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Should You Let Your Child Cry Himself To sleep? What Do You Think?

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Each week in Moms Talk, our Moms Council takes your questions, gives advice and shares solutions. This week's topic: Should you let your infant or toddler cry himself to sleep at night?

Erin Calvo-Bacci:

I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a child self soothe.

After having three children I have learned that all children develop differently and have their own patterns. I believe in routines and have seen the positive benefit of a routine, such as a scheduled bed time which had me put my children to sleep without any issues. I know routines work with my children because I’ve experienced the negative side effects of not sticking to one and in those instances have done whatever necessary for my sanity.

Even though I believe its OK for a child to cry themselves to sleep, when they cry in the middle of the night it just sounds so much louder and I have done whatever necessary to keep the house quiet.

I had no problem putting my first child to sleep at night, but I don’t think she slept through the night until she was over two, and that was only because I was too tired to get up after the birth of my second child. Because I was so tired with having two, I think my second was a great sleeper because I didn’t’ hear her if she did cry.

Perhaps parental confidence has a lot more to do with those who believe in children crying themselves to sleep. I’m certainly confident and I am not nerved if my five year old cries at bed time, maybe I’m just too tired to hear her.

Meghan Cogswell:

We dealt with this when my oldest was about 7 months old.  She decided that she would try for our attention and scream and cry when we left her in her crib. 

At first, we would go in an get her and try to calm her down and then she would do it all over again when we left.  It got to the point, where I would still have to rock her to sleep in my arms and then ever so carefully place her back in the crib without waking her.  This became quite a chore everynight and the crying was not stopping. 

So I did some research and talked to some other moms and was told about letting the baby "cry it out". 

I was told that the children need to learn how to settle themselves down and go to sleep on their own and that I would have to let her "cry it out" for a few nights to stop the habit she was forming.  

So, the first night, we placed her in her crib, and sure enough, she started her screaming and crying.  We were warned about this and told not to go get her until at least 15 minutes had passed. 

So after 15 minutes we went in and tried to calm her down and then left again.  And again the crying started.  It took about 45 mintues of this before she actually went to sleep on her own, which isn't so bad as I was told it could take 2 hours. 

The next night I think it only took the first 15 minutes and then after that she just went to sleep on her own.  It was like a miracle!  

I think it is OK, to let a baby cry a little so they do learn to comfort themselves and learn to put themselves to sleep. However, clearly if the baby is in distress or not calming down, then sure, you should definately go in and help them.  

Alicia Botticelli-Tarasuk:

Although my children are almost 11 and 8, I remember well when they were infants, especially my daughter. 

My first born, my daughter, I was so excited.  I was so ready to have children, I was an aunt and a nanny for years and wanted one of my own.  I knew it all... so I thought.  After a tough pregnancy and even tougher birth my daughter was here. 

I should have known from the ride home when she was WIDE awake that this child was not going to sleep well.  The next few months (till she was 16 months old to be exact) were.... well... hell!! 

She was extremely colicky.  I was tired, stressed out and at a loss.  I helped raise two children, had no problems, and my own stumped me! 

My mother helped greatly but I still seemed so helpless.  After running in and out of her room 80 times a night, crawling around in the dark to try to find her pacifier I said enough is enough. I let her cry it out. And ohhhhh did she cry, to the point of vomiting. 

I made sure she was fed, dry, burped: everything that would make a child cry.  We did reflux testing, she was on special formula, we tried everything. 

I can’t even tell you the stress of a sleepless baby. I know some of you have been there and unless you have it is so hard to explain. 

I don’t feel that letting a baby cry is a bad thing.  She eventually learned to sleep on her own but she is still a terrible sleeper.

My son made up for it (a miracle I even had a number 2 after that).  He slept through the night at two weeks, would put himself to nap, and is a great sleeper still (it is when he is awake that is an issue. Ha! Ha!). 

Parents need to decide what is right for them during a hard time.  I don’t pass judgment on any parent after the hard time I went through.  If parents choose to do the “family bed” thing or cry it out or rock them to sleep... power to all parents. 

It is such a hard job, one that does not come with a big book of right and wrong.  This is a method I chose. It eventually worked and she was not harmed. It was hard, but when you are at the end of your rope you try anything.  

I don’t think this method is wrong...or right.. it works for some and not others.  It really is a decision you and your spouse need to make and do together... but no sleep makes you lose your mind... I think I may have just gotten it back (only to lose it again with the whole school thing). 

Did I mention parenting is very hard.... kudos to all us parents!!

Anneliese Reins November 09, 2011 at 11:01 PM
Please do not let your child cry until falling asleep by exhaustion or withdrawal. Listen to the sound, it may be an expression of terror, fear of abandonment. There are other ways to make bedtime easy and welcome than isolating a young child behind closed doors in a dark bedroom. Anneliese Reins, pediatric nurse.
Laurie Hunt December 14, 2011 at 10:44 PM
I firmly believe that a baby should not be allowed to cry itself to sleep. If your baby has a dry diaper and a full belly I don't think that is reason enough to walk away - if they need you for comfort they need you! Blink and they will be tweens who are too busy for you. Babies absolutely do not understand why you are not coming to them when they need you!
Emily M December 22, 2011 at 03:37 PM
they should totally be allowed to. how else are they going to learn behavior?

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