When embarking on Baby 2.0, CG and I had a bit of an overconfidence about us. We were deeply convinced that we would never make the same mistakes with our second child that we made with our first. After all, we were no longer green-behind-the-ears rookies. With our first try at baby-tending, there had been much serious study and, when that failed us, trial and error, and when THAT failed us, we threw up our hands and covered our heads till it got better on its own, resolving to do better, to BE better, next time.
Through it all, we felt we accrued some knowledge that would surely help us next time around. We had learned.
(Or so we thought.)
Last week found us back in the land of a non-sleeping baby. Specifically a 6 month-old who used to sleep really well, got a cold and didn't sleep, got better and still didn't sleep. It had been a couple of months of increasingly poor sleeping and I started to fall asleep sitting up. At the dinner table. During dessert. CHOCOLATE DESSERT.
We've been here before. The exact. same. thing. happened with Z when she was about the same age. We hoped it would get better on its own. It got worse. I took her to the doctor, sure that she must have an ear infection. Clean bill of health. I read the No Cry Sleep Solution book and applied its ideas. It got worse. We all were grumpy and miserable during the day, with Z yawning and pawing at her ears half an hour after waking up. So I read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby and we decided to let Z cry it out.
The day we started, we put her down awake for her naps and she fell asleep without a fuss, just like she normally did. We put her down awake for her bedtime and she fell asleep without a fuss, just like she normally did. Then the waking started. CG checked on her, assessing that she was dry, safe, not too hot/cold, not being eaten alive by rabid jaguars. Then he patted her back for a few minutes to calm her and left. And we all cried.
It took two nights. Two LONG nights. By the third night, Z was no longer waking up at night and was much happier during the day. We declared it a success. We wished we had done it sooner. I swore to friends that it was best decision we had ever made.
We also swore we would never let "the next baby" get to that point again.
And here we were, last week, facing yet another round of "crying it out" with E, the "next baby".
I fought CG on this for weeks. She'll go back to normal soon! Every once in a while she sleeps great! Clearly something is wrong on those nights when she cries and then stops as soon as I pick her up. SHEEEE NEEEEDDDSSSS MEEEEEEEE. MAMA BEAR RAAOOOAAARRRRRRR.
Finally, her naps dropped to 20 minutes or less, she was waking almost every hour, every night, calming only when held, eyes popping open the moment her head hit the crib mattress. It soon became obvious that I had somehow trained her only to sleep in my arms, in the rocking chair. I don't blame her for finding it a preferable arrangement. But I have to say, my sleep is in all our best interests and her preferred arrangement WAS NOT MINE. After a check up with the doctor- who said she was fine - CG finally impressed upon me that it was not going to get better on its own and I couldn't go on this way much longer. So I reluctantly agreed to a mild, checking-on-her-often version of crying it out.
And she stunned me by adjusting quickly. Just like with Z, it took two nights. The longest she cried was 15 minutes. The rest were all 5 minute cries that may have even been in her sleep. By the third night, we didn't even need to check on her at all. She was back on track.
Then, I made a big mistake: I Googled "effects of crying it out" and came up with this press release out of Harvard. (It turns out Mama 2.0 has the same darn bugs as Mama 1.0. Can some software engineer somewhere fix this Late Night Googling bug??) Since it's three years old, I'm sure you all have read about it already but it was new to me. The researchers (and all the secondary news sources) basically link "crying it out" with panic attacks and PTSD in later life. Besides the NO DUH headline about babies needing to be held and touched,- REALLY? CAN'T I JUST POKE HER WITH SHARP STICK?- they claim that unnecessary crying as an infant changes one's brain to be more sensitive to later trauma. HOO BOY. Who wants to define "unnecessary crying"?? Anyone talk to moms of colicky babies about this one?
Then I fell down this Google Hole and read more about crying-it-out than I ever thought possible.
Mama 3.0 better include some GOOD FIXES for Late Night Googling.
After all I've read, I'm still convinced we did the right thing for our whole family. We are more on the "independence" side of the parenting sleep continuum and I understand that to some people this seems harsh. But I firmly believe E knows she is loved and cared for. And now she can (once again) sleep well in her own bed.