Cry It Out: Listen To Your Instincts
Deciding whether to let your infant cry it out can be confusing, but the best bet is listening to your own cries and parental instincts.
Parents get no sleep, or so the expectation goes. When you become a new parent, midnight hours of slumber become dreadful experiences of colic, feedings or anything but sleep. Throw in the fact that some parents can’t “take naps when baby does” because they have other children or work outside the home, and those early days of parenthood can sound like a nightmare. I get it—the whole experience is stressful enough to make a grown man cry. Even mine, but don’t tell him I told you.
If you’re so inclined to solve to this aged old dilemma, a plethora of books aim to cure this sleepless spell. Toting philosophies on infant development, rules on how to let your baby cry it out or normalizing behaviors that go against parental instincts. With so many authors claiming to know the secret to sleep, the whole thing can be rather confusing.
Especially after reading the article Why I No Longer Believe Babies Should Cry Themselves to Sleep, I started to wonder what this industry of parental advice was doing to our kids and our parental instincts in rearing them. The article explains how one medical professional went from advocating Ferber’s method of “sleep training”, which is basically ignoring your baby’s cry or commonly referred to as “crying it out”, and even practicing the method with his own children, to recanting his support because of supposed damage to an infant’s neurological development and long term emotional health. Wow. That’s a heavy burden for a doctor and father to bear, right?
Even more compelling is the article’s stories of women hiding in showers or stressing their fatigued bodies just to avoid hearing their infant’s cries. One elderly grandmother recalls the practice as “torture”. It is at this point that my own maternal instincts kick in and irritation starts to swell. Most all mothers want the best for their children; seeking advice from well respected professionals and trusted loved ones seems plausible. But when that advice goes against the very makeup of a mother’s core, I start to wonder whether book sales, or even sleep, are worth the culture of insecure parenting being created.
When my daughter was born, she slept like an average infant. She wasn’t an excellent sleeper, and because we breastfed, woke often trough the night. She napped, thank goodness, but I was tired nevertheless. I tried cry-it-out, on numerous occasions, and try as I might, that child screamed with everything in her little body. I was so tired, that one night I let her cry for over an hour. At the designated intervals, I walked in and tapped her back, which made the situation ten times worse. My husband and I fought the whole time. He cried, I cried, we all cried until finally I picked her up and soothed my horrified infant into a peaceful slumber. Three years later, my sweet girl is still the pinnacle of sensitivity. Unlike her younger brother who has taught himself to fall asleep, with help from modified cry-it-out principles, my oldest daughter continues to need significantly more cuddles at bedtime. My kids are innately different in personality; those differences are even visible in their sleep. While I challenge them to be their best, I accept my children for who they are and trust in my instincts to raise them.
I believe strongly in a mother’s ability to raise her kids. I believe that good parents know their kids best, including the ways to raise good sleepers. And while I have practiced cry-it-out in our home, I would never advise a mom to go against her own instincts to follow such practices. Now, at three years old, my oldest sleeps through the night, has been completely potty trained for a year and is a happy, thriving preschooler. My toddler is on his way to age appropriate developmental milestones, as well.
I can’t image what she would be like now, had I continued to force a sleeping training method that so obviously went against her basic needs.
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