Cry Babies

Lottie happy in cot
Lottie loves her cot

Lottie is 11 weeks old and things feel like they’re getting a bit easier and more consistent every day. I have maintained my calm, as I wrote about last week, and have let go of a lot of anxiety I had around day sleeps; most days Lottie happily goes to sleep in her cot for one to two hours at least once or twice. If I’m home all day, we’ve even managed three successful self-settled day sleeps in the cot and although I’ve had a few sleep fails while we’ve been out and about, we have also had some good day sleeps in the car, the pram and the portacot.

When the sleep fails have happened, my calm attitude I think has helped, because rather than getting upset, I just let Lottie sleep in my arms or take her home to her cot and she eventually gets the sleep she craves. In fact, one of the best discoveries this week is just how much Lottie loves her cot. The photo on this post is from Friday evening when we had a sleep fail while out with friends. It was the first time for a few weeks we had taken her out at bedtime. We were hoping Lottie would sleep in the carrier on my husband’s front but after it was clear she was way too stimulated for this to happen, we took her home and put her to bed. She’d been awake for three hours since a very short nap in the car at this point so was definitely overtired, but rather than being cranky when I put her down to sleep, she basically cheered as I put her down: as if to say ‘thank goodness mum, now I’m in my cot I can finally get some sleep’. It’s such a relief that Lottie loves her cot!

Night sleeps are also going well. Lottie’s slept once through to 6am after a dream feed at 10pm and other than this has had one night feed between 2am and 5am all week. Overall, the whole sleep management thing is still hard work, but patterns are starting to form and there’s a consistency to Lottie’s ability to self-settle in her cot, so we’re definitely moving in the right direction.

What I noticed today, after what was our best day of the week with three cot sleeps and a visit to a friend which thankfully didn’t include any of the usual screaming crying in the car, was that when we have a good 24 hours of successful sleeps, Lottie barely cries ‘tears’ all day. As I’ve pointed out before, I have learned to differentiate between emotional crying (which I call ‘tears’), whinging, fussing and yelling-out. My husband and I have been trying to use these different descriptions for Lottie noise instead of just saying ‘she’s crying’ as this makes things much simpler when we’re making decisions; we both understand which sounds we attend to and which we leave Lottie to sort out for herself. But as the sleep training has progressed, and we’ve got better at making sure Lottie isn’t getting overtired, and she’s feeding more efficiently and we know how to judge when she’s hungry or not and when she’s ready for sleep and no doubt as Lottie has just got older and better at controlling her own emotions, there has been less crying overall. However, and this is a big ‘however’, I do not want this paragraph to imply that less crying equals better parenting. Because honestly, I don’t understand what the big deal is about crying.

In the battlegrounds of the baby wars, crying seems to be the number one most contentious issue. It’s even to the point where I would suggest that some mother-experts think that every time their child makes any sound that could possibly be construed as ‘crying’, if they don’t sweep the child into their arms and soothe those ‘cries’ instantly, they’re neglectful and harming their child. Time and time again I’ve seen and heard anti-sleep-training-mother-experts saying ‘I could never let my child cry’, as if this makes them better mothers. As if they deserve a ‘my baby doesn’t cry’ award. Seriously, everyone needs to take a chill-pill about the crying thing. Crying isn’t hurting the baby. It might be hurting your ears and pulling at your heart, but that’s about the parents, not about the child. This might sound like I’m telling parents who hate crying to harden up and that’s exactly what I’m doing. Harden up! Do people really think there is such a thing as parenthood without crying babies?

During the night, if I hear whinging, I don’t go into the nursery and most of the time Lottie goes back to sleep. If the whinging escalates to tears, I do go in and without fail, Lottie is hungry. The yelling-out seems to be Lottie’s way of trying out her voice, or maybe even entertaining herself. And the whinging and fussing prior to sleep is just that; whinging and fussing while Lottie tries to put herself to sleep. As Lottie gets older, the difference between all these cries become more and more obvious, but to be honest, I could differentiate them from when Lottie was a couple of weeks old. You just can’t miss an emotional ‘tears’ cry. It’s like an alarm going off and it’s really stressful to listen to. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything ‘wrong’ with this type of crying. It’s just Lottie insisting on something. She’s not hurting herself, breaking her throat, stressing herself beyond repair or overheating. She’s just crying. Other than that she’s fine.

I’ve discovered a few times when Lottie is crying emotionally in the car (in other words, screaming her little lungs out), this type of crying never lasts long because usually Lottie quickly exhausts herself and goes to sleep. There’s not much you can do about screaming in the car. It’s not like you can pull over and soothe a baby on the side of the road (though I have been tempted). But the safest thing to do is grit your teeth, keep your eyes on the road, and continue driving until you get where you’re going. Then attend to the screamer (if she hasn’t already screamed herself to sleep). So in effect, I’ve inadvertently let Lottie cry-it-out in the car a few times. Am I scared that this crying has done damage to her ability to form emotional attachments? Of course not. Am I scared, as Pinky McKay says, that I am ‘frying her tiny brain and screwing her up for life’? What a load of rubbish!

I don’t understand why people get so worried about their babies crying, whether it be emotional crying, whinging, fussing or yelling out. Babies have cried since there were babies. But it seems like a relatively new thing in society that some parents seem literally scared to hear their baby cry for even a few minutes or even seconds. I agree that it’s unpleasant to listen to your baby cry. But I also think it’s worth learning the difference between a ‘I need help’ cry and a ‘I’m whinging myself to sleep’ cry. Because as I’ve found, once you do manage to teach your baby to self-settle and self-soothe, there is less crying overall. Less overtiredness. Less hunger. Less unexplained crying (which is probably a mixture of tired and hungry). And best of all – there is hardly any crying at all overnight and when it does happen, it’s never unexplained. I hope those who rail against sleep-training are listening. Silence never sounded so good!

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