Cry it out is probably the most controversial sleep training method of all time. Some swear by it, others claim it can do lasting damage to your child and is the reason we are a “Prozac nation”. The arguments get heated because nobody wants to be called a bad parent and judged, despite the fact that judging other parents seems to be what many parents do best.
I will admit it, we sleep-trained my daughter. Delilah was born in early October and for the first two weeks everything was blissful. She slept like a champ, basically anywhere, and I remember talking to our pediatrician at her two-week appointment and saying how easy a baby she was. He chuckled knowingly and replied that in a few weeks she was going to get a lot more exciting.
He was right.
When Little D was about eight weeks old she started having sleep issues. No longer did she snooze for 4-6 hour blocks at night, now she wanted to stay up, and her sleep times dropped to less than an hour. Napping was even worse (though completely normal) she would only nap for about 20 minute periods. But she is a breastfed baby and newborns have weird sleep so we slogged through it with nary a complaint (OK so maybe nary isn’t the best word. Many might be a better choice). But by four months, things were getting overwhelming.
We tried putting her in a swing to sleep – She hated it
We tried co-sleeping – She hated it
We tried rocking her to sleep – Works great until mom falls asleep hanging over the side of the bed and the rocking stops
I tried the no-cry sleep solution – The parent who manages to put their baby down awake and the baby doesn’t cry sounds pretty rare to me. Like unicorn rare. And let me tell you, picking them back up and then putting them down again doesn’t change how they feel about being put down.
We tried swaddling and a pacifier – She liked them, but they wouldn’t put her to sleep on their own
We tried the Woombie and Swaddleme when she stopped wanting to be swaddled – She hated them too
We tried bouncing on my birthing ball – It worked! In like five minutes!! How fantastic was that?!! I was thrilled and proud of myself. I didn’t realize I was setting myself up for miserable failure down the road.
By the time Delilah was four months old she could ONLY fall asleep while being bounced on the ball, and the older she got the longer she needed us to bounce. I had unknowingly sleep trained her to need the ball, the pacifier, and the swaddle, although now she hated the swaddle so we would wrap her loosely – but not too loose by god or you’ll feel the wrath of little D! Even worse she would spit her pacifier out every 15 minutes and wake up and scream for mama and dada to replace it.
I pondered taping it to her face more than once.
Delilah had become completely dependent on me to put her asleep and keep her asleep. Suffice to say NONE of us were getting any sleep, and Delilah least of all. She was constantly cranky and overtired, and I was ill equipped to deal with her meltdowns because of my own fatigue. My husband walked into our bedroom one Saturday to find little D on the bed screaming and me on the floor sobbing. “What just happened?” He asked. I explained to him that on her third meltdown today I had felt regret. Regret for having my precious daughter. The daughter I loved more than anything else in this world. The immediate guilt was overwhelming and left me in a sobbing pile on the floor. This was not working, this was not me being the best mother I could be. Something had to change.
My husband had suggested cry it out more than once, but I was always resistant. Listening to Delilah cry made me want to blow my brains out. Any mother knows this. But at this point bedtime had become a three hour ordeal of Little D waking every fifteen minutes before finally having a meltdown in my arms because she was so tired and passing out late in the evening. So basically we were doing CIO already, just without her learning to fall asleep on her own. My husband said if she was going to cry anyway, she may as well do it in the crib and learn to sleep at the same time. Our pediatrician agreed.
I’m not going to say it wasn’t hard. There was a lot of crying the first couple days. Both by Delilah and myself. I drank a lot of wine and played a lot of video games with my headphones on and the sound turned up to hearing-damaging levels. But the amount she cried (before naps and at night) decreased by over an hour each day for the first three days. By day four she fussed 10 minutes before bed. By day nine she fussed for 2. It’s been almost two weeks and she still has her good and bad days. We’ve also encountered an extinction burst, which is apparently a thing I will be dealing with for years to come as a parent. But Baby D has learned to fall asleep by herself. Does she want me to put her in the crib at night? Not really. She WANTS me to hold her all night. But she’s learned to fall asleep after a small amount of grumbling. More often than not she wakes in the morning and burbles and coos instead of crying for fatigue. Sometimes before naps she’ll babble herself to sleep. She’s a more rested and happier baby, and I’m a more capable mother. Was all the crying worth it? Yes. Would I do it again with a second baby? Only if I ABSOLUTELY had to.
With all that being said, I’ve encountered my fair share (although honestly less than most) of judgement and criticism for choosing CIO for my daughter. Some people just don’t think before they speak. So I’ve included a helpful list here of things you should never say to a CIO mom. Ever. EH-VER!
1. You’re a bad parent.
Gee thanks, tell me how you really feel. Choosing CIO doesn’t make a parent bad anymore than rocking your baby to sleep at night makes a parent good. Parenting is not the sum of sleep training styles. Not to mention that every baby is different and what one set of parents chooses will not work for others. Also, CIO parents are not storybook villains who bring their babies home from the hospital gleefully giggling about how in X number of months they’re going to let them cry themselves to sleep. No parent has that plan. Parents who choose CIO do so because they realize that chronic sleep deprivation of the whole family is causing damage and that more gentle methods of sleep training are not working. That doesn’t make them bad parents, but you judging them does make you an asshole.
2. It doesn’t work.
I mentioned something about about how all babies are different so CIO will work for one and may not for another. But if a parent is at the end of their rope dealing with a chronically overtired infant, saying that their possible only hope to get some rest isn’t going to work isn’t exactly helpful, yanowadimean??
3. Have you tried…
Yes. I have tried it all. CIO was NOT on the top of my lets-try-this-to-get-baby-to-sleep list. It was in fact, at the bottom.
4. CIO damages your child.
You know I feel like maybe…possibly…parents would have consulted their pediatrician along with Dr. Google on whether CIO would irreparably damage their child BEFORE doing it. I just feel like maybe most parents actually care enough about their kids to make sure they are not irrevocably harming them by accident. Oh wait. They do. And the American Academy of Pediatrics has this to say.
5. There was this study on babies’ cortisol levels…
You mean the study with no control group where babies were taken from their mothers by a stranger and put down to sleep in a strange place? That cortisol study? The flaws with that study are many, read about it here.
6. And another one on rats…
Please explain to me how rat licking behavior applies to my human baby’s sleep problems.
7. Only lazy parents choose CIO, it’s the easy way out.
I would have happily gone through labor a second time (and Little D’s birth was un-medicated) to not have to do CIO. HAPPILY. Parents who choose CIO are choosing it because they have no other option. Listening to your child cry is not easy. In fact, it really fucking sucks! If CIO isn’t hard mode in your mind then you’re playing the wrong game.
8. CIO will destroy your relationship with your child.
Honestly this one is just awful. I admit, despite the overwhelming evidence that CIO does not emotionally damage babies, I was on alert for any sign from Baby D that she loved me less because of it. It was my greatest fear. But the truth is that you are your baby’s whole world, and you are teaching them that this is how we sleep at night. They don’t lie there thinking about how much they hate you for leaving them, that’s not how babies think. Yes, they want their mother to come back, but they learn that mom goes away at night and baby goes to sleep, and that’s how the world works. How they feel about mom doesn’t even come into the situation. Again, reference the AAP study above.
9. I’ve never done CIO and never will.
That is fantastic. I am legitimately happy for you and your baby that you have never had to do CIO. I’m really jealous too. I will also point out that if you’ve never even had to consider it, you have NO IDEA what i’m going through and therefore your opinion means absolutely zilch.
Did you face judgment on your sleep training choice, crying or not? Comment below! Please keep in mind rude and judgmental comments will be deleted, if you want to know why please refer to the list above.
*Note, this is a photo from google, not Baby D. I promise.