As I write this, the Girl is in bed (it being well past her bedtime, and eating into mine) and screaming the house down, and I’m twitching, tapping my feet, and wishing above all else (apart, of course, that she’d just-shut-up) that I could have a glass of wine.
It doesn’t particularly help that my mentally challenged neighbours keep slamming their front door (their hobbies seem to be loud yapping outside of our windows, and door-slamming – and not much else), or that she was over-tired going to bed to begin with. But whatever the reason, for the fifth night in a row she’s screaming when she’s meant to be sleeping, and I’m getting a bit sick of rocking her back to sleep several times a night. The Man is away, I want to get to bed early, so tonight is the night for Getting Tough.
Welcome to the mental and emotional trauma that is Controlled Crying.
For the uninformed, Controlled Crying is a hard-core sleep-training method. It takes no prisoners, and guarantees relatively quick (as in one or two nights) results, but you have to have nerves of steel, and turn off any soft spots and maternal instincts which may be lurking. As well as muting all monitors and sticking in ear plugs. The method is simple: leave the baby to cry for every increasing periods, going in to check on her at the end of those periods. Eventually she’ll give up and go to sleep. The idea is that she’ll learn to fall asleep on her own, and will realise quickly that crying doesn’t get rewarded.
The really hard-core method requires you just to go in and check on the baby, saying something reassuring (if you’re feeling kind). I’m doing the slightly less hard core version – “recipe” below - only because once I get in there her wailing is just too loud to bear, and I have to shut her up, if only for a minute or two.
So I’ve been in to her five times in the past hour, each time leaving a few minutes longer than the last, and she’s still going all guns blazing. I’ve got the monitor turned on mute, and I can still hear her, three floors down. She is now screeching louder and longer than before, and has woken up the Boy (who, typically, drifted off to sleep early, with no head-banging at all for the first time in months; he’s now up there rocking on all fours, humming and moaning and banging). Every time I go into her, I pick her up, lay her in my arms, and she stops immediately and goes to sleep – so I know she’s just acting the maggot, as my father would say. Then I lay her down and she goes from 0-60 in an instant and ROARS.
It’s still not easy tho, listening to your big fat lump of a teeny baby roaring crying, but knowing she’s just looking for attention makes it easier to be tough. Also, after the first few intervals you’ve already invested about half an hour, and it’s just a matter of riding it out.
I’m a big fan of controlled crying – notwithstanding contentions by people who’ve got nothing better to do with their time that it’s cruel and psychologically damages the child (oh for goodness sake); the couple of times I used it with the Boy it worked brilliantly, he was asleep within a half hour, and his misbehaving wasn’t repeated on subsequent nights. The Girl is, however, showing signs of being even more stubborn than he is – which I didn’t think was possible.
Right now I’m leaving her for 18 minutes – 5 minutes to go – and there’s a strong possibility that she’ll scream herself hoarse.
4 minutes to go. It’s now just a battle of wills.
Typically, she has chosen the one night when the Man is away to misbehave. I had a 7pm dinner and 8pm retirement planned. It is now 827pm (3 minutes to go til the next pick-up) and she is showing no signs at all of quietening down. Quite the opposite.
Good to know that she puts her heart and soul into things.
Golly. With one minute to go, she seems to have given up and gone to sleep. Thank you God. (And various sleep manuals).
Controlled Crying is the business. Here is the recipe.
Controlled Crying (the modified version)*
· One screaming baby (some books advise that she should be aged at least 3 months, but I’ve done it on the Boy when he was much younger – 6 weeks – and he was fine. Admittedly, he’s now as mad as a brush, but that could be for many – or no – reasons.)
· All adults in the house to be determined and to agree that no one is going to go near the baby until the allotted time. This is a crucial ingredient. If you feel yourself wavering, look to your co-parent for strength, and vice-versa.
· A glass of wine per adult (if NY resolutions permit).
· A clock / watch.
Baby is crying. Wait 5 mins to see if she’ll settle. If not, go in, pick up, and shush / rock / cuddle, until she calms down. Then lay her back down while she’s still awake (this is important if you’re to avoid creating sleep associations, ie she needs to be rocked / cuddled to sleep).
Ignore the inevitable screeching, and leave the room.
Wait 8 mins and repeat as above.
Wait 12 mins, and repeat. Then 15, then 20 mins. Keep 20 mins as the maximum time between visits.
By now she’s been crying for an hour, and you’re losing the will to live. Pour yourself another drink and put the monitor on mute. In really bad cases, it can take up to 3 hours before the baby falls asleep. Tell yourself that it’s much harder on you than it is on your baby, and don’t cave – you’ve given too much of your time already to go back to square one.
With any luck you won’t have to repeat the next night, or again on the same night, but if you do, be tough and hold firm. May the parenting forces be with you.
*As I mentioned above, the really hard core version has you go in and just let her know you’re there – no picking up or touching. The above version is for wimps; for in-betweeners, you can pat her on the shoulder and shush her, without picking her up. I like picking her up because it eases my guilt somewhat (“See? Mummy still loves you. Now please shut up and go to sleep”) and it seems to work just as well.