How to (re)do Cry It Out

I can’t believe I’m back here again. Especially because I don’t 100% believe in letting a baby cry to “learn” to sleep. But here I am, on day 3. How did I even get here?

I wrote before about the first time we did Cry It Out (CIO) for sleep training T. It worked so fast it was almost hard to find fault in the method…almost. But then it failed. No one would let a sick or teething baby cry at night, so all of that peaceful sleeping went out the window. So why would I try this method again?

I’m sharing my reasoning and experience so that you, mama, might find solace if you’re going through the same. I’d never try to convince you to try this method, because it is definitely not for everyone. There are many moms who don’t agree with this method, and I totally understand. I can say that I have a foot in that pool as well.

4-21-17 How to (re)do Cry It Out cover

What the hell happened?

We were going through hell at night. Night wakings occurred about every two hours. A quick cuddle or breastfeed wouldn’t always get him back to sleep, sometimes we were up for an hour at a time. My husband would take the first half of the night, and I the second, so that at least we could each get a little bit more sleep—although the crying would wake us up regardless. Whatever bug T and I had lasted so long I didn’t think I could make it. I was getting delirious from sleep deprivation. Adding new teeth to the mix just prolonged the episode. Until T was better, we were helpless. It was all I could do to just survive at this point.

My husband and I discussed at length what the next steps would be. I did even more research than before, reading both professional opinions and sleep consultant websites, books, and talking to many moms who used all different kinds of methods. In our several visits to the doctors, I also asked for their opinions on sleep. The answer stayed the same: “There is no solid evidence definitely for or against the Cry It Out method.” I double checked—no matter what side of the fence you were on, you could find professional research to support your stance. I was leaning towards the camp that said that letting a baby cry was learned helplessness (basically giving up) and not teaching them anything about self-soothing.

Finally, the baby got better. There were no new signs of teeth. I really didn’t want to do Cry It Out again, because frankly I wasn’t even sure it would work again. One doctor said it was normal to have to do a “refresher” after things like illness or travel, but I remained skeptical. The lack of sleep was taking its toll on everyone, though. I was anxious and feeling depressed, the baby had more fussy hours, and my husband was just as tired. Finally, finally, the baby started dropping night wakings. All through the week he would drop a wake until we got to one blissful night of one wake. It was like the clouds had opened and showered me in warm fuzzies and glitter. I was cautiously optimistic—would this be it?

He’s up again…

That was short lived. The glitter was scratching my eyes up anyway. The next night T was up every hour, sometimes even less. The night after that he woke up four times within the hour after going to bed. With everyone at the end of their frayed ropes, we started Cry It Out…again. Since T is just a few months away from being a year old, the research I had done/what other parents said suggested that the “crying” intervals be longer than they had when we started the first time. We started at 20 minutes, then my husband went to check on him. Wow did that piss Baby T off. He wasn’t that upset before, but the check-in actually made it worse. Since T was cycling between complaining crying and silent sitting, we decided to let him be. It wasn’t going as bad as I had expected (not that an upset baby is ever easy). The first night took 50 minutes by himself to settle down. The second night: a little over an hour. The third? Ten to fifteen minutes. I’m as baffled as you might be reading that, but yes, somehow by some sprinkley, air-borne magic he settled down quickly with hardly a protest.

“Oh fuck what time is it?” — Night wakings

The first two nights T only had one night waking each. It was such vast improvement so quickly it really is hard to hate the method. We let him complain for five minutes to see if he’d settle down (he didn’t), then I went in for a quick change and feed. All business, no rocking or singing or anything, then straight back to bed. He woke back up when I put him down. The first night he cycled for an hour. The second: 5-10 minutes. I’ll let you know how tonight goes…

So am I permanently damaging my kid or what?

That’s the real question, and it depends on who you ask. Although I don’t like the method, we didn’t implement gentle sleep training methods early enough in T’s life so here we are, and we have to deal with it the best way possible. This is how I justify putting all of us through the ordeal:

  1. It’s fast. I don’t know why CIO works as fast as it does, but it does. This means minimal upset for a very short length of time.
  2. It’s working. Because T isn’t full-fledged crying his little eyes out, I can (kind of) handle it. If he was tears-streaming, hiccupping sobbing, I might be writing a different post. Because he is older and cycling with quiet periods where he is clearly settling himself down with his lovey or feeling his sleep-sack fabric, I feel a teensy bit better about the process.
  3. Everyone is getting more sleep i.e. is feeling/functioning better. When we were all sleep deprived it showed. As much as his crying sucks, it doesn’t seem fair to subject a baby to sleep deprivation that is affecting his daytime mood and capabilities as well. One of my books said that it is just as important to preserve an infant’s sleep as it is to care for his other basic needs, which I can agree with.
  4. I’m not setting the stage for a dictatorship. At some point, a parent cannot let the child dictate what happens when and give in to cries and protest. If a child throws a temper tantrum over brushing his teeth or taking a bath, do you give in and say “Okay, you never have to.” No, obviously, you don’t. What is the line between nurturing versus teaching when it comes to sleep? I don’t know, but at this point in time the line for making bedtime bedtime for this family is now.
  5. The sleep crutches have to be broken sometime. I tried the gentle methods of breaking T’s bad sleep habits (breastfeeding, rocking, singing, holding, etc) and they didn’t work. Going cold turkey is definitely harsh, but I make up for all of the above during the day when it counts most.

And most importantly….

  1. It is what is right for our family right now. I could absolutely be singing a different tune by next week. Maybe things all fall apart this weekend. Maybe it all backfires. Maybe it actually works this time. I honestly don’t know. The only thing I know is that fragmented sleep wasn’t working for anyone, so something had to be done. This is the something we chose. It may or may not be right for your family, but only you can decide that. I encourage you to do your research, talk to your doctor, and make an educated decision that works for all of your family. The only other thing I can say is

Good luck. Sleep training fucking sucks.

3 thoughts on “How to (re)do Cry It Out

  1. We tried CIO with our eldest after months of sleep deprivation and gentler methods, but it didn’t work. He finally started sleeping better when he was old enough to understand a rewards chart. When his brother came along, after 5 months with very little sleep, we tried CIO with him. It took ages to work and he also did better if we didn’t check on him (we used a monitor to reassure ourselves), but once it worked, we all slept so much better and I was a much better parent. Plus, I stopped worrying about driving my car into a tree/oncoming traffic due to pure exhaustion. In order to meet their needs, we also have to meet our needs.

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