I was opposed to the concept of "crying it out" (also known as controlled crying) at first. To me, it seemed counter-intuitive to a mother's natural instincts to leave her baby alone to cry. However, after enduring more sleepless nights than I was prepared for, I was ready to try anything to get my baby to sleep. So, after discussing it with my husband, friends, and my mom, we decided to give it a go. Looking back, however, there are a whole lot of things I'm glad no one told me about cry it out.
The cry it out method aims to teach babies to self-soothe by leaving them alone, in their crib, to cry for short periods of time, building up slowly in an attempt to allow them to fall asleep without having to be rocked or nursed to sleep. The version we followed allowed us to hold and snuggle our baby until he was calm, then place him in his crib and leave his room. If he cried we didn't go into the room immediately, but waited first one minute, then two, then five, before going in to comfort him, building to 10 minutes at a time.
The end result (for us) was a well-rested baby and parents who could keep their eyes open without a gallon of coffee each morning. Still, the road to finish line was one of the hardest things I have gone through as a new mom (and was certainly a very long week). Sometimes ignorance really is bliss, and I am really glad I didn't know the following things:
That You Will Feel Like A Monster
All the mommy guilt, right here. Walking away from your infant when they're crying for you, and even saying your name depending on their age, is absolutely guaranteed to make you feel like the worst mother alive.
I would sit in the next bedroom and cry for the entire timed intervals. Seriously, I was a mess.
That A Minute Could Feel So Long
I would literally watch the clock tick by each second as my baby cried and cried. Sure, I would try to distract myself by surfing the net or talking to my husband, but the way I usually spent the minutes was the same way my son was: crying.
That It Would Cause Arguments
My husband and I had very different reactions to the sound of our baby crying. He followed the plan and didn't give in, but I found myself wavering (many times, mind you) and wanted to go and pick our baby up to console him.
My husband was so cool and collected during these sessions, which I read as uncaring. He, on the other hand, viewed my reactions as overly dramatic. So, yeah, this obviously lead to some arguments.
That It Doesn't Always Work
I am so glad I didn't know that, for many parents and babies, controlled crying doesn't lead to better sleep patterns.
If I had known there was a chance that it would all have been for nothing, I don't think I would have had the resolve to see it through.
That It Would Break Your Heart
My baby had such heartbreaking facial expressions as he realized I was laying him back in his crib and leaving the room. He put in an Oscar-worthy performance every night, spanning the whole range of human emotions from love, to betrayal, to disappointment, to relief. It was heartbreaking.
That It Can Physically Hurt
I was breastfeeding and found my baby's cry made my breasts physically ache. You know, might as well just to add to the emotional pain.
That It Is So Controversial
I knew that some parents didn't like the idea of sleep training, but I had no idea it was such a contentious issue that divided families and mommy groups the world over (with some critics even calling it "torture").
I agree that newborns need to be picked up as soon as they cry, and that newborns cannot possibly be spoiled. I could not have practiced controlled crying techniques when my son was very small. When we started the program he was about 7 months old and was healthy and robust. We were confident that short bursts of crying were not damaging and, as we always returned, he got used to the idea that mommy and daddy always came back.
That You Will Doubt Yourself
I knew it was going to be difficult, but I didn't think I would change my mind so often. Literally every night for a week I would swing between being very determined to follow the program and wanting to give up and just cuddle my baby to sleep.
For our family, it took just over a week for our new regime to click with our baby. It was a very emotional week and I felt terrible but, in the long run, it worked for us. Our son transitioned from our room to a crib in his own bedroom, and was able to fall asleep by himself and sleep through the night. I call that a win.