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To Cry or Not to Cry

The first or second question I usually get from mothers who are having a difficult time with their child’s sleep is this:

But what about crying? You don’t do “cry it out” do you?

First of all, the term cry it out can really mean so many different things depending on who you ask. For some, they’re imagining being told to put their baby into their crib, leave the room, and never return until the next morning. This is called extinction, and while a lot of parents do use this method to sleep train their babies and children, this is not something that I would ever recommend to any of the families that I work with.

For others, cry it out simply means allowing their child to cry even for one minute without immediately comforting or consoling them. And for those parents, they usually have no interest in any form of sleep training, which is completely fine! Heck, some babies really are just great sleepers from the very beginning, and will sleep well and through the night on their own. I truly feel that everyone should do what works best for them, whether that means guiding a child to develop better sleep habits at a certain age, or going with the flow and waiting until they are older.

For many parents though, going with the flow becomes pretty difficult after a few months (or even years) if their child hasn’t been sleeping well. Whether you’re a working parent, or you stay at home all day with your children, not getting the sufficient sleep that your body needs is hugely detrimental to your health and even more detrimental to your growing baby’s health.

I get it though.

Sleep training can be a tough decision. Change can be a tough decision. Hearing our babies cry at all is hard, and none of us want to feel as though we are making the wrong choice when we decide that it’s time to begin helping our little one’s gain better sleep habits.

Trust me. You are not making the wrong choice when it comes to choosing better sleep for your family.

But why do babies cry when they are learning to sleep?

Babies, toddlers, and children cry when they are learning to sleep because they are protesting change. Change isn’t easy for most of us, but for our little ones it can be even more challenging. Imagine how frustrating it would be if you truly didn’t know how to fall asleep on your own? Or what if something that you relied on to fall asleep at night was suddenly taken away from you? Imagine if one night you woke up and your pillow was gone. You always fall asleep on your pillow and then suddenly one night it’s gone. Would you go right back to sleep? Would you get out of bed frustrated and/or confused looking for your pillow? I’m guessing it’s the latter. We have our own ways of falling asleep, and when something is changed, it can be hard for us to sleep well at first too, but eventually we could all learn to sleep without a pillow if we had to (not that any of us would want to!). Babies who have relied on their parents to fall asleep (whether that be feeding, rocking, patting, or continuously bouncing on a yoga ball) have not yet learned how to fall asleep on their own. And that is extremely frustrating for them; so of course they will cry at first. It is completely normal for our little ones to cry, and as long as you are offering support and letting them know that you are there for them, there is nothing wrong with helping your child learn to sleep and dealing with a little protest along the way.

If you are worried about sleep training because you think that it means leaving your child to cry alone in their room until they fall asleep, then please reconsider. There are so many ways to guide your child into healthier sleep habits, and I would never advise a parent to do anything that they were uncomfortable with. Our babies rely on us to teach them the skills they need to be great sleepers. They are all able, we just need to give them the chance to do it.

Sleeping truly is a gift and something that every family should prioritize.

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