Crying it Out

Pulling All-Dayers

fitp2094004530.jpg Syda Productions/Shutterstock

I was wearing summer clothes, sitting by an open window the last time I remember nursing Leo to sleep in my arms then smiling down on him while he napped. Now the only way to get him to nap enough (he's still sleeping at night, knock wood!) is to put him in the Ergo and start walking. Fast. Without stopping. He's getting heavy, my back is hurting, I'm getting impatient and it's getting cold out.

In the past weeks, I've logged countless hours soothing the baby to sleep for a nap that ends abruptly in (mutual) tears minutes later. Last week he and I were both so overtired and frustrated with the situation that I didn't think I could go on. Something had to change. No more reading different sleep theories and feeling confused. Leo needed to nap, for everyone's sake.

So Aaron and I are trying the old-fashioned cry-it-out approach. I think this post will be controversial, but I'm not going to let that stop me from being honest. I'm writing this on day 3, with absolutely no idea if it will work, or if Leo will be hurt by this sudden change in our parenting. All I have is the list of assumptions we started with:

  • He's too young to remember much or judge, and he's resilient.
  • He needs to learn to fall asleep and we can't seem to teach him.
  • Many parents insist that crying it out works, and that, after a few hard days, it leaves everyone in a better place.
  • Leo has been having such a hard time falling asleep, and he's been so tired as he tries, that he's been crying a ton anyway, even while I'm holding and rocking him.

It's amazing, the difference between the hope I have when I consider these points intellectually, and the despair I feel when I watch my baby boy drop his head in misery as he cries to the point of exhaustion.

A Crying Shame

Leo cried for 20 minutes this morning then napped for 30. Maybe someday he'll learn how to put himself back to sleep and actually take a long enough nap to wake up well rested. If not, if we are forced to conclude that this theory isn't right for right now, we'll have put our son, and ourselves, through a lot of needless agony.

I know we're not the only household going through this. There are infinitely more parents out there blaming themselves for not knowing how to sleep-train than there are books promising a solution. Listening to a child cry in frustration because he's exhausted and doesn't know the first thing about how to let himself fall asleep is horrible. It's the kind of thing you rush to forget and aren't eager to re-visit unless you must. But here I am, sharing my experience in the midst. I'm just hoping that we'll all be on the way to forgetting this by my next post, and that Leo will be better rested and able to soothe himself.

If this is a taste of what's hard about parenting--that you can't cushion your child from their difficult moments, or do for them what we all must eventually do for ourselves--well, I'm here to say that it stinks. And I doubt there's any way around that.

Whether he's just waking up or beginning to look groggy, Leo still shines the sunniest smiles and the most open, trusting love on us. Looking back on the misery and isolation I saw in his face when he was a baffled, inconsolably colicky newborn, I realize this isn't the first hardship he's faced. He emerged from that phase unscathed and I feel pretty sure he'll come through this one smiling as well. It's my responsibility as his mom to do the same. Please stay tuned and cross your fingers for us as we both cry it out.

I-Miss-Summer Fruit Salad