User post: Why I decided to let my baby "cry it out" ... even though I swore I never would

I used to know a ton about raising children. Then I had one.

One thing I knew, before I had my baby, was that I would never, ever let him cry it out to get him to sleep. Letting my poor, defenseless little baby cry alone in his crib? How cruel! I felt secure in the knowledge that by rocking/nursing/cuddling my baby to sleep, I was doing the right, nurturing thing.

Fast forward eight months. My sweet baby was still waking up every couple hours at night, sometimes every hour, and would only accept comfort from me. We were both exhausted. Something had to give.
I was determined to try gentle methods. The Baby Whisperer recommends picking up baby when he cries, soothing him, then putting him back in the crib as soon as he settles. And repeat, ad infinitum. She describes babies that needed to be picked up 80+ times before they fell asleep on their own in the crib. Just keep trying, she says. She must have had a spine of steel and the patience of Job. After about a dozen times, I was ready to throw myself out the window. And my son just seemed to get angrier every time I put him down, as if I was pulling a bait-and-switch.

On to the No Cry Sleep Solution. I tried gradually scaling back my soothing methods, as suggested. So instead of bouncing him in my arms, I sat in a chair and soothed him to sleep. Then instead of holding him, I put him in his crib and patted his back. The two problems with this were, one, for a no-cry solution there was an awful lot of crying. My son was not down with this plan. Second, at the rate I was going, he'd be sleeping on his own around the time he started shaving.

Three nights ago, as I stood hunched over his crib trying to soothe him to sleep, I realized I wasn't doing either of us any favors. My son had no idea how to fall asleep on his own, and that wasn't his fault. And waking every hour or two was wearing on me physically and mentally. I'm a lot more joyful and present as a mother when I've had more than two hours sleep. Plus, less likely to drop the baby or burn the apartment down.

So the next night, I did what I swore I'd never do: I let him cry it out. He cried for 40 minutes. And I feel like I should report that it was horribly gut-wrenching, but actually it wasn't. I know his frightened cry, and I know his pain cry, and this wasn't either of those. This was his "hey, what do I have to do to get some service around here?!" cry. He was annoyed. He got over it. He went to sleep. Last night he cried 15 minutes, and eight hours later he's still sleeping -- a new record.

Who knows what tomorrow night will bring. Who knows if he's really learned to put himself to sleep. But I know I've learned something important -- that there's no absolute right or wrong on a lot of these parenting choices. The smug certainty that I enjoyed in my pre-baby days is gone, and I have a feeling it ain't coming back. What's right for my baby may not be right for yours, and what's right for my baby at four months probably won't be the same at eight months. All I can do is try to figure out what's best for my baby right now -- and never say never.