Posts Tagged ‘Cry it Out’

To Cry it Out or Not to Cry it Out: That Is The Question.

My son was half-asleep in my arms, right on the edge of going off to dreamland, when I decided to put him down in the pack-n-play at our church nursery. Normally, the put-him-down-when-he’s-sleepy-but-not-sleeping-yet trick works quite well at home, but I think he was a little too interested in the sounds of the other kids and everything that was so different from home to really fall asleep effectively. I figured since he was so close, it would be okay to sneak out to the church service.

The girls running nursery asked, “If he cries, do you want us to just let him go, or pick him up?”

Ack. I pause. What should I tell them? I’m always nervous of what people will think of me, no matter which answer I give. You can’t win wither way, since everyone has their opinion on the “cry it out” method. 

I tell them what I would do at home: Check to make sure he didn’t lose his binky- if he did, replace it. If he’s only midly fussing, let him fuss a bit. If he starts really crying, he might need some help going to sleep so go ahead and pick him up.

I go out to the church service (or what was left of it), and come back a half hour later to find my son screaming in the arms of the nursery care worker. She was doing her best to comfort him, but he would have none of it. I take him and nurse him- he calms down fairly quickly and gets sleepy again.

The morning’s events got me thinking about the issue of “crying-it-out.” My son is four months old, and I know that most people say nowadays that you can’t spoil a baby until they’re at least six months old. But I’m working through a bit of a conundrum trying to figure out how to handle differing situations. 

Sleep (thankfully) is not usually a big issue for our child. He is a relatively easy baby most days when it comes to getting to sleep. But I run into the cry-it-out problem elsewhere. I am starting to notice a trend of attention-seeking. I’m in the kitchen, working on dinner. Baby is in the swing, watching me. When I stand and talk to him, he’s smiling, happy, and cooing. I turn to stir what’s in the pot, he squaks. I come by again for a moment, he’s happy as a lark. Oops, time to check the heat on the stovetop- and now some slightly more urgent fusses pop out. Maybe I give him a toy to distract him, but the next time I walk away he’s starting to screech pretty vehemently.

Now, is it a bad thing that he wants my company? No, not in and of itself. But can I always be giving him my undivided attention? No, I can’t. Could I wear him in a wrap? Sure, and I enjoy being close with him, but do I want him to ALWAYS need it? No, I don’t want that either.

If I decide to ignore him during the dinnertime prep I described above, he usually will work himself up to real crying, probably to the point that he doesn’t really even know why he started it, and it can get intense pretty fast. If I pick him up before that happens, he’s happy and I just make dinner with him on my hip or in a wrap.

This was just a sample scenario- there are plenty of other examples I could give of things that get him crying that aren’t solved by the essentials checklist (food, diaper, burping, tired, etc.). Here’s my question: which course of action makes me the worse mother in this situation?

By not letting him cry it out, I keep him from getting worked up. He’s happy and I just do what I need to do to keep getting things done to the best of my ability. However, I feel like a sucker who picks my kid up at every whim. I cave to his desires. I am no longer mother, but servant. He will rule my life as a two year old if I continue this pattern. (Trust me, I’ve seen it plenty of times at my old daycare.)

By letting him cry it out (which I don’t think I’ve ever really done yet- we’ve only let him “fuss it out”), I’ve maintained the idea that he can’t always get everything that he wants when he wants it. I am the parent, not his vending machine. But it’s possible to let him work himself up to the point where I feel like a monster, like I must be the cruelest mother in the world- I usually can’t stand it and I go get him before it gets terrible.

Here’s where I’m at with this right now. I think that if the baby has a need, it should be met! I’m also sympathetic to a baby who might not have a “real need,” but just needs comfort or cuddling (I think these can be plenty real too!). For now, I still think that my son is too young to really be trying to manipulate me. I could see how some of these patterns could continue to grow and prove challenging to deal with as he gets older. If he’s eighteen months and throwing a tantrum because I’m stirring the pot instead of entertaining him, I will let him throw his tantrum and try to teach him that it’s not the appropriate way to get something. But if he’s crying right now because he wants to be with me, I’m not sure that he would really understand what was going on if I just let him lay there and scream. Maybe I just should forget the dinner and call it good bonding time.

For me, the catch lies in knowing how to form good habits so I’m not dealing with the eighteen month old throwing tantrums for attention all the time (I do realize that every kid has them sometimes). My questions are these: When is it appropriate to let your child cry? How do you know, when they are so small, when they are acting up “for no reason” and when something is valid? Can you truly know?

I guess I have to come back to what I keep telling myself about my mothering journey so far-no one method will work all the time for every child. All I can do is do the best that I can with my decisions as I go by praying for wisdom, talking with my husband, and realizing that it’s okay to make mistakes. If I mess up, all I can do is ask forgiveness and work to make a better decision the next time.

I don’t think that always or never letting your child cry it out is the best answer. The best answer is learning as you go, building consistency, and making the decisions you do out of love for your child and a desire to raise him or her in a virtuous manner.