Crying it out: Cruel to be kind?
Happily playing here in front of me, you’d never know that Little P has just been screaming for 45 minutes, and so loud that I thought she was going to be sick or forget to breathe or that the knock on the door just now was going to be Social Services.
I’ve done it before. I’m a pretty pragmatic person. I can cope with some crying. But oh my goodness, does she go for it. And is she stubborn!
And today I have felt miserable and exhausted about the whole thing.
“Leaving a baby to cry herself to sleep is cruel. She’s so small still. She needs my comfort.”
“If there’s nothing wrong, it’s the best way to help her self-settle and sleep longer.”
“Perhaps she’s not ready. Or I’m getting naptimes wrong. Or she just hates her cot.”
“I’m going back to work soon – she’s got to work it out for herself.”
I don’t normally doubt my own decisions very often – I think them through hard and I commit. But these are the kinds of arguments going around in my head. It’s exhausting.
When my eldest was 5 months old, we were still rocking him to sleep. Or rather, doing a crazy up-and-down-squat-bounce thing to not only get him to sleep in the first place, but every time he woke up in the night. Which was a lot at that point. He was a chunk so it was also doing my back in.
So I took a deep breath. After taking a bottle of wine and some ear plugs round to the neighbours each side of our little London terrace (“Evening! Please don’t hate us or ring the NSPCC!”), I stuck out a few nights of howling whilst distracting myself with catch-up TV and tea at 3am, and it worked. M learnt to self settle and we didn’t look back.
This girl-flavoured baby is totally different. Night-time isn’t bad, though she normally disturbs once and is up at 5am, but her daytime napping is ridiculous! She’s ten months old – and if she’s in the buggy she might manage 45 minutes on a brilliant day. Most of the time it’s two catnaps for 15-20 mins and if you put her down in her cot she screams blue murder for nearly an hour sometimes, eventually falls asleep, only to wake up screaming 15 minutes later. I try to get her back, but she’s furious, or needs a new nappy, and I can’t bear to leave her to scream again as I’ve lost all the adrenalin and steely resolve.
She doesn’t even have a magic ‘thing’, a lazy parenting go-to that guarantees she’ll fall asleep. She doesn’t want to be cuddled, or me to stay and shush her, she just doesn’t want to sleep.
But what’s the real problem, I ask myself?
Well, for one, and it may sound selfish, but I’d really like an hour to get some jobs done in the house. Have a cup of tea. Look at my phone (let’s be honest). She’s crawling and trying to climb stairs and into everything so it’s full-on all day. Especially when M isn’t at pre-school. Secondly, it would be nice if she didn’t get crabby and stroppy a couple of hours after each rubbish catnap, and be clingy and upset from 5pm because all she wants to do is go to sleep. And actually, the worst part is the emotional strain of not knowing – will she scream for half an hour today, or an hour? Will she have longer than 15 minutes sleep? Maybe today’s the day!
I know that babies need naps – it’ll help her sleep longer at night I’m sure – so why won’t she? I’m at the point where i need that whole bottle of wine and ear plugs for myself, not just the neighbours…
Image credit: Mallmo / Shutterstock