Now I know that everyone has really strong opinions on this topic and I must admit that recently my own opinion has changed. The golden rules of bedtime seem to be;
1. Do not allow your child to sleep in your bed and;
2. Once you have put your child to bed you should allow him/her to fall asleep without your intervention.
In other words, let them cry their eyes out and once they realize that you aren’t coming to sooth them, they will give up and finally fall asleep. Well, I must admit that I put my child to sleep every night by holding him until he falls asleep. I can hear the gasps and moans now, but I truly feel that the other way is too traumatizing for my young son and myself. I am not so sure how my husband feels about this, but I think he has decided not to press the subject with me since our one enlightening incident. We have received an overwhelming amount of advice on putting your baby to sleep and after testing out these theories recently, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot allow my son to cry himself to sleep even if the end result is that I will be crying due to lack of sleep.
The general rule of thumb seems to be that around 6-7 months you should start putting your baby down for bed consistently once they show signs of fatigue like eye rubbing, yawning etc. Once you have put the baby down you should walk away, say goodnight and let them fall asleep. Now so far I agree with everything, it’s the second part that I cannot support. If the baby doesn’t fall asleep immediately, you should allow them to cry in efforts to sooth themselves and this also applies if they awaken during the night. Hmmm, this sounded logical to me prior to putting the act into practice. However, my husband and I tried this once with our nine month old son and he went from a simple baby cry to a frantic screaming within 3 minutes. Not only was I forced to listen to this crying, but we also have a video camera in our child’s room, so I had the pleasure of watching my son stand in the crib and fall back onto the mattress numerous times while screaming his head off. My poor husband was lying next to me trying to coach me through this ordeal and at one point I thought I saw him dose off. However, his fatigue was quickly abated by the fear of my reaction, I am sure. As the rules go, after 5 minutes of crying you can then go in and lie the baby back down and tell them that it is time to go to bed and then you must leave the room. Okay, so I go into the room, pick up my child and after he grips onto me for dear life, I don’t let him go until he has fallen asleep. He was shaking and moaning and I knew at that moment that this didn’t feel right. Call it a failure if you like, I personally do not. After failing miserably at our one attempt at this method I started to think about all the people who have given me this advice. Many of them have children ranging from the ages of 2 to 7 and they still have sleep issues. I often run into these men and women at work with the same red eyes as mine and we readily discuss what battle ensued with our child or children that night. So, with all due respect, how can I trust this method to work for me, when it doesn’t appear to be the true answer to winning the bedtime battle?
I can hear all of you muttering about how my spoiled child will end up being some major criminal or delinquent because I didn’t allow him to cry himself to sleep. Please feel free to verbalize just how crazy you think I am for making this choice. Doesn’t it make sense that all “hardened criminals” turned out the way they are because their mothers coddled them too much? Okay, I know I am exaggerating but I just believe that this is impractical for my child who can’t even tell me (in English) that he is hungry or wet. How can I expect him to grasp my reasoning for allowing him to cry himself to sleep without my soothing or intervention? I just feel it is too early. I am just going to take my chances on this one and don’t worry if I fall flat on my face, I will write candidly about it.
I don’t necessarily feel that my choice is the right one for everyone, but at this very pregnant and emotional time in my life, it is the right choice for me (and my husband I hope). I do sometimes wonder if Nicholas is laughing at me, especially those nights at 9:30 pm when he is looking up at me and smiling and showing no signs of fatigue. I wonder if his baby babble translated means “You Sucker!”? However, he does tend to sleep through the night once the ordeal is complete. So I say to myself, if I am going to continue to have sleep issues with my child up until the ripe old age of 7, no matter what technique I choose, then I choose to not let him cry himself to sleep for my sanity and his. I do reserve the right to change my mind once his brother comes along. Then, I can blame it all on the hormones!