Cry it out, Baby

Lesson seven: Do what’s hard now to make it better in the long run

My cousin, Marie, asked me today whether I had written a post on “cry it out”, the method of teaching babies to comfort themselves and *phew* sleep through the night. She has a friend who is fried and exhausted and willing to try anything.

Well, first, I was so tickled that someone actually thought of my blog as a resource, even if I have known that person since the day she was born (so she is obligated to read it and like it). 🙂

Marie and Rae, mid - 80's
Marie and Rae, mid – 80’s
Rae and Marie, 2010? 2011?
Rae and Marie, 2010? 2011?

Second, I was uncomfortable with the idea of recommending this method to another parent. There is much debate over this controversial issue and I am not an authority and have done very little research. (I did read the article linked above, though).  All I can do it talk about my own experience.  I am not going onto the web and promoting that this is right for every baby and every family.

When I was exhausted, sleepless, stressed and crying for no reason in the middle of my workday (I went back to teaching when Maya Bell was four months old), a dear friend and colleague told me of her experience and now, I am telling it to you.

I will say, that I think I remember that this method has no effect on babies younger than six months, though my pediatrician didn’t see a problem with “practicing” it when Bell was five months old-ish. This was also
about the time we were transitioning Maya from sleeping in our room to her very own crib in her very own room.

There are specific how-to guides out there, but here is what we did:

We went through the every-day bedtime routine:

  • bath time around 5:30pm
  • singing and rocking and nursing/bottle around 6pm
  • put her down, hit the “whale” option on the Sleep Sheep noise machine (Maya never seemed to like the ocean waves as much as I wanted her to), and started the mobile
  • Then she cried.
  • After about 3 minutes, one of us would go in there, pick her up, sing “You Are My Sunshine” (but without the sad part in the 2nd stanza and taking out the 4th stanza completely)
  • Put her back down, and she would cry again.
  • This time, wait 5 minutes. Go back in, another hug, some brief crooning (have I mentioned that it’s probably my singing that was making her cry in the first place?), put her back down.
  • Rinse and repeat, 7 minutes, 10 minutes, 15, 20 – upping the span of minutes until you go in again each time.
  • Around round 3 or 4, I had to stand on the back porch so I couldn’t hear her. Often crying myself.
  • If I remember correctly, the longest this went on was about an hour.  Maybe an hour and a half.
  • When you are ready to give in, give it one more round – that’s usually when she finally would fall asleep

It was really difficult for about four days. Then, just like a snap, she slept.


I would wake her again just before I would go to bed – usually around 11pm or so – and nurse/give a bottle one last time.  From there, she would sleep straight through til 6:30-7am.

We all changed for the better.  A well rested mommy is a better mommy – there’s no debate about that one. The article linked above says that after a cry-it-out session, there are still stress hormones in the baby’s saliva.  That may be true, but in my, ahem, professional scientific opinion (not), that is a short lived symptom, because – and again, I can only speak from our personal experience – Maya stopped crying for more than a couple of minutes at bedtime.  She no longer created the stress hormones from the crying because she was no longer crying.

She was just sleeping. And like a champ!

She will be 2 next month.  And she is still an awesome sleeper.  There has been some recent night waking, but that is a whole new phase of being-almost-two and is its own e-mail chain in my baby/mommy circle.  Maybe that will be another post.  But for the last year and a half, Maya has slept about 12 hours a night. Hallelujah.

A well rested kiddo
A well rested kiddo

And now, our bedtime routine looks an awful lot like the one from back then, only much shorter:

  • 5:30 dinner time
  • 6:00 bath time
  • 6:30 read books, have some warm milk (we are currently switching from bottle to sippy cup here. Next step, move milk to dinner time and try the routine without the step, but we’re not quite there yet – that and potty training are on the docket for summertime, when Mommy (or Bob, as Maya calls me, short for Baba – she doesn’t say ‘M’s) isn’t teaching teenagers all day)
  • Brush teeth
  • In bed by 7.  Still listening to the whales.
  • 95% of the time, she sleeps on through until 7:30 0r 8am.  There is not even a peep or whimper out of her when we put her down now.  Not at all.

Again, I am just telling our own story here – no advocating or promoting of any particular school of thought – but this is was happened with us, and it’s been very nice.

The first time Auntie Marie met Maya
The first time Auntie Marie met Maya

Now if anyone has any tips on how to get her to say Mama, I’d love to hear it!