Lets all just agree that in this post, we are not going to use the words “Cry It Out” because it really does have such a negative association. Cry it out means different things to different people. Cry it out may mean putting the baby to bed and not returning to morning and letting the baby cry as long as it takes to fall asleep, or cry it out may mean letting baby cry for a period of time before comforting and soothing, and anything and everything in between.
At about seven or eight weeks, Porter decided he wasn’t going to sleep anywhere but in our arms and if we dared to set him down, he woke up crying within 20 minutes. I spent hours and hours in the rocking chair in his dark nursery while he screamed when I tried to rock him to sleep, and screamed when I put him down. I remember spending what felt like full days sitting in there because by two months, he wouldn’t sleep easily unless it was dark and quiet. I felt really alone and wondered why my baby wasn’t like all the “other babies” who slept when they were tired, who could fall asleep anywhere. Porter never has been that baby, and never will be.
We started doing some very gentle sleep training at this age. I watched his wake times like a hawk, made sure he was changed, fed and swaddled, brought him into his quiet and dark nursery, turned on his sound machine and sung to him and then laid him down. We let him cry for 3-5 minutes before I would go back in, pick him up, and soothe him, and lay him down once he was calm. We did this method for a few months-it was called the pick up/put down method and we gave him the opportunity to learn to fall asleep on his own, but we still comforted and soothed him as he needed it because he was so little. On days that he was just hysterical or not feeling well or just over tired, I still rocked him to sleep. Now looking back I wonder if I confused him, because sometimes I rocked him, and other times I laid him down awake, but that’s okay. He quickly learned how to put himself to sleep, even though there was some crying involved usually it was less then ten minutes and he was sleeping so much better.
By about three months, he was sleeping through the night. I did a dream feed at 10:30 pm and he slept until 6:30 am. Then the dreaded four month sleep regression hit and it was brutal on us for almost a month. Some nights he slept all night and other nights, he was up multiple times. I always tried giving him his pacifier before I fed him but he made it PRETTY CLEAR if he was starving and the paci just wouldn’t do. We had what felt like months of many paci replacements, and though I considered just quitting the paci cold turkey, I could never follow through with it. Now that he's eight months, I am glad we didn't give up the paci because he can put it back in his mouth himself! We sprinkle like, ten pacis around the crib and he always finds one on his own at night. Glory hallelujah.
By the time he was five months old, we moved past the sleep regression and I wasn’t dream feeding anymore. We did his last feeding at about 6:30 pm and put him to bed, and he started sleeping much better, though still waking for his paci a few times a night. I never did a full on cry it out session at night with him, though we did start letting him cry for about ten minutes before we went in to soothe him around this time. That ten minutes in the middle of the night felt like an ETERNITY. But, after a couple nights of this, he started putting himself back to sleep at least half the time. Sleep training for us worked out in the way that once he started indepently putting himself to sleep at night, he in turn slept better at night as well. It was about this time too that the pick up/put down method we used when he creid when we laid him down at bedtime started making him REALLY MAD every time we’d go in and pick him up and then in turn, put him back down. It seemed to be stimulating more than calming, so we did some brief patting when we went in to soothe him, but then we’d leave, even if he was still crying. I did interval checks, otherwise known as the “Ferber Method”. So we started with checks at five minutes, then we soothed him without picking him up, wait another ten minutes, and soothed him, then waited fifteen minutes.
We saw improvement really quickly in his ability to put himself to sleep at bedtime, and after waking up at night. He started sleeping through the night again, sometimes he'd wake up for one paci replacement, but that felt like a million bucks after getting up 4-7 times a night! He was sleeping from about 6:30 pm-6:30 am and if he woke before 6:30 in the morning, we used the same interval checks to get him back to sleep. 6:30 was the earliest I would get him out of his crib, and often times he did wake up a little earlier but would happily play or talk to himself until we came to get him.
At six months, I did some nap training and by nap training I mean that we set consistent times for waking up and for nap times, and he didn't come out of his crib until nap time was over. So, for us, nap time was at 8:30 am -10:00 am and if he woke at 9:15, he stayed in his crib til 10:00am. Our plan for that was : if he woke early and was playing or talking to himself, we didn't go in at all. If he cried (not whined or fussed, but cried) for more than 10 mins, I'd go do a brief check and soothe, and then leave. It took about two weeks of doing this consistently for every single nap, and then he started sleeping the full nap time. On days he doesn't sleep the full nap time now, he just plays in his crib until we come get him.
Honestly, sleep training was the best thing we've done for our baby. Nap time and bed time now are easy, because we do our quick routine of diaper changes, snuggles and songs, and then lay him down wide awake and he usually plays and talks to himself til he falls asleep. Theres very little crying involved, sometimes he fusses or complains but usually if he's really upset its because he's extra tired and a quick binky replacement and pat on the back helps him settle right down. When we go over to friends or he goes to Grandma's house, he can go to sleep easily in a pack n play without any issues at all. Porter is a much happier and well adjusted baby now that he's getting more sleep, and I am DEFINITELY a happier and better mom because I'm getting sleep as well.
Sleep training isn't for everyone, and if you don't feel comfortable with letting your baby cry, by all means, don't do it. Each and every one of us mamas gets to decide to do the best thing for our baby and family, and for our family, sleep training was beneficial for all of us! Its not easy, and you do have to put up with some crying because baby WILL protest change, but for us, it really was worth the few hard days and nights we had.