If you’ve got a child still waking in the night and you’re considering the ‘cry it out’ technique then reading our experience may help you decide if it’s for you. We’ve all heard the advice about ‘crying it out’ some good and some bad. I want to share our experience with this, how our baby and toddler coped with being left to cry and why we chose to use this technique.When I Googled about ‘crying it out’ the first thing that I saw was that it can cause brain damage! That was a scary article to read, but then once I looked into it further there really is no proof of this, as long as it’s not used in the wrong way. By that I mean that only the parents know their child and if it sounds as if your baby or toddler is in far too much distress to be left, then it’s time to abandon the plan and give them the comfort they need. Our son found his comfort in a cuddle and a bottle of milk. Mainly his milk.
Only you as their parent know what they can cope with. With our son we knew he couldn’t be left to ‘cry it out’ until he was approaching his toddler years, he was 13 months old roughly (we tested it in his baby months and it didn’t go down well). I do know a mum that used the ‘cry it out technique’ with her young baby because she felt her baby could handle it and it worked brilliantly for her. (Slightly envious of their peaceful evenings, but no-one is cut from the same cloth). Every baby and parent is different and this technique isn’t for everyone. I didn’t think it was for us until we had the delivery date of our second baby looming, we had to try it to know. With the hope that it would work but the expectation it wouldn’t, I would have gone to pieces with two little night hooters.
So it was a month or so before our second baby was due and our son would wake once or twice a night for milk. This also had a knock on effect on the amount he eat the next day. So Darren and I discussed it and we decided ok, we will try leaving him to cry for maximum of 15 minutes unless we feel he needs us sooner. We left it to a Friday night so we would have the weekend to recover if necessary. We knew he wasn’t waking from illness or any other reason other than habit.
Friday night came and we put him to bed with his bedtime milk topped right up so we also knew he wasn’t hungry. We then carried on our usual evening and went to bed. Then we heard him, his usual night time shuffle followed by his crying. We both just sat up in bed and Darren said ‘are you sure you want to do this‘ I knew we had to try it and we agreed on a maximum time of 15 minutes before we would rush in with milk. I couldn’t help but cry, my poor boy in there by himself crying for a cuddle but I just kept reminding myself it’s just 15 minutes! 15 minutes came so Darren ran downstairs to get his milk (I was far too pregnant to be running anywhere). Then when we were outside his door it stopped, the crying stopped. He’d fallen back to sleep! We checked on him and he was absolutely fine he didn’t even wake up with us in the room, he was back to being fast asleep!
So our experience was 1 night 15 minutes and he was sleeping through hallelujah!
Once his sister arrived it did set him back a bit but we were happy (exhausted) to comfort him when he needed it. We waited until we moved house to use the ‘cry it out‘ technique again. This time it took 2 nights of around 10 minutes and he’s slept through ever since! This time, we used the method accidentally, we were in such a trance his crying felt like a dream (I’m pleased I wasn’t fully aware of him waking up) Now if he does wake in the night, which he may do once or twice a month, we know it’s not from habit and he may be having a bad dream or teething so he gets a tiny drink of milk and cuddles, then back to bed until morning!
We have tried leaving our 7 month old to cry it out because some nights she wakes once and others she could wake 8 times, I’m exhausted! We only leave her for 5 minutes maximum and occasionally she goes back to sleep and when she doesn’t we just feed her back to sleep. Once she’s older we will know if she’s ready for the 15 minute crying spell but we do also have to think about it waking our son up, so that’ll just be a judgement call nearer the time. We have plenty of time until that day comes and until then, when she needs us she gets us, just like our son when he was her age. For me, our baby is still a baby and although other babies her age seem to be sleeping through the night (many others don’t too), I feel it’s normal for her to wake in the night. It is tiring! But it’s what we signed up for and I’m not ready yet to take any drastic measures.
Leaving your baby to cry isn’t for every baby and isn’t for every parent, you know your child best and I found it incredibly hard each minute we did it but the rewards for us worked out perfectly. I hope if you are having a hard time sleeping because of a little hooting night owl, and you decide to use this technique, that it works as well for you as it did us. I’d love to hear other people’s experience!