This isn’t meant to judge any of you who do practice the Cry It Out (CIO) method, it’s to give you a look into why we do not. And don’t worry – this will be long.
It’ 11 pm and a little boy is laying in dark room whimpering.
He looks to be about 6 or 7 and you can see him shifting about in his bed and you can tell that he’s about to wake up. The whimpering gets louder and the boy wakes up. It’s dark and he is alone and scared in his room. He wants his mother or father but he has no way of getting them. He can’t leave his bed so he can’t walk to them. The whimpering is slowly turning into soft crying. He just wants someone to come and tell him that it’s ok, it was just a dream, he isn’t alone. He wants someone to come and give him something to eat to take care of these hunger pangs that were bad enough to wake him up. He wants someone to come soothe this pain he is feeling through his whole body.
His crying gets louder and louder, progressing to wails and screams. Still nobody comes to him. All he wants is someone to come to him and make it better.
Downstairs his mother looks up to the ceiling with a weary look and then turns to her husband, “He’s at it again.” Her husband sighs, looks up at the ceiling, looks at the clock, and then turns back to the TV and turns it up. “Well, he’ll stop in a little bit, if you go and get him now you’ll just be spoiling him and he’ll never learn to comfort himself.”
If you read that in a book, or saw it in a movie, or even on the news you would probably think that the were neglecting that child. That it was evil or at least wrong of them to leave a crying CHILD alone locked away in a dark room. Yet, people tell parents to do that to their babies every day, and because they are just babies it’s ok. They get told that they will be spoiling their babies if they go to them, they need to learn to self soothe, they need to learn that after bedtime it’s mommy-daddy time.
When Zach was younger he suffered from night terrors from almost as soon as he was born. I don’t mean like once every so often. I mean three to four a week until he was almost two, and then weekly until he was three, then once or twice a month when he hit four. To say it was rough is to put it too mildly. There was nothing that we could do about them, so my mother always told me to just put on my headphones and to try to tune it out. I listened to her. I hated it, but I listened to her. And every time she was gone during his bedtime I always went right to him if he started crying.
One night when he was about 4 months old he started crying not long after we put him to bed. Like full on crying and wailing. My mom insisted that since he had just been changed, just been fed, and had everything taken care of that he could possibly need, that I should just ignore it. After about 5 minutes I snuck into my room to see about calming him down. What I saw left me feeling horrified and to this day I feel guilty over it. A piece that held his mattress had broken and his mattress had tilted to such an angle that he had rolled off of his mattress, through the break, and was trapped on the floor under the crib. There had been no loud noise from the break, just some piece had worn out, and there had been no noise from his fall. Just his crying. His crying that I had been told to just ignore.
Thankfully, other than a minor scrape and a small bruise he was fine, I on the other hand was not. Not only did we do away with the crib, I refused to even get another one until he was over a year old. He either slept in bed with me or in his pack and play.
After that night I never left my children crying in bed not for any length of time at all. Not even for all of those years and nights of Zach suffering through night terrors. Always I was right there with him, and after we were married, so was John. We sat up with him rubbing his back and singing to him through them. We rocked and I nursed or gave them a bottle to get them to sleep. Or if needed, we laid down with them in bed or on the couch until they were deeply enough asleep to move them.
I was told sometime when Bella was little that we were just lucky because we had great sleepers, and I won’t lie, we did. The older three were all sleeping through the night almost immediately. Bedtimes and naptimes when they were babies and toddlers was a breeze. I was regularly told if my kids weren’t sleep freaks I wouldn’t feel so anti-CIO and I wouldn’t baby them to sleep so much.
Now we have Mason, who is a notoriously HORRIBLE sleeper. He’s two and still does not sleep through the night. He will not just lay down and go to sleep at bedtime or naptime, but requires me either letting him nurse himself to sleep or that I pat his back until he is asleep. Failure to do so results in meltdowns. The funny thing is though, our views on CIO haven’t changed at all. We still don’t do it. Sometimes getting that boy to sleep is so arduous that I end up falling asleep also. It won’t be this way forever – despite what some people would have us believe. Even now he’s progressed at bedtime to just nursing for a few minutes, getting his back patted for a few minutes, and then I get up and tell him goodnight before he’s even asleep. He might get up for a minute or two and yell at me to come back here through the bedroom door, but that’s all, and eventually, he puts himself back to bed and goes to sleep.
We did decide one night to give CIO another shot. Not even the full on CIO that I know some do where you don’t go in at all. I gave him five minutes. Five minutes of crying that broke my heart. Then I went in patted his back, told him goodnight and walked out again. We repeated this for an hour. Never again. It’d have been easier and less time consuming and less heartbreaking just to do our usual routine. And as he is two, and very vocal, we knew that he didn’t “need” anything. He just needed me. So I don’t see how someone could do that to a baby when you have no real idea what could be wrong or needed. It just seems mean.