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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.