(I originally wrote this in 2018, but updated it today because it’s 2020 and us moms need all the solidarity right now.)
You are not alone.
It’s okay that your baby doesn’t self soothe. It’s okay that your baby isn’t independent. It’s okay that your baby needs you to fall asleep and even to stay asleep.
It is okay to say NO to cry-it-out.
I know what people say:
- Your teaching your baby bad habits
- Your spoiling your baby
- Your baby is manipulating you
- Your baby will never learn to sleep on his own
- You have to let your baby cry to exercise their lungs
- Sometimes you just have to let them cry
No. Just no to ALL of these.
Helping your baby fall asleep is NOT a bad habit. Babies CANNOT be spoiled. Your baby is NOT manipulating you. Your baby WILL learn to fall asleep on his own. Their lungs do NOT need exercise. And you don’t “just have to let them cry” (with the exception of the moments that you’re loosing your mind, and need to step away from baby to take some deep breaths).
Also, the way your baby sleeps is NOT your fault.
You are doing everything you can absolutely think of to help your baby develop good sleep habits. You have a routine, the white noise machine, the black out curtains, the humidifier, and the organic crib sheets. You’ve tried the earlier bedtime, the later bedtime, the longer awake time, the shorter awake time, more nap, less naps. You’ve tried it all!
These things help, but YOU are all your baby needs for sleep.
Trust your mama instincts! There is a reason it feels wrong to ignore your baby’s cry. It goes against our biological instincts. (Check out this article from CNN about a recent study on why and how we react to our baby’s cries – it’s so interesting!)
When our babies cry, we know they are crying because they need us, and we shouldn’t have to defend our choice to comfort our own baby!
But in case you (or someone to close to you) are in need of a little science reassurance:
- Here are six experts who are also against cry-it-out
- Here is a very in-depth article from Evolutionary Parenting about cry-it-out methods and the effects of the stress hormone, cortisol
- This article about “The Dangers of Crying It Out” is more dated, but I still find it useful
- Also, remember that 2016 study that found that cry-it-out isn’t harmful? That study got way more publicity than it deserved. Here Modern Alternative Mama explains it’s many flaws.
However, when it comes to your baby and his sleep needs, research studies, experts, your mother-in-law, your great Aunt Lucy, and also the woman behind you in the grocery check-out line do not matter.
You are mom! Only YOU knows what your baby needs when your baby needs it. Listen to your baby. Listen to your instincts.
There will come a day that your baby won’t need rocked to sleep, or bounced, or walked, or even snuggled. Then, there will come a day that you realize those long nights of bedtime struggles are over, and you will probably rejoice – you made it! (Or more likely you’ll just sleep, and sleep some more.) But also you’ll realize those long nights of bedtime struggles are over. Your little baby isn’t so little anymore. You’ll miss the rocking, the bouncing, the walking, and even the laying there for hours waiting for your little to fall asleep.
Your baby is only little for a little while. Enjoy their littleness!
So, I offer you solidarity. I am with you – currently in month 13 of interrupted sleep – and I choose to say no to cry-it-out. (Edited in 2020: Month 37 of still struggling with night time wake-ups. Usually it’s only once a night these days, but it’s still a common occurrence.)