There are many different nighttime parenting styles and techniques espoused by parents and experts, but they all boil down to one of two basic styles: the cry it out method and the active parenting method. And, frankly, the fact that enough parents exist to make the arguments for both sides is proof positive that babies survive and thrive regardless of which method you choose.
Of course, when your baby is first born, you should absolutely not allow them to simply “cry it out.” For the first four months or so of baby’s life, she needs to eat every two to four hours. Her little tummy can’t hold enough formula or breast milk to keep her satisfied throughout the night, and she is waking up because she is hungry. During this part of her life, when she cries, get up and feed her.
However, once babies reach four or five months, they are generally able to eat enough to have satisfied tummies for five to six hours at a time. Many parents also start giving baby some solid foods at this time, which can help baby sleep for longer periods as well.
When babies reach this point, you have a decision to make about how you are going to handle night time parenting. Do you want to get up with baby every time she cries, or do you want to let her learn to soothe herself?
There are strong feelings on both sides of this issue. Some people feel that you will damage your child emotionally if you allow her to cry without tending to her needs immediately. Others feel that your child will remain overly dependant later in life if she doesn’t learn to soothe herself. However, there really isn’t any definitive research to back up either claim. The fact remains that babies can and do make it through either parenting style without having major problems later in life.
If you do decide to let baby cry it out, the best way to go about it is to ease baby into the process gradually. Don’t just decide one night that you’re going to let her cry it out no matter how long it takes. Set a time limit. Two minutes is a good time limit when you are first teaching her to soothe herself back to sleep. After baby has cried for two minutes, go ahead and comfort her. Gradually increase the time limit until you find that baby is able to soothe herself back to sleep.
If, on the other hand, you choose to attend to your baby every time she cries, prepare yourself to be tending to her during the night time for at least the first couple years of her life. There’s nothing wrong with this, and it won’t harm you or your child, other than perhaps costing you some sleep. In the end, it’s up to you as a parent to decide which nighttime parenting style is right for you and your baby.