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Shh, what's that I hear? Oh yeah, it's silence. She's been sleeping through the night since she was nine weeks old, and I'm pretty darn happy about that. But according to some folks, my approach to getting her to sleep, letting her cry it out, is downright evil.
Case in point: Recently I saw an article on The Stir called "6 Ways 'Crying It Out' Is Dangerous for Babies." I read the title of the post and thought, hmm, that's funny, because I let my baby cry it out, and she seems fine. She seems more than fine, actually; at nine-months-old, she is happy, thriving.
Then I read the article, and learned my baby was supposed to have a lower IQ, be tremendously stressed out, and whine constantly to get my attention, all because I let her cry at bedtime instead of picking her up right away. But this doesn't sound like my baby at all. Weird.
Let me tell you more about how we approached sleep with our baby. From day one, I allowed her to cry when I put her down for naps, and at bedtime. Gasp.;Relax, I only let her cry for a few minutes, and I was right there next to her bassinet the whole time.
The point of letting her cry was to see if she could calm down on her own. I figured if she was truly tired, she would go to sleep. If not, then okay. My ultimate goal was for her to learn to fall asleep on her own. Within a few months, we had reached that goal.
My daughter didn't really "cry it out" in the way you might be imagining - hours of wailing without a response from me. Instead, she cried for a period of less than ten minutes when she was placed in her crib to sleep. Soon, when I put her down to sleep, she didn't cry at all. She learned that it was time for bed, and I wasn't going to pick her up the second she made a peep in protest.
Now, sometimes she still cries for a few minutes, and I let her. I check on her often, but if she is safe, and not sick, I know the best thing for her, is sleep. If I were to go in her room, pick her up, and attempt to soothe her, I am prolonging the inevitable: It is time for bed.
I know all about prolonging sleep, because with my first two children, I picked them up as soon as they cried. I'd sing, rock them, walk around, try to feed them again. Then I'd repeat the process of placing them in their cribs, hearing them cry, and picking them again. After an hour of "putting them to bed," I'd wonder why on earth it took so long. Well, duh.
By baby #3, I knew that I wouldn't have time to go through this same routine, because I had two older kids to put to bed too. So I faced my fear of hearing my baby cry, because that is really what kept me from letting my other girls cry it out: my fear.
Yes, it was hard to hear my new baby cry. Yes, I felt guilty sometimes. But I held on to my belief that I was doing what was best for her, which is to instill good sleep habits in her, early.
Well, the proof is in the pudding, as she now goes down for naps, and at bedtime, with a smile on her face. She expects, and understands that sleeping is part of her day. She can be in her own room, independently, without feeling afraid or anxious. And I believe this is because I didn't pounce on her the second she cried.
Of course, I recognize that there is no one way to parent, and that babies are different. So to those moms who feel that crying it out is not a good choice, then, that's cool. But I have no regrets.
Photo credit: Flickr
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.