Wednesday, July 6th, 2011
That’s the exact phrase I recently Googled; “Is it wrong to let your baby cry it out?” The results were nearly equally mixed; from stay-at-home moms to doctors.
What my wife and I had been doing was not working for our son so I decided to step up and be proactive. Yes, I am one of those parents who unashamedly uses the controversial “cry it out” method when it comes to getting my son to go to sleep.
Granted, there are many versions of the method; some more harsh than others. Today, I would like to share with you my version of it.
When my now seven month old son began crawling over a month ago, his former sleep schedule became abruptly derailed. He began putting up a fight when it was time for him to go to sleep every night.
My son Jack became so preoccupied with his newly acquired mobility that his body just couldn’t stop moving, despite the fact he was exhausted and desperately needed rest. He would even crawl in his sleep!
It didn’t take long for me to see the connection between his mobility obsession and his inability to fall asleep with the comfort of my wife’s usual routine with him. The new normal was that it would take my wife 90 minutes or more to get him to sleep.
Needless to say, she was worn out and frustrated by the time it was over. And I was frustrated to see her so frustrated. Not to mention, by the time she got him to sleep, it was nearly time for the two of us to go to bed.
I respect the concept of quality time in our marriage. And it just didn’t seem kosher that A) it should be that much trouble to get our son to bed and B) that our quality time together should be interfered with so greatly by something as seemingly natural as a baby falling asleep.
After barely skimming a chapter of a book on “crying it out” and a few websites, I decided to apply what I had learned. The first night, it took my 43 minutes to get my son to sleep. The second night, 27 minutes; the third; 17 minutes. And now, a week later, I can often get him to sleep within 10 to 12 minutes. (Tonight, it took me less than 5 minutes!)
Not only has the method caused my wife and me to be better relaxed and rested, but it also does the same for our son. He wakes up less during the night now.
He goes to sleep a little earlier and wakes up a little later. That’s not to say I’m excited by the fact that I have less quality time withhim during the day; but I do recognize that he was being deprived of quality sleep time before I started applying the method.
I recognize the common concern that the baby will become psychologically damaged by the process. I disagree; not the way I do it, at least. In fact, I proclaim that for the babies in the world who need the “cry it out” method, they actually become psychologically nurtured.
My son’s developing emotions have not yet successfully connected to rational thinking. Half of his body is telling him, “Crawl! Crawl! Crawl! Don’t stop ‘til you get enough!” The other half is saying, “I’m tired! I need sleep! I’m so sleepy it’s all I can think about!”
That’s where I come in. I help my son make those connections in his brain. And I do it with the structure and strength he craves. I view it as an early form of discipline. Not discipline in the form of punishment or discomfort, but in the form of guidance and assurance.
Here’s a brief look at the Nick Shell version of the “cry it out” method:
1) As it gets close to his established bed time (6:30 PM), I take him to his bedroom and shut the door, letting him play for a few final minutes on the floor with his toys.
2) When he shows signs of being ready to go to sleep (rubbing his eyes, being unable to sit well), I wrap him up in his blanket and begin gently rocking him. I make sure that he is physically comfortable as I hold him; not holding him too tightly.
3) When he begins doing his “protest cries” (crying at the top of his lungs), I give him a hug by holding him more firmly- but only in that moment of him belting out his cry; so ultimately during the two seconds he lets out a cry, I hold him more tightly, but obviously not squeezing him or hurting him.
4) As his eyes close, I continue rocking him in my arms, waiting for him to officially fall asleep and start snoring.
5) I wait a few more minutes to make sure he has entered a sleep deep enough to endure my lying him down in his bed.
6) Then I hold him over his bed for another minute, but ceasing to rock him. This prepares him for the landing.
7) I slowly yet steadily lower him to his bed and remove my hands from his head and legs, lying him down. I wait another minute to make sure he is going to stay asleep, then I quietly leave the room.
8) If it any point from Step 3 to Step 7 he refuses to stop crying for more than one minute, I carefully set him down in his bed and leave the room. The first time I leave him, I’m only gone for one minute. The next time, three; then five, then ten. But never more than ten minutes pass before I return to try again. Each time I return, I restart at Step 3 by re-wrapping him in the blanket and gently rocking him.
The most crucial element with this method is that you, the parent, are consistent. Do it every night. Never give up during the middle of it.
When necessary, I remind myself that I am the one who controls my son, not the other way around. I don’t give him the ability to frustrate me with his illogical behavior; instead, I frustrate him with my logical behavior. He doesn’t get me worked up emotionally; instead, I redirect his emotions.
I realize that may sound intense to some, but I believe my son needs structure now more than he ever has needed it in his life. I believe if I let him have his way and take 90 minutes or more to fall asleep on his own, I would be sending a message to him that he is able to make the rules. I believe for him, that could actually be psychologically misleading and damaging. I love my son, therefore I use this version of the “cry it out” method.
In closing, I write this with the assumption that at least 70% of readers passionately disagree with me on this issue. By no means am I trying to convert anyone to this seemingly unloving yet effective method. I simply want to share what works for me (a normal guy; not an expert) and tell the other side of the story- to answer the question by saying, “No, it’s not wrong to let your baby cry it out.”
I welcome your comments, whether you agree or disagree. Just remember, I don’t approve comments that insult the character or intelligence of other commenters or of myself: Make it constructive, not destructive. Make it legitimate; not sarcastic and condescending.Add a Comment