This isn't the first time I have sat down and asked myself this question. Usually, after a particularly tiring night I might whisper the words in the back of mind - but then just as quickly I seem to push them away with even louder thoughts of "never, never, never..."
You see, the 'cry it out' method, or 'controlled crying' is not something that has ever crossed my mind based on my own intuition. I have never once heard my son cry out in the night and instinctively thought to myself - " I know what will help - I need to just leave him". My instincts as a Mother have always told me to go to him. I'm pretty sure that if it were not for the prevalence of certain sleep training methods in Western culture and the thoughts and opinions of some friends and family, I would probably have never asked myself the question at all: Should I give in and try controlled crying?
I'm not judging those who do. I firmly believe that every single child is different and what is right for one child is completely wrong for another. Some children need the space to settle. Others feel so anxious alone that they can't settle at all. This is where I believe that knowledge of your own child and trusting your own parental instincts comes into play. surely you should KNOW what is right for YOUR child.....Right???
But what if I'm not right. What if my confidence in my own ability to know what is best for my child is actually preventing me from taking 'good' advice which I have just automatically labelled 'the worst advice'?
I tend to gravitate towards those 'bigger voices' on social media such as Sarah Ockwell-smith from The Gentle Sleep Book, and The Milk Meg, whose Facebook posts and inspirational advice have literally kept me going through the most difficult and sleep deprived of days....Does my stubbornness in sticking to my own firm beliefs on the matter mean that I allow their voices to drown out any opposing views? Such big questions, and not enough sleep fueled, rational hours of thought to ponder them properly.
Apart from the immediate consequences and repercussions of any decisions relating to this issue, there is one massive thing that always sticks in my mind: The question of the affects of sleep training later on in life. The way the brain will ultimately develop differently based on the outcome of the 'call and response' scenario we are faced with when we choose whether to leave them, or go to them.
You see, I'm in this for the long game. So far in this parenting journey I have been prepared to forgo my need for big chunks of sleep on the basis that I will hopefully be raising a more secure, independent child whose needs are being met and who 'should' see the value in communicating their needs, because expressing themselves will always lead to some form of response - and this will have affects later on in life. I know there may be people who jump in here with thoughts about the long term affects of sleep deprivation on the Mother and this ultimately being a more important part of the 'long game'. It has crossed my mind. I'll let you guess whose needs I put first.
I'll start by saying this 'change' happened naturally. We haven't had to use any 'methods' or any props. There are a couple of things that have stayed the same:
I am going to pause there and tell you that I wrote all of the above when Arthur was 22 months old. I wrote this post because I honestly felt like I needed an answer to my question "should I give in and try controlled crying?" He is now 26 months and a few things have changed....
- Arthur still falls asleep at naptime and bedtime listening to the album 'Islands' by Ludovici Einaudi.
- He still has the majority of his daytime naps in his pushchair and not in his bed
- When he wakes in the night, whenever that may be, he still gets into our bed and 'co-sleeps'
- We still have a strict bedtime routine of bath, PJ's, story/nursery rhymes, massage, bed, hand stroking.
- He still starts his night in his own toddler bed, with his snuggly and dummy and still uses a sleeping bag.
The biggest changes that have occurred are these:
- We no longer have to stay in his room until he falls asleep (hurrah!) As long as we have gone through the bedtime routine steps above and then told him exactly what we are having dinner downstairs (Lots of LOLs as I write that sentence) and leave the door open so he can hear us 'cooking', he will stay in bed and listen to us/his music and is usually asleep by 8.30pm
- Most nights he will now stay in his own bed until 5-6am...bearing in mind a couple of months ago he was waking at 11-12pm and co-sleeping thereafter, I'm calling this a 'sleeping through' win. He still comes into our room once he wakes up and sometimes he will even go back to sleep next to us, if not, he usually snuggles or reads a book.
- I'm pregnant. This might be irrelevant, or just sheer coincidence, but I wouldn't be seen as entirely honest if I omitted to mention this (very tedious) possible link. Must resist the urge to test this theory out if the next baby doesn't sleep either...
So there we go. I wish for all of you who may be in the sleep deprived hell I was in a few months ago (and will undoubtedly find myself in again in a few months) that the answer is written clearly above. It might be hiding in there somewhere but I can tell you for sure that the answer for us wasn't to use the cry it out, or controlled crying method...and admittedly I do feel a strange sense of pride, satisfaction and 'thank god for that' that our persistence and belief that we were doing the right thing paid off, and he would just eventually sleep when he was ready. Heaven knows we were!
PS: We will definitely be looking into a co-sleeper crib for our next bundle of joy!
Love Sarah x
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