Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Self-Soothing Success

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When I got pregnant and we began to think about how we wanted to raise our kids, we came to one fact very quickly: babies cry.

We were relieved that we both felt the same way because it seems taboo to let a baby cry when they are fed, dry, and not too hot or too cold.

Despite the "research" on how crying it out leads to brain damage and failure to thrive, we weren't convinced. What we read seemed like pages of skewed numbers that came from ill informed parenting. Armed with both sides of the story, when Bean was a month and a half we looked at each other, held tight to our BabyWise book, and opened a new chapter in our lives. 

At first it was hard to hear her cry as she struggled to sleep. We would walk circles in our living room, listening until we couldn't take it anymore. One of us would break down and go scoop her up, cuddling her while the other swore we'd never do that again.

But that was a vicious cycle. We had to constantly hold and bounce her while trying to eat, use the bathroom, cook, clean, sleep, or just have a conversation. We looked at each other, eyes bloodshot from annoyance and exhaustion, and decided we couldn't live like this anymore.

It was insanely hard for the first few cry it out days. We would listen to her scream bloody murder but began to realize that the crying was more about Bean trying to find a way to soothe and less about her missing or even needing one of us. We also realized that we had some major guilt about letting her cry. 

TP dealt with his guilt by listening to music and I would jump in the shower, sometimes showering 3 or 4 times a day. In the shower I would (sometimes) cry and let the water beat away the guilt I had. I took that time to reminded myself that we weren't being mean or neglecting her. We were trying to establish healthy sleeping patterns and self soothing habits.

What we found after a long week of crying was that the time she cried decreased every day. Some days or times of the day it was 20 minutes, then 15, then 10, then 5, then whimpering, then nothing.

Helping Bean establish self soothing skills impacted more than just her nap and bed times. It impacted the times when I couldn't devote all my attention to her. When she learned to soothe herself, she learned how to independently play and transformed into this wonderfully independent baby. One that didn't leave me frazzled and resentful. I fell in love with her all over again.

We weren't the only people to notice how great it was to have Bean around. Family and friends were amazed at how well she went down for naps and bedtimes and entertained herself. When family would watch her we received reports about how she was a happy baby and that they enjoyed watching her. Instead of spending their time trying to soothe a crying and fussy baby, they spent their time laughing and enjoying her.

Obviously this made TP and I even more confident in our choice and it made us proud as parents. We had successfully done something right in our first few chapters of being new parents.


Kim said...

Great post! I'm 34 weeks now and just finished reading Babywise. My husband and I are hoping to do self-soothe and not use a pacifier, so this was really helpful to hear!

Katie {My Paisley Apron} said...

I have also felt that I feel far less resentful toward our second baby, with whom we used Babywise, than I remember feeling with our first, with whom we used "attachment parenting." I feel much more bonded to our second at this time time than I did with our first! This wasn't our first child's fault, and of course now we are wonderfully bonded (he's 3) but I'm really enjoying not resenting my baby at all this time around! I shower, I go to the bathroom without holding a baby, sometimes I even go get a haircut - it's wonderful!

kmbutrfly said...

SO needed this post right now - thanks! DD settles right down for naps, perhaps with a minute of fussing, but nighttimes are becoming a challenge. let her CIO for the first time last week and HATED it. ended up rocking her after a long while and she did konk right out. decided she was too young and we weren't ready for it. then when it happened again the next night (calm with me, upset without me there), my gut told me i had to do it. she goes to sleep more quickly each night, but we are still working on it. it is hard but i think in the end it will pay off! (and there is no way that brain damage research is legit!!!)

The Cruikshank's said...

Hello! We just started CIO a few days ago with our 8 week old..really it has been going pretty well. The problem we had before was that we were having to walk him to sleep, and he wasn't sleeping but maybe 3-4 hours at a time at night. So now that we are sleep training, how do you do things outside of the house? I understand that we need to devote two weeks to this, but past that point, are we forever stuck in the house because he can only manage an hour of optimal wake time? Thanks for all of your help! Your blog has been a lifesaver!

Plowmanators said...

Not forever--but you won't be able to run around like you did before kids--at least not without a babysitter :). I have a post called "going out" under the disruptions section of the Blog Index.

megan said...

This is a really great post and one that I needed so much right now. My son is 5 1/2 weeks and we have been using the eat/play/sleep routine since birth but I have just started the CIO part for his naps and bedtime. The first week he did really well. Some days he would go down completely on his own for all naps and other days he would only cry for a few minutes. This week on the other hand is completely different. He will go down ok for the first two naps but then he will scream bloody murder for the next two. At what point do you go in a try to soothe them? When you do go in do you pick them up? I've tried just soothing him by putting my hand on him and "shooting" him but if he is already really working up it only makes him even more upset. Also for his afternoon naps he often wakes up after 1 hour. I know that he isn't hungry and he is dry so what should I do? Do I let him cry it out? I've tried moving him to the swing but he is currently boycotting the swing. The silver lining in all of this is that he does really well at night. He goes down during the night really well, he usually only fussed for a few minutes and it never turns into a full blown cry. Thanks for letting my vent and ask my questions. I have been have major guilt over this today.

Plowmanators said...

Megan, if you aren't make sure you take notes on how long he was up and what the crying was like and how he slept. You will likely start to see a pattern develop as you look at several days at once.

Since he is just starting CIO, I wouldn't do CIO mid-nap. McKenna also hated the swing, and so when she woke early, I rocked her to sleep then put her back in her bed.

I would guess for the afternoon nap your son would need either a shorter or longer waketime length. Which one would depend on how he is at falling asleep then.

I do have a post on "waking early form naps/won't fall asleep for naps." So see that for more ideas. Good luck!

jenniferk said...

Help! I am on BAbywise child# 2 and I am at my wits end. My DD is 12 and a half weeks and the nights and naps are still so erratic! I have done EVERYTHING I am supposed too, 4 hours b/t feeding is no problem, putting her down for naps is not a problem ( although she usually goes down no problem but won't stay asleep more than 50 minutes), i do wake eat play, (but that gets messed up for wake/play b/c she wakes too early from naps then screams until feeding time and then gets tired to feed, and I don't pick her up when she cries and it's sleep time, I just pat and shush her and she likes the hair dryer noise machine which does calm her, but she won't nap fully and nights are inconsistent! She would do a bedtime feed around 7:30/8 pm and sometimes sleep til 4:30/5 which is great. But many other nights she will wake at 2Am and scream til fed despite attempts to put her back to sleep and then be restless the rest of the night even if I feed her. Then last night she woke at 2:30 and then screamed again to be fed at 5:30! I only gave her an ounce at that point to quiet her (DWT feeding is 8 am and she makes it to that just fine). I want to do CIO but I am reluctant to b/c it would keep my poor 7year old up and also if I am up all night how will I manage both thenext day? (I have no family or anyone to help). What would you do?

Plowmanators said...


If she isn't napping very long, I would take her back to 3 hours between feedings. That is also true if she isn't sleeping through the night.

You also might try a dreamfeed (see the dreamfeed blog label).

Give her more feedings in the day so she doesn't need them at night. Good luck!

Katy Pancake-Boal said...

I am a first time mom and really believe in babywise. It has been going well...aside from a few schedule coflicts due to growth spurts and waking early from naps (this has been recent struggle). I have found the blog to be extremely helpful. Anyways...I did have a question about self soothing when trying CIO. I swaddle my daughter for naps and bedtime...otherwise she startles herself awake...(we tried and she had a terrible nap). Is it okay to do CIO if they are swaddled and don't have a thumb or anything else to self soothe? I have tried the pacifier and will work at times but she screams when it falls out and I don't want myself or my husband to have to go in a billion times to put it back in. I just feel bad leaving her in there with what seems like no self soothing items...she does have a mobile and a soft wave machine...the thing is...CIO HAS been working but then I read somewhere NOT to do CIO if they are swaddled...suggestions??

Hui Ling Chia said...

Most of the time, my 4-month-old baby needs holding and singing to get to sleep. She sleeps through the night but naps poorly, usually less than an hour, around twice a day. I am back to full time work and am prepared to let her CIO when I put her to bed at night so she will learn to sleep on her own. My mother-in-law looks after her in the day and will not let her CIO for her naps, despite my pleas and continues to hold/swing her till she falls asleep, IF she falls asleep. Letting her CIO at night has not been successful so far (crying not getting shorter), likely due to inconsistency in the day. Please help!

noobmommy1818 said...

My 5 1/2 month old is a full fledge babywise baby and it has be wonderful for me as a clueless, first time mom! Nights are great. We did CIO at about 12 weeks and even though it took a while, its been amazing ever since. Nighttime is my favorite time! Daytime...is not. He's never been a good napper and I've been consistent with everything BUT putting him down awake. Its time to retrain him to self soothe and nap without me rocking him. So, I will lay him down for a nap after we do our naptime routine and walk out... how long should I let him cry? Is 1 hour too long? Too short? What is my plan of attack if he doesn't nap? Skip it and start again during the next EAS cycle? Any words of advice? Tips?


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