Until you’ve experienced true sleep deprivation, you have no idea just how debilitating it can be. It’s one of those things that seems like it’d be awful to deal with, but actually living it is another thing altogether. Sleep is an important bodily function. We need it to grow, to heal and to be rested enough to get through the day.
Babies, too, need sleep. That may seem like such an obvious statement but with some babies, it seems like sleep is just a passing fad during the day, something that they’ll get over in ten minutes and be ready for playtime again. At night, it’s worse. Just when you think you can reset your body, enjoy some slumber and recharge your batteries, your baby has other ideas. Parents will try just about everything to get their baby to sleep. Just about everything, that is, except crying it out.
What is ‘crying it out’?
This is a process recommended not only by some pediatricians and family doctors, but also by grandmothers the world over. ‘It worked in our day, it’ll work for you too,’ they’ll cluck. Basically, it means to let your baby cry until she falls asleep. Sounds simple enough, but instinctively, no parent likes to hear their child cry, and especially when it becomes inconsolable, or reaches the point of actually vomiting.
Why do it?
Some parents are lucky enough to have The Dream Baby, the child who sleeps through the night from about three weeks of age. Others are frantic on a nightly basis, constantly up and tending to their excessively demanding little one who seems to need nothing but her parents’ constant attention. Diaper checked; hunger ruled out; thirst quenched; diaper checked again. The night-time routine wears everyone out – including the baby. Crying it out is often considered a last resort, but often, parents will wish they’d done it a whole lot sooner!
How to do it
Discuss the process with your medical professional for greater reassurance, but in essence, it’s a matter of putting baby to bed with all the usual cuddles and kisses, turn down the lights and tuck her in. Chances are, she’ll be up and crying in minutes. Let her cry. It’s agonizing and heartbreaking hearing your child cry, yes, but if you persist and avoid going in to attend to her, eventually she will get the message that this is sleep time and that no more (unnecessary) attention will be forthcoming. You may have to endure this agony for hours on end the first night, and may have to repeat it for a second, third and even fourth night.
Is it cruel to let my baby cry it out?
Is it cruel to allow her to miss out on vital sleep? Look, it’s your job as a parent to ensure that all your baby’s needs are met. If you’ve tried everything else and she’s still raising havoc all night long, you simply must find a solution. Crying is not going to cause untold harm to your child. Some babies will cry to the point of throwing up, but this too is no cause for alarm. At such a young age, littlies have a rapid gag reflex. It doesn’t mean she’ll choke or pass out. Simply clean the crib, change your baby’s clothes and tuck her in again.
How long will it take?
It depends on your baby and how soon she learns that nighttime is sleep time. It could take one night; it could take four. If you have concerns, speak to your doctor.
When letting your baby cry it out, you must of course, be close by to keep an eye on her and make sure that she doesn’t come to any harm. But avoid going to her and consoling her as you will only undo the reason for her crying in the first place.
It’s normal to feel a horrible sense of guilt. As a Mom or Dad, you want to help your child when she’s upset, not prolong the cause. You also want to be done with the miserable disruption of the crying so that the house can return to some sense of normalcy. But hang in there. It’s a temporary situation that will result in a permanent solution.