One of the toughest decisions a parent will make in the early life of a baby is deciding whether to let them cry it out or not in the night. Is it bad? Will I harm my baby? These were questions my wife and I battled with for about 9 months before we came to a decision to let our girl cry it out at. I know some people will probably judge us and say we are horrible parents, but let me say, I think we did one of the most balanced things at the right time, in the best possible way. If I had to go back and do it differently I wouldn’t. Let me explain.
Early Months As An Infant
One thing you fully realize after spending enough time with your newborn like most any parent out there, is that an infant is clueless to the world. All they know is they need milk, warmth, and affection so they feel safe. That’s what swaddling is for right. After spending all that time in the womb all nice and snug, infants slowly begin to pick up the pieces of the new environment they are in. At this point in time as a parent, you get up at every waking hour of the night to feed them, change their diaper, and make sure they feel safe and warm. I don’t know about anyone else, but this is absolutely the worst time to try a cry it out method. Your child needs you more than ever.
6 Months Old
By this age, my wife and I heard everyone telling us we need to have a strict schedule, and get our baby used to it. We started doing just that, with limited success for some time. You can’t simply expect a baby to sleep when you want her too, or make her eat at an exact time. For the most part, babies let you know when they are hungry, and crash out when they are ready too.
The good thing though is that we set a bath time, and we tried to set a general time for napping, and things started to fall into place. The one thing we did get stuck on was giving our girl a bottle before she went to sleep. She got so used to being soothed with milk, we didn’t know how to stop it. We felt kind of stuck because if we didn’t let her sleep with a bottle in her mouth she would cry. We would set her in the crib and she would just cry until we went back in and picked her up. Another 3 months went by where we felt exhausted getting up at night to feed her more milk. What should we do?
9 Months Old
My wife and I both agreed our girl knows we love her very much at this age. She also knows that when it gets dark out, it’s time to go to sleep. She battles that sleep and then gets delirious, keeping us up for hours until she is ready to sleep. It was time for all that to change, and we decided to give the cry it out method a full go.
It was absolutely agonizing when we started. We would generally let her get as tired as possible, and then lay her down in the crib only to have her jump right up and start whining for our attention. We kept an eye on her with our video monitor from the other room as she cried for over 10 minutes at which point, we would go in and set her back down in the sleeping position and pat her back to reassure her we had not abandoned her. The first 3 days or so took 30-40 minutes of full on crying and whining until she finally fell asleep. As parents we felt absolutely horrible.
When our baby woke up in the middle of the night, we kept an eye on her once again with the monitor, and let her cry it out. Most of the time she fell back to sleep within 5-10 minutes. This too made us feel horrible because we knew she was used to getting a snack of milk in the middle of the night previous to this. But alas, things did get better. Our daughter started sleeping through the night with only a minute or so of disruption after which she would fall back asleep.
A lot of parents who have their children sleep in the same bed with them or who give in to the every whim of their child may hate everything about what we did. Let me tell you though, I don’t regret it one bit, and here is why. First off I believe we chose the perfect age to start this process. We had already built a strong relationship with our baby in her first 9 months of life. She knows we love her, and we display it everyday during daylight hours. We realized that if We allowed our baby to dictate our schedule, things would only get worse and never improve.
The timing was right for the cry it out method and we both benefited from it. She was able to learn how to self sooth and sleep for longer periods of time, and we were able to keep our sanity and sleep through an entire night, better equipped to deal with issues that came our way during daylight hours.
I can’t say this method is good for every child. Some babies have additional health needs, or emotional needs that only you as a parent can properly gauge and understand. Will it work for you? Maybe. All I can say is it worked for us, and it was totally worth the short period of time we suffered through it to get where we are now.