Does the "cry it out" sleep method refer to the parents or the child?

Over at the Attachment Parenting blog, I found an article about getting babies to sleep that reminded me of my experience. We talked about sleep waaaaay back in Episodes 2 & 3 of The Family Anatomy Show, but I think it's worth revisiting. Historically there have been two major schools of thought about getting babies to sleep - let them cry it out, or comfort them. The first is based on conditioning, or the idea that picking up a child who is crying rewards them and increases the frequency of the behaviour. The "cry it out" method also proposes that allowing kids to calm themselves will improve their ability to self-soothe. On the other hand, listening to your child cry without helping him or her can be a traumatic experience for the parents! The alternative method recommends that parents respond to their child, and that by soothing them when they are upset, the child feels secure and develops a trusting relationship with the parent. Interestingly, the major proponents of both approaches recently began to acknowledge that there are elements of the other approach that may be valid. The fact is, every child and family is different, and no single approach will work for everyone.

I tried the "cry it out" method with my children, because I believed in the importance of developing self-soothing strategies. My effort did not last beyond the first 30 minutes, however. Neither of my sons were able to calm themselves - they just became increasingly upset. After some sleep-deprived nights trying to figure out what to do (keep in mind that this was occurring as the kids were stopping their nightly breastfeeding routines), we finally came to a solution. I set up a small mattress and a sleeping bag in the baby's room, and I slept on the floor. When my son woke up, I was there instantly to hug him, rub his back, and hold his hand. Both of my kids eventually learned in this way that their room was a safe place. They still woke up multiple times, and came to visit us in the night once they were out of a crib, but we rarely heard crying.

How did you get your kids to go to sleep? Were you able to get the "cry it out" method to work?

You can read the Attachment Parenting post here.

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