There are many different theories on sleep training and what method to use, who is the current expert, blah bitti blah blah. My husband and I finally decided to go to the dark side and try the "cry it out" method. Note: This is not for everyone and I don't want to see a hundred comments posted telling me I'm a bad mother so don't waste your time. Our decision was made out of a moment of weakness and frustration. And it is one of the hardest things we've ever had to do. I gladly admit as of a few months ago I was firmly on the "no way am I going to make my kid cry it out. That's insane. There has to be a better way." bandwagon, but we haven't found a better way.
For a little bit of background, my friend Anne has a sister, Rachel, who has two adorable kids. While I was pregnant, I babysat for Rachel and found it to be the easiest gig I've ever had. I went to their house and Rachel explained that her maybe ten-month-old (mommy brain fails me) daughter goes to bed at seven and her two-year-old son at eight. To put her daughter to bed, I just had to change her diaper, put on her pajamas, read her two books, set her in the crib, turn off the light, shut the door and walk away to go play games with her son. Too easy. To put her son to bed was a bit more difficult because I don't speak two-year-old. I changed his diaper, got him into pajamas, he brushed his teeth, and we read two books. Then he got into his crib and kept saying something like "I love knuckles". After about five minutes of him pointing, me feeling like the dumbest person on earth and handing him every toy in his room only to be told no as he shook his head and repeated "I love knuckles", I finally figured it out. He has this routine every night where he and his parents say "I love you", they hug, and then they knock knuckles (totally a guy thing - hence my complete lack of comprehension). Once I figured that out, he zipped up his crib cover - which prevents him from falling out as it is a dome like tent - and I headed out the door. But I was called back to rescue him as I had forgotten to close the blinds. So I shut the blinds and again shut the door. I was done. It was 8:15 at night and I was done babysitting. No crying. No fussing. Nada. It was awesome!
So the other night, my friend Anne was over for dinner and it was time to put Ada to bed. Rick and I had been doing the "feed her to sleep and hope that she doesn't wake up as we transfer her to the crib" method. And sometimes the "bounce her on my knee until she goes cross-eyed and passes out" method. And frequently the "rock the baby in your arms for an hour while bouncing up and down and swaying back and forth while saying 'Shhhh' and praying that your arms/back/hips don't give out" method. After several nights of exhaustion and a deep desire to spend more than five minutes of adult time with my husband, we were looking to try anything else. Anne suggested we try the cry it out method. She said it worked for her sister Rachel in about two days and the kids have been great ever since. "So that's her trick." I said. Hmmm. It sounded too good to be true. The theory was that we would listen to Ada cry for half an hour, two nights or so, then just lay her in the crib and she'd be trained to fall asleep on her own. Instantly we jumped on the idea. And thankfully Anne volunteered to sit and distract me while Ada cried for 25 minutes that night. It was tough but I did my best to stay strong and know that the result would be way better for us both in the end. I'm not saying it was easy by any means. But I'm still alive and that was a week ago.
At daycare on Wednesday they let her cry it out for 45 minutes and that was tough to take as a mom. I could just imagine my poor little Ada screaming for that long and it hurt. But at least she took a good nap at day care which has been a bit of a struggle for them to get her to sleep.
On Friday I mentioned to my friends at Mom Network that I was trying the cry it out method and it was working pretty well. I got a few weird looks and some comments about how it isn't for everyone, some babies don't deal with it well and freak out, and the long term effects of it haven't been studied. Which all made me doubt myself a bit and turned me into a bit of a psycho mom about it.
Now I'd be a complete liar if I said this was the best thing to do for every child and every mother. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a complete break down on Saturday while Rick was out running errands as I tried to get her to take a morning nap and she cried for what seemed like 45 minutes. But the result of her long crying stint and my long crying stint actually was a really good thing too. Rick came home early from running errands and we got to talk about how things were going and what we could do to make things run a little more smoothly. He also told me to stop doubting myself as a parent because I am doing a good job and this isn't going to scar her for life (take note men, supporting your wife is SO important and helpful and the number one cause for her not to completely go insane on you).
From our little talk on Saturday we decided to be consistent and be sure to always ask "Why?" whenever Ada is crying. Is she wet? hungry? gassy? tired? And we've identified the types of cries she has. As the 5 cries a baby makes were featured on Oprah, "Neh" means hungry. If she's wet or dirty her diaper will be the proof. If she's gassy, you might not know unless you listen for a fart, burp her, or push her legs up to her chest and try to wiggle something loose. And if she is tired, you need to watch for the signs. For Ada, rubbing her eyes, yawning, and a miserable whining cry means we're too late. She's overtired. But slowing down, losing focus, getting cuddly are all ways she's trying to say "Hey, I need a nap!". Knowing that now, we're settling into a routine of some sort. I watch for the signals, feed her, change her diaper and then lay her down with a kiss and shut the door to her room. Within minutes, she's done crying and fast asleep. The time she spends crying is less and less each time. And I've learned to take a shower, go to the back of the house, or call Rick while she cries it out. Her little voice tends to go in waves and the quite between the crying waves lengthens until eventually she is out cold. A beautiful thing.
Again, it isn't for everyone. But if you want to learn more you can try to read this book by Dr. Marc Weissbluth called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. At times the book is way too detailed but I think there are some good things to get out of it, too.
Moral of the story: Don't doubt your skills as a mother, do what you feel is right for your child, and most important of all is to be consistent in whatever you do.