4.1.17

Baby sleep, would you consider controlled crying?

Why would anyone leave a baby to cry?

I did.

Would I do it again? Most probably not if the circumstances were the same, but in some circumstances, yes, yes I'd try it, and before you shout me down here's what I did, and why I would, or wouldn't do it again.

When DD was born (17 years ago!)  I was a novice mum. I didn't have a lot of close friends living near and none that had babies. All my school mates had moved away and none were married. My mum lived hundreds of miles away. The Internet existed but not with social media like it is today. I joined a small message board of mums, they were almost all American, everything from our 'diaper' choices to feeding methods were very different, though everyone was friendly. Mostly I bought some books and took advice from my midwives and health visitors (who were all lovely and really helpful btw)

When DD was born I was able to take a year off from work and Mr TM was already retired (and planning to be a SAHD and DD's main carer when I went back to work) so we had a whole year, just us and a baby (and 2 dogs). In the first few weeks I didn't get much sleep. Although Mr TM slept in a separate room (so he could be awake in the day and do lots of the chores, walk the dogs etc,) night feeds, in fact all feeds, were provided by my boobs so I had to be awake. Feeding on demand was recommended (quite rightly imo) at least in the first weeks to help milk supply. A feed could take an hour with a 2 hour nap after (for DD!)  and then more feeding, so you can imagine how tired a breastfeeding mum is, also she's making milk, in itself tiring - medals all round ladies!

Also anyone that tells you to 'sleep when the baby sleeps' is an idiot. Do they suggest a quick nap in aisle 8 of Sainsbury? A 20 minute sleep while driving? A doze in the park while walking the dogs? You are using those 2 hour windows of sleeping baby to wash, eat, clean the house, chat to adults, just 'be'. 

 So by week six I was running on fumes. I had no idea at the time that I had Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease (which has the joyous side effect of making you more tired than 'normal' people, and making ordinary tasks more tiring still) so that may explain some of it, but what ever, by week 6, late one night as DD cried, after I'd tried feeding, changing, cuddles, singing, swearing, begging, crying (me not her)  I looked to books for advice and I read about letting babies cry.

baby sleeping in moses basket

In the 50s babies were encouraged to cry. It was 'good for their lungs', gave them some exercise, and, if done outside, got them some 'fresh air'. So it was with no surprise that I found many books that suggested the crying it out (CIO) method. This, apparently relied on checking everything was well with the baby, they were fed, burped, changed, clean and cuddled, and them popping them safely into pram or bed and leaving them to it. They would eventually fall asleep.

Even in my desperate state this sounded a tad tragic! Poor little baby, no doubt it would sob itself through hysteria into exhaustion and then fall asleep. So it would work, but at what cost? And wouldn't the baby get more distressed at each consecutive bedtime? Knowing and learning that bed and pram was a lonely prison?  No CIO was not for me.

Then I read about the controlled Crying method (CC) controlled crying started the same way, check baby was fed, burped, changed, clean and cuddled, and them popping them safely into pram or bed, but then not leaving them until they slept, but rather, settling them, saying a calm goodnight, and leaving, if they cried, waiting a minute before returning, settling the baby again, leaving, if they cried waiting 2 minutes, settling the baby again, leaving, if they cried waiting 3 minutes...and , well you get the picture. This I could cope with.

I tried it...the first night was hell. When your baby cries, a minute feels like about 30 years. You have been sitting staring at the clock for an eternity (a minute) and then you rush to the baby, soothe, settle, leave and repeat. I was more tired after the first night of CC than before I had tried it! (she eventually fell asleep after 10 minutes). The second night I tried again....she was asleep after  5 minutes, and the third night, she settled and went to sleep with no tears at all...and the most amazing thing was that she also slept all night (well from 11pm at last feed until 6am and first feed - but that's all night in my book!) And this continued. I had a six week old baby that just went to bed at 11pm and slept through! (I'm sorry if you hate me - I'm sure luck plays a huge part here too)

I was a changed woman. Days were fun again. I could walk the dogs, Mr TM and I could spend time (awake) together. I could do cooking and housework. A miracle.

But...would I do it again, probably not.

I think as I had a year off and a supportive husband at home I could have just weathered the lack of sleep for a few months until she gradually learned nighttime was no fun, and reserved for sleeping.

If circumstances were different however, if I had to go back to work, or had other children to care for in the day, or no husband at home, then yes, I think I would at least try it for a few days. I think that if the times were getting longer to take the baby to settle, I would stop. If after a few nights she still wasn't settled happily at bedtime, I'd stop. But I think for exhausted parents, with other things and other family to manage, who don't have the luxury of focusing totally on a new baby, then yes CC has a place.

The conclusion I've come to is that lots of things that are 'best for baby' don't take anyone else into consideration. It's nice of you can do what's 'best for baby' but there are other people in the house too, mum, dad (maybe 2 mums, 2 dads whatever, you get the picture) other children, and there may be a job you need to go to to have money to feed and clothe everyone. So sometimes, what is best for baby is a fully functioning household.

baby sleeping on her back

And so I don my flame suit and pop this (sure to be unpopular) opinion out onto the Internet. I'd love your comments.