How to Survive Crying It Out


Ibaby sleeping with ear plugs don't remember when it was, exactly, that I decided I really needed to buckle down and try to do something about my youngest son's inability to sleep through the night. I think it was maybe around the time he was a year old, after enduring all the wee-hour wakeup calls I thought I could possibly bear. My first son slept like a champion from eight weeks on, so I had no experience with babies who woke up every few hours, apparently just to drive me clinically insane.

I do remember, however, how insanely difficult it was to do the Cry It Out method.

The point where I realized things had to change was when Dylan was waking up an average of three to four times per night. It wasn't just that it was annoying or tiring, the real problem was that it had started making me angry and resentful. Each night when he would first start complaining, I'd like there for a few minutes just feeling this overwhelming sensation of GODDAMN IT TO HELL, KID, before trudging in his room and making helpless, irritable shh! shh! shh! sounds at him. Once I picked him up and we were settled in the rocking chair, I found myself calming down almost immediately, and the ritual of rocking him back to sleep — his body burrowed against mine — was soothing and pleasurable, but I most definitely didn't want to go through the entire cycle at 11 p.m., 2 a.m., and 5 a.m., you know?

I tried all sorts of different sleep-training tricks, but nothing worked. So I came to the conclusion I'd have to let him cry it out.

It was ... well. It was difficult, let's say that. I couldn't even really stick to my guns most of the time because of the horrible process that went like this: 1) Child would wake up and start fussing, 2) the crying would fill me with chemical dread and I'd lie there sweating, heart pounding through my chest, staring up at the ceiling, 3) after some interminable amount of time I'd start worrying he was going to wake up my toddler and then I'd have two wailing kids to deal with, and 4) I’M SO TIRED AND MISERABLE OH SWEET JESUS SOMEONE JUST KILL ME NOW. Etc.

I can't say if it was my inconsistent attempts at CIO that actually helped him start sleeping more, or if it simply took time. (Truthfully, he didn't start reliably making it through the night until he turned 3.) Still, I think it was the right thing for us to do at the time, because as hellish as it was, at least I was actively trying to do something. Going in there and robotically plugging a bottle in his snout each night certainly wasn't getting me anywhere.

If you're thinking of crying it out, you have my utmost sympathies. It's not a pleasant process, and there are plenty of people who do not live in your house and have no idea what your life is like who will say super-shitty things about you for making that choice. Here's hoping it works, and here are a couple ideas for how to make it slightly less terrible:

Get some earplugs. When I confessed to buying earplugs, people were downright horrified, as if the plugs actually eliminated all noise whatsoever. Ha ha ha ha WRONG. We live in a small ranch house with wood floors and the kids' rooms are right next to ours, so believe me when I say earplugs do nothing more than add a layer of muffling. Somehow, though, that layer made it a little less awful, and I could at least monitor his sounds without feeling as though I were held prisoner by them.

Try some white noise on your iPod. When we were in the midst of this, I listened to soothing ocean waves, zen chanting, and various weird electronic non-identifiable-noise apps. Anything to help me cling, hair on end, to my bed for a little while longer while I hoped my child would learn to self-soothe himself back to sleep.

Unisom. For you, not for the baby. Just saying.

Did you have to sleep train your child? How did it go?

Image via Linda Sharps

baby development, baby sleep, cio


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tinyp... tinypossum

I could have written this post about my second son. He is 2.5 and still wakes up sometimes. We have done some modified CIO and it has worked pretty well. I could never stand to just totally ignore him and let him cry for long periods, but I did let him cry some and did not pick him up when we went in to calm and reassure him. He will now go down on his own and rarely needs to be soothed much when he does wake. I know that you will be bombarded by the martyr moms who will crucify you for CIO'ing, but they are just doing that to make themselves feel superior to the rest of us. Most human beings need a few hours of uninterrupted sleep and kids need to learn how to soothe themselves. Making ourselves slaves to our children does not make us good mothers. Put on your body armor, though. The perfect mommies will be coming for you.....

Jess Townsend

we started letting my daughter cry it out at around 8 months? that was when we were finally able to eliminate all night time feedings. she actually took well to it and i figured out pretty quickly that she wasn't crying because she was upset or scared or hungry. she just wanted me/us to come in there! as soon as we did, she was happy. She's still a big button pusher, string puller. We have to let her work herself to sleep alone most nights now and the only times that she makes much of a fuss is when teething is involved (as in the last couple weeks!)

nonmember avatar SweetMama

This is so sad. I hope next time you are injured or old and sick and you need someone's help, they don't help you. They ignore your cries and screams, sitting in their room listening to soothing sounds while they neglect you.

Selfish people should not have children.

My son is 2 years old and still nurses 4-6 times a night. I'd rather nurse him and go on getting little sleep than neglect him and cause brain damage and trust issues.

hutch... hutchfam2007

Once your child no longer needs feedings in the middle of the night, DO NOT pick them if IF you go in to soothe them when the wake up in the middle of the night. It becomes a ritual pretty quickly for you and the baby. As all mothers know, babies are not stupid and they get classically conditioned pretty quickly. If you do pick them up they will expect it next time. We went through this with our daughter and finally stopped catering to her at about 18months. She still wakes up every now and then at 2.5 but it is to the point now that I don't even have to go into her room. She will get herself comfortable again and go back to sleep on her own.

nonmember avatar Crystal

We are doing it now with my 18 month old. He wakes up in the middle of the night and needs to be soothed back down. Hubs and I take turns patting his back or rubbing his back hoping he'll fall back to sleep. Only to repeat the same thing in an hour.

4:45 this morning, I had enough. It was 45 minutes of the patting/rubbing. I was laying in bed listening to his cry. I finally went in there, laid him down, told him it was ENOUGH, and to go to sleep. He did. And he slept until 8am.
I'm learning that being firm might work better than being a pushover.

Kim Haapala

Are these new experiences for you, or are you recalling them?  I have to say, that my pediatrician said to let them CIO from about 8-12 weeks, but I could not do this for logistical reasons.  My daughter had a sensitive gag reflex, and after about 5-10 minutes of hard crying, the accumulated snot and tears would make her puke, so not only did I have to go get her, but I had to change her bed, give her another bath, and change her clothes.  So, not only could I not follow his directions, but I had to do the thing he said absolutely NOT to do, and let her fall asleep on the couch next to me while I watched Jeopardy, then put her in her bed.  I had no choice.  I believed my ped.  was right about this, as I thought he was right about several things I HAD to do the opposite of with both my kids to get the desired result.  Leave it to my kids to be like that, as I worked part time for the man, and was obligated to dispense his advice.  The bottle thing was a whole nother story..stick out tongue mini.

hutch... hutchfam2007

SweetMama: REALLY???? brain damage?... really? come on! Your nurse your 2yo 4-6 times a night?? You KNOW your kiddo is not actually HUNGRY right?? The child is calling you in there because s/he WANTS milk, not because s/he needs it. Put a sippy cup of water in the bed with the kiddo and let them drink when they are thirsty. Being a slave to your child does not make you any better a mother than someone who actually sleeps at night when their kid is that old! And I DO know because my daughter is 2 and rarely even wakes up in the middle of the night. Your are treating your 2yo like a newborn...

Faith Pinto

I found CIO easier when I went in at certain intervals instead of just letting my daughter cry for however long it took.  I was able to wait if I knew I was only waiting 5 or 7 or even 15 or 20 minutes once we got up to longer intervals.  And by the time we tried it, I was hellbent on it working, so we were super consistent and the whole process only took 3 nights.  The 3rd night only took 15 minutes to get her down, and from that point on, she only wakes up when something is wrong.  It was the best thing I ever did, because previous to that, I was resentful and angry when she wouldn't go to sleep, and it wasn't good for my relationship with her, or my relationship with my husband.  We are all much better off when I have evening time with my husband every night, and when we're all getting a good full night's sleep.

Oh, and about the earplugs, I totally get why having the noise muffled a bit makes a difference.  For me it was turning off the baby monitor.  I could still hear the crying, it just wasn't quite as GRATING, you know?

Leanne Carnegie

No, we did not sleep train either child.    Occationally I would have to put my older son down in his crib for a few minutes before going back in to continue nursing/rocking/singing to him so that he knew I was serious about it being bedtime... but that was only ever for bedtime.   During the night he slept with us and went back to sleep just as quickly as me once he was latched back on.    He's now 5, puts himself to sleep in his own bed and sleeps there all night.

My younger son (now nearly 2.5) has always slept with me, nursed several times a night and I've never lost sleep or had resentment over it.    I now know that it's just what babies and young kids are designed to do and that they will sleep longer when they are ready.    He's down to about once in the early morning now and I'm perfectly OK with that.   I expect he'll be moving into big brothers room in the next 6 mo-1year because he's nearly done with night nursing.


nonmember avatar me

I don't agree with crying it out.

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