Babies cry. It's a fact. Next to pooping and sleeping, it's what they do best.
Why they cry can be anyone's guess. They could be wet, hungry, tired, scared, confused, sick, or just need some attention. They can't talk yet, so crying is the closest thing to a language they have.
For the most part, it works. You hear your baby cry, you quickly try to figure out what's wrong and rectify the problem. Crying baby = bad. That's what we're instinctively taught.
But at what point do we stop listening to our instincts? When babies cry all night long unless you're holding them, should you be comforting them or do you need to give them some tough love?
When our oldest son was a baby, he was a terrible sleeper. I'd easily give him an F. My wife was very into breastfeeding so she'd end up nursing him almost the entire night. We'd put him in his crib and maybe he'd last an hour. Things got so bad at one point that he literally woke up every 45 minutes. That's just not healthy for anyone.
The baby would be tired and cranky. My wife would be beyond exhausted the next day, which doesn't do her or the baby any good. And I'd be wiped too as I headed off to work. Though at least I could pass out under my desk when the boss wasn't around.
No, something had to be done. And when my wife and I started discussing the Ferber Method, we knew it was time to give it a shot. Ferberizing involves putting your baby down for the night and letting him "cry it out." It's done slowly over a few nights.
I still remember that first night of just letting him wail for five minutes in his crib as my wife and I sat on the living room couch staring at each other. Believe it or not, five minutes is an excruciatingly long time when you're listening to your child scream bloody murder.
As soon as the clock hit five minutes, my wife BOLTED down the hall to pick him up, comfort him, and put him back in the crib. Then we'd wait 10 minutes and repeat, adding five minutes on to each round. I think we got up to 30 minutes that first night before he finally fell asleep for good that night. It was certainly a long night.
The second night was slightly easier. It was still painful to sit there listening to him cry, but by the third and fourth night, we saw a massive improvement. He'd still cry but only for about five or ten minutes and then fall asleep. We were shocked. It actually worked.
Now it wasn't a perfect science and he didn't magically just sleep through the night from that moment on. But going from waking up every 45 minutes to falling asleep in 10 minutes and sleeping for a few hours at a time was a big win in our book!
Ferberizing truly taught us the phrase, "This will hurt me more than it will hurt you." It was extremely hard to do -- you need incredible patience and a strong will not to run into your baby's room the second he or she starts crying.
It may sound completely cruel on the surface. Your baby's crying and you're just ignoring him? He may think you've completely abandoned him, the poor thing. He could be terrified! Yeah, all that ran through our minds too. But we realized that letting your baby cry it out does not make you a bad parent.
If you run to your kids every single time they start crying and simply comfort them, how are they ever going to learn how to soothe themselves? Sure, every kid is different and will learn this on their own at their own pace. So it's up to you whether you want to try the cry it out method or not.
All I know is that when this kid becomes a teenager who sleeps until noon every weekend, I cannot wait to wake him up at 7 a.m. just for kicks.
Do you let your baby cry it out at night?
Photo via David Quitoriano/Flickr