So maybe I’m simply the kind of parent who puts his own comfort over that of his kids. But the end result is that I disagree with my totally esteemed colleague Christopher about sleep training. He argued yesterday that there was no benefit to the kid, only heartache and psychic trauma for all involved. Commenter Gregor had the same reaction as I did:
I think I had a harder time letting my kid cry it out before I realized the vast universe of things that make my kids wail. Can’t wear a specific pair of pajamas? They cry. Offered vegetables one too many times? They cry. It makes you realize that not every fit is a deep referendum on their parent’s love.
Just today, my 21-month-old son cried because I didn’t let him play with the dog’s water bowl at our friends’ house. Nobody would think I was being cruel or scarring my kid. There are some things that you just have to draw the line at, and let the kid cry if he wants about it. I think sleep is one of those things.
We guard our sleep as zealously as we take the knives away from the toddlers. So if, as I believe was true with both my kids, letting them cry it out is a quicker way to disabuse them of waking in the middle of the night, then it’s right for us.
That said, I don’t think that traditional Ferber worked all that well with our kids. The increasing intervals felt forced. And the idea of going into a room and not picking the kid up seems worse than just neglecting a crying baby: it seemed like being a total tease.
BabyWise, which another commenter mentioned, worked even less for us. I found its emphasis on bedtime routine laudable, but it’s a complete fantasy to say that a nice consistent schedule will make every child a great sleeper. I’m sure the method works for some, but for the rest it’s just snake oil.
In the end, a combination worked for us: steady and kid-friendly routine, but also clear schedules of sleep that were dictated by us, not by the children’s hysterics. It may be harsh, but there are clear expectations.
And about whether your kid will be scarred if you let them cry: to really damage a child and stunt their social growth, you need to be a Romanian orphanage that chains babies to beds. If you spend the day loving and nurturing your kid at all times except when they are pissed about going to bed, your child will be fine.