Is it really so bad to let your baby cry it out? People debate this topic with fury. But I’m here to tell you, no matter how bad you may feel letting your precious angel cry, there may come a time when even you need to let them go on for a bit while you hide in the bathroom sobbing because there is nothing you can do to calm them.
That being said, what people are really talking about when they bring up letting your baby “cry it out” is sleep training. Some moms swear by it, and others think that it’s tantamount to child abuse.
But really, is it that bad to let your baby cry it out?
First let me say that I am no expert. I am not a pediatrician. I haven’t even done much research on this topic. But what I do have is experience raising five babies. Each one was different, and each one had varying sleep challenges, but all of them had to cry it out a little at some point. I had no other choice if I wanted to save my sanity.
Having a baby cry it out is really not as bad as it sounds.
People who are adamantly against it may think that sleep training your baby means that you leave them alone in their crib in the dark and let them cry and cry all night long in the hope that they will learn to live without your comfort and never need you again. But this simply isn’t the case.
When we’ve sleep trained our babies, we adapted the Ferber method of baby sleep training, which I know from experience, works. It works to varying degrees for different babies, but it sure does work. It’s difficult for a day or two, but well worth it. And it’s not as mean as you may think.
Don’t start too early.
First of all, it’s not recommended that you even THINK about sleep training your baby until they are at least four to six months old, and they may not even be ready then. Babies who need to eat a lot in the middle of the night need you to come get them when they wake up. It’s just common sense, but it needs to be made clear that people who sleep train their babies aren’t (at least they shouldn’t be) ignoring their starving newborns.
The idea is that when your baby is old enough to eat less at night, they can be weaned away from needing you (or a bottle) at night for comfort.
Don’t let them cry very long.
With the Ferber method, you put your baby down in their crib when they are awake but tried, nice and fed, clean, changed, and comfortable. You lay them in there, and leave them alone. They will probably cry, but you only wait a few minutes before going back in to reassure them. Then you keep going back in every few minutes, while increasing the amount of time between reassurances. Eventually they will fall asleep and after a couple of nights of doing this, your baby will fall asleep more and more quickly each night. In my experience, the first night seems to take forever, and the second night takes almost no time at all. After that, the baby is fine falling asleep on his own.
There’s more than one benefit to this. For one, you don’t have to go through a whole song and dance (sometimes literally) to get your baby to sleep at night. Another is that you have taught them to fall asleep on their own so when they wake up at night (which all people do) they can go back to sleep on their own.
They can learn to comfort themselves.
The idea is that babies can learn to comfort themselves when you’re not around to do it. This is actually really healthy for them to do. It helps them develop coping skills for when you’re not around. And it can save you from getting up again and again in the middle of the night.
Some babies prefer to sleep alone (my firstborn) and some prefer to never be left alone (my third). Most fall somewhere in between. But for each of my kids, we tried this method of sleep training at one point or another. Sometimes later than others. Sometimes they caught on within minutes on the first day, and other times it took hours of reassurances. But no matter how you do it, the important thing is to do what you are comfortable with. You should always adapt any advice to your own needs. And only try out advice that resonates with you. Maybe you don’t want to sleep train and you want to cosleep. You do what’s best for you and your baby. But if you’re afraid to let your baby cry it out because you feel like it’s too mean, just rest assured, it’s not as bad as it sounds.