You’ve probably read a few articles about letting your baby cry it out. If you’re in search of more information about this topic, it’s likely you’re feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and your baby isn’t sleeping well. Maybe he was sleeping just fine and recently got sick, sabotaging every great sleep milestone he had accomplished. Or, maybe your little one was never a champion sleeper to begin with. Regardless of your current situation, you need answers. Does crying really harm your baby? Are you a horrible mom if you let your baby cry? What is cry it out anyway and are there any alternatives to the cry it out method?
First things first: you are doing an amazing job! You care so much about your baby and you only want what’s best for them. You want to give them the world, protect them from any pain, and give them a better life than you had in every way. You’re spending the little bit of free time you have scouring the web for answers. You care so much, and that’s the most important thing to remember. Obviously, you’re not a horrible parent!
What is the Cry It Out Method?
Now, you’re wondering about letting your baby “cry it out”. The traditional cry it out method, sometimes known as the extinction method, refers to either leaving your baby to cry when you put them down and not returning to the room, or not responding to their cries in the middle of the night at all. Essentially, it entails closing the door at bedtime and not opening it again until it’s time to wake up in the morning.
For some parents, this method is effective and one they swear by! For other parents, this method is either not feasible or they are not comfortable with it. With our program at Live Love Sleep, we offer an option for parents looking for an alternative. Yes, there is an alternative!
Learning Independent Sleep
Falling asleep independently is a skill all of us learn at some point in our lives. Some of us learn quickly and early in our childhood. Others take some more time. And some of us need extra help for one reason or another. You’ve heard about some babies “sleeping through the night” way earlier than yours. And you may wonder what you’re doing wrong. You’re ready to help your little one learn the skill of falling asleep without being fed, held, rocked, shushed, bounced, needing the pacifier or helped in another way (something we call “sleep props”). But, you need some reassurance that you’re doing it in the most gentle way possible. Check out our Breaking the Nightly Bottle Habit blog post to understand WHY it’s important to break these sleep props.
The actual process of learning this skill for babies is the challenging part. Typically, with any change, babies will protest. As adults, we protest things we don’t like as well — but we have words to express ourselves. Babies can’t talk yet, so they let us know about their dissatisfaction the only way they can — by crying. The good news is, you don’t have to leave your baby alone while they navigate the steps of learning this new skill.
Alternatives to the Cry It Out Method
Stay in the Room Method
Providing reassurance for your baby, most of the time, is helpful for both parents and babies. One of our alternatives to the cry it out method allows you can stay right next to the crib and provide comfort to your little one. Parents feel good about not leaving their babies alone. And babies are secure in knowing even though they’re uncomfortable because of the change, their parent is right there by their side and they’re safe.
Leave and Check Method
Less often, the presence of a parent in the room providing reassurance can be more stressful for little ones. In these instances, we may recommend a one of the other alternatives to the cry it out method and have parents leave the room, but coming back to check on your baby at regular intervals so they know they’re not being abandoned.
It essentially comes down to how your baby responds to the comfort measures you’re providing. You know your baby best, and can gauge effectiveness accordingly.
Whether you’re staying in the room or leaving and checking on your baby every so often — they are going to be just fine. And either way, you’re not practicing extinction, or true “cry-it-out” if it is something you’re looking to avoid.
We’re Here to Help!
So, now you know what cry it out means. You know about some alternatives to the cry it out method you can try instead. And, you know your merit as a parent is not in jeopardy if you decide to coach your baby on her sleep skills. Remember to give it time, as you would with learning anything new. Read more about our Sleep Philosophy here.
We’re just a phone call away if you have other questions or if you need help on this journey. Just schedule a complimentary Discovery Call with me so we can troubleshoot your specific issues and get your whole house sleeping better!
To healthy sleep,
Baby & Toddler Sleep Consultant