Before having children, I had no idea that there were multiple sleep-training methods that parents could try. I didn't know whether cry it out worked or if it didn't, if it was better to try the Ferber Method for sleep training, or if it was best to try an Attachment Parent-style sleep training style. After my then-husband and I found out I was pregnant though, other parents would ask us about what sleep method we'd be using when the time came. Even though we had no idea what they were talking about, I knew I didn't want to rock my child to sleep every night, and so I wanted to do whatever sleep method made that possible.
The first person I talked to about sleep methods was of course my mother. She's really the first person I talked to every time I need help with parenting. I asked her what sleep method she used with us, and I think I confused her. "I just let you all cry it out," she said, and when I told her the cry it out method was, in fact, a sleep-training method, she looked at me and said, "Why do there need to be so many methods? Why does it even matter?" I rolled my eyes, but I couldn't deny that she'd brought up a good point: why did I have to stick to one method? Of course, when I was interacting with other women with kids, one of the topics of conversation was about how we were getting our children to sleep. I genuinely don't even remember what other sleeping methods there are, but I do remember that everyone else was avoiding practicing the Cry It Out (CIO) Method with their children, and most agreed that it was because they didn't want to hear their child suffer like that. But I disagreed. I wasn't sure how else I could help my child learn to self-soothe if I was standing by her crib rubbing her back every night.
So even though it wasn't what everyone else was doing, we decided to let her cry it out.
For the first four months of our daughter's life, we'd put her down, rub her back a little bit, and then leave the room so she could sleep. She'd whimper, then cry a bit, but every night she'd cry a little less than the night before. I crossed my fingers, hoping cry it out would continue working for us all. Even with growth spurts and with her teeth coming in, she still seemed to get into a routine and never strayed from it. In fact, routine seemed to be the key word in our cry it out adventure.
Our ability to cry it out made me feel like I was a baby whisperer.
Our daughter wouldn't let us rock her, and she wouldn't fall asleep sleep anywhere else. Everyday at the same time, three times a day, she'd expect to be put down in her crib, ready to fall asleep at her own pace. There were pros and cons to that: We could never trick her into falling asleep on a bed if we were visiting friends, and we definitely couldn't push her in the stroller, because she'd just lay there with her eyes wide open. She associated falling asleep with her crib and her blankie, and she wouldn't have it any other way.
By the time she was 4 months old, she slept alone in her crib, and was able to put herself to sleep. The only thing I really hated about practicing cry it out was the first 10 minutes early on when we started. I already looked forward to be time, but waiting the extra 10 minutes for our daughter to fall asleep felt like eternity, especially when she was whining and crying and learning to self-soothe. But over time, putting her down became so easy. Eventually, at 1 year old, she'd just crawl, then walk to the crib with her blankie, and wait for us to put her in. Once we did that, she'd put her pacifier in her mouth and lay down to sleep. It was surprisingly easy.
When people tell me they don't think crying it out works, I tell them about our experience and about how happy I am that we did it.
Our ability to cry it out made me feel like I was a baby whisperer, that maybe I could have five more babies and they would all sleep as well as she did.
And eventually, we did have another baby who absolutely did not enjoy Crying It Out at all. Getting our son to sleep was such a terror that, every night, he'd cry so much that it'd wake our daughter up. Finally, I gave in and did the thing I swore I'd never do with any of my kids: every night for two years I rocked my son to sleep. Although my daughter would put herself to bed every night, my son would crawl up into my lap, lay down, and wait to be put to sleep. But even though our son wasn't into learning how to self-soothe, I was still really proud of the fact that crying it out had worked so well for us with our daughter.
My kids are 6 and 7 years old now, and when people tell me they don't think crying it out works, I tell them about our experience and about how happy I am that we did it, because it seemed to be what worked best for our daughter. My kids are a perfect example of how different two people can be, even though they grew up in the same home and are close in age. They're so similar in so many ways, but they're still completely different people with different needs. So when friends point out that we sleep trained our son differently, I agree with them. We did choose a different method, because he needed sleep in a way that didn't require a routine. But Riley did. And as her parents, we honored that. Seven years later, she's still someone who thrives off routine. Letting her cry it out was just one example of that.