I remember the day so clearly when I decided to let my oldest ‘cry it out’ for his nap time. He was around 7 months old and was extremely dependent on his pacifier to soothe himself. It worked like a charm but it came at a heavy price. I had to constantly make the trip to his room to pop it back in his mouth and I couldn’t take it anymore. He had already kept me up nearly round the clock for the first five months of his life while I breastfed him, and he his dependency on his pacifier kept both my husband and I up since then. I was a stay-at-home mom and all I wanted was a break. I wanted him to take a nap so I could possibly have a moment to myself and actually get something done. After already trekking up the stairs about eight times I gave up. I proceeded to head back downstairs determined to let him figure out how to get to sleep on his own. I turned the baby monitor to mute (it was the olden days, no video feed), and proceeded to let him scream and cry. The mute was pretty much pointless as I could hear him loud and clear as I’m sure most of the entire block did as well. His crying lasted roughly twenty minutes and was the longest twenty minutes of my life. Ironically, I was so upset I still didn’t manage to be very productive. I even cried along with him a little bit. Then, I cried a little bit more after he finally settled down. The guilt I felt was tremendous.
That day, as hard as it was, was a turning point. He learned quickly how to soothe himself and the time it took him to go to sleep got progressively shorter over time. His night wakings lessened, too. It was a process and I still didn’t enjoy hearing him cry, but the tangible results of more sleep for all of us were hard to deny. I also had parameters about what I could and couldn’t tolerate. I wouldn’t let him cry for hours and hours, my max was usually in the 10-15 minute range. I also wouldn’t allow him to sleep in my bed once we were done with breastfeeding. Of course if he was sick, he was with me at night but beyond that, my bedroom was off-limits to him at night. This was for several reasons. First, I need sleep. I am a person who is unpleasant when sleep deprived. Having a little wrestly ball of energy kicking and flailing about all night does not make sleep restful. Both of my boys are so high energy, peaceful cuddles were not in their repertoire. Secondly, I was with them all day. I gave them hugs, snuggles, time, energy and all my effort that by the end of the day I needed separation from them. They had taken over every aspect of my being, even showering in peace was no longer possible, that after twelve to fourteen hour days with them, I needed a sacred space free of children. A place that was still mine.
The moral of this story is this is what worked for ME. What works for YOU and your family is different. Maybe you enjoy having your kiddos bunk with you. Maybe they are peaceful snugglers that actually are a joy to sleep next to. Maybe attachment parenting is more your style. Maybe you work so hard outside the home all day that when your kid cries in the middle of the night it’s just easier to grab them and put them in your bed. I respect all of that.
I recently read an article by a pediatrician named Dr. Perri Klass that highlighted research stating sleep-training won’t hurt your children emotionally or behaviorally over the long-term. She also highlights a study that says letting babies cry for too long isn’t good either as it is often hard to quantify what their stress-levels are. She did a good job showing both sides of the issue. Ultimately, what you decide is what works best for YOU.
“All these researchers agree that parents shouldn’t do anything that makes them uncomfortable; parents know best what their children need.”
To read the whole article by Dr. Perri Klass click here:
The best part about whatever you decide, if you find that it isn’t working, you can always change your mind and try something new. Our kids and lives are constantly evolving. It’s okay if our decisions about their sleep evolve, too.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent