I 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