Friday, October 18, 2013

thoughts on "crying it out"

"Crying it out" had gotten a bad rep. One friend recently posted on facebook: why would anyone let their baby cry it out? The response was: because you are desperate. And because it works, and the kids (and parents) finally sleep,

Oh, we are supposed to be all cuddly and lovey-dovey. All the time. Even when the kids would have deserved that smack on the behind (from the olden days). Even when we spent the whole day catering to everyone's needs and nobody bothered to ask, what do you need, Mom? Even when there has not been a good night of sleep in months and months, and no break,  we are supposed to be calm and patient saints. Yet, once you talk to these "saints" it becomes clear pretty quickly that they have a whole team behind them. Usually there is a husband with a flexible job, or a 9-to-5 job, home for dinner. Usually that said husband lets the mom sleep in in the morning, or gets her breakfast, or takes the kids out of the house for a couple hours. Usually there is some other adult doing some kind of other duty: regular babysitter, house cleaner, au pair, teenager. Then the mom gets to be all saintly, and radiate peace and calm in all those trying situations. Those tend to be the types who are oh-so-opposed to "crying it out".

My husband has not been home since yesterday's morning. First thing, 9 yo threw a fir about davening and life in general. We were late for a concert in Spivey Hall which 9 yo called babyish despite enjoying it. We were late to taekwondo because I tried bribing everyone with a run to Krispy Kreme, hoping to get a kvetchy baby extra twenty minutes of a nap in the moving car. Next thing I know, we are stuck in traffic, baby is yelling anyway, one kid is freaking out because I said we are only getting original glazed form a drive-thru, next kid is freaking out that we are late to taekwndo and we should just go home....

Then it is me, alone, sitting in taekwondo lounge with 3 yo and the baby. Then I have to serve dinner which at least one kid finds a fault with, then tuck everyone into bed, then make Shabbos. I managed to burn rice so thoroughly that the pot had to go in the garbage, not to mention that I had to cook rice again. Then I have to do at least basic straightening up. No other adult in sight, not till Friday afternoon.

Just as I am turning in, the baby is up. Paci is rejected, so I nurse and go to sleep. Then, an hour later, 3 yo is uncharacteristically up, crying. I go and say something to her or other, sorry, I'm a bit fuzzy on that, but she gets quiet. Then, just as I manage to fall asleep again, the baby is up again. No paci, I just nursed him, and he is screaming, and waking up 9 yo.

Oh, just shush, just let me sleep. Just somebody do something, anything, to get him quiet, and get me some sleep. Remember, my husband is not home, so there is no sleeping in in the morning, no way that I can make up this exhausting stretch. He is yelling, I am trying to alternate between a paci and nursing and a tight swaddle. That hard edge of despair is there. You want an emergency? This is it. Now I am remembering that they have those new parent hotlines, call any time of day or night. But at that moment of total despair, I was not thinking of that. I was thinking, just shush, shush already.

You know what? He was crying, I was crying. We were both crying it out. Am I not a person, too? Do I not deserve a bit of compassion? We would have all been better off if I would have just left him in his crib, crying, then race frantically from one corner of the room to another, clutching him. And it would have been better for all if I would have let him cry it out a month ago, and be sleeping through the night now.

I did "cry it out" with my oldest. It took one night, 40 minutes of crying (his and mine, in separate rooms), but that kid slept through the night ever since. He is the best sleeper out of all of them. I do not regret it, not one bit. If he's going to be in therapy, it will not be for this.

Do not throw suggestions at me, unless you are willing to be on my speed-dial and be summoned in the middle of the night to come and work your magic. Do not throw soothing words. They do not help when you get that desperate. When it gets to this point, you just need your sleep and sanity, and you need that kid to be quiet.

Hopefully, you will have your support team, and you can read this, shake your head at my "unenlightened" ways and say that nobody should get so cruel. Then you will send the kids out to your husband, go take your solitary morning walk, and complain how if only people were all a bit calmer, the world would be a better place.


  1. I'm sorry for those rough days -- I feel your pain. My husband is almost always gone as well and catering to children, without help, does take a toll. But I have to say that I support crying it out regardless of the amount of help or support the mother/parents have. I support crying it out because I honestly believe it is good for children. Over tired children cry. Period, end of story. Crying it out is the first healthy thing you can teach your child: how to fall asleep on your own. And by learning to put themselves to sleep your children will do so throughout their lives (my children have never fought bedtime, not once). Most important, they get enough sleep. This means: fewer behavior problems, fewer health problems, higher levels of self esteem, critical thinking, etc. Sleep is necessary, learning how to sleep is just as necessary.

  2. KB, I agree with you, but with some qualifications. I object to the term "crying it out" because it equates all kinds of crying as being equal. Mothers can learn the difference between cries from being overtired and cries from pain, etc. A breastfed newborn should never be left to cry it out, because they need to feed every few hours. Once a baby is older (the age depends on the individual child's maturity level), certain kinds of crying/whining can be safely ignored in order to train them to put themselves back to sleep.

  3. I don't think most people would judge you, and in fact NO ONE should. It is not anyone's place to judge another, no one knows what someone else is going for you. You have to do what you need to do to keep yourself healthy and happy, in mind and body. When I had only one baby and a husband who was home every night, I was still going crazy from the lack of sleep I got. He would wake up constantly and did not take a pacifier or any kind of soothing except Mommy! I let him cry it out and I was a much happier person. Good for you for knowing what you need to stay sane. I hope it works well, it is so worth it!

  4. I think people are idealistic about what moms say and don't say to one another. Truthfully, I feel more judged for not letting the baby cry it out, even though from time to time I do. But what you are describing is not true CIO. True CIO, is used from the start, not as a last resort. And there are times, the kid does just have to cry and learn to sooth themselves.