*the photo used for this post is not my baby.
This post is written from a gentle parenting perspective. I tried cry-it-out (sort of, not really) and it was not for me. If you have used CIO, I do not think less of you as a parent, and I hope you don’t think less of me because I don’t let my baby cry. We all try different things for different reasons with different results.
Shit has hit the fan with sleep. I was used to waking every hour at night with my almost 10 month old, but all of a sudden our once reliable naps became a battle, and our 15 minute bedtime routine reverted back to the 2 or 3 hour gong show it was when we hit the 4 month sleep regression. Well, less crying than before, more moving and whining. I get her to sleep by side lying nursing on a floor mattress or in a chair, and she has started getting up and crawling away. For every nap and bedtime. Relentlessly.
I move between bouncing, rocking, rocking her while standing while she nurses, laying with her, sitting with her, persevering in the dark room for an hour, giving up and going back downstairs to play for another hour and trying again… It is so much work to get her to sleep right now.
Last night I was entering hour 3 of this nightly battle and I had run out of comfort to give. My back hurt and I was sweaty, and I laid her in her crib to get a hold of myself. She started her slightly displeased little whimper. I knew she was physically fine (which isn’t always a given with our food allergy baby). I put my hand on her and sang her our lullaby. She shoved my hand aside and drown out my singing with loud, angry crying. I thought to myself, she’s physically fine right now, I’m right next to her, there’s no reason why she can’t settle down and come to realize she is perfectly ok. I waited. I stood there, shushing her, letting her cry.
I didn’t plan to try crying it out. There was no predetermined time that I was going to wait. There was no plan. I was tired, touched out, frustrated, and desperate.
She laid there for 10 minutes, screaming at me angrily, tears streaming down the sides of her face and pooling in her ears. I shushed her calmly the whole time. I stood next to her, reassuring her. She only got more and more angry. She was already almost 3 hours past her bedtime, remember, and extremely tired. By the time I caved and picked her up, she was brutally exhausted. She snuggled into my neck, her breathing still hiccuped from the crying, face wet, and promptly fell asleep.
All I wanted to do in that moment was hold her tight. I felt like I could hold her all night. I wanted to take her into my bed with me (but we’re trying not to resort to that…). I felt like what I had just done was pointless. Wasted tears. In the end, she didn’t learn that she could fall asleep in her crib. She learned that if she cries enough, mommy will eventually pick her up. I don’t understand the psychology behind controlled crying. True CIO, sure – the harsh reality is that the baby learns that no amount of crying will get them what they want, and the behaviour is extinguished. But with controlled crying, the baby should, from a behavioural psychology perspective, persevere. Cry for 10 minutes, get picked up. Cry for 20 minutes, get picked up. The baby gets the pattern that it takes longer each time and is willing to keep crying for 30 minutes the next time. I’m sure it has worked for some families, or it wouldn’t still be a thing. I just have no faith in it because I don’t understand it.
So that’s where I’m at with letting my baby cry after trying it one time, without a plan, out of desperation. I don’t understand it. It’s not for me. It made me feel yucky inside.
But I also needed that to remind myself why I get up with her every hour and why I don’t have evenings to myself (or with my wife) again right now. It’s worth it to me because of the value I place on always providing comfort to my baby when she asks for it. It’s not everyone’s parenting approach, but it’s passionately mine.