When my son was four months old, his pediatrician recommended that my partner and I begin the process of sleep training for all our sake. He gave us a lot of information regarding the "cry it out" method, and instructed us on how to properly use it. Though it sounded too good to be true (you mean we actually get to sleep?) we tried it. To our surprise, we were wonderfully successful, but when we would tell other parents about our miraculous sleeping son, their reactions were mixed. It didn't take long to end up bombarded with the completely unhelpful things people say about "cry it out," not to mention the unfair assumptions and judgments of and about our particular parenting methods.
We would put our son to bed at the same time every night, even when we had friends with kids over for dinner. We would put the video monitor nearby so that we could keep an eye on him, and though some parents were impressed with how quickly he fell asleep, others seemed disturbed that he did it on his own, even going so far as to attempt to go get him out of his crib. Honestly, I was baffled as to why anyone would be so concerned for his well-being or start walking towards his room as if they were "saving" him. Obviously, if there were legitimate reasons for concern I, his mother, would have tended to him. He was fine.
I understand that we all have different ideas and methods when it comes to getting babies to sleep, but I didn't criticize my friends who co-slept with their children, so why were some of them criticizing me? Thankfully, I had plenty of support from others, including and especially my partner, so the criticisms of a few didn't keep my partner and I from doing what we knew was best for ourselves, our baby and our family. That's not to say that the following 10 things didn't hurt to hear, though, so if you are talking to a mom who is currently "crying it out," be gentle, will ya? She's just doing what is best for her and her kid.
"Doesn't It Make You Sad?"
I mean, listening to my baby cry definitely doesn't make me happy, but I understood that our entire family would benefit from better sleep, and teaching my son how to fall asleep on his own was a necessary part of that eventual benefit. It was definitely hard the first couple of nights, but it didn't take long for him to adjust and learn to soothe himself. Within a week, he was barely crying, if he was at all, so that definitely made it easier.
"How Can You Just Sit There And Listen To Them Cry Like That?"
Well, it's pretty simple: I just sit here. We used the money we were gifted at our baby shower to buy a video monitor, which was a huge help during sleep training. We were able to not just listen to him, but to watch him, too, while he was learning to fall asleep on his own. So yeah, crying it out involves sitting and listening and/or watching your baby cry for a few minutes. With the help of the video monitor, we were able to gauge whether his crying was normal or not, and if it wasn't, we would get him out of his crib.
"I Could Never Do That To My Baby"
If crying it out isn't for you, that's totally fine, but it worked for us. No harm came to our son because of it, and he very quickly learned how to go to sleep on his own. We all benefited from it. When someone says that they "could never do that to their baby," it makes me feel like they think I'm a bad mom or like I'm making my son suffer, which I'm not.
"It Doesn't Sound Like They're Going To Sleep"
When we would have friends over for dinner and they would watch the monitor with us (because we were all fascinated by the technology), we would occasionally have someone question whether or not our son was actually going to sleep. I get that listening to a baby cry for even a few seconds can seem like a few hours, but we never let him cry longer than a few minutes without checking on him. I can't tell you how unhelpful it was to have someone assume that our son crying for two minutes meant that our method wasn't working.
"I Heard That Method Was Bad For Babies"
There's science arguing both sides when it comes to crying it out. Some experts don't recommend it, but others say that it's perfectly safe and healthy. We chose to listen to our pediatrician, who is an advocate of and for the method, and we were very cautious when it came to letting our son cry it out. I could see how someone could take this method to an extreme, when it wouldn't be good for babies, but like I said, we were very cautious.
"So, You Just Sit Here While They Cry?"
"Does That Actually Work?"
It's not that people asking me this question bothers me, but rather how they ask it tends to get under my skin. They ask in the most baffled tone, like they're completely shocked that such a concept even exists, let alone that we would use it. It makes me feel like they're insinuating that we're using some form of torture to get our kids to sleep, which obviously isn't the case.
"That Sounds Awful"
Some people think that allowing a baby to cry it out sounds awful, but personally, I think that having my child sleep with me until they're 10 sounds awful. Neither of our sons ever slept with us for more than a couple of hours at a time. That wasn't necessarily by choice, it's just that once they learned to fall asleep on their own, we became a distraction if they were in our bed. I wish that they wanted to sleep with us more, but I'm also thankful that they're both excellent sleepers.
If you don't want to let your children cry it out, that's completely fine, but don't make those of us who do feel like what we're trying with our children is "awful."
"Why Not Just Go Pick Them Up?"
Sometimes we would go pick our sons up. If they had cried for longer than usual or sounded like they were legitimately in a state of distress, we would go get them. It only took a couple of weeks to figure out the difference between how they sounded when they were just tired, and how they sounded when something more was going on. When it was something more, we would pick them up, but if they were just tired, they stayed there because we wanted them to learn how to fall asleep on their own, and they couldn't do that if we were picking them up every two minutes.
"That Sounds Like A Torturing Mechanism"
This is the one thing you should never say to a parent who "cries it out." Seriously, just don't. I don't think any mother in her right mind would knowingly and willfully torture her children. Leaving my sons on their own for a few minutes while they learned how to fall asleep on their own is far from "torturing" them, and I'm offended that anyone would ever equate our sleep training to torture. If it's not for you, that's cool, but don't make me feel like I'm bringing harm to my children intentionally, because I let them cry for a few minutes.