When I had my first child, I was 20 years old. There was a certain freedom in having a child at 20 afforded me that I don’t think is present now. When I had my son Phoenix, I didn’t have friends who had kids, and the Facebook mom groups weren’t a “thing” just yet. My parenting knowledge came from watching my own mom with eight children and picking her brain about how to do things. I used the whiskey on the gums without a second thought because my mom said to! And when rocking, bouncing, and nursing to sleep started to become an albatross around my neck, I didn’t question her advice to sleep train by simply letting my baby cry himself to sleep.
A few years later, my husband and I decided to try for our second baby. I went in already feeling like I would rock motherhood because I was a veteran mom. I had done this before and I wasn’t scared. But then I made the mistake of venturing into local Facebook mom groups. And while those groups are invaluable if you need an urgent care recommendation or mommy-and-me yoga class, they are also places that can shake your confidence.
Everyone around me from my husband to my 12-year-old sister would say “Just leave him in his bed to cry!” but all of those other moms told me not to do it.
My second son Caspian was not like my first. He was moody, clingy and didn’t sleep much. I spent what seemed like 22 hours on a green exercise ball bouncing him up and down, swaddled tightly, and pacifier or boob stuck in his mouth for sometimes up to two hours just to get him to sleep. I was exhausted, I was sad and desperate. And I also had postpartum depression. Everyone around me from my husband to my 12-year-old sister would say “Just leave him in his bed to cry!” but all of those other moms told me not to do it.
Every single day there is a post in a support group asking for the proper age to start cry-it-out (CIO) or any sort of sleep training. And of the 100-plus comments that sort of post can generate, at least 85 of them are telling you that you are a bad mom for even considering the idea of leaving your baby alone to cry. Some mothers consider it child abuse, and while others might not come right out and say that to you, read between the lines of their “Oh my goodness! I could never leave little Bentley Parker to cry like that!” they’re definitely thinking it.
I sat up, looked at him and started to cry, and I knew that I could no longer continue to function as a mother, wife, daughter and a human person on so little sleep.
I spent a lot of my day for the first eight months either on a ball bouncing or on a sofa nursing, so I spent a lot of time scrolling, commenting, and reading about the plights of other mothers. And every time I thought that I had been pushed to my breaking point and would finally start sleep training, someone would list all of the ways you can harm your child by leaving them to CIO... and so bouncing on the ball I went.
When Caspian was about eight or nine months old, I woke up for the fifth time at midnight since going to bed at 10 p.m. and stared at a baby who just wouldn’t sleep for anything longer than in 15-minute increments. I sat up, looked at him and started to cry, and I knew that I could no longer continue to function as a mother, wife, daughter and a human person on so little sleep.
That next night, my husband and I dragged our mattress out into the living room and left Caspian in his crib in our room to CIO. The first few minutes were horrible. When I wanted to rescue him, my husband said don’t. When he wanted to run in there and save the day, I talked him out of it. When Phoenix couldn’t sleep we turned on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and we all thugged it out in the living room while silently trying to telepathically communicate to Caspian that we were there and we loved him but to please just go the **** to sleep.
After about three nights of this, Caspian finally got it and we all finally got uninterrupted sleep. And suddenly all of those warnings of how emotionally scarred he would be seemed silly and just exaggerated scare tactics from other mothers trying to place their own (ridiculous) standards on others.
Caspian is now five and he loves me, he loves his dad, and he loves his brother. He’s kind to his friends and animals and has a healthy obsession with Ryan from YouTube, and with his skateboard. He’s not emotionally stunted, he does well in school and doesn’t seem like he’s on the path to being a psychopath. He seems generally well balanced. He has two younger siblings who he loves, and who have experienced some form of CIO — a decision we sure as heck don’t feel guilty about.
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