Friday, December 16, 2011

Crying It Out

So, recently Psychology Today posted this article about crying it out and blames all sorts of adult mental health issues on parents who choose do follow Dr. Ferber's methods of what he calls "sleep training" and "self-soothing". I actually read a book called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child when Gage was first born - recommended by our pediatrician. So, needless to say, I have done my research and have my own "experiment" happily running around at home. Let me launch into what will probably make you mad.

I was really incensed by the article in Psychology Today, and was equally PLEASED with this article on Shine as a sort of response. One important thing to pull from this second article "Even Dr. Richard Ferber, whose sleep-training method is commonly called the Cry It Out Method, says that he never intended parents to completely ignore their babies nighttime tears."

There's a term called "gradual extinction" that is used in sleep training/self-soothing. It basically means that once your child is "of age" - let's say 6 months, just to be generous (The "Sleep Habits" book says you can start training around 4 months - gestationally - which means if your baby was born three weeks early, please add three weeks to the 16 week age of 4 months) - you can put them to bed, after a normal bedtime routine which should take about 30 minutes or what we called "bath, bottle, bedtime". You spend time prepping your baby for sleep. Turn down the lights, take them to their room, nurse/bottle feed them - make something thats personal to you and your child that helps them wind down for the day. We still do a routine - bath, cup of milk, read books, bed for Gage. He knows that its time to relax and get ready for sleep.

STEP 1: So, bedtime routine and then you lay them in their beds and tell them goodnight. Here's where your baby will likely start crying - after 5 minutes, you can return to their room, soothe them WITHOUT PICKING THEM UP. Rub their belly, or back or whatever. And, then leave. Maybe they'll cry again - this time wait 10 minutes. And, return to soothe, but without picking them up. Repeat the process adding 5 minutes each time. I can honestly say, it took less than a week to get Gage to go to sleep without crying.

STEP 2: During the night, your child will wake up. Just like adults do. We all have sleep patterns. You wake up, roll over, and go back to sleep, right?  If they're 6 months old and your pediatrician hasn't specifically told you to keep feeding your baby at night due to low weight, etc. then you will start training your baby to be able to accomplish that same task - roll over and go back to sleep. Step 2 can take more time than step 1, of course.

Each author (Ferber & Weissbluth) specifically points out the use of COMMON SENSE and something most moms have - Maternal Instinct. As a parent, you can tell the difference in your baby's cries. "Protest crying" is what they do when you put them to bed clean, fed and burped. You know if something is wrong with your kid and they're crying because they really need something. There's also references to sickness, changes like moving, vacation, etc. Nothing about parenting is black and white. But, somehow, people seem to think we mean to dump our kids in their bed and close the door, and go enjoy our lives (and sleep) til morning.

I hate the criticism that comes from parents who don't allow their children to sleep well and sleep enough. P.S. What kind of sex life do you really have if your kid keeps you up all the time, and/or sleeps in your bed all the time? Parenting is a huge responsibility, but so is balancing being a parent with being a spouse, being a friend, being a person.

My son is outgoing, independent, very smart, has a great memory, he's not anxious, he doesn't feel abandoned, and he's a great sleeper. Our relationship isn't lacking because I didn't get up with him every single time he cried over the last year and a half (presuming you started at 6 months) during the night. In fact, he's very affectionate and sweet. He plays by himself and with other children extremely well.

I won't take credit for everything - no, I firmly believe that the advice I received through the books I read helped me raise a child who is well-rested and will therefore NOT suffer from ADHD, social anxieties or require Prozac; at least not because he didn't get enough sleep, or because I "forced" him to self-soothe at an age appropriate stage. (Disclaimer - those are all symptoms/issues named by Darcia Narvaez in the Shine article)

And, guess what?! You may find this apalling, but I am having ANOTHER kid and I will do the EXACT same thing with him. You can thank me when my kid isn't screaming at the grocery store because he's tired. And you can be jealous that I get to sleep through the night too.


  1. I totally agree with you. We did the same thing with our boys. They are happy, healthy and well rested little guys. I read Healthy Sleep Habits too, as well as Sleeping Through The Night. We took aspects of crying it out and the "gradual extinction" and blended them together to basically create our own method that worked for our boys. Congrats on the new addition!

  2. I have to agree. Brandon was put on a strict sleep, eat play schedule from 2 weeks old. He slept 8 hour at 6 weeks, 12 hours shortly after that and goes to bed without a fuss. Everyone has always commented on how happy he is when he wakes up and easy to put to bed he is. Julie is the same way now. I recommend Babywise. Some people don't like it and accuse it of starving babies, but looking at my fat children that obviously is not the case. Don't be afraid to parent!