Since when have we become so sensitive to the idea of allowing our children to cry?
I get it, it pains me to hear my son upset but there are times where it’s not so bad for him to cry it out. For example, it is possible for me to take a shower, heat up leftovers, or make myself a cup of coffee – if he cries for a few minutes no harm done. But, when it comes to sleep training many mothers have a wide spectrum of opinions to which one should go about it and for us, the decision wasn’t all that difficult.
Getting my son to sleep during the night was one of the biggest milestones my husband and I were most looking forward to. This is because not only would it benefit my son, but it would for sure be beneficial to us as well. Even though we are still in the ‘training’ phase of things, I couldn’t be happier with the results I’ve seen and the sleep my husband and I are now able to enjoy – let alone just the personal space we’ve regained since moving him to his own crib.
The Controversy: Crying It Out
Crying it out simply refers to a child being allowed to cry for a designated amount of time before a parent/caregiver intervenes with comfort to soothe the child. This happens in cycles and with each passing cycle the child begins to calm him/herself on their own and thus falls asleep over time with little intervention from mom or dad.
This is the approach my husband and I are taking in getting our three month old to sleep each night and we don’t feel bad about it or fear that he’ll be scarred for the rest of his life. There are all kinds of reports and studies out there to prove both sides of the coin, and today I’m not disputing (or judging) either side. When it comes to parenting one must make decisions (and stand by them) that fits the needs of their families without feeling shame or judgement from others – and for us it’s allowing our son to cry in order to help him learn to soothe himself to sleep and break early sleeping habits such as having to nurse or rock him to sleep.
Personally, one thing I refuse to endorse is a toddler who can only sleep in our bed, fall asleep on our chests or being held, needing to have either one of us in his room to fall asleep, or the many other ridiculous things parents do to get their kids to sleep at night. Don’t misunderstand: I love my son to pieces and I would love nothing more than to hold him while he sleeps, and I do, but it’s not at bedtime. Setting clear routines, especially at night, has helped us in our efforts to get Greyson to sleep soundly each and every night without us having to keep up what we were doing when he was just a newborn. Those days are over and yes, even at three months old.
It’s important for us parents to realize that we need to adapt to our kids as they grow. Their needs change over time and it’s up to us, the adults, to know what is appropriate at each stage in their development. For my husband and I we chose the cry it out method to sleep training and here is our story.
The first night…
I kind of sprung sleep training Greyson on both him and my husband and if I could go back and do it over I would – I would emotionally prepare my husband at least. One night during the week I found myself getting irritated that for three nights in a row Greyson would just fuss for no reason at bedtime and I found myself bent over him in his bassinet trying to soothe him enough so he would drift to sleep or sleepily huddled over with my arm over his bed trying to keep his pacifier in his mouth as he shook his head from side to side. I knew this wasn’t working and I needed to remedy this now otherwise we’d be those parents with a toddler not sleeping through the night and I refused to let that happen. So, for the first time we had to put our big parenting pants on, somehow push through as a united front, and get our baby to begin soothing himself to sleep.
Like we expected we put him into his crib, nice and swaddled up with his favorite pacifier, and the moment he hit the mattress he began wailing and screaming. Of course our parental instinct was to want to pick him up, but I told my husband that based on what I read, we had to push through for at least five minutes before going in and comforting him. I swear that was the longest five minutes of our lives. Finally, after our five minute wait, my husband approached his crib and, only talking to him, reassuring him that all was well. We repeated this for about 3-4 cycles before Greyson started getting tired from his screaming and fell asleep on his own. He slept 7 straight hours that first night.
It’s no secret that babies and children crave routine and the sooner we established one the better off everyone in the house was. Since beginning our sleep training, Greyson can now expect to be sleeping in his own crib and to not expect to: be picked up, sleep on our chests, or have us stay in the room with him. Now that he’s aware of this new routine, he goes down with very little of a fight and ends up sleeping harder and longer than he ever did.
The last few nights we simply repeat our routine: beginning with a warm bath, then changed and dressed him in his Halo sleep sack with his Owlet monitor on. I fed him until he was quite full, held him for a moment so he’d drift to sleep, then place him in his crib for bed. Sometimes he would just go right to sleep after that or other nights he would wake himself up and so the five minute timer would begin. At first he’d cry pretty hard, but being strong about waiting has really helped Greyson cry it out and make himself tired in the process. Nowadays he doesn’t even cry, more of just loud fussing, and it only takes us checking on him about once or twice before he’s sound asleep on his own.
Looking back at where we started only about a week ago and seeing that it only took him about three nights to soothe himself to sleep, it reaffirms that this method works wonders without stressing him out, leaving us feeling like bad parents, or risking any harm to his emotional development. The kid has simply learned, with our guidance, how to take that first step towards independence but in a comfortable and reassuring environment.
Crying it out doesn’t have to be this painful process that some describe it is and it can be successful to have your infant sleeping through the night.
Our Keys To Success:
The key to successfully sleep training your baby, no matter what approach you take, is consistency and you and your spouse being on the same page. It’s difficult to listen to Greyson cry since we both know he wants us, but being strong and on the same page has allowed Greyson to learn a bit of independence and being reassured in himself to find the comfort he wants.
Communication and education were two other keys to our success. We first needed to research and educate ourselves on common sleep practices and try different things to see what worked for Greyson. Then, talking about our plan and making sure we were both on board with the approach helped keep us a united front, but also be very clear about our expectations when dealing with Greyson and his crying.
If my husband had it his way he’d be in there with Greyson the moment he’d start crying simply because he wants to comfort him – but doing so wouldn’t allow him the chance to learn to soothe himself and we don’t want to rob him of that opportunity because of our own emotions.
Tips That Helped Us:
Mommy’s Scent: babies know when mom is around because of their strong sense of smell. I began nursing with a lovey tucked between us and even wear it in my bra when he doesn’t have it (it sounds weird, I know) and all these things help put my scent onto it, which I then place in his crib with him so he associates his crib with a comforting smell. This has really helped him transfer comfort from needing me to needing his lovey in bed with him in order to fall asleep.
A year later he’s developed a strong connection to his blanket and we are sure to always have it in his bed when going to sleep. Pay attention to what your baby is attached to that soothes them and roll with it!
Sleep Sacks Or Suits: I love our Halo Sleep Sack (and have heard amazing things about the Merlin Sleep Suit) because it keeps him warm and bundled up with the easy velcro wrap. I don’t tightly swaddle him anymore since he likes his arms free, but I do tuck them in at night so his arms don’t get cold (which could also be something that wakes him up).
A Sound Machine: this one is optional (my husband doesn’t completely love it since he doesn’t want him to become dependent on it to fall asleep), but helps him drift off. We use the heartbeat or waves sound and I like ours because after 30 minutes or so it slowly turns off. So, it’s kind of a win, win for us since it doesn’t play all night long.
As a one year old, Greyson has a mobile that turns off automatically within 30 minutes. It’s a great signal to him that it’s nap or bedtime and is a part of our routine.
Owlet Baby Monitor: I can’t say enough about this little device because it’s something I use each and every night – especially since he’s not sleeping in the room with us anymore. Talk about piece of mind! If you don’t have one yet, I highly recommend it as it’s given us peace of mind that he’s breathing and will notify us if anything is wrong without us having to get up and check on him every five seconds.
Notify any close neighbors: since we live in an apartment where we share walls with neighbors it’s important we notify them that we are beginning to sleep train our son with crying it out and to ask for their patience during this time. It may not be happy news for them but at least we gave them the courtesy of letting them know.
What are your thoughts on sleep training or crying it out?
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