Rested Mamas Are Happy Mamas: Crying It Out
Crying it out. How do those three words make you feel? Some of you might read that and immediately cringe. Others of you may think, "That is literally the only thing that worked for us; I wished we would have tried it sooner." No matter what school of thought you are from, I think we are can all agree there is a time and place for allowing a child to "cry it out."
The thing that always gets me, and I'd like to clear up now, is when I hear someone say they don't use a schedule in their child's life because they don't agree with crying it out. Huh? Where did that come from? Although I can't answer that question, I'd like to assure you that a schedule does NOT mean you have to let your baby cry it out.
When putting a baby on a schedule, there is no "crying it out" rule, especially as a newborn! Babies need so little: sleep, food, clean diapers, and love! If they are crying, that usually means they need one of those few things. Now, when a child is older and waking up four times a night, this may be a time where you think "crying it out" might work for you. But, let me very clear on something: crying it out does not mean letting that child cry for hours on end. All it should mean is to let them cry a few more minutes than you normally do. It means don't run to your baby's side the minute they squeak. It means give your child a minute to self-soothe.
It is so important to help your children understand how to self-soothe. Why? If they always need you to help them feel better, how will they ever learn to cope without you? I mean, sure, some of us may want that forever (please don't let them grow up!), but I'm assuming having to soothe your 24-year-old every time they can't figure out a problem might get old pretty quickly. But, sometimes, letting a child cry a few minutes longer than you usually do, can mean the difference between getting a good night's rest and wanting to sleep all day long because you never sleep at night.
My friend had a son turning one. She had seen me post something about sleep and asked for some advice. We had to work through some logistics first: her son shared a room with her older daughter, and she was always afraid he would wake her up, so the moment he cried, she ran in. And the only thing that calmed him down? Feeding him. I assure you, unless your doctor tells you differently, a 1-year-old does not need to eat 2-4 times a night! You definitely should be getting way more sleep as a mama by the time your baby is one.
In this exact example, my advice to moms is to let that baby "cry it out" and he will be sleeping through the night in three days max. She moved her daughter into another room, and she let her son cry, instead of coming to get him the second he made a noise. To her surprise, her son cried for maybe ten minutes at most and went right back to sleep. It only took two nights, and he was sleeping through the night. He never had an issue again.
That is when I would say, yes, let your baby "cry it out" as long as you are aware of what this means. This does not mean wait for hours until your baby is so tired of crying that they put themselves to sleep. I'm sure we can all agree this is not healthy. If you know that your baby is just wanting his mama in the middle of the night and is not hungry, thirsty or in need of a diaper change, test it out. Let your baby cry a little bit. Set a time limit for yourself at which you'll go in and get him.
But mama, you know your baby better than anybody else. Sometimes it just takes the right tools to implement. If crying it out means something way scarier to you, and you couldn't even imagine ever letting your baby cry, by all means, do what works for you. But also remember, it's okay to try new things, and there may be something out there that works for your baby!
But definitely don't get scared if you want to try "crying it out." It doesn't have to mean anything scary or unhealthy. In fact, it's really too bad people think of this phrase in such bad light. So maybe we just need to rename it? How about "leaving baby alone for just a minute more than usual." Ha.
- Mama Jackie
*Sleep is essential. We need sleep to function, to take care of our children, to keep up on every single task life throws at us, to keep our sanity. Are you getting your eight hours or do you have a baby who is keeping you up? Let’s remedy that! In the “Rested Mamas are Happy Mamas” series of our blog, sleep expert Jackie calms all of your sleep woes. Have a question or problem that needs fixing? Comment on the series and Jackie will address your specific issue!*