep, but he really wasn't quite ALL the way out, when you put him down in his car seat (where he slept for about the first seven weeks of his life), he would wake up and cry, and then you had to start ALL over again with the sitting and holding and waiting and watching his eyelids to see if they were still twitching.

So, at his one-month appointment, we asked the doctor about putting him down in his bed and letting him cry himself to sleep. And our doctor said that we should start that sooner rather than later. But then we went on vacation to see our families, and by the time we got home, he was about 6 weeks old. So we started putting him down in his bed. And letting him cry himself to sleep. For about two nights, it was pure torture (for all of us). We used the Ferber Method, where you go in every few minutes to check on them and let them know you're still there. At some point during these two days, we read somewhere that sometimes babies like to have their crib mattresses elevated, so we put some books under one end of the mattress, and that night, there was hardly any crying. He woke up in the night, ate, and then we would put him back down and he would cry a little and then go back to sleep. It was wonderful. Best thing we ever did.

THEN. A few weeks later, he started screaming, refusing to eat, waking in the night screaming...etc. The dr. said he had acid reflux, so we put him on Prevacid. Two weeks later, it hadn't worked. I remember one night in particular, he was up every half hour. All night. Hubby & I took turns sleeping on his floor, so we could just get up and put his binky back in when he cried. Two more weeks later, after that much time on Axid, he was doing MUCH better. But he was still crying at night. Hmmm...maybe because now he was used to us going to him at his first peep again??? So since we knew he wasn't in pain anymore, we decided to start letting him cry to sleep (and cry back to sleep) once again. And again, within two nights, he was back to being put down, crying for just a couple of minutes, and drifting off to sleep on his own. Shortly after this (around the time he turned four months old), he started sleeping through the night, and other than a few nights here and there (maybe one every two weeks or so) and when he's sick, he still routinely sleeps through the night. Now he is so good at putting himself to sleep that he hardly ever even cries. He just plays in his bed for a few minutes, and then all of a sudden, all is quiet, and he's asleep.

To hear him cry, even for a few minutes before a nap, is still hard, but for us, it's just so necessary. Now he knows how to put himself to sleep (and back to sleep in the middle of the night), which is an important skill. And I think he sleeps better because of it. And I know Hubby and I do.

I know everyone has their own opinions and perspectives about this issue, but for us, We just have to let our baby cry himself to sleep, because it works for us! Make sure to check out other Works-for-Me-Wednesday tips over at Shannon's place!


Amy said...

Thanks for sharing your blog. I too am in the middle of letting my six month old cry herself to sleep..kind of. She too has acid reflux, she slept in her carseat for first three months. Every since we put her in her crib I have found every excuse to go in and rescue her at night...I'll start after vacation, I'll wait till after her two year old sister starts school so she doesn't wake her up, after the weekend,etc. Needless to say I have put it off for three months. Your post inspired me. Wish me luck. It worked for my first I know it will work again.

Kama said...

Thanks for your advice. I am due in 3 weeks with our first baby, so I'm looking all over for advice--and my friends are giving me some on our blog this week if you have any others and would like to leave a comment! I guess we'll see what our baby is like when he/she comes out!

Anonymous said...

Well, my kids are 9 and 6. My "baby" days are long gone, but I remember them like it was yesterday. I agree that babies need to learn to self soothe and put themselves to sleep without sleep props (ie. Mom, rocking, swing, etc.). My first child slept 12 hours a night (without waking or needing to be fed), by the time she was 11 weeks. My second was faster. She was sleeping 12 hours a night by 8 weeks (she was a bigger baby to begin with). I've NEVER had a sleep problem with either of my girls. They are still good sleepers. It truly does benefit everyone when they are taught how to get a good nights sleep. I will say that the best book I read was "Secret of the Baby Whisperer". I loved how gentle it was. How it educated me on the different cries and how it wasn't a one size fits all solution. I would recommend it to any new Mom. Sounds like you guys are on the right track. Keep it up! It's worth it in the long run!

Anonymous said...

I completely disagree with you. 6 WEEKS?? come on now and you wanted to do it at 4 weeks but couldn't because of vacation???!! Why did you even have a baby in the first place if you couldn't even make it 6 weeks(really less)without feeling like you need to let him CIO?? Poor Baby :(( PLUS, you said you had help the first few weeks so basically you've only made it about 1 week and then asked the Dr., shame on you. Your baby NEEDS you right now! That's what being a parent is all about! It's about giving your child 100% of yourself. Yes, you will be tired, Yes, it will take time but YOU chose to have a baby so be responsible and don't leave him crying in his crib!! You should really read the book "The Baby Sleep Book" by Dr. Sears. I was just like you, I had it all planned out that I would let my little one cry it out from the start. We even tried it but it broke our hearts that this poor, innocent, HELPLESS baby NEEDED me!! This book will give you all of the benefits plus the very scary consequences of letting your baby CIO. This book changed my opinion completely and thank the LORD because I have a healthy, securely attached, above average little 18 month old who still sleeps in my bed and I wouldn't want it any other way! You will NEVER get this time back again!! Cherish EVERY single minute!!!

Carrie said...


I'm sorry that my post offended you. Let me start by saying that I love my son very much and I do strive to cherish every minute I have with him. My post was not intended to imply that every family SHOULD let their children cry themselves to sleep, or that there is anything wrong with rocking your child to sleep or letting your child sleep with you. I am merely sharing a viewpoint that has worked for our family.

As I stated in the beginning of my post, I am not a believer in Dr. Sears' attachment parenting philosophies. I have read several of his articles, and I do not agree with many of his viewpoints. My husband and I believe that it is important for babies to learn to sleep in their own beds, and that is the way that we have chosen to raise our child. My son is very happy and well-adjusted. He lights up when I or my husband come into the room. Despite having let him cry to sleep, he still trusts us to fulfill his needs as his parents.

Thank you for sharing your viewpoint. I appreciate your comment, and I hope you can continue to enjoy my blog despite our differing viewpoints.

Misty said...

carrie, i appreciate your honesty and being "vulnerable" about letting your little one CIO. i have a 2yo and a 9 mo old (mine was born 12/12/07, when was Z born?) and w/ firstborn we did CIO after 6 mo (he was cosleeping). it was probably one of the hardest things i ever did. but i'm still glad we did it. b/cs basically for me it was my sanity. it came down to would it be better for a few nights of crying (that both baby and me crazy) or an indeterminate amount of time where i was frazzled and feeling helpless b/cs i was constantly touching my LO. we just started w/ baby2 to let him CIO for the initial putting him to bed phase, but he's still in our room and i still put him in my bed after he wakes. however, that compromise is so that the part of me who does believe in AP parenting can marry the part of me that is useless AP or otherwise if i am depressed and lacking in sleep. i understand that the differences between, say, babywise moms and dr sears moms will always be huge, but i truly wish those who are christian on both sides would just be gentle and respectful that what works for every family will be different. no, i don't love CIO, but i had to. but my older son is very attatched and loved and secure, even as he goes to sleep in his own bed (which he loves). my younger son will be as well.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the advice, I hate hearing my little guy cry he is 6 months old, and maybe slept a dozen times through the night, he got teeth at 2 months old, now he has 6 teeth. The doctors are no help at all. So it is nice to talk to parents. THe only question I have is what do I do in the middle of the night, he gets up and I feed him, so people say to let him cry it out, don't feed him. Sometimes he gets up 6 times a night.

Carrie said...

Wow- six times in the night? I bet you're exhausted, honey! I'm no medical expert, obviously, but I would definitely try letting him cry it out. There's no way that a baby his age should need to eat that many times in the night, and if you're nursing, he might just want the comfort. I would probably let him cry for a few minutes each time he wakes, and then go in to him (start with 5 mins, then gradually work up to 10, then 15). I usually don't let my son cry more than 10 or 15 mins, but in the beginning we had to until he learned how to go to sleep on his own. If you google the Ferber method, it is very helpful. :) I hope you can get something worked out soon!!!

Unknown said...

thanks so much for sharing this! :-) We have decided to let her cry it out starting soon if she doesn't get better at getting to sleep. The thing is that sometimes she is great and other times it takes literally hours to put her down! she's usually (knock on wood)pretty good when she wakes up once or twice in the middle of the night to eat she goes right back to sleep. But she flat-out refuses to nap. Seriously.

Anyways thanks for the post and advice :-)