Let the Baby Cry It Out? Here’s What Happens 15 Years Later.

Baby Josh and me

Baby Josh and me

Our firstborn could never fall asleep on his own as a baby.  We did not let him cry it out, although we tried…once.  We wondered if we were damaging him forever by rocking him to sleep each night.

Well, it’s been 15 years since those sleepless nights, and we now know exactly what happens to babies who are rocked to sleep:

They turn out just fine.

In fact, I think our Josh has turned out better than just fine.  He is a sweet, sensitive soul who loves to give great hugs.

When he was a newborn, he accepted no artificial substitute for a warm body.  He hated the bottle, and he threw it against the wall when he was only a few weeks old in a fit of rage one day when my mother was watching him.  “I want my Mommy’s milk!” he seemed to say through his tears.  He also spat the pacifier right out of his mouth.  Only a real human finger, preferably Mom’s, please.

We bought a baby swing when he could sit up so that my arms could get a little break from carrying him around.  He liked the swing set for about two minutes, but then he demanded that we come back to swing him in our arms.  The seat on the swing was too cold, too mechanical.  I think my back is forever damaged as a result of swinging him in my cradled arms day after day after day.

Night time was the biggest challenge.  He had to be nursed and rocked to sleep.  We had to then gingerly put him down into the crib without waking him which, of course, he would, and we’d start the whole cycle over again.

One time, we were so desperate to get some rest that we actually tried to let him cry it out.  We put him down in the crib fully awake, turned on the mobile music box, kissed him good night, and walked out.  As soon as the music went through one cycle, Josh figured out that his parents were not coming back, and he began to cry.  Then the cry turned into a wail.  The wailing then turned downright angry.  And loud.  I was afraid our neighbors would call the cops on us.  Meanwhile, I closed my bedroom door and jumped into the shower so as to drown out my baby’s cries as well as my own.  David sat in the hallway outside the nursery, dabbing some tears himself.  After about 45 minutes — yes, we really tried and yes, Josh was a stubborn baby — we gave up.  We burst into his nursery like two firefighters rescuing a child from a fire.  Josh was so upset that he hiccup-cried for another hour.  We vowed never to go through this torture again.

Yes, we worried that we were creating an insomniac monster.  Every time a news article came out about the nation’s state of sleep deprivation and how many heart attacks, strokes, obesity, and bankruptcies could be directly linked to insomnia, we cringed.  And we prayed: Lord, please let this child fall asleep on his own! Just any time before he goes off to college.

The good news today is that, indeed, Josh can now fall asleep just fine on his own.  Honestly, he needed a warm body next to him to fall asleep well into elementary school.  He still is a high-contact boy who enjoys wrestling with Dad before going to bed.  He still holds my hands while walking the dog together, provided that none of his friends are around to see us.  He gives hugs freely to his friends and is a great listener.  In fact, he hopes to become a therapist or a counselor someday.  His heart breaks for people who are hurting.  He has the gift of empathy like no one else I know.

So, if you are a parent who is thinking of letting the baby cry it out but has some reservations, we say don’t.  Maybe it’s not for you and your baby.

Go ahead — love a lot, pray a lot, and rock your baby to sleep.

P.S.  Happy 15th Birthday, Josh!

How this Panda Mom Went Off Sleeping Pills

It was so insidious.  I needed to get some precious rest when my babies were asleep at night, but my sleep pattern had gotten so disrupted during my seasons with newborns that I could no longer fall asleep on my own. So, how harmful is a little Tylenol PM, right?

I took one little pill my first night and was knocked out. Welcome, sleep! As long as the kids continued sleeping until morning, that is.  If they fussed at 2 or 3AM, I myself couldn’t going back to sleep.  I tried popping another pill at that hour, but it left me groggy all morning.  No worries — nothing that a good cup of coffee can’t fix!

After taking Tylenol PM a few more times, I noticed that it wasn’t as effective as it once was, so I upped the dosage.  Then after a while, that wouldn’t work as well either, so I upped it some more…until I quickly reached my max.

I tried a few other options such as Ambien and Codeine.  I only used Ambien for a short while, because I read about weird things that people did while sleeping: walking, driving, eating, and shopping.  I myself reportedly had a full telephone conversation from Japan with my husband and kids back home which I totally could not remember.

This went on for several years.  I didn’t take a sleeping pill every night, but it did concern me that I was needing an increasing amount and that I was — gulp — starting to form a habit.

My true wake-up call happened one weekend when I attended a women’s retreat with my church.  I was in a cabin with about 8 other women, and at bed time we were all popping Tylenol PM like they were M&Ms!  While I was relieved to know that I wasn’t the only one with sleeping issues, it woke me up to the fact that I, along with about half of humanity, had become dependent on sleep aid.

So I decided to quit cold turkey.  Here’s how I did it:

1.  I increased my physical exercise routine

I began taking classes at the gym which were not only more fun but also pushed me much harder than working out by myself.  I would collapse into bed at night from utter physical exhaustion.  I used to work out (er, dawdled) about three times a week, but I upped it to five or six.  I also liked the effect that it had on my bathroom scale.

2.  I took steps to lower my stress level

Mental exhaustion has the opposite effect of physical exhaustion: stressful thoughts keep me awake at night!  I was volunteering at my kids’ school and at church but was facing some difficult circumstances which often kept me up at 3AM.  All this for zero pay?  I did a complete reassessment of how I was using my time and energy.  If things could be pruned, then I prune I would.  It was hard for me to let go of my many activities, but I just kept my goal on one thing: sanity.  With less stress, I was able to sleep more.

3.  I cut out all caffeine after noon

I was in denial for so long about the effect caffeine had on me.  When I stopped all caffeine intake after my two cups of coffee in the morning and iced tea at lunch, the difference was dramatic.  Hello, sleep! And this time, all clean!

These days, I usually (9 out of 10 nights?) have no trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.  Sometimes my husband’s snoring wakes me up in the middle of the night, but I poke him to turn over and am able to quickly fall back asleep.

A good night’s rest is a tremendous gift, and I’m very grateful for it everyday and night.

Jesus said, 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 – 30 NIV)

So, tell me — do you have sleep issues?  What do you do about it?