Last night at 4am, my sixteen-month old woke briefly and began to cry. This is very uncommon for either of my children as they have both been excellent sleepers from just a few months of age. We checked on him through our video monitor and allowed him to cry for just a minute or two, as he relocated his pacifier and drifted off to sleep for the remainder of the night without either of us ever entering his room. While we do always strive to provide both of our children with comfort and security at all times, we often allow them to find ways to soothe themselves rather than immediately rushing to their bedside. In situations such as this, my children have been giving the opportunity to “cry it out” which has provided our entire family with lasting benefits.
If you’re reading this, then you’re likely a parent who probably already has his or her preconceived ideas (one way or the other) about letting your babies and children “cry it out.” Before I go any further, let me clarify that while both my children have “cried it out” from time-to-time, we have always tended to them immediately when sick, hurt, or under any other abnormal situation. No matter what the circumstance allowing your children to “cry it out” is never fun. It takes a toll on me as a mother and is always difficult to bear. My husband and I typically end up huddled around the baby monitor plotting our strategy. However, “crying it out” despite its numerous negative connotations can actually result in very positive and lasting results in teaching children to self soothe, develop independence and establish healthy sleep habits.
Once my children were of an age where they had established that they could consistently sleep through the night, “crying it out” became a part of our lives as we felt it important for our children to learn to sleep well independently. As my children get older with my youngest being in the toddler stage, once we realize he is crying solely for attention when it is time to sleep, we default to a reasonable “cry it out” period. Most times the baby is asleep before we sleepily walk across the house to check on him. Yes, the nights of listening to them wail briefly were hard but we always watched them carefully on a video monitor and listened closely for sounds of distress. Many times, we entered their room thinking we’d effectively soothe them only to end up holding a baby who wanted to play in the middle of the night and who would cry each and every time we returned them to their crib. Our children thrive on a good night’s sleep as do we. Adequate, independent sleep for our entire family is routine in our home. A restful night and naps for our children greatly decreases their crankiness and allows my husband and I to better preform our occupations in life and our job as parents. At bedtime, we enjoy a family routine of story time, song and some snuggles then it is lights out for both kiddos who easily fall asleep alone in their own beds giving my husband and I time to catch up on chores, watch TV or spend quality time together. A few nights of crying for mere minutes has given our children the ability to fall asleep on their own and sleep through the night early on in life.
“Crying it out” certainly isn’t appropriate when your child is sick or if there is an actual cause for crying. While not fitting for all circumstances, if you can recognize when your child is simply crying for attention, allowing them to “cry it out” will yield positive results for both parents and baby. “Crying it out” surely won’t eliminate all sleepless nights, but it has given our children the important skill of independent, healthy sleeping habits — a life-long gift.