10 Things You're Teaching Your Baby When You Cry It Out

By
Share
Ad failed to load

The cry it out (CIO) method of sleep training is controversial, to say the least. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find something that moms get quite so worked up about. Except maybe breastfeeding. Or attachment parenting. Or baby wearing. OK, OK. We're a passionate and (dare I say it?) a judgmental bunch. If you decide to go ahead with this strategy, you may find yourself the victim of some literal and figurative finger-wagging, but you certainly don't deserve to be vilified. The fact is you can teach your child valuable life lessons when you let them cry it out.

If you're considering CIO, you need to do your research. Recent studies out of Australia shows the graduated extinction method to be both safe and effective. An older study in the Archives of Disease of Childhood found that prolonged crying was associated with adverse cognitive development. At the end of the day, it's up to you to do the reading and make the decision for your family.

As the parent of a former-newborn, I prided myself on being very attuned to the needs of my child. When she cried, I try to figure out what was wrong and fix it. I knew that crying was the only way she could communicate with me. As she got older, however, the aforementioned stopped being the case. My husband and I didn't intend to do CIO, we sort of fell into it. One night, our then 6-month-old daughter was fed, dry, and safe, and capable of manipulation of the tiny baby variety (if I scream, mom comes and gets me). We looked at each other, said "F*ck it," and rolled over. She lasted ten minutes, and that was the beginning. By eight months of age, she was consistently sleeping a blissful 12 hours a night and has ever since.

Ad failed to load

It's important to remember that there are lots of ways to cry it out. Maybe the Weissbluth method is too severe for you. Maybe Ferber isn't cutting it. You might have a threshold for how much crying is too much (I personally can't do more than ten minutes). You can do cry it out and still listen to your mommy instincts, you can still soothe, and you can find the right combination of methods that works best for you and your baby. Just remind yourself that, if you do go for it, you're doing your kiddo a lot of favors. Let go of that inevitable guilt and be strong, mama! You'll be reaping the rewards of a full night's rest in no time.

Ad failed to load

Self-Soothing

giphy

When I put my little one down for a nap or for the night or sometimes she wakes unexpectedly, she cries for a hot second, rolls over, sticks her butt up in the air, and places her thumb firmly in her mouth. I breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that she has managed to learn how to calm herself down. She doesn't need me to rock her or sing her a lullaby, and I don't have to stumble down the hallway.

This is a skill that is so helpful when she's awake. When she's upset because mom is making dinner (the nerve!) and not picking her up, she has some techniques for settling herself down. Being able to self-soothe will help your child in the future, too. While they won't use the exact same strategies (e.g. sucking their thumb or using a pacifier or lovey), they are building the confidence that they have it inside themselves as individuals to calm down when stressed or upset.

Independence

My mom always says that your job as a parent is to work yourself out of one, and I'm inclined to agree. As a mother to a young child, of course your kid is going to need you. There are plenty of things they can't do for themselves. However, there are still lots of things they can manage on their own, and going to sleep on their own is one of them.

I'm a huge Love and Logic buff, and I subscribe to the idea that when you do too much for kids, they learn that they're not capable. That's not the message I want to send to my daughter. When I let her cry, I tell her, "You're a big girl and you can go to sleep all by yourself. I'll be close by if you really need me." That's pretty much my approach to all aspects of parenting.

Sleeping Through The Night

giphy

I started sleep training when I realized I didn't want to end up with a kindergartener who was still waking up in the middle of the night. As with most things, it's so much better if you start earlier. When you decide to put your baby down awake and not respond to crying at nighttime, they will generally start sleeping for longer periods. It usually takes a few (albeit miserable) nights.

When I started CIO, we almost immediately got down to one wake-up a night, and baby girl extinguished that one on her own two months later. Everybody feels better after a good night's sleep. Your kid will be happier in the long run, and maybe you won't need quite so much coffee to feel like a person (I said maybe).

Ad failed to load

Patience

At some point, a child has to learn that their needs aren't necessarily going to be met immediately. I'm not talking about situations where safety and well-being are involved. When my daughter throws up the Baby Bat Signal, I come a runnin'. Don't underestimate your mama instincts; you learned to distinguish cries in your newborn, and you'll know when something is really wrong (and a video monitor is great backup).

However, when a mom is busy and the need isn't pressing, a child learning patience can go a long, long way. For example, I would love to read you that book right now, but mommy has to pee. Instant gratification is a dangerous thing because children learn to expect it. So in the morning, I let my daughter hang out in her crib for a few minutes and chatter to herself contentedly while I hatch out and check my e-mail. Cry it out can teach a child that sometimes they have to wait, and that's a good thing.

Breaking Your Fast

giphy

Did you ever think about the origin of the word "breakfast"? When you eat in the morning, you are literally breaking the fast of the previous night. I'm not advocating using CIO to stop night feedings. It doesn't work because hungry babies are pissed off. You have to do the work of night weaning when that time comes.

But by getting your child to sleep through the night (via sleep training and gradually ending nighttime feedings), you teach them to do what every adult does. Not that I don't sometimes need a midnight snack (how else can I eat Nutella without sharing?), but I generally make it through the night without eating. A toddler can, too.

Family Needs Vs. Individual Needs

giphy

Some people argue that they can't use cry it out because there are people in the house who need sleep. Maybe parents have to go to work or older siblings have to go to school. I would argue that that's a reason to do CIO. It's a short term pain in the ass with great long term benefits for the whole family.

Little ones need to learn that they're not the only ones with needs in the family, and that their needs don't necessarily supersede those of others. I explain to my daughter that I need her to sleep in her crib because I need sleep, too (I'm not sure she understands me, but I'm not positive she doesn't either). Initially, I felt guilty and selfish, but I now recognize that I'm a better mom when I'm rested. I'm at home with my daughter most of the day, and she's very in tune with my emotional state. When I'm better, she is too.

Ad failed to load

How To Deal With Night Wakings

giphy

It happens to all of us. Unless you suffer from insomnia, you probably handle night waking pretty well without realizing it. Even when I have to get up to use the bathroom, I drift off pretty quickly after getting back into bed. I don't think I even reach full wakefulness (so count sleep-peeing as one of my superpowers).

Babies wake at night for a variety of reasons: growth spurts, teething, developmental advances, missing mama, and discomfort, to name a few. CIO can help your child respond to sleep disruptions. When they wise up to the fact that mom is not coming in the middle of the night, they might fuss for awhile, but eventually they'll use those self-soothing techniques to trundle right back off to dreamland.

Routine

If you ask any teacher (me included), they'll tell you kids thrive on routine. Part of sleep training is setting a regular bedtime routine. My baby gets a bath, puts on her pajamas (OK, technically I put them on her), drinks a glass of milk, watches her daddy goodnight video, and listens to a story and a song; always in that order. I say the same phrase to her before I put her in bed. It's comforting to her.

She also knows (in her own baby way) that the expectation is that she goes to sleep. Mama won't be coming in until we wake up in the morning. The more sleeping through the night becomes habit and the more consistent you are in how you respond to crying, the easier it will get.

How To Fall Asleep

giphy

Most of us know what we need to fall asleep. I get in bed with my favorite blanket (I know I'm a grown-ass woman, but I love my blankie and my partner is deployed), prop up my two pillows, and read until I feel sleepy.

Infants and toddlers have to figure this out, too. That's why you put baby down awake. She may cry, but eventually she will settle down and conk out. In the future, she'll be less likely to throw tantrums at bedtime., and she'll be well on her way to a lifetime of falling asleep on her own, without mom's help.

Ad failed to load

Healthy Habits

Whatever your concerns about attachment or cortisol levels, there is nothing healthy about being chronically sleep-deprived. Cry it out is a last resort strategy for babies who just aren't getting enough sleep. Sleep has a direct impact on mental and physical development. When you sleep train, keep a regular bedtime, and yes cry it out; you're setting your child up for a lifetime healthy habit.

Don't underestimate the power of sweet dreams.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

13 Unique (& Totally Not Mainstream) Mother's Day Gifts For The Hipster Mom

Hipsters thrive on being outside the norm and not really digging anything considered "mainstream." Whether it's in their fashion, what music they listen to, the books they read, or how they enjoy beverages, there's just something that makes them dist…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Here's How To Introduce Your Pet To Your Baby & Make Everything As Calm As Possible

Our home, which we lovingly refer to as “the funny farm,” is filled with four-legged family members. We have two crazy beagles and two cat jerks, and boy are they loved and spoiled. (As they should be.) But we are now finally having a baby of our own…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Here's The Right Birth Method For You, According To Your Zodiac Sign

If you're pregnant, you've probably given childbirth some serious thought. Some moms-to-be prepare a meticulous birth plan, while others are comfortable just going with the flow. And me? Well, I made a plan... but that plan was useless when faced wit…
By Steph Montgomery

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}