Reader Questions: Should I let my baby cry it out?
Q: I had my son almost three months ago and recently decided it was time to let him sleep in his room but he won’t.
Every time I put him down to sleep and leave the room he just cries and cries. My mother said that I should let him ‘cry it out’ but I can’t take it and it breaks my heart. Should I let him cry it out and if so how?
-Sleepless in Texas
A: Hi Sleepless in Texas.What your son is doing is normal, especially at 3 months old.
Remember that he’s not yet used to being in his room to sleep and babies tend to like familiarity in surroundings and in activities such as sleeping, playing, etc. My oldest child slept with me for the first few weeks of her life and eventually it was time for her to sleep in her nursery. She was not impressed.
It was a nightmare and at the time, I had to get up at 4 am to get to work and was often up until 3 am trying to get her to sleep. My husband suggested that we try The Ferber method (sort of like letting the child cry it out with guidelines) and I was soooooo angry at the suggestion. A few sleep deprived nights later, he insisted that I try it out since my method of running in there at every cry just was not working. Reluctantly, I tried it. And I hated it. The idea is that you make sure that your child is safe, clean/dry, fed, and that the room is dark and you leave your child in there, waiting at least 3 minutes before returning to make sure that they are still ok. The way that we did it (I believe we got it from some talk show…maybe Oprah?), we weren’t supposed to pick our child up, talk or turn on the lights when checking on her. the next night you wait 5 minutes, the following 10, etc. until there’s no more crying.
The first night, I sat directly outside of her door crying with her (quietly) and I felt horrible.
Every three minutes I could not wait to go in and make sure she was ok, and she was. We barely made it through that night and I didn’t want to do it anymore, but again my husband felt we weren’t giving his idea a shot so we tried again, at 5 minute intervals. Again she cried, again I felt horrible. By the fourth day, something incredible happened. I laid her down to sleep and she fussed for a minute or two, then went to sleep. From that day on, she slept in her room and got to the point that she didn’t fuss at all when she went to bed.
Of course, as with any parenting technique, there are people that are 100% for letting your child get used to sleeping on their own, and their are others that a very opposed to doing it. As with anything, there are kids that are more receptive to this technique than others. My suggestion to you is to read up on the The Ferber method and decide if it is something that you can do or not. I didn’t believe in it when first approached about it, but I did it, and I am happy that I did. My second child never had an issue going to bed so I they never experienced the technique and here we are years later and they are both well adjusted, out going kids that have no behavior issues and are both on the honor roll. I bring this up because there are some articles out there that say that a psychologist has decided that there may possibly be a link to letting a child cry it out and behavior issues, learning issues and/or socialization issues when they become older children and I see no evidence of that what so ever in my own children.
No matter what you do…
…remember to make sure all of your child’s needs (food, dry/clean diaper, darkness) are being met and before leaving your child in any room unattended make sure that there is nothing that he could potentially reach that could cause him harm. If you choose to try the The Ferber method, follow these tips:
- Wait until your son is over any colds or illnesses that he may have.
- Keep a clock near so you can track the time.
- Stay calm and only speak in a soft voice.
- Be consistent.
- Stay close.
- Use a video baby monitor if you can to also help you keep an eye on him.
- Trust your gut. If you think something is wrong, it may be.
- Be patient with your son. Remember that he’s not fussing to annoy you, he just loves being with you and babies are not fans of change, even when it’s needed.
Good luck to you and I hope you find a technique that works for you!