I'm Not a Monster Mom for Letting My Kid 'Cry It Out' -- I'm Well Rested

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baby on monitor
JodiJacobson/iStock.com

“Honey, do you think Dr. Ferber is still alive?” I ask my husband as I look at my then 7-month-old son sleeping peacefully in his crib through the baby monitor.

“Not sure, why? Do you want to send him a thank-you card?” he joked, sensing where I was going with this.

I looked him dead in the eye and said: “I’m ready to perform any sexual favors he'd like. I'll sign over the deed to the house and include him in my will. Whatever that man wants, he gets.”

Through tears of laughter, my husband agreed it was the appropriate response. After all, getting five consecutive hours of sleep after seven months of living in a zombie-like state will change a person. 

  • In all seriousness, using the Ferber Method -- aka, the “cry it out” method for sleep-training your baby -- changed our lives.

    My sweet son has been a cuddle bug since birth, and in the beginning, I was happy to rock and lull him to sleep.

    Only as he inched closer to his 6-month mark was sleep becoming an unbearable battle. If you made the slightest wrong move while putting him down, even after spending two hours rocking him, he’d wake up in a screaming, fiery rage, and we’d have to start all over again. He was waking us up at least six times a night. It was like “newborning” it again, but somehow worse.

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  • During an appointment with the pediatrician, I casually mentioned how little sleep he was (read: all of us were) getting.

    The doctor suggested the Ferber Method, and initially I cringed. He then explained that there was a “gentle version,” whereby you slowly increase the amount of time the baby cries until he figures out how to fall asleep on his own.

  • We were dubious at first. There was no way letting that sweet little thing screech was going to be beneficial for anyone. 

    But doubt had quickly turned to desperation. After a few hours of debate, we decided to give it an honest try. 

    The "gentle" Ferber Method involves heavily relying on routine. So we established a bedtime ritual that worked for us. Without fail at 6:30 p.m., we'd begin by giving him a bath. Once that was done, we 'd lotion him up, get him in his comfy PJs, and read him a book. After that, it was bottle time. And as soon as he finished, we'd turn out the light, give him a hug and say the same thing before we laid him down: I love you so much, it's night-night sleep tight time, and put him to bed. Then (and this was crucial) we'd walk out of the room. 

    Of course, the screaming started immediately, but instead of picking him up, we'd let him cry for two minutes. After the two minutes were up, we'd go in like a military unit. No eye contact, no talking, no picking him up -- just going in, rubbing his back and making shushing sounds. We weren't allowed to be in the room for more than one minute. After the minute was up (and he'd of course would start screaming) we've leave and wait three minutes before repeating. Then five minutes, then seven, and so on and so forth until he soothed himself to sleep. The max crying time we allowed before going in to check on him was 20 minutes. 

    And as every night went on, the initial check-in time increased, eventually leading us to starting out letting him cry for upward of 20 minutes before we checked on him. 

  • Admittedly, the beginning was awful, but around the two-week mark something miraculous happened: We put him down, and he fell asleep.

    No fights, no hours of rocking and sobbing. We laid him to bed, he fidgeted until he got comfortable, and that was it. He stayed asleep. Which means I got my nights, my rest, and even my own personal time back, and he actually got a decent night's sleep.

    Now, of course, it isn't always perfect. He wakes up every now and then, but now when he does, I can check on him without it turning into my being trapped for the night in the nursery. When he is sick, the "rules" go out the window -- I do everything to keep him comfortable and monitor his fevers, or whatever is going on. And truthfully the kid is still awful at napping-- he plays me and my husband as suckers and will only nap in our arms or the car seat. 

    But nighttime isn't a fight. We were able to cut back on baths, and if we skip a book or bottle at the end of the night, it isn't the end of the world. 

    Once 7 p.m. hits, he's ready to sleep, and I'm ready to let him. 

  • So long story short, folks: If you’re struggling with a nonsleeping baby, know that the Ferber Method doesn’t give them insane abandonment issues. 

    My son still loves me and cuddles me. And I have the strength to mom as best I can most days having gotten a semblance of sleep. If you're open to it, using this method can actually restore sanity to your lives. It did for us.

    And to Dr. Ferber: Seriously, man, if you need ANYTHING, I owe you big time.