Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Why My Son Doesn't Cry

My lovable, not so little, 8 month old baby boy, George, was a champ of a sleeper for about 5 months of his life. He was born and very quickly fell into the routine of sleeping from about 8:30-9 until 4:30, when he would wake up for a bite to eat. He'd then sleep on until about 7:30 or sometimes 9. What a blessed few months we lived!

Then I felt the urge to take him to Idaho to meet my family. That is where it all began. Due to some missed naps, times changes, and very late nights George's lovely sleep habits have turned into... not so lovely habits. Add to that a cold, and teething. (He has six teeth by the way! Crazy boy!) I won't go into intense details, let's just say that I feel like I was married to sleep, and we have separated.

This is not meant to elicit pity, though, if you want to come babysit for an hour so I can nap, I might let you. I really wanted to write about this phenomenon of people who keep insisting that my son will never learn how to sleep unless I stop letting him manipulate me, and make him cry himself to sleep. No matter how many times I hear it, I just can't.

Before I go any further I would like to say that I know good parents who let their children "cry it out". Their kids are fine. This seems such a controversial subject I just want to acknowledge that. If you're reading this and you find yourself in that category, a parent who lets their child cry, I am not judging you as an unfit parent. Don't be offended by what I have written here. I would simply like to give voice to the reason I choose not follow this route.

My whole stance on this subject really begins and ends with the fact that when my son cries, I feel this inner urge to go to him -- to be with him, and to comfort him. I have heard the differences in his cries when he is frightened, or angry, or uncomfortable, and I know them. When I have considered letting George cry himself to sleep it has come into my mind over and over again that I would have to by pass that fundamental need that I have to take care of him. For me, I'm just not comfortable doing that.

My son is one of the most sacred blessings I have ever been given, and I love him so much. Nevertheless I cannot deny in the course of parenting there are hard choices I have been forced to make. And it cannot be denied that at one point or another some of those choices have invariably caused George some form of discomfort. (The thought of one of those nasal syringes comes to mind...) As I lay with my son at night, groggy, sometimes a little frustrated, but mostly just groggy, I am still filled with that sweet awe that he is alive, and that I helped make him so. Do I think that he is capable of manipulating me? No. Do I think he has learned that when he is uncomfortable, frightened, or just unable to sleep, if he cries I will come to him? Absolutely. Do I really mind that he depends on me? Not on you life! I'm the mom, he is the baby. It is my job to give of myself for him. This time of sleepless nights will not be forever. Neither will his childhood.

So we're up in the night. For now I'll just be sleepy, and deliriously happy.


  1. Beloved, you are one of the sweetest ladies I know. And you're so insightful. And a lovely mother. You make my commentary on life look raucous and ridiculous. But you're so sweet and inspiring that I love reading your posts. :) You're a dear!

  2. He sure cried for his Mama last time I had him for a bit. Cant wait to have another one to relive the less than stellar sleep patterns!

  3. I'm having the same experience with CJ. Glad to know someone else is pushing through. I also can't let her cry it out, it breaks my heart. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, but when I'm snuggling her or rocking her I remind myself that this will pass too quickly and some day I'll wish for the chance to rock her again.

  4. I am with you on crying it out! It's completely counterintuitive. Being mamas really helps with the patience and long-suffering development, doesn't it? ;)

    I do believe there are ways to teach baby to sleep without reverting to CIO, even while bed-sharing. I am not a good mama the next day when I don't even get a 2-hour block of sleep at night (unlike you, I know!!). Babies get used to anything you do consistently, though it's very hard to be dedicated to a plan at night when we're desperate for sleep. Or when trips or teething or other miseries get in the way.

    Love to George!

  5. Oh, Nonie! I'm no good without sleep either! I don't know where you get your ideas about me.

    You emailed me that great page about alternative sleep "training" options. We are going to try it at some point. George is currently pushing through tooth #7, so far the most difficult tooth for him. It's been a hard couple of days for the little guy, so we haven't been able to use the ideas given in that link. They seemed valuable though. Thanks again for sending it!

    Jill, you might find the ideas in this link interesting. The author is a doctor, and he is a big fan of doing what you can to make your baby comfortable. You'll find the link below:

  6. Also, you might be interested in some of Tracy Hogg's ideas (Baby Whisperer books)... while I don't see eye to eye with her on everything, she has some very sound and respectful ideas. I perused The No Cry Sleep Solution for a while too, written by attachment parenting mama Elizabeth Pantley about her experience "sleep-training" her co-sleepers.

  7. I've read both of those books. I found great suggestions in both of them! I've even recommended them to others. Every time we vow to try something, something happens with George. We were traveling, traveling, traveling, he got sick, now he's teething again. I just can't bring myself to try anything when I know he's so uncomfortable. Is that silly? I should re-peruse those books, again. It's been a little while.

  8. Andrew here. Am I allowed to be here? I am.
    We're big fans of co-sleeping and do not subscribe to Crying It Out. We posted about co-sleeping a couple of years ago on our blog ( The benefits greatly outweigh the costs. Though it does make for sleepy days, especially for Ariel. I feel like we've had a little tougher time with Benjamin than Abraham. Ben usually goes to bed in his own bed every night around 8:00 and wakes up to come into our bed around midnight. But just like Abe, it won't be too long before he's sleeping the night in his own bed. And when that time comes, we might just miss the little fella's midnight visits. Keep up the good work Melissa and the rest of you! Babies are people too!