Thou Shalt Not Write About Letting Babies Cry

Oh yeah, I’m going there.

You know, for as much as I like to tell readers that I’m honest about the good and the bad, there is one subject on this blog I just avoid as much as blogging about religion- SLEEP TRAINING.

It’s time to cut the crap and drop this veil of secrecy that forces me to direct message and privately respond to questions about letting my baby cry herself to sleep. F all of this.

My one year old? She cries. Sometimes for long stretches. Sometimes while I lay in my bed, wide awake, fully aware that she is pissed as all hell that I am not there to pick her up and play peek-a-boo at 3 in the morning.

And I’M OKAY WITH THAT.

You don’t have to be okay with that, but you shouldn’t really care about that because, you know, I’m not making you make your baby cry herself to sleep. Just mine.

Oh, some of you may be disgusted by this admission. There are studies, I’m sure, that you will link me to. You may think I’m a bad example of a mommy blogger for encouraging such a parenting technique.

I’ve never claimed to be the perfect example, but I’ve always prided myself on my transparency… and this is something I should just quit trying to dance around.

I’m not writing about this to say what I’m doing is “right,” but please don’t view this as a plea for help, and for the love of  GAWD no book recommendations. I’m barely getting enough sleep to operate a moving vehicle these days. Unless you’re going to volunteer to come over here and re-enact the book with puppets and flash cards in short, attention-grabbing bursts, I just don’t have the time or the energy. (And I read plenty of books when Kendall went through all of this 3 years ago.)

Letting her cry was not our first choice. It’s not like I enjoy it. We’ve tried “gentle” techniques, but everything “gentle” just pisses her off more. It’s come to the point where it feels like the most fair compromise is one that equals her being pissed for a shorter time period (which is totally what happens when she’s left to cry on her own versus us hanging out, patting her back, but refusing to feed her) and lets me get 4 or more consecutive hours of sleep.

I’m trying not to go into defensive mode here because I don’t feel like I need to defend this choice. I’ll just add that she’s a YEAR old, not a week old. She does NOT need to eat every 3 hours anymore. She does not have an ear infection or any other ailment. She just needs to figure out how to sleep… and no, we’re not co-sleeping. It’s not an option for us. No, we don’t just leave her in there to cry all night, but it’s more of a judgement call thing than a every-5-minutes thing.

What it’s really boiled down to is that my children need and DESERVE a functioning mother during the day. I can NOT function without sleep. In fact, I’m confident the lack of sleep the last year has been a huge contributing factor to my postpartum anxiety, and the days following a few measly hours of sleep are awful, even with medication and a gallon of coffee.

Honestly, I don’t think babies need to be soothed every time they cry. Sure, when they are younger than 6 months, or they’re sick or hungry, yes, they should be tended to quickly. But, sometimes they’re just annoyed or pissed, and that’s okay. They can feel that way. Those are emotions they can navigate on their own sometimes.

That’s MY philosophy, one that I’m comfortable with, knowing what I know, and having been through this parenting thing more than once now.

It doesn’t have to be your philosophy, but please don’t equate me letting my 26 lb one year old cry and throw tantrums in her bed at 3 in the morning because I won’t feed her magic-sleepy-milk for the 2nd time in 3 hours to child abuse.

And for those of you in a similar situation, the only advice I can give is to go with your gut. Sure, read books if you have the time, but mainly, read your baby’s cues and what feels right to you.

I truly feel that most parents are trying really hard not to screw up their kids, and I’m sure very few take the decision to let their baby cry in the middle of the night lightly. So can we please stop demonizing educated parents who feel like this is their only option?

Edited to add- 

People, people, PLEASE understand the difference between me letting my ONE YEAR OLD cry for UP TO 10-15 minutes at a time and letting a newborn scream for 8 hours, hyperventilate, choke on their vomit, kill their brain cells, etc. 

I thought I made it clear when I clarified twice that she’s A YEAR OLD, that I think any baby under 6 months should be tended to quickly, or any baby who is sick. I didn’t think I’d have to spell. that. all. out. But I guess I do because so many are assuming I’m advocating locking a baby of any age in a dark room to scream incessantly, regardless of circumstance.

So, let’s all be clear that that is not my stance. 

Just as I advocate and practice safe co-sleeping (though we don’t do it any longer), a parenting choice that many jump to conclusions about and demonize, referring to parents who do it as “uneducated” and “lazy,” I also practice “safe” and responsible sleep-training, which is obviously another polarizing parenting choice people are quick to jump to conclusions about. 

If you are the mother of a newborn considering leaving your baby in her cold, dark room for 8 hours to scream and cry while you’re drinking and watching a Lost marathon on Netflix, then I encourage you to do more research than just reading my blog post and taking what I have to say as medical and professional advice.  (That disclaimer was actually necessary because I’ve had several people tell me I just encouraged that behavior by posting this blog. I’ll also be sure to make a disclaimer that parents shouldn’t co-sleep with boa constrictors and meat cleavers in their bed the next time I talk about that… just so I’ve covered all my bases.)

244 thoughts on “Watch Me Break Mommy Blogger Commandment #1”

  1. Pingback: We Did Cry It Out
  2. First off I don’t think it Matters what anyone says to Danielle.. She believes she is the best mother in the world because she stays at home and obviously would never ever let her kids cry.
    Ok seriously? Are you saying no mother should work? By that theory we wouldn’t have half of all the wonderful nurses, dr’s, teachers etc around because they would all be stay at home
    Moms! Like come on Danielle think about what you’re saying. Secondly let’s say you didn’t have a husband or family to support you would you not work for your kids?
    Anyways on to the CIO subject. I hired a sleep expert when my son was 18months cause I was so sleep deprives and dare I say working so I was really going crazy. Never once before that did I let my child cry at night but you know what? I learned through help of a professional that a little crying 10min at a time ok.. And even longer stretches if the child is only whining and not full out crying. Anyways he sleeps awesome now and I’m also a well rested happier and better mom. Moms need sleep and so do their kids. You know sleep deprecation in a child can lead to issues as they get older including poor learning in school? So Jill you’re awesome for making sleep for your child and you a priority and Danille, please keep in mind you’re likely not a registered sleep expert, or Dr or a real researcher. Cause if you were you wouldn’t be a stay at home mom all you really are is a bully!

  3. I’m so sorry you are having to deal with so much misunderstanding and hatred. I agree with you. I battled with my son until the age of one on the sleeping thing. At that point, I moved him from the crib in our room to the crib in his own room and during those frequent waking periods, I waited and listened. A mother knows her child’s cry…or at least I do and I don’t think I’m anything exceptional. I can tell when its fussy and when its serious. I listened and watched on the baby monitor and waited. The first night, he cried for about 15 minutes but never coughed or stuttered in his breathing, laid down and went back to sleep. Each night has gotten shorter and now if he wakes up, he rolls around, talks for a few minutes and goes back to sleep. If I hadn’t trusted myself to know his cries, I would have been waking every few hours for the last 6 months as I had done for the full year before that. And he was a breastfed baby until recently. They sense things like confidence, frustration and stress. Stability is key and proving to them that when something actually is wrong you will be there. I commend you for having the courage to speak out on this controversial subject. I have been too scared to.

  4. I also “blame” my postpartum anxiety with not sleeping for way too many months. We no longer tend to Leila when she wakes up in the middle of the night AND I do not get her up in the morning before 7am (more like 7:30 am these days). She’s the happiest baby I know because she gets her sleep and so does her Momma. Thanks for being real.

  5. I haven’t read through all of the comments here, only on FB. I have to say that I support your decision and actions, completely, although you don’t need that reassurances. Your Leyna is one year old already, as well as your your extenuating circumstances, and can easily weather 20 minutes of crying alone. I truly believe that the recent study that was released regarding killing brain cells, etc, when it comes to letting your baby cry was totally irresponsible. My grandma birthed eleven live children and you cannot tell me that the youngest at the time did not have times where they had to cry-on-their-own because someone could not get to them immediately. I say BS to that. Everyone, regardless of age, lives better with contiguous hours of sleep. It makes for a happier baby, a happier mama, a happier daddy, etc.

  6. I could tell when my 10 month (8 corrected) boy could be left for sleep training. His cry was the ‘put on’ one. I laughed when I heard it because he also gave me a look that said… “I knew you’d come in.” So, I knew it was time (and I thought I’d never do it). And that boy was one cranky kid I tell ya… until we sleep trained. Then he started being a lot more chipper in between naps etc because he was getting proper sleep. I think it took all of one week or less to train him. And now that 3 year old boy sleeps like a rock. Will put himself to bed for a nap if he’s tired and can sleep through his baby sister’s night wakings before I make it into the same room to feed her. He’s a happy happy boy to have his rest.

  7. Bless you. I know you’re probably not even reading comments anymore, but bless you for writing this. We sleep trained at six months and it worked and we’re all happy and healthy and well rested. Or we were until two nights ago when the nine month growth spurt hit with teething and a random fever and I was up and down all night with bottles of diluted formula (gasp!) and very diluted apple juice (double gasp!) and losing my mind cos I’ve had 7 hours of sleep in the last two nights (tornadoes!) and sometimes they just have to lie there and rage about it for a few minutes before anything can get better for anybody. Bless you.

  8. Thank You for posting this. I love being a part of the natural parenting world, but sometimes their absolute defined parenting rules drive me crazy. I totally agree with you. Babies need to learn to fall asleep on their own eventually unless you don’t mind rocking and swaddling a 12 yr old. I think safe co-sleeping is fine for others, not for me (my question has always been when do they have sex? I apologize for my “transparecy”, but sex outside the bedroom happens a couple times a year for me, so ……) I don’t want to define myself by a certain parenting style because a book was written about it. Sleep is very important for us and yes, I feel like a mean failure of a mom when I don’t get adequate sleep. Toughen up just makes me want to slap you. I’m tough, I had my baby in a tub, now let me get some freakin sleep. We try to have a marraige centered family life because one day these little birdies are going to fly the coop and it’s going to be just the two of us again. And really coming from my mom the therapist, most of kids security comes from their parents marraige. Not from remembering that they were given a boob at every little whimper and patted everytime they woke up before they were five. You’re not a better mom because you sacrifice all of your needs or desires for your babes. You’re a great mom when you can recognize the right times to put your needs first so you can be a more pleasant loving mom. (Let’s not forget serving our husbands’ needs also. He’ll be a better teamate if he feels you try to take care of him just as much. Maybe he’ll do laundry also. It works for mine :)Yeah, my old man and I find we do best when we are more concerned with taking care of eachother than ourselves. I don’t need to find time to take a nap because the night before I told him to go to the driving range so he tells me to sleep in while he makes breakfast. Finding that balance looks different in everyone’s family. I’m not going to even read all the comments because it seems like some people just can’t respect we all parent differently for absolutely valid reasons.

  9. Hi Jill! I just wanted to say that I applaud your honesty and courage to write something so personal and controversial. It’s unfortunate that mom bloggers aren’t encouraged to blog more about how difficult it is to be a mom. No decision we mamas make comes without some sort of self-inflicted guilt – whether it is warranted or not. Bravo for trying your best. That’s all we can do!

  10. You are awesome. I think too many people are trying tell us how to raise our children. Let’s just face it, babies aren’t born with instruction manuals…They are, however, first and foremost people. And guess what people do.. they get pissed when they don’t get there way. And some people get even more pissed when other people rub something in their noses.. (I’m pretty sure my son thought “You b**ch pick me up!” When I would enter his room to console him but not pick him up… It always just made him scream even more.) Its our parents responsibility to teach us how to handle our emotions. I would hope that most parents would use a trial and error method of what works for their children AND their family. Some people (this includes babies) are more stubborn than others.. not any ONE way is going to work for EVERY baby. (I do believe if you choose the CIO method, letting your child cry it out should be used with good judgement and common sense.)

  11. Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Many thanks, However I am having
    issues with your RSS. I don’t know why I cannot join it. Is there anybody else having similar RSS issues? Anyone who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanx!!

  12. I found this post as I was drowing in guilt for tossing my child into her crib with her dummy and music and letting her cry. She’s refusing her naps. She’s still not napping but I’m not overwhelmed with the guilt of being that person so thank you

  13. nice post! well it might work and it might not, different baby different scenario and all that. im not saying im against you and im not saying im on your side. but still its a nice post!

  14. I came across this blog while researching to see if I was doing the right thing even though I know my daughter like no one else and can answer that question on my own. My daughter throws tantrums because she doesn’t want to sleep in her crib, the CIO method is most effective because I’m the parent and I need to teach her to sleep on her own, and I set the rules, not the other way around. Even though I couldn’t feel any more anxiety hearing her cry, I know it will help her in the long run. I wish my parents taught me to sleep on my own. Lol. some ppl need to realize that every baby is different!!!! I was feeling like a bad mommy I must admit, but if I didn’t care I wouldn’t bother to look anything up!

  15. I’m loving this post as I’m laying here wide awake from a one year old who has been crying for almost an hour. I have been in twice to check but I’m exhausted. I can’t keep getting up all night anymore. It’s time she learned to self soothe.

  16. I am currently (today) starting to let my daughter cry it out. She will be one next week. When she is put in her crib she is instantly pissed. How long do I leave her? She has cried/whimpered for over an hour. What do I do? Help lol.

  17. Wow! You sound like me! Just last night we did our first CIO session at 4 am. I am pregnant with #2 and this has been going on multiple times a night since April. I was literally at my wits end and I simply can’t function without some sleep. I saw myself slowly becoming a bad mother during the day because I was so tired I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. My sweet, happy baby was also slowly going mad due to her lack of proper sleep. She’s just over a year old and though I think my heart shattered a million times hearing her cry she ended up falling asleep in about 10 minutes. I think as long as the baby is old enough, not sick etc. this is a fine solution for both the baby and the parents especially when the parents are almost sick from fatigue.

  18. I for the very first time started letting my 13 month old cry if out this week. For the last 12 months I have gotten up with her every time she has cried. I have fed her, rocked her to sleep, put her in her crib and walked away only to walk back in minutes or only an hour later. I have survived on 4 hours of sleep or less for 12 months and I recently decided I cannot do this anymore. I don’t like who I am when I don’t get the sleep I need. I’m angry all the time and I have no patience with her during the day. I sit in corners crying because I don’t know how I can even do another hour without a nap.

    All of that being said hearing her crying is hard, but I’m at the point where I would sell my soul to the devil for a chunk of 3 hour uninterrupted sleep. I just can’t anymore. I want to have more babies down the road. I want to be happy. I want to have Rabid energetic sex with my husband. I want to be the patient kind mom I know I can be with a little more fucking sleep. So I’m doing that. It’s going good. The only thing I feel bad about is not feeling more guilty about this decision. I feel like I should feel worse about this than I do.

    Thank you for this post. I feel like it really helped me feel justified in what I’m doing.

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