Why I Let My Child ‘Cry it Out’

Around the same time I had my mental health crisis, my son became difficult at night. He had always been brilliant at dropping off to sleep shortly after a feed, with the help of a white noise machine. I knew 4-6 months was a massive developmental milestone, and most babies can be fussy, and cry at night during this time. I knew I should just power through it. I knew I had done exactly this with my daughter. However, I wasn’t quite the same parent I once was.

His cries coursed through my body with an intensity I had never experienced before. My whole body would seize up, my fists would clench without me even realising. If he would not settle on the breast, I would wake up my husband, sometimes nearly throwing my son at him and storm out of the room. Or just hide under the covers in the hopes that my son not being able to see me would settle him. I was sure it was my fault he would not sleep. It was because he didn’t like me. It was because he knew I didn’t like him.

Sometimes he would fall asleep on my husband. I hated this. Why could he sleep on his daddy but not me? Other times, my son would cry himself to sleep with my husband patting his back. I would just wait downstairs for it all to be over. Eventually, it got too much for us all, and my son was starting to wake up my daughter.

It became too much. No matter what I did, he would not go to sleep. I wanted to throw him against the wall. I wanted to give him away. I just didn’t want him here anymore. I was worried for his safety.

In my frustration, I took my son in his Moses basket and placed it in the spare room, with his white noise machine on as loud as it could go. Then I shut the door and went back to bed. With all of the doors shut, I could still hear him. I buried my head in my pillow and eventually fell asleep. We all woke in the morning, my son had slept through. I felt awful.

I immediately discussed what had happened with my Health Visitor and psychologist. Both didn’t really seem to be bothered. I explained about all of the research, showing how my son would probably grow up to be a murderer or be an anxious child or have mental health problems when he’s older. They explained the age old ‘many did it ages ago and we’re all fine.’ Hmm…this is true. But maybe not. They all didn’t use car seats, that doesn’t make it okay to not use them now. And I continued this battle with myself. I knew what I was doing was wrong, according to my own values, and yet I still did it.

Within weeks, my son was sleeping through the night, on his own, with little crying. He still cried, but not the screams they once were. We had moved his crib into the living room, as the spare room was a bit too cold. He would go to bed with his white noise machine on, lie on his front and toss his head from side to side for a few minutes before settling down to sleep for the night. He would sometimes stir in the night, but we just left him to it. He continued to be his happy self, with many compliments on what a cheerful boy he is. He continued to be a laid-back baby, nothing seemed to bother him.

Of course, I continued to worry. What if he became damaged? That by not going to him when he cried, he would think no one would ever come to him. My therapist reassured me.

If he hurts himself, does he cry? Yes

If he hurts himself, does he come looking for you? Yes

Then he’s not damaged.

I’m sure I sound like I’m just making excuses for my laziness. That I seem selfish for putting the needs of myself before the needs of my son.

However, I am starting to come to terms with my decision.

My son is content, he is cared for. He has clothes on his back and food in his belly.

He is finally connecting with his Mummy, after nearly a year on this planet. We are finally getting somewhere.

And maybe it is the wrong decision. But right now it is the only decision for me and my family.

And I am okay with that.

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About Jessica

Mum of two from Devon, struggling through postnatal depression and parenting in general. Sometimes light-hearted, sometimes funny, and sometimes the shit gets a bit intense.  Opening up about my battles for whoever wants to listen.
 
You can follow me on my blog, or Facebook, find me on Twitter or look me up on Instagram

Image credit: Flickr/Flat Luxury, Charles is not a happy camper Aug 28 2008

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3 Comments
  1. Profile photo of Caroline Kershaw
    Caroline Kershaw 6 months ago

    I was exactly the same! My son started waking and crying every half hour or so and I just couldn’t cope. I wanted to be a responsive parent but I wanted him to be gone and often stormed into my husband in the night with my son passed him over vigorously (not carefully but not actually violent) and ran away to cry downstairs, trying to block out the noise. I feared for my sons safety and wellbeing because I was unable to feel maternal in the way I wanted to when I was feeling so despairing. I had fantasies about getting rid of him (via the window – I knew I wouldn’t really do it but I was tempted!) and running away from home. But in the end with the help of my health visiting team and CBT i realised that it was in my sons best interest for him to cry it out (we did controled crying for 2mins, 4 mins 6mins etc) at night so that I could stay sane! We are a team and what is good for my health is ultimately best for my sons health. It was a hard lesson to learn because I had set myself such high standards. Love Caroline x

  2. Profile photo of Jess Marchbank
    Jess Marchbank 3 months ago

    I understand this mamas cries for help and her poor mental health. I empathise and am glad she has come to terms with her decisions.
    What I would hope and encourage other families in this situation would do would be to seek support and advice first. This mama was obviously at the “last straw” stage, but I’d be anxious that there are others of us that, with earlier intervention (and those not at crisis point) will read this and think cio is okay for anyone and everyone. For those not at crisis etc… there are many many many other avenues to consider first re infant sleep.
    No health visitor should be recommending cc or cio methods, or condoning it; part of their role is to now offer gentle sleep advice ❤️

    Big hugs to all the families out there.

  3. Profile photo of reca
    reca 3 months ago

    Thanks for writing this. We did sleep training with both kids as I can’t really cope with sleep deprivation (feels like root of so many health problems). Plus it seemed cruel not to teach them to learn how to settle themselves. At first would try and intervene (with every method possible, including loud reggae which worked for a bit!), but actually seemed liked being left (for a bit) was kindest option. But got to stage where it wasn’t really a choice, more of a necessity. Similarly, handed babies to my partner when they were tiny and they’d settle on him better than with me and completely relate to those feelings! I think the problem is the label – ‘crying it out’ and ‘controlled crying’ sound awful. ‘Self settling’ sounds better!

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