This post represents our first foray into blogging. We are parents of two young girls and have found that many of our children's milestones can be the source of anxiety, stress and more often than not, a lot of humor. Our perspectives as Mom and Dad are often at odds and make for interesting fodder, once the fight dies down. This blog represents our experiences for better or worse. If you find them useful, funny or even mildly amusing we are thrilled. Thanks for reading and enjoy!
One of the first difficult decisions faced by parents is – WHEN TO CRY IT OUT…if at all. In speaking with most of my friends and family, it is more often than not the dad dragging his feet on this. It’s as if dad’s become instantaneously soft when then become a dad, which is not a bad thing, but sometimes we have to be tough as parents. We have had the great misfortune of having to sleep train not only one, but two babies (and I am fully convinced that if we had a third, we would have to sleep train that baby too). It was definitely easier convincing my husband the second time around, but he still really dug his heels in and had our second daughter to the doctor’s office easily 4-5 times before he finally agreed (ok, I am exaggerating…it was 3 times).
For us, our first was about 9 months old when we made the decision. Yes, 9 MONTHS in spite of the fact that our doctor insisted we do it at around 5-6 months. Our doctor would squeeze our daughter’s thigh chub and name them “midnight feeding and 3 AM feeding. She is not hungry”. My husband, with all of his medical training (he’s in ad sales), insisted she was hungry and he couldn’t bare to let her starve in the middle of the night. Finally, at 9 months, I had a meltdown. I hadn’t slept in so long. I am not one of those people who can fall right back to sleep. It takes 2 hours to get back to sleep for me (I am convinced my mom didn’t sleep train me!). He finally caved after he saw the major rush of tears flowing down my cheeks. One bad night of crying and one night of barely crying, and she slept through the night. My husband told me if he knew it would be that easy, he would have done it sooner. Not true (as proven by his resistance to sleep train our second child)!
With our second, we agreed we would sleep train sooner rather than later because we understood sleep training much better. While painful for us, we knew our child was more than fine and learning an important life skill…SLEEP! At 3 months, our previously wonderful sleeper decided sleep was just not important any longer. Not only did she decide to wake up every hour on the hour, she refused a bottle and would only nurse. For the next 6 weeks, my life was HELL! I would sleep in 45 minute increments, and still have to be awake the following day to care for our 3 year old. I kept telling my husband she has to cry, he insisted something was wrong with her. He was right, in part, she did have a very low grade fever. After the fever passed, she kept on crying and waking. I insisted she needed to cry it out. So back to the doctor we went. And yes, the doctor insisted she cry it out. My husband proceeded to challenge the doctor, and was pretty pissed when we left the office. “He wouldn’t even listen to us, he wouldn’t even let me speak, there is something wrong with her”…and so we didn’t cry it out. At this point, I looked like a wild woman from nature and couldn’t speak in complete sentences (picture the female version of Tarzan). There is nothing worse than a complete lack of sleep. So I insisted she cry again. And yes, my husband felt our daughter had a fever AGAIN and took her back to the doctor (I did not go this time). The doctor requested we put the thermometer away and let her cry. We finally came to an agreement and cried it out.
We now have two sleeping children, and balance is restored in our home! At the end of the day, my advice to parents with non-sleeping children, you need to do what is best for you. It is a very personal decision. And both you and your partner must be in agreement (that doesn’t mean you won’t need to nudge your partner into agreeing to sleep train). It is an extremely difficult thing to go through and you need to support one another during the times of wailing. That said, a happy house is a well rested house, so with just a few horrible nights (and yes, I won’t lie, they are horrible) you are free to be a sleeping, functional family.
There are a wide variety of things that can be pretty divisive between parents in the early days of having an infant. Breastfeeding or formula, bassinet or co-sleep, swaddle or not swaddle, etc. You will figure all of those out, and in contrast, will be dwarfed by the decisions that need to be made for children that do not sleep well.
If you are one of those families that have infants that sleep, know this, we hate you. Yes, we hate you with the passion of a million hot daggers stabbing you in the temple. For those of you that have children that are not the best of sleepers and inevitably will need to be “taught” to sleep, you have a very uncomfortable decision ahead of you. Should you make your child cry (i.e. Ferber, Crying it out, etc.) or wait it out until the child is older? Not an easy decision.
Not to jump ahead to the end, but Dads, you will know when it’s time to let your child cry. It will become abundantly clear on some random Tuesday night at 3:12 am after about 2-3 weeks of extremely sporadic sleep, when your wife looks at you with those bloodshot eyes filled with venom and the patch of hair that she had been pulling on sticking straight up, and informs you ever-so-politely that it is time to sleep train your child.
As you lay back down (eventually), still reeling from the sheer terror from nearly being eviscerated for getting 2.5 hours of sleep that night, all of your concerns and fears with regard to making your child cry it out will quietly fall away into the dark void of the night that had been created.
Prior to that night, you will want to try every gimmick, remedy, and old-wives-tale imaginable. Your wife will read every book out there. Know this. While the books are helpful, the rest of it simply does not work. You’ll still want to try it all in an effort to prolong the inevitable, but remember you heard it here first. If you are like me, however, you will need to get there on your own. There are various types of sleeping devices (at a verity of angles and whatnot), things that are meant to mimic the womb, sound machines, grip water, Simethicone, soothing washes. The list is endless. It’s quite the business. We have a graveyard stock full of these items.
If you do decide to go the route of sleep training, whether Ferber or some version of that, know that the crying doesn’t last long, a few nights, and really it’s just the first night that is bad. Remember it’s just crying. It won’t hurt. At the end of the day, a well-rested, happy mother makes for a well-rested happy baby and in turn a well-rested happy you.
My wife swears (and still does) by Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth. In all honesty it has been a helpful guide of what to expect and when with regard to getting your child to sleep well.