Baby sleep is stressful. As a mom, you care so much when your kid cries, and you want them to get good rest. There are magical babies that sleep through the night at a few months old. And then there are my babies. My husband has always urged me to let my babies cry it out. Every time, when they’re like a year or so and still not sleeping well, he reminds me that if I had just let them cry it out earlier, this could all be avoided. The pediatrician basically says the same thing.
But for me, for each kid, I couldn’t pull the trigger. I kept on psyching myself out to do it, even promised my husband I would, but I never did. I felt guilt on top of my guilt. Clearly it was the right thing to do; I was so weak! Looking back, however, I have no regrets.
They tell you if you don’t sleep train your child, they’ll never learn to sleep through the night. I don’t believe it. I have nothing against moms who let their kids cry it out. In fact, I have tons of respect for them; they’re stronger than me. My heart breaks. I just can’t.
I am telling you here today, though, if you feel like you can’t, you don’t have to.
With my first child, I did a modified CIO.
When she was five months old and already in the crib, I picked a time that was acceptable for me to let her cry every time she went to sleep. That time was NOT two hours. It was more like 15-20 minutes. It did work, in the sense that she would fall asleep after that time. Sometimes, if the time had passed and she was still crying, I would check on her to make sure she hadn’t pooped or lost her paci or something. And then let her cry again. The down side to this was that she did cry every time I put her to sleep for maybe a few months, but somehow I was able to accept this better than a full-on CIO. My firstborn is now five and wakes up some nights if she has a bad dream or growing pains.
My second child had heart surgery at birth, so I didn’t want him to CIO, either.
Read Jac’s story here. My concern was that I couldn’t distinguish between the “I’m mad because I don’t want to sleep” cry and the “I’m upset because something is wrong with me” cry. He slept pretty well initially, but at four months or so he was waking up several times a night. I just indulged him. Jac now wakes up maybe once every couple of weeks in the middle of the night.
This booger had a nine month stretch from maybe 6 months old to over a year where he woke up 8-10x a night. I still refused to let him CIO. This guy’s issue was that every time he woke up a little, he wouldn’t go back to sleep unless I nursed him. Of course, during the period he was biting, it was a nightmare.
Finally, at thirteen months, I decided I was okay with weaning him. My husband was a huge help. We figured if I was in the room at night it would never happen, so we slept separately for a bit, with my husband sleeping in the room with the baby. That first night away from me, he cried for a little bit, but not nearly as much as we expected. Once the nectar of heaven was out of the picture, he just adjusted. A few weeks later, I came back into the room, and he was obviously weaned and no longer waking in the middle of the night. Now he wakes up probably a few times a week.
A few book recommendations.
These books are all alternatives to the CIO method. I didn’t fully employ any of these methods, but used some ideas here and there: