Serious post alert: some things are hard to joke about. And crying it out is one of these things.
These days, it’s normal, accepted and even expected that you will leave your baby to “cry it out” to make it “sleep through the night”. Sorry about the speech marks, but I tend to use those for things that are grade A bullshit. No speech marks needed.
Firstly, there is no “it” to cry out and get over. This isn’t a wet nappy or a snatched Peppa Pig toy at playgroup. This is everything to your baby. You are everything. And leaving a baby to cry without you is not something they will just get over and then everything is A OK again.
I am sure they can relearn empathy, trust, patience, etc when they are older.. but it’s easier to raise them with pure crazy love from the start, rather than have to fix a load of problems later, right? It’s a pretty smart investment to not leave them to cry if ya think about it.
The upfront cost is lack of sleep, though. And that’s tough. But babies are designed that way, so mums are built to withstand it. Plus, zombie state is to be expected. Isn’t it? For me, having a baby was definitely NOT up there with luxury hotels and fluffy duvets in my list of things that I expect Well Nice Quality Sleep from. I didn’t have a baby to get good sleep. I had a baby to raise a happy, healthy, well-rounded human being. This planet has a severe shortage at the moment, as you’ve probably noticed.
And my second use of speech marks: “Sleep through the night”. So that phrase itself is the vortex in a shit storm of future blog posts, I’m sure. But let me explain why crying it out doesn’t make your baby sleep through the night — and why that sentence is the ultimate in baby bullshit. (If you’ve recently had a baby, you’ll have realised already how much baby bullshit exists in the world. Look! I just saw some float past. It’s an epidemic in London).
Crying it out basically makes your baby give up trust in you. It is the reason babies don’t cry in orphanages. They know nobody is coming for them, so what is the point in them crying? Makes ME cry just thinking of all the babies who have to go through this shit before they’ve even made it to their first birthday. The baby cries and cries and cries until it gives up on you.
And while they may forget this, lifelong attachment issues are firmly setting up camp thanks to abandonment and extreme stress levels at such a crucial developmental age. Here is a load of evidence. And here. And here, here, here, here and oh, here and here is the really boring data.
But back to the thing about sleeping through the night. After undergoing its worst nightmare, having no carer/food supply/love/safety, your baby shuts up. Yay. And it sleeps, eventually. But because it is a baby, it will continue to wake between sleep cycles, as that is what babies do. Yet while un-sleep trained babes will cry for a cuddle or bit of milk, a sleep trained baby will not cry out for you. It will lie there in the dark, not expecting you, just feeling like Earth is a horrible horrible place. And they’re probably right.
While I won’t ever be doing any kind of sleep training or cry it out, I do understand why people do it. Not only is everyone else doing it, so it seems normal, they’ve also maybe reached their knackeredness limit. They need to function for work. They need to function for friends. For their partner. For themselves. Post natal depression is obviously linked with sleep deprivation, because all the horrible things are linked with sleep deprivation. But for me it’s a lot more depressing to hear my baby give up on me.
I didn’t realise it when I was pregnant, or even a few weeks in. But as a 10 month old mum now, I know beyond anything else in the universe that my role is Mother (aka milky one) to my baby. And being a mum to me is giving everything I can possible give. Within my own limits sure.. but as a human, I’m designed to deal with this.
It’s about adapting your life where you can and lowering your expectations a bit. We have been doing this since we were monkeys. Ignoring 21st Century pressures and Western society bullshit, I know deep down, in a place I didn’t even know I had, that being a mother can’t be any simpler than love.
And love, to me, is holding my baby when she cries.
Having her skin on mine.
Whispering to her that everything is going to be OK, I promise.
Letting her hold me so tight it hurts.
Feeling her heartbeat dance with mine.
Feeding her a big warm milky hug that has evolved over thousands of years, to be all she needs to feel like the world is a great place to be.
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