Crying it out

Simon, at the grand age of 28 months, has decided to go from one three-hour nap in the afternoon to no nap. In a classic case of bad timing, this is coinciding with Beloved being home with the boys almost full-time. I’m not even going to bother with a description – you can imagine what it’s like.

Saturday and Sunday, I tried all the tricks in my arsenal to get him to take his nap. A tiny, childish part of me figured that Beloved just wasn’t trying hard enough to get Simon down, that’s why he couldn’t get him to nap. Right. Not so much.

For at least two hours each day, Simon was in his crib (yes, we’re still dragging our heels on that transition, too – give me a break, we just retired the highchair yesterday) in varying states of wakeful agitation. He would lie peacefully for stretches, which I realize in retrospect was to lull us into a false sense of accomplishment, and then move through the spectrum of annoyance all the way to raging tantrum and back again.

Sitting on the top stair, listening to him pitch a wailing tantrum on the other side of his door and hoping it was a short-lived prelude to an actual nap (idealist to the end, I am), I was thinking back to the early days, and the first times I had to let the boys cry themselves to sleep. Letting my tender, innocent ten month old baby cry for five minutes seemed like such a horrendously hard thing to do, but in retrospect teaching the boys to fall asleep on their own was one of the best things we could have done. (Hmmm, best choice = hardest road. Who knew?)

Tristan, always my good sleeper, was outraged at being left to cry for the first few nights but was happily falling asleep on his own within a week. Simon, who taught me what sleep deprivation really means by not sleeping more than three hours at a stretch well past his first year, was a lot more reluctant to be ‘sleep trained’. The first few nights that he cried himself to sleep, he continued to do that post-hysterical-crying hitching thing long after he fell asleep, and it took many days of heart-hardening resolve to convince him to fall asleep on his own.

I give a lot of credence to our eventual success with the infamous “cry it out” method to Richard Ferber’s classic sleep book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. I hated the idea of letting the babies cry at the time (anybody remember that episode of Mad About You on this? I thought they were nuts.) but after reading everything on the market at the time, Ferber was the only thing that made sense, and it worked for us.

The weekend Citizen carried a great reprint from Slate magazine (click through and read it, it’s a great piece) about the re-issuance Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, where Ferber clarifies his position on sleep training. I loved this article, mostly because it perfectly encapsulates everything I learned from Ferber. And I’m hugely relieved that he has not, in fact, recanted his original advice. In retrospect I realize that my own personal discipline style is strongly rooted in his “you might not like it but I’m the boss and I know best” style. From Ferber I learned to stand up to my children’s willfulness, and that’s probably one of the most valuable parenting lessons I’ve learned.

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

11 thoughts on “Crying it out”

  1. Condolences to BH. In a way, it’s probably good that you didn’t solve the problem yourself, since if you did, that would have told BH that not only was he stuck with a non-sleeping kid, but that it’s his fault. At least this way he has the excuse of ‘she couldn’t do it, either.’
    Even enlightened guys have egos.

  2. Naps…Nathan took one yesterday for the first time in MONTHS YEARS! Of course he is almost 5 and it was nice and quiet for a few hours.
    I still trying to get Nathan to fall asleep on his own. I have to be upstairs to let him do that. He says he’s afraid of the dark BUT I know he is not afraid of anything. Including me.

  3. Oh my Lord. I feel for ya. With all the transitions Amelia has hda to go through lately (getting molars, new cargiver…)sleeping has not been her forte. I feel for ya.

  4. The positive thing for us, when Ben gave up his 2 hour nap instantly (like Somin) at 29 months, was a trade off between fighting him to get to sleep before 9:30 pm to a blissful bedtime routine as early as 6:30-7 cause he was just. so. tired.
    Trevor still grabs a nap here & there, climbs on the couch, says “I’m tired” and goes to sleep.
    High chairs? We only rid ours at 2.5 year old too, cause there was a neighbourhood family with 6 month old twins wanting to buy them 😉
    We still use booster seats. We find they truly eat a better meal sitting in them, than not.
    BUT…back to YOU of course(oops for making this all about me) some kids go through a rebellious non-napping thing for a few days then go back to it. Do NOT give up yet!

  5. Finally, someone to clarify Ferber’s new stance, which has been reported so many different ways! My Bub is 2.5 and he gave up his nap for about two months before he reached meltdown condition. Now he has to be in total darkness to nap (let’s just say, the playpen is permanently set up in the basement), and even so he naps only 3 or 4 days out of 7.
    I look forward to reading more of your blog!

  6. Thankfully Lucas has given up most of his naps on his own (seeing as he’s 4). He still falls asleep if I drive him anywhere, for any length of time in the PM though. Haven on the other hand hasn’t napped since Lucas was born, back when she was 22 months. They are certainly differrent in their sleeping habbits.
    Now, if only I could keep Lucas from crawling into bed with me some nights…it’s a new habit that I want to nip in the bud.
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Transitions in routines always threw me right off. Like dropping a nap, sad moment for a parent. But mine will still catch a snooze if we are driving anywhere after lunchtime and I can even bring baby boy in and he’ll continue his nap too.
    good luck with this new phase;)

  8. Frances went through a stage like this several months ago. Feel free to disregard this entirely if it’s assvice–what worked for us was recreating her daycare napping environment, since that’s what she’s used to most of the time. So we play lullabies on a cd player, and one of us sits ther ein the rocking chair until she is out (at the daycare, she sleeps in a roomfull of kids plus one or two adults, so we figured its’ really no wonder she has a hard time now at home in her own room by herself). It worked, and it was the only thing that worked. Letting her by herself didn’t make her cry–she just would lie there in her crib babbling for two hours. Really. TWO hours, no sleep.
    Anyway, just a thought: maybe recreating his daycare napping environment a little would help him transition to his summer at home a bit more easily?

  9. We also had some severe napping issues for a period when Erich was 18 months. It turned out that he was just ready to get out of his crib. Once into his “big boy” bed (with a gate on the bedroom door) he was free to play quietly in his room with some strategically placed non-noise making toys and then crawled into bed on his own. Yes, there were times when I found him curled up on his rug like one of our dogs but ultimately, it did solve the problem.
    We also encourage him to read on his own until he feels ready to sleep. I often find him asleep like an old man with his book on his face.
    Don’t give up on him yet. It might just be a phase. I feel for both you and Beloved as nap time is one of the few moments in the day in which to recoup your sanity. Good luck and hang in there!

  10. My daughter at 24 months went from 3 hour naps to nothing, too. It lasted for 4 months. In the last 1 month we’ve managed to wrangle a 1.5-2 hour nap out of her about 5/7 days a week. Happy days!!! Good luck.

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