So, uh, everyone who stopped by the other day to read my impassioned defence of the right of parents and small children to take up public space, hi! I hope you like it here. I don’t want you to get your hopes up or anything, because this blog is primarily made up of complaining, dog pictures, and awfully repetitive sentence structures, but hey, stick around if you like.
Of the handful of posts I managed to publish in 2012, almost all were about Cecil. Understandably, as having and raising an infant are all-consuming tasks, when I did find time to write he was at the top of my mind.
Going into parenthood I had few set ideas. I knew that:
– I was going to try my best to be the most open, responsive, and loving parent I could be;
– but I was not going to beat myself up if I needed to cut myself some slack here and there.
Cecil, as it turns out, is an awesome and good-natured baby. He has not tested me in any dramatic ways, at least not more than you would expect from a tiny dependent creature. His biggest problems – or the things that are most challenging to me, anyway – are feeding him enough to match his activity level, stopping him from swallowing something fatal or otherwise endangering his life, and his sleep.
Up to four months he was a great sleeper. He regularly slept 6 or 7 hours in a row, and since he went to bed late, at 11 or 12, so did I. There were still very difficult nights, but overall it was manageable. At four months he suddenly stopped doing that and was up every 90 minutes-2 hours for a few days. That was fun! After a few weeks he settled into a pattern where he’d wake up twice, usually just before I went to sleep, and once around 3 AM. That was liveable. He would get up really early, but it was liveable. At eight months he had about a week of great sleep where he woke only once (the 3 AM waking), then suddenly his sleep went to hell again. He fell back into the two wakings a night pattern, but almost every night one of his wakings would last two or three hours. It was horrible.
We tried some stuff from “The No-Cry Sleep Solution”, and he made some progress, but every time he would start to improve something would happen and his sleep would get worse again. He would catch a cold or have a new tooth break through and we’d be back where we started.
Finally last week, after two nights in one week where Cecil was up from 10 PM to 2 AM, Ben talked me into trying a cry-it-out method. We had successfully gotten Cecil to the point where you could put him down in his crib when he was sufficiently drowsy and he’d fall asleep (this is one of the major No-Cry Sleep Solution things: you gradually reduce the amount of intervention you do to get the baby to sleep until they fall asleep on their own), but if you put him down too early in the process he would howl in rage.
“To get him past this stage we’ll have to let him cry anyway,” Ben said. “We might as well just let him cry and get it over with.”
If you are not a parent, or not a reader of mommy blogs, you do not know what a minefield this is. Cry-it-out vs parent-to-sleep are HUGE controversies. If you don’t let the baby cry itself to sleep you are stunting their development; if you do you are a horrible child abuser. (These are stereotypes, of course. Very few people ACTUALLY think this way.)
There are good arguments for it and against it. I held out for as long as I did because it felt really, really wrong and unnatural to leave my child alone when he cried. And it is unnatural. Babies who cry when separated from their parents are much less likely to be left behind than ones who don’t, so it’s inevitable that evolution would select for babies who want to be close to their parents, especially at night.
But I am human. I need to sleep too. And while “just sleep when the baby sleeps” is great advice when you have nothing else to do, or your baby is a tiny newborn who can hang out in a sling while you do other stuff, it is not such a hot tip when you have projects you’d like to work on in the brief time you do get to yourself, but you can’t when your baby is sleeping because you’re either sleeping or so tired you should be sleeping and you can’t when he’s awake because he never stops moving.
So we did it. We did the Ferber method, which is heart-breaking. You have to go into your child’s room, see them crying and reaching out for you, and have to leave them again, but…it worked. The first night he took about an hour to get to sleep, which was awful, but since then it’s only taken him between 5 and 15 minutes. Apparently after a week or two they don’t cry at all when you put them down. Naps are more iffy – it depends on how tired he is, really. If he’s super-tired he goes to sleep almost immediately; if not it might take half an hour.
Anyway. I am really sad that I had to do this…but I don’t regret it. Cecil is still his sweet, energetic, bubbly self; if this has traumatized him he is hiding it really well. Everyone is sleeping better; everyone is happy.
I’m not necessarily recommending this method, because there are real reasons why it might not work for you or your baby, but I can tell you that at least in our case it was a good idea.
Now flame away!
Note: I’m not linking to anything because I really, really don’t want to get a bunch of either judgemental or cheerleading comments, but if you want to read about why cry-it-out is wrong check out a site called PHD in Parenting; if you want to read arguments for it check out BabyCenter, which has good info on a bunch of different sleep issues.
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