To cry or not to cry…

It seems moms I meet are really split about whether to let their little ones cry themselves to sleep or whether to soothe them to sleep. I confess that I have a very hard time letting my little girl cry, but after much reading, research and discussion, I have come to the conclusion that it’s best to let her cry herself to sleep. It’s not easy and I have to turn the baby monitor volume way down and set a timer for myself so I don’t go and pick her up when she begins to cry. Still, I believe that it will help my daughter more if she learns to soothe herself to sleep than if I do it for her. I also know that the “cry it out” method yields quicker results and I just don’t have it in me to do some of the graduated soothing programs that take weeks. The books that have helped me most with this are: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Mark Weissbluth and an online book called The Sleep Sense Program. Dr. Weissbluth talks in depth about the effects of poor sleep on attention spans–he even claims that poor sleep habits correlate to higher rates of ADHD. He does not insist on letting a child cry him/herself to sleep but clearly leans in that direction because he believes that, ultimately, parents will have a much more difficult time if they try to always soothe their child to sleep. The Sleep Sense program provides really good step-by-step guidelines for trying to help a child cry it out. The author even advocates being in the room with the child while he/she cries, which I just couldn’t do, but some parents might feel better about it if they can bear it.

I’ve heard arguments that letting the baby cry can lead to trust issues between mom and baby later in life. This, I think, is utter hogwash. I can speak from personal experience in knowing that I have a wonderful, trusting relationship with my mother and she let me cry myself to sleep as a baby. I also think that this sort of claim is very hard to substantiate and could only really be measured by correlation. That said, I suppose I could still read more on that point to find out how others have arrived at this belief.

I am in the midst of working on helping my daughter Maya learn to soothe herself to sleep right now. Some days and nights she goes down to sleep in two minutes or less, and at other times it takes much longer. On the whole though, we are making progress and I am getting close to 8 hours sleep per night with one or two night wake-ups for feedings, which is pretty good considering she’s not even 5 months old yet. Still, when she came down with a cold this week, I fell off the crying wagon and couldn’t bear to see her suffer with her sniffly nose, coughing and sneezing–I got sucked into soothing her to sleep at times. Hopefully, she’ll get back track now that she’s on the mend… as long as those teeth she’s working on don’t cause her too much discomfort–if it isn’t one thing it’s another!

Would love to hear the views of others going through the same ordeal right now!


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April 2009
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