Crying It Out

Huh. People feel strongly about their kids and how they and their kids sleep. Very surprising. I’ve spent the spare moments of this weekend skimming through the comments. The best are in the 400+ range where they claim that we deprived our child from love, food and care. Yes. We run a virtual Abu Ghraib of parenting over here.

I never felt an ounce of guilt for sleep training Leta. I never, for a second, felt that letting her cry it out was “wrong” or “bad” or “child abuse”.

I was more worried about Heather than Leta, because after a relatively short period of time (Leta has been alive for 112 weeks, her sleep training took two weeks, that’s less than two percent of her life thus far and that number will diminish as she ages), Leta got over it and she gets the sleep she needs, but Heather was already depressed and anxious, and this rough period didn’t help. Human beings need sleep, including babies and their parents.

Lest you blame the method for Heather’s post-partum depression, I believe that Heather was about to go over the edge whether we sleep trained Leta or not. Leta was colicky. She cried a lot. She was fussy. But the sleep training was the experience that pushed Heather the furthest away from where she wanted to be. To blame sleep training or the method we used is incorrect. The problem was chemical, not that our child had a messed up nursing schedule and wasn’t getting enough sleep. Anything could have done it, it just happened to be sleep training and pacifier elimination.

I don’t expect that everybody agrees with me about the next statement I’m going to make. We are built for sleep and one of the best things I can do is as a parent is give my children the ability to get themselves to sleep on a schedule that makes their lives better with a side benefit that their parents lives will be better, too. Screaming because she didn’t like that it was time for bed? Sorry, but that’s non-negotiable. I don’t want to have a five year old who, when it’s time for bed, does hours of arguing about bedtime because I screwed up and didn’t teach them how to sleep. So hey six-month-old, you just complain all you want. Eventually you are going to sleep. Does that sound cold? Pediatricians and sleep experts say that children should sleep a certain amount of hours. Leta sleeps those hours because we taught her to put herself to sleep. She’s not perfect and sometimes her naps are too short or she wakes up early. But on average, she’s happier and healthier because she gets the sleep she needs and has done so most of her life.

We’ll have to train Leta to use a toilet. We’re training her to brush her teeth. How is sleep different? She cries all the time about a million things. Some of the cries tug the hell out of my heart, but many of them don’t. They just try my patience. I worry about my kid when she’s crying, but when we’re making a point and she’s crying… that’s just complaining. It’s not a plea for a better life or clemency or better food it’s complaining because she doesn’t want to be where she needs to be. In my view, my job as a parent is to look after my kid and help her in life. Sometimes she’s not gonna like it. She needed to learn how to get herself back to sleep. That’s something that is going to last a lifetime, why not start it up right?

Every person we’ve had tend Leta comments on how amazing it is that she goes to bed without a fight. There is value in our home that this is the case. Maybe that choice isn’t one you care about or want to make, and that’s totally fine. It’s your right and your life.

I don’t think it’s somehow wrong to let a six-month-old cry because we’re trying to teach her something she is ready to learn. We know that for our child more than other parents know it for our child and I don’t know what your kids need to learn when. So before you comment, I don’t care what method you used. I don’t care if you didn’t like the method we chose. Our baby sleeps and sleeps well. It’s made an enormous difference in our home for all the people who live here. The baby gets her sleep. Heather and I have time in the evenings to be together, work on things that we like to work on and chill out from the day. We don’t have a huge chaotic night. It’s really nice and helps us face the next day with a sense of renewal. Leta is a happy, rested child. But she’s two, so that means typical two behavior. We know it’s not because she’s tired. Our choice fits us and I hope that we will be able to do it with our next child, whenever that child might arrive. Chuck is also happier as the quiet lets him reflect on his trials with nihilism, Einstürzende Neubauten and Kant.