I was on Facebook the other day and a friend of mine had posted that she wasn’t sure how people let their babies cry it out. First and foremost, I totally understand that feeling. The first time I let Isaac “cry it out” I thought I could literally feel my heart breaking into a million little pieces. I never thought I would have this reaction to letting my baby cry.
Second of all, I want to be VERY clear. I in no way am judging any mom or parent with this article. I am of a FIRM belief that you and only you know what is best for your child. You and only you know what is best for your family. And you and only you know what is best for you.
I freaking hate the judgements between moms. And let me be frank, yeah I always have some thoughts/judgements but that’s because I am human. I don’t ever think less of you or higher of myself based on my thoughts about your parenting. Because it is none of my damn business. lemme say that louder for the people in the back.
It is none. of. my. damn. business.
And news-freaking-flash it’s none of your business how anyone else parents their children.
With all of this being said, I have the best way to parent.
I’m totally kidding!
My way of parenting is the best way for me and my husband. We have worked very hard together to learn, and are still learning, what works for our family. Because, simply put, things change so damn quickly when these things are young. Hell, Isaac is a totally different kid this week than he was last week. Last week we watched Tarzan a million and two times. This week we are watching Monster’s Inc on repeat. Life changes, roll with it.
Isaac was sleeping through the night by ten weeks old. I go through what I think lead to this in this blog post, feel free to check it out.
Sleep was the one thing that I researched from beginning to end of that first pregnancy. I am just a terribly cranky person if I don’t get enough sleep. Not day one, mind you. But after a few days of no sleep I think I would go insane. So I did the time, put in the effort to see what leading experts recommend. I read blog after blog on what worked for other moms and then I went with my instincts.
As moms, we have GOT to start trusting our instincts more. I really do think that there is just too much information out there for us to get our hands on. With Isaac, I would google something before I even put much thought into an issuse. And honestly, that’s no way to parent.
So when push comes to shove a few things really resonated with me after my extensive reading.
1.) To put your child down to sleep drowsy, not fully asleep
2.) Make sure all needs are met before putting them down to sleep
3.) It’s okay to let them fuss
But what does this have to do with the cry it out method, Kayla?
Well, I will tell you.
The Cry It Out Method
The basics of the cry it out method are that you allow your child to cry themselves to sleep. This is also known as the extinction method, though I have never heard that terminology until I googled it. Cry themselves to sleep means that once you put them down, you don’t go back in until they are asleep.
The point of this isn’t to get your baby sleeping through the night, but to help them learn to self soothe. You aren’t always going to be there to rock your little one to sleep, so there is a point when they need to learn how to put themselves to sleep.
Everyone has heard of this method and chances are the women in your family swear by it. Especially the older women in the family.
You have probably also heard via various mom groups, that this is just an unacceptable method of getting your child to sleep.
Hm. Yes and NO.
Because again, you know your baby best!
So this is where my modified version comes into play. Here is my play by play.
My Modified Version of Cry it Out
I grew up hearing about the cry it out method and my mom is a fan. Babies cry. And they cry a lot so there is nothing really WRONG with allowing them to cry.
Also, I grew up in a household with SEVEN younger brothers and sisters. I was sixteen when the last one was born and the nursery was right across the hall from my bedroom. Never was I woken up by a baby crying. All of my siblings slept through the night by three months old.
So, with my children, I knew I was going to be okay with letting them cry it out. Actually I thought I would have no problem letting them cry it out. Until the first night I let Isaac cry. He was about three months old and (as I said earlier) my heart broke into a million little pieces.
I literally said to Ben, “It is taking every ounce of self control not to go pick him up.”
But I didn’t and guess what, within ten minutes that boy was asleep. And he slept twelve hours straight.
I did not let my son scream and cry for ten minutes straight. That is not what my version of cry it out has looked like. There are layers to my version of the technique and it actually starts with you listening and learning from your baby.
Knowing Your Babies Cry
From day one, you need to be listening to your babies cry. If you pay close enough attention you will see that she has a different cry based on her need. Does she have gas? Is she hungry? Is there a poopy diaper? Or, is she just tired?
At first, there is just one cry, but your little one pretty quickly develops different sounds and levels of being upset.
So listen and learn.
Adelaide is just about eight weeks old now and there is a huge difference between her fussy cry and her “I need something” cry. She might be ahead of the game with this, but I can tell the difference and so can my husband. When she is just fussing at bedtime, I let her cry and wriggle around. Typically, after a few quick minutes of this “cry” my girl is fast asleep.
But , the other day, she was NOT settling down. She went from fussing to crying hard, so we went and got her. Her cry changed from being annoyed to being mad and upset. There was a moment where she went from three to ten, and we went and got her immediately. No, she didn’t actually need anything, she just wanted to fall asleep on my boob and that’s okay.
Isaac, my twenty month old, also has a fussy cry. When we put him down to bed he will sometimes cry for a few minutes before settling down. This cry is his “I don’t want to go to bed” cry and is typically over within three minutes. Sometimes it is longer, it really depends on how tired he is. The more tired he is, the longer he cries. BUT that boy loves his bed and will typically start talking to himself and his stuffed animals before falling asleep, thumb in his mouth.
At twenty weeks old, Isaac is sleeping through the night nine times out of ten without making a sound. There is the rare occassion, maybe once or twice a month, where he wakes up in the middle of the night. Most nights, he fusses and cries for a minute. Nothing loud or serious. He is usually quiet and back to sleep within three minutes.
Some nights, however, he wakes up and cries hard as soon as he wakes up. When I say listen and know your childs cry this is what I am talking about. Isaac woke up in the middle of the night three weeks ago, wailing. He NEVER cries like that in the middle of the night so I immediately jumped up and went to get him. Sure enough, he had peed through his diaper and his PJ pants were soaked. I changed him, and checked that the bedding wasn’t wet. We snuggled up in the rocking chair and five minutes later I was putting him back into the crib and he put himself back to sleep within minutess. Not a peep.
There was actually something wrong and Isaac told me. No, he can’t call out “mom I peed through my diaper!” but he can tell me by the sound and intensity of his cry.
So pay attention. Listen to your baby and learn what their cry means. That is the CORNERSTONE of this sleep training technique. You don’t want your little one screaming their head off for an hour. Which brings me to my next point.
Set a Timer
When you decide it is time for your baby to start learning how to self soothe and put themselves to sleep you need to set standards for yourself. It is going to be 100x harder on you than on your baby. MOST of the time, they are worked up because they are over tired.
With Isaac I really let him “cry it out” right around three months old. He had already been sleeping twelve hours straight for about two weeks. This let me know that he was sleeping great and was already self soothing via sucking his thumb. Now, it was time for him to start practicing going to sleep not attached to my boob.
That first night, as I let tears slide down my checks and busied myself with whatever I could, Ben and I set a timer for fifteen minutes. If he hadn’t relaxed and quieted down by the end of fifteen minutes, I would go nurse him in my rocking chair. That first night he was asleep way before the end of fifteen minutes. The second night, he had settled down a lot by the end of fifteen minutes but was still making a little bit of noise and squirming around. Both nights he fell asleep on his own and slept through the night.
Now, Adelaide is obviously not at the three-month mark, so what do we do with her? Right now she is still nursing herself to sleep, and I am totally fine with that. However, most nights at bedtime she wakes up when I transition her from my arms into the crib. Most nights, she fusses after this transition. She isn’t crying when she fusses, that is important. She is grunting and squirming around. I will let her do this for ten to fifteen minutes, depending on if she starts working up to a cry.
However, if she starts crying right after I put her down, I only give her a minute or two to try and settle down before I go get her again. When I do go get her, we sit right back down and I give her my breast.
The Toddler Cry It Out
To this day, when Isaac is really crying after we put him into bed, I keep an eye on the clock to see how long he is going. Fifteen minutes is still my sweet spot when I put him down to bed and he’s always quiet within that time frame. (unless we have people over, he gets mad that he is missing out).
In the middle of the night, I also do a clock check. In the middle of the night I keep things at five minutes. I do not want him to get himself so worked up that he won’t fall back to sleep. This five minute time frame is if he is working himself up. There have been times when he wakes up, fusses for a few minutes and then talks to himself for another five minutes. I don’t go get him in this case.
There have also been times when he wakes up and is already turned up to eleven, I don’t wait one minute on those nights.
Again, it is all about knowing your babies cry. I can typically tell when he is getting ready to calm down, so that is what I am looking for within this five minute window.
Keep to a Bedtime Routine
You will see this tip everywhere and from everyone. A bedtime routine (and time) is super important in the early months with a new born, in any sleep training method, and with a toddler.
When we are passed our typical bedtime, both Isaac and Adelaide have a much harder time going to sleep. Adelaide needs to be down by eight o’clock sharp to have a flawless bedtime. If not, we typically have a few rounds of nursing to sleep.
When we have kept Isaac up past his bedtime of 8:30-9:00, we spend extra time snuggling and reading books with him. And I am a lot easier on him with crying it out. If something has been weird with our routine (like the time we threw a Christmas Party and there were twenty people in our house at normal bedtime) I really don’t let him cry.
Your routine can be anything from bathtime to books or songs. For us, bedtime looks like a few minutes all four of us snuggled up in mommy and daddy’s bed, three books and into bed. Because that is what works for us!
Yes, my modified method is a branch of the Cry it Out Method. No, I do not think this is a new and genius concept. It is actually really simple at its core: know your baby’s cry and tend to their needs based on it.
It really is so important to help your baby learn to sleep, and really they do it all on their own. It is a learning process for both you and baby, and you might need to try out a few different methods as you go! There is nothing wrong with any method at all, I think it is important to reiterate that fact. The important thing is that baby and mama get sleep. A tired baby is not a fun baby. And no one likes a tired mama, especially not the mama!
So experiment. Do what’s right for you. Don’t judge other parents. And please, for the love of God, do not try and make anyone feel crappy about how they are parenting. That is the lowest form of low. If I let my baby cry it out, I am not abandoning them and shame on you for making me feel bad about it. If I formula feed my baby don’t come at me with breast is best or any of that shit. Motherhood is fucking hard, the least we can do is have each others backs!
Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk 😀