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Cry it Out? - Karen's Musings
Random Rambling
estherchaya
estherchaya
Cry it Out?
I totally don't get the "Cry it Out" method. I don't get how people do it. How does it work? How do people stomach it? How long does it take for a kid to cry it out? I'm telling you, there is no chance in hell that "crying it out" would work with my kids. No. Chance. In. Hell. I can tell you this with near certainty because I spent today single-parenting under the worst possible circumstances. Let me back up...

Over the first days of Passover, I developed the most evil, insidious intestinal flu/bug/virus/horribleness known to humankind and most of it is a blur in my mind. I'm still recovering from it. Monday, my nanny told me that her brother-in-law finally awoke from his coma from the car accident that killed her sister. Consequently, she needed to go to Toronto immediately. Of course, no problem, no argument from me. Two hours later, she left to catch a plane. Thank heavens for those two hours, though. Then this morning (Tuesday) Seth left for Florida at, like, 5am. Honestly, I don't know whether to threaten divorce or not. What do you think, is that a threat, or an offer he can't refuse?

So here I am, four kids, no nanny, no husband, intestinal flu, and my golly it feels like all I do is feed babies all. day. long. Is this what my nanny does all day? Does it take less time to feed a baby a bottle? Actually, it turns out, it takes CONSIDERABLY less time to feed a baby a bottle than to nurse a baby. No WONDER M seems to have more time with the babies than me. How exactly is this fair? It's getting harder and harder to nurse two at a time, because they push and shove each other, so it seems that by the time I'm finished feeding all three babies, it's time to start over again.

Which leads me to my original point.

This evening I had fed all the babies and had about an hour's reprieve when no one needed to be fed. I got J fed, threw some laundry in the washer, played with the babies, etc. Then Ellie started to cry. Since she'd been first in the previous round of feedings and since she nearly never cries, I figured she must be hungry. I picked her up and I said, "Ellie-Belly are you hungry, sweetpea?" And she looked at me, opened up her little mouth, leaned forward... and latched onto my nose and started sucking. I took this as a yes.

So there I was laying down in bed with her nursing her, and J was watching "Walking with Dinosaurs" next to me. When, unsurprisingly, Sam started crying. Because really, if one baby is being fed, and it's not him, a great injustice is clearly being done in the world. And as his cries grew more desperate, Abby joined in the chorus. The wails grew so desperate that I began to wonder if they would simply "cry it out." I couldn't leave poor, desperate Ellie. She was so hungry and, after all, she had asked so nicely if she could please have dinner. She deserved to have a meal uninterrupted. And really, how long could Sam and Abby wail, right?

Little did I know. I had forgotten that the only one of my babies that has any patience whatsoever is Ellie. And that the only one of my babies who has ever stopped crying and fallen right to sleep is Ellie. And that the only baby who isn't persistent is... you guessed it, Ellie. Not only that, but the few times that Ellie has cried and fallen asleep before I can get to her, I've felt unbelievably guilty for not getting to her in time. I can't handle that kind of guilt. Crying it out is not for the faint of heart. Poor Ellie didn't like all the screaming either, apparently, because the screaming kept distracting her. So eventually, I put her down in her crib and picked up Sam and Abby. And because I knew they were terribly desperate and wouldn't possibly wait another single, solitary second, I gave them both bottles. And they calmed down. And then I picked up my poor, sleeping Ellie, and let her finish eating and then put her back to sleep too.

And everyone was in bed, asleep, by 6:30, just like normal. The only abnormal part about it is that normally I have an extra pair of hands at bedtime so no one has to cry while waiting for attention or food. So normally no one has to cry even for a little while, but tonight, Sam and Abby discovered how wonderful it is that they normally don't have to "cry it out." I honestly don't know how other parents do it, becuase I'm fairly certain that Sam could cry for hours without crying it out.

Maybe other babies aren't built like Sam? Maybe most babies are more like Ellie, who doesn't cry much, and will generally quiet right down unless something really IS wrong? In any event, I'm not opposed to letting the babies cry sometimes. Heaven knows, I can't answer their every whimper at the first sound of distress... I've got three babies to attend to and I can't be everywhere at once. But I definitely can't understand how I could possibly let them "cry it out" on purpose. Maybe I'm just misunderstanding the method. Because I'm telling you, if I hadn't eventually picked him up and fed him, Sam would STILL be crying right now, four hours later. No joke!

EDIT: I was in no way suggesting that what I was doing was letting them cry it out for sleep purposes. Nor was I seeking sleep-training advice. What I was saying was that I had no choice under those particular circumstances but to let Sam and Abby cry for a bit and it was UNbearable. Therefore, I cannot imagine how I could possibly deal with a cry it out method for sleep training if I were to do that. Fortunately, I haven't needed to... my kids GO to sleep relatively easily. No, they don't all sleep through the night, but I'm not bothered by it. Ellie sleeps through the night. Abby wakes up once, but after about 8-9 hours of sleep, so while it's the middle of MY night, it's practically a full night's sleep for HER. And Sam wakes up at least a couple times to eat, but goes right back to sleep. This is not uncommon for breastfed babies and I'm not the least bit concerned about it. True, some breastfed babies can be trained to skip nighttime feedings, but I have no desire to train him out of them - since I'm working, I already miss out on feeding him through much of the day. I have no problem feeding him through the night.

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fheyd From: fheyd Date: April 23rd, 2008 02:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I used to babysit for a friend after she'd put the baby to bed that would tell me that unless i heard her baby crying to the point of screaming, or crying after hearing an unusual thump noise or something, to ignore it. I'm so glad he never cried while i was there. I know i couldn't have coped.
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: April 23rd, 2008 02:44 am (UTC) (Link)
I definitely let my babies cry more than I expected I would. I don't really have a lot of choice. But the whole "cry it out" thing? Definitely not.
tigerbright From: tigerbright Date: April 23rd, 2008 02:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Actually, I think that worked really well - the "good" baby was rewarded by getting to nurse, and you got the other two quiet. It may have been desperation, but it worked.

When Joshua was that age, we would judge how upset he was (or unwilling to go to bed he was) by how long he would cry - more than ten minutes and one of us would pick him up.

Eva's four and a half months now, and she ROARS when she's unhappy. browngirl has done yeoman duty walking her around while I get Joshua's teeth brushed, and she generally has to be fed during Joshua's book reading time, though sometimes she gets distracted by the fact that her Wonderful Big Brother is right there making faces. But there are times when I have to let her cry while I attend to Joshua (who needs to be kept on a fairly strict schedule), and vice versa (as when she's nursing and Joshua wants me NOWNOWNOW). Most of the time I find a way to work it out, but not always.

The most important thing to remember is that babies are not hurt by crying in the long term - once they've stopped snuffling, it's all good. And you're not a bad mom (overworked, perhaps, but not bad) for letting them cry.

Hugs offered.
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: April 23rd, 2008 02:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Actually, I think that worked really well - the "good" baby was rewarded by getting to nurse, and you got the other two quiet. It may have been desperation, but it worked.

Couple points:

First, all babies are good babies. I assume this is why you put "good" in quotes, but just clarifying to be sure.

Second, I only got the other two quiet AFTER I stopped feeding Ellie halfway through her dinner, and picked the other two up and fed them. They didn't stop crying on their own. So I'm not sure what it is that you think worked.

I know they're not hurt by crying, but oh, Sam doesn't just cry, he SCREAMS! He WAILS! He HOLLERS! He ROARS! He sounds so gosh-darned DESPARATE! My POOR BABY!
hannahsarah From: hannahsarah Date: April 23rd, 2008 02:38 am (UTC) (Link)
*hauling out her soapbox*

Cry is out is one of the most misunderstood and misused aspects of parenting.

It all depends on so many factors, and combinations of factors.

First and foremost, it only works if the parent is extremely tuned into their child's needs, moods and temperment. It depends on the child's temperment (frustration level, maturity, development, etc.), the parent's temperment and the circumstances (fed, changed, naptime?).

CIO is usually reserved for sleep training, and only done in very tiny increments. At least in my experience, you don't ignore your child for hours on end. You delay your response by a minute the first week, two minutes a week later, 3 minutes three weeks later, etc. You also can call to them from the next room to let them know that you are right there.

It's not about NOT taking care of your children, it's about teaching them to self soothe. If your child is not developmentally ready to self soothe, then no amount of CIO is going to fix that, and can actually make things much worse in the long run by making the child feel panicy and abandoned.

If your gut instincts tell you that CIO is not a good technique for you or your children, then you need to honor that. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's parenting fascists who are inflexible and self righteous at their children's expense.

estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: April 23rd, 2008 03:00 am (UTC) (Link)
yeah, the truth is I was only drawing an analogy here and I see I definitely misled folks. I really wasn't asking about sleep training. I wasn't putting my kids to bed when they started screaming tonight... it was feeding time at the zoo, but I couldn't get to everyone fast enough since I could only handle one at a time tonight (when I'm feeling this kind of sick, I really can't deal with the logistics of nursing two at a time, plus lately, they've been hard to nurse two at a time).

The babies are very easy to put to sleep at night. Sam still wakes up to nurse at night, but that's really not all that uncommon with breastfed babies (I don't know if you BF exclusively or not). I don't mind him waking up to eat, and he goes right back to sleep, so it's not the end of the world. When he starts eating solid foods regularly, I'll try to wean him off night feedings. But Ellie sleeps through the night and Abby only wakes up once at night (but after having been asleep for 9-10 hours, so it's sleeping through the night by a doctor's definition, but 4am is the middle of the night by MY definition). It's not bad at all, really.

My real problem was that at 5:45 this evening I was stranded on my bed feeding a baby while two helpless babies were in the next room screaming their heads off hungry and tired begging for attention that they weren't going to get just yet because I didn't have an extra set of hands available to me. Not the end of the world, but not a lot of fun either.
marag From: marag Date: April 23rd, 2008 02:42 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah, cry it out. I think it depends a lot on the child (or children) and the mother. A lot of women find that if they're even *near* the kid's room, the kid will sense it and not stop crying. Like they smell the milk or something. Many women go out and get a coffee and that seems to help :)

In our case, we found that we simply had to put her in her room and let her scream while our hearts broke. And after about an hour, she'd stop. Gradually, it was half an hour. Then ten minutes.

Some folks find that it works well for them if they go in when the child cries, pat their back, assure them everything's okay, then leave. Others (like us) find that if we even walk in, the kid screams harder

Most importantly, remember that if you're not ready to do cry it out now, that's okay! It's not like this is your only chance ever :)

BTW, when does Seth get back? Do you need an hour or two of help? Yael and I are around.
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: April 23rd, 2008 02:50 am (UTC) (Link)
In this case, of course, it wasn't a function of sleep training, it was just me not being able to get to Sam and Abby quickly enough for their tastes. My babies are all decent sleepers, in terms of GOING to sleep (now, sleeping through the night? That's a WHOLE different story... Ellie sleeps through the night - always has- Abby wakes up once, but Sam? Man that kid would nurse 24/7 if I let him!).

My kids really don't need to cry it out at bedtime, because basically, I put them down and Abby lets out one wimper, and goes to sleep. Ellie sighs, sucks her thumb and goes straight to sleep. Sam gets indignant for about five minutes and then goes to sleep. It's all very predictable and I'm VERY lucky.

Seth gets back tomorrow night (flight lands at 8, so I expect to see him around 9ish). I'd be all for some company tomorrow, but I fear that I might still have the plague. I think I'm better, but I'd never forgive myself if it turned out I'm not and I gave it to you. Thanks for the offer, though.
happyduck1979 From: happyduck1979 Date: April 23rd, 2008 02:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I am a believer in ferbering - only because I know it worked amazingly well or us. However, I have experience with exactly -1- child... so I am an expert in HER. The first night we let her cio it took almost 4 hours. Within a week (4 days in fact) she was sleeping through the night with no trouble. We had to redo it about 8 months later after she had been sick so we had started responding to her middle of the night cries (as we knew they were legitamite and that she needed something), but on the whole we found it worked like a charm.
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: April 23rd, 2008 02:58 am (UTC) (Link)
yeah, the truth is I was only drawing an analogy here and I see I definitely misled folks. I really wasn't asking about sleep training. I wasn't putting my kids to bed when they started screaming tonight... it was feeding time at the zoo, but I couldn't get to everyone fast enough since I could only handle one at a time tonight (when I'm feeling this kind of sick, I really can't deal with the logistics of nursing two at a time, plus lately, they've been hard to nurse two at a time).

The babies are very easy to put to sleep at night. Sam still wakes up to nurse at night, but that's really not all that uncommon with breastfed babies (I don't know if you BF exclusively or not). I don't mind him waking up to eat, and he goes right back to sleep, so it's not the end of the world. When he starts eating solid foods regularly, I'll try to wean him off night feedings. But Ellie sleeps through the night and Abby only wakes up once at night (but after having been asleep for 9-10 hours, so it's sleeping through the night by a doctor's definition, but 4am is the middle of the night by MY definition). It's not bad at all, really.

My real problem was that at 5:45 this evening I was stranded on my bed feeding a baby while two helpless babies were in the next room screaming their heads off hungry and tired begging for attention that they weren't going to get just yet because I didn't have an extra set of hands available to me. Not the end of the world, but not a lot of fun either.
introducingyael From: introducingyael Date: April 23rd, 2008 02:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah. I can't even begin to fathom it, either. No. Just no.
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: April 23rd, 2008 03:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Admittedly, as folks have pointed out, CIO is specifically a sleep training method, and I wasn't referring to a sleep-training situation. But still... Gah. Tonight was like my worst total nightmare!
mindycl From: mindycl Date: April 23rd, 2008 03:39 am (UTC) (Link)
i'm with you, sista, i cant handle crying it out either, I never allowed it in this house.

but - man, you and the trips, sans hubby! you get a medal! wheere did he run off to during pesach???
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: April 23rd, 2008 05:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
IY"H, he'll be home tonight. It was worse last week when he flew to Boston Thursday and returned Friday morning and then worked all day. THAT was a nightmare.
therollingdice From: therollingdice Date: April 23rd, 2008 04:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Crying out is DEFINITELY not when a baby is hungry or needs a diaper change.... Crying out is usually when you KNOW a baby needs to sleep so you try to train it to fall asleep on its own!!!!!!!!!!!!! NEVER LEAVE A BABY CRYING IT OUT WHEN IT NEEDS TO BE FED!!! I know you got 4 to take care of but same rules should apply!!!
therollingdice From: therollingdice Date: April 23rd, 2008 04:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Sorry I replied before I read all the comments and now I see that you didnt mean the cio before feeding them Sorry. And I hope your hubby returns fast enough to help.... I got 1 infant... cant imagine another 2 to take care of... You definitly are doing a GREAT job considering the circumstances..
kmelion From: kmelion Date: April 23rd, 2008 05:04 am (UTC) (Link)
There will most likely be plenty of times when you can't see to the needs of all your children at the same time and when they are demanding it.

Of course once they start feeding themselves, juggling this aspect will get easier, but hon... you can't beat yourself up over it.

We ferberized NS for sleep purposes and let me tell you... 5 minutes can feel like 5 hours when your baby is crying and refusing to go to sleep.
pocketnaomi From: pocketnaomi Date: April 23rd, 2008 08:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Everything I've heard, and everything I've seen from raising two kids, says that little babies should never be left to cry it out. I admit I have occasionally left mine in their crib to cry while I shut the door and went into the other room for a few minutes to collect myself, but then I went back in and dealt. I don't know what I'd do if I were dealing with triplets and no help; probably leave any given on to cry for a while as I frantically fed one of the others, then changed off... I just don't know. But leaving them to cry it out on purpose is definitely for much later, if at all.

Once my kids were old enough to understand English decently (i.e. 18 months or so), and know perfectly well what bedtime was and that they had to obey it, I have sometimes put them to bed through extreme protests and then left them to cry themselves to sleep. Even there, I will usually go back every ten or fifteen minutes to say wearily, "Quiet down, JJ; it's sleepytime now," which usually gets quiet for the time I'm in the room plus a minute and a half or so. Eventually, he gets sick of it all and falls asleep. Grace used to do something similar; for a while, regular as clockwork, she'd cry for about two minutes after being put to bed and then go zonk. Once we knew the pattern, we left her to do it.

But all of this is older babies, and all of it's presuming that they understand what you're doing and why. Under a year or so at minimum, probably more for yours because of the developmental-age thing, I would absolutely not have tried to let them cry it out. Simply letting them cry till you had the hands free to pick them up is a different thing, though.
mrn613 From: mrn613 Date: April 23rd, 2008 12:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmmm can I point out here that after you have stomach flu you are dehydrated and aren't producing as much breast milk?

Anyway, I am a very sound sleeper and it takes a lot of crying to wake me up! Once my maternal instinct says they are old enough to sleep through the night they just naturally sleep train themselves. Even when my kids are in their own beds and can wander about the house at night, they know to wake up Abba because even if they try to wake me up by screaming six inches from my face I'm not going to stir.
estherchaya From: estherchaya Date: April 23rd, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
they were crying because I hadn't gotten to them yet, not because they weren't getting enough. During the flu I basically let Sam and Ellie nurse continuously and ignored the schedule, figuring they'd tell me what they needed. I gave them bott;es whenever I felt like they were too frustrated. And I didn't pump for Abby; I just gave her formula until I got through the worst of it.
From: have_inner_lady Date: April 23rd, 2008 03:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think it's common for a child to cry for hours at a go. I experienced plenty of that with my singleton.

I also think that the "cry it out" advice is mostly for the benefit of parents. I interpret it as permission to not be perfect, to accept that parents generally have more than they can handle going on (especially in cases like yours!) and that things are going to go wrong, and that sometimes, for the parent(s) to provide the best life for everyone, the child(ren) are going to have to wait their turn. In which case they often cry.

Children are very resilient. The normal hours of crying now and then probably don't mess them up. It's okay for them to cry.

I applaud you staying with Ellie for as long as you could, despite the crying of the other two, especially because of her disposition. If you take a naturally patient and non-demanding and maybe meek child and let her always occupy last place (squeaky wheel and all), it may ingrain in her some life lessons that are very much false. I'm glad you let her be first sometimes, even if it means you have to do more work to notice her needs.
(Deleted comment)
real_bethy From: real_bethy Date: April 23rd, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
First of all - refuah shlemah!

Secondly, I don't know how you do it. I had a postpartum contract with newborn twins, and there were times I just ran out of hands. At one point, I had a baby in a sling, a baby in my arms, two bottles in my hand and I was answering a call on my cell using my toes (why doesn't anybody go into labour when my hands are empty?! **LOL**). I kept thinking, "G-d bless Esther Chaya! She's Wonder Womyn!"
ichur72 From: ichur72 Date: April 25th, 2008 11:32 am (UTC) (Link)
OK, it looks like all the other commenters pretty much have things covered, but hey, why not throw in my US$0.02? It's not like I'm typing with 1 hand & holding a cranky, teething 9-month-old in the other or anything. :O

As I mentioned recently in my other journal, I have done Ferber-style sleep training with both of my kids -- after a lot of crying on my part and a lot thought. I truly think they needed it because they simply do not know how to shut themselves down -- more than that, they actively resist shutting down even when they are ill with exhaustion. That said, when they are not tired, I do everything in my power to respond as quickly as I can -- because I want them to believe that I'm sensitive to their needs and they can count on me, etc. In my very humble opinion, it's about knowing your kids. When my kids are tired, they sometimes need help learning to go to sleep. When they're not tired, they need to know I'm there for them.
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