Thursday, March 11, 2010

Crying It Out vs Crying To Sleep

Crying it out and crying to sleep: is there a difference? To me, there is. My interpretation of these phrases probably won’t match every other parent’s interpretation, but I’m going to tell you about it all the same.

To begin with, I am not a supporter of the “cry it out” method. I never have been, and I don’t think I ever will be. Sure, there are times when I am really tired, feel like I have no patience left, and put my daughter in her crib, thinking, “I don’t care how long she cries – she’s staying in there until she goes to sleep!” Once I’ve calmed down, however, I usually go back and get her. Do I think badly of parents who let their children cry it out? Of course not. It’s just not for me.

There is definitely wisdom in knowing when to put a child down and walk away when you are at your wit’s end. I definitely DO support allowing a baby to cry when the alternative is worse. However, I don’t like the idea of putting my baby to bed at the same time every night, regardless of whether she’s ready to go to sleep, and letting her cry as long as it takes for her to fall asleep.

I am a supporter, on certain occasions, of letting my baby cry herself to sleep. I know it probably sounds like I’m contradicting myself when I say this directly after saying I’m not a supporter of the cry it out method. Yes, both involve placing a baby in a crib and allowing the baby to cry until she falls asleep. To me, though, there is a huge difference between letting a baby cry it out and letting a baby cry herself to sleep.

Let me explain my rationale.

To me, crying it out is supposed to serve the purpose of teaching a drowsy baby to go to sleep without help. Parents who do this want their child to learn independence at bedtime. This method can involve a baby crying for quite long periods of time before drifting off to sleep.

In contrast, crying to sleep serves the purpose of letting a baby who will clearly fall asleep within a short amount of time cry for a bit, if necessary, before falling asleep. To me, this method isn’t used to teach a baby anything. It’s used when a baby needs to sleep and no other method – whether it be rocking, shushing, or nursing – is working.

Let me give you an example. This afternoon, I could tell my daughter was exhausted. She was rubbing her eyes, snuggling her face into anything near her head, and was crying very easily. I put her down for a nap, and she closed her eyes almost immediately. A few seconds later, she opened her eyes and began to cry. A few seconds later, she closed her eyes again. This scene repeated over and over.

I could tell by her cry that nothing was wrong. It wasn’t a panicky, hungry, or scared cry, and it didn’t escalate. It was a tired cry. I knew she was tired, and I knew she needed a nap. I decided to wait 15 minutes before picking her up to see what would happen.

Her tired cries came and went for about 10 minutes, each time growing further apart, each time getting softer. By the time the 15 minutes were up, she was asleep.

Had her cries become louder and more hysteric-sounding, I would have gone in to get her. If she cried past the 15-minute mark, I also would have picked her up. It’s not worth it to me to have her cry for 45 minutes, or cry to the point of vomiting. It is worth it to me, however, to let her fuss a little when I know sleep is about to come.

Some of you might be reading this and thinking that my descriptions of crying it out and crying to sleep are the same thing. To me, there is a difference. I want to have children who are good sleepers, but I also want them to know I’ll come if they need me, even if all they need is comfort and security.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for your comment they are from my own personal collection...i use vintage magazines and photos that i buy on ebay...check your local flea market you can pick up some amazing photos...