(WEAU) – It’s a common scenario among new parents: It’s the middle of the night, baby cries, mom or dad feeds baby, baby sleeps and then a couple of hours later you do the process all over again. You could call it “the crying game.”
Now a new study in the journal Pediatrics suggests it’s okay to let babies cry it out while trying to fall asleep.
For local mom of two Lizz Sazama, this situation created a sleepless night for both her and her husband.
“It'd be two, three in the morning and he'd want to play which doesn't work well for either my husband or I because we both work fulltime jobs so we said I don't think so,” says Sazama who often works the overnight shift as a nurse, a schedule that makes it hard to live on baby’s schedule.
That’s when Sazama turned to the “cry it out” method.
“I did have more issues with my older son not going to sleep during the night,” says Sazama. Her older son Nolan who is now 2 ½ years old had more trouble sleeping than her youngest son, 8 month old Edward. “We got to the point where we just changed him, feed him, made sure all of his needs were met and then just put him back down, granted he was six, seven months old.”
Sazama says it didn’t take long at all before Nolan caught on.
“It did take just a couple of days and he would just wake up during the night and we would still wake up during the night and we would still change him and feed him but he'd go right back to sleep. So we didn't completely ignore him. We just made sure his needs were met and he was comfortable and would keep sleeping.”
Dr. Kikelomo Babata, pediatrician with Mayo Clinic Health System – Chippewa Falls says she recommends the cry it out method, starting at about 4 months of age.
“There are different methods. There’s the "go all the way" method which basically means you leave your baby, you let them cry, you don't tend to them at all and you tend to them the next morning,” says Dr. Babata.
The alternate way is one most parents prefer, she says.
“If a baby has been crying for about 30 minutes, you go check on them. You just maybe a gentle pat on the back and go back outside. If they continue to cry, go back in 45 minutes check on them and go back outside. That way, it shows your baby you're still there without necessarily giving them too much attention,” says Dr. Babata.
She adds if the child continues to cry and rely on the parents to coddle them all the time, the habit can continue until the child is 2 or 3 years old and sometimes longer.
“So at some point you have to break that cycle and breaking it usually requires babies crying it out,” says Dr. Babata. But she adds it depends on the parent’s comfort as well and which method they like the most.
For Sazama, the circumstances of her son being 6 months old and his ability to learn quickly to fall back asleep is why she feels using the cry it out method works for Nolan.
“It was hard to sit there and hear him cry but at the same time I knew if we didn't take some kind of stand it'd be a long haul,” says Sazama.
Newly mom Angela Shreffler says the cry it out method isn’t for her or her newborn daughter Gia.
“I think that basically if the child does stop crying eventually, it’s not because the problem has been solved, it’s not because they feel better or because their needs have been met, it’s because they gave up hope that their mom and dad was going to come for them,” argues Shreffler.
She says her 12 weeks of maternity leave is one she wants to spend with her daughter in her arms.
“I feel it's really important for us as parents to do that because even if she does fall asleep, she went to sleep screaming and stressed. I just think that’s traumatic for us all,” says Shreffler.
She says she became a mother for the purpose of being there for Gia.
“She needs me during the day when she’s awake and I think she needs me at night time too and if that means I need to be there for her and soothe her to sleep, then absolutely. I’ll do that,” says Shreffler.
But Dr. Babata says it’s the parent’s stress level that’s at concern.
“They actually found that in moms whose children didn't get any sleep intervention methods, there was increased risk of depression in the moms,” says Dr. Babata. “So whether you’re a working mom or you're a mom who stays at home, you still need your rest.”
Shreffler says she has her own routine that works best for her.
“I’m a first time mom, I get that. But just, you know, feed her, when you know she has a full belly, when you know all her needs have been met, then just rocking her and holding her usually can put her right to sleep,” she says.
Dr. Babata says it ultimately depends on what the parents are comfortable with in the end. Something both moms agree with.
“It is really dependent on how the kid goes and we let them dictate how they want to practice and how they want us to parent them too,” says Sazama.