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Baby Sleep Solutions: Crying It Out

Updated on October 31, 2008

You want to sleep. You want your baby to sleep. What's the problem? For some reason, your child is fighting it. If only they could understand how sweet sleep can be. But how do you reason with an infant or the increasingly intelligent but stubborn toddler?

Sometimes you just don't. To get your sweet baby to go to sleep, and to sleep through the night, you may just have to let them cry.

This is my least favorite solution to the baby sleep problem. What parent can really say they like hearing their child scream and cry? But I found with my three girls that at some point you may just have to try this. Some people swear by it, after all. Many of them have read Dr. Richard Ferber's book, Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems.

The idea is that your baby will learn to comfort himself. And as heartrending as it can be for you, he will eventually realize that he doesn't need Mommy or Daddy to be able to sleep.

My kids didn't learn to get to sleep or stay asleep through the night by crying it out. The one time we used the method to get my oldest daughter to sleep on her own, my husband had to make me stay in my chair. It was torturous for me. I just can't stand letting them cry for hours. I don't have the stomach for it. Too sensitive? Maybe, but that's just me.

Definitely consider the stress this method may put on you -- especially with the first child. It can be very hard to listen to your child cry for an extended period of time. If you're not ok with that, either prepare yourself or don't try this method for getting your baby to sleep through the night.

Although my family didn't use this method initially to teach our babies to sleep through the night, there are now times and situations that now call for crying it out in my house. As my girls have gotten older it has been easier to let them cry for several reasons: 1)I KNOW that they know how to get themselves to sleep, 2) it works well (and fairly quickly) when they are already giving me a tired cry, and 3) they are old enough that I can tell the difference between a stubborn cry and a hurt or sick one.

My youngest is a pro at the stubborn cry. She will get to sleep and stay asleep beautifully for weeks and then one night she will decide that won't do anymore. She wants Mommy and Daddy and she wants us now! One of use will go in and comfort her. One time deal, right? Of course not. The next night she decides she had some luck so she'll try it again.

Now I KNOW that our youngest does not need us to go to sleep. She has successfully gone to sleep and stayed asleep many nights. She knows how to comfort herself and get back to sleep if she wakes up. So these nights that she decides she can't be without us, we'll give in to her a certain extent, but at some point she's on her own - especially when it's clear how tired she is already.

If we give in to her every night, then we are setting ourselves and her up for a cycle of dependency. Letting her cry a bit and get herself to sleep lets her (and us) know that we don't have to respond to every little cry through the night too. We give her a few minutes to take care of things herself.

Bottom line - do what is comfortable for you. Do what is best for your baby. Develop your own methods when you can. Don't forget to ask your pediatrician how to get baby to sleep through the night too. They know a lot of babies and a lot of parents. They just might have some good advice for you! 

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