I had one of my most trying episodes with my five month old son this week: I attempted the infamous “crying it out” with him. Was it a success? If me tripping in my own tears, on the verge of a mental breakdown, constitutes as a success; then yes, it was a “roaring” (excuse the pun) success.
I had read various articles on this phenomenon at the beginning of my postnatal period. Opinions clashed but if I had any of that so-called mother’s instinct, it was not to leave my baby crying. My partner and I had several debates in the course of those first few weeks about whether or not to try out this method of parenting, and the topic reared its ugly head again this week. To me the idea of letting my son perpetually wail, as I watched, seemed unbearable.
I understood where he was coming from. We can’t hold him all day long. We’ll start bad habits. He’ll get spoiled. etc etc. While this all seemed entirely logical, it just didn’t feel right. Midwives and health visitors reaffirmed by beliefs. They maintained that it was impossible to spoil a baby and that there was no such thing as “holding a baby too much”.
I had made it 5 months without ever trying the old “cry it out” technique. Every time my son cried, mama came a-runnin’. I then began to question my decisions so far – not uncommon in the parenting field.
How to put your baby to sleep
Caleb only falls asleep while being held. There’s a bit of an art to it actually: 1. Insert dummy, preferably with some teething gel 2. Snuggle up to bosom 3. Blanket over face 4. Rock side to side. (He’s quite the diva.) And while this is a very special experience that I do not take for granted, it can at times be – what’s the word? – inconvenient.
Occasionally I like to shower and eat and so these 20 minute naps are a precious commodity to me. The problem is, Caleb tends to wake up immediately after being put down. Months of this, with no end in sight, I decided to to put him in his cot, knowing he was totally exhausted, and see how he’d fare on his own. He moaned for a good 10 minutes but I held out. And then the crying started. I gave myself a time period of 10 minutes of crying at the outset. This, my friend, was the longest 10 minutes of my life. This might sound incredibly dramatic and full of hyperbole but I’m hoping any other new mother can testify to how gruelling the whole affair is. My partner looked at me like I was bonkers. He seemed so calm and collected as I unravelled in front of him. There was a point he said “Go into him, if you really have to”. It was the way he said it. I felt I’d be considered weak to give in. Thankfully, I had my Lazy Daisies (a baby group) Facebook chat to comfort me.
After the allotted 10 minutes, I went into Caleb. I patted his back, gave him his dummy and, alas, he went over. This would probably be described as a success. I, on the other hand, felt like a failure.
A few days later and I have not tried this again. Is it because I don’t agree with it? I’m not so sure. Is it because I found it harder than Caleb? Probably. After all, Caleb will not remember any of this. It’s not the toll that it takes on baby but ,arguably, the toll is takes on mother. I do not discount Fathers but, in my experience, men seem to handle this approach to baby training with much less distress, and I don’t think this is simply because we females are generally more “emotional” or “sensitive”, but because we have a different relationship with our child, especially at this early stage.
The difficulty, like everything in parenting, is that there are no hard and fast rules. If there were, it would be easy. I believe controlled crying does have it’s place and I take my hat off to any parent who can commit to it. I’ve heard of it working in many instances and who knows, maybe i’ll try it again. But for now, I think i’ll just control my own crying and not bother.