Home > City mama, motherhood, poor baby, sleep deprivation > Urban motherhood and why I don’t “cry it out”

Urban motherhood and why I don’t “cry it out”

So, Wendy says, of my last post:

I have a question and I don’t mean it in a judgemental mean way, just curious. If you are the point where you would give her Benedryl, why won’t you let her cry it out, so to speak?

I actually get this a lot — almost always from a suburban mom. Well, the answers are many but let’s start with the most practical: I’m an urban mom. Wendy talks about closing the door, turing off the monitor, and getting a good night’s sleep. My kid sleeps about 15 feet from my bed. She’s in her own room, but I live in an 800 square foot condo, so there’s no where I could go that we couldn’t hear her howling. If we take turns with her, she’s awake but usually doesn’t cry so at least one of us can sleep.

Also, The Child sleeps about 15 feet (vertically) from where our neighbors (and co-condo-owners) sleep. It’s not fair for them to suffer through 3 a.m. wake up and hollering. I’d be pissed if they did that to me (in fact, The Husband stomped upstairs and got them to be quiet one night when they woke The Child up), so I’m not going to do that to them. If nothing else, I don’t want them voting me out of my trustee position.

Finally, I do have philosophical objections to cry-it-out. I don’t like ignoring my daughter. If she’s crying, it’s usually because she has some need that hasn’t been met. Her bedroom is on the north side of our badly insulated condo, so if the temperature drops precipitously, it can get really cold in her room well before we, in our south-facing room, would notice — what if she’s crying because she’s freezing? That could be dangerous. What if she’s crying because she’s gotten her foot caught in the crib — that’s happened before. What if she’s crying because she had a bad dream — am I going to teach her that she can’t count on mommy to comfort her when she’s convinced something awful, literally nightmarish, has happened to her? What if she’s got an ear infection suddenly and has a tremendous fever or she’s vomiting? What if she’s finally managed to climb out of her crib and fallen and hurt herself?

I refuse to teach my daughter that she’s on her own. Not at the tender age at 22 months. I get that a lot of other moms do that and that’s fine — it’s just not what I’m going to do.

The past two weeks have been rough — she’s obviously going through some kind of a bad patch. We’re not sure why. But I’m going to do my best to help her through it. Only when I’m utterly exhausted, bleeding from the nose (she arched her back & whacked me a good one with her head the other night), stretched thin with stress and nerves, and certain that she’s okay would I even consider the Benadryl solution and frankly, I felt trully horribly awful for it. I won’t do it again.

And if that sounds defensive, well, maybe it is. Maybe, despite Wendy’s reassurances, I do feel she’s being judgmental. Because everyone else certainly is. I get no sympathy from many of my friends and family for my sleeplessness because I refuse to use the cry-it-out solution. If I complain, they snort and tell me it’s my own damn fault. Which, of course, on very little sleep, I react to with aplomb and dignity and cool grace.


  1. December 4, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    I just wanted to say I too never did CIO. My dd was basically a good sleeper, but she went through her bad phases, and I refused do it. Like you, I don’t want my DD to ever feel that she is being ignored-certainly not as a baby or toddler when she cannot understand why she is being ignored. I also refused to ignore toddler tantrums. Tantrums in toddlers are caused by toddlers being overwhelmed and frustrated and unable to express how they are feeling. I woouldn’t give into a tantrum (give what she wants) but I wouldn’t ignore it either. I cuddled DD through tantrums, and got a lot of flack for that. Oh well.

    Now that she is almost 5, I do ignore tantrums…but only after letting her know I am doing so and why (example “I am sorry, you know that you cannot have chocolate before dinner, and I am not chaning my mind no matter what, so if you want to sit in the living room and scream, go ahead. I am going to the kitchen to make dinner. When you are ready to eat dinner, let me know”), as she is perfectly capable of expressing herself and unserstanding why she is not getting what she wants.

  2. Raise Hell
    December 5, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    I live next to parents who let their young toddler cry it out. It lasts 45 minutes and the girl cry’s up to three times a night. Apartment dwellers have to raise their kids using different rules or they would be asked to live somewhere else. When my 5 year old complains about neighbor noise I reminder her of the times she through a temper tantrum and disturbed them. Her tantrums are getting less and less. It’s not necessary to let them cry it out.

  3. Wendy
    December 5, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Well, I would have been harsher if I had never had my son. My daughter was a great sleeper and I thought the solution to everyone’s child’s sleep problems was routine. Well, my son smacked me in the face with reality. I totally understand where you are coming from. Sam would not sleep unless he was hooked to a boob or next to me. And I couldn’t sleep with him hooked to a boob or next to me. I was driven to tears many times and that is why at 12 months I decided to let him cry. And yes, I literally shut the door and let him scream his brains out, because there was nothing I could do for him. For whatever reason he would not go to sleep and none of the tricks we tried worked for him. My sanity was hanging by a thread and letting him cry was what worked for us. Finally, he got the point that we were not going to sit with him until he fell asleep. And the reason for that is because my husband works late and I needed a break before I did something that I would regret.

    I understand we all have different experiences and situations which is why I asked the question. I got the sense that you were what you said in your post and was genuinely curious as to why you would resort to medicine, before letting your daughter cry it out. Your reasons are very valid and I understand them. I, too, would respect my neighbors need for quiet and would probably be up several times with a screaming child.

    I was just curious and my stance has always been never judge until you know the full story which is why I asked the question in the first place.

  4. December 6, 2007 at 10:46 am

    The sympathy. I has it.

    I also has teh neighbors. Word.

  5. December 6, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    Yeah, I got that some people thought I was anywhere from stupid to wimpy…or just spoiling my kids for never letting them cry–even when they’d only sleep on top of me or while nursing (as in nursing all night) but it was the only way I could do it. No neighbors to think of where I live, but I second all the philosophical reasons you mentioned…

    (Not that I haven’t wished I did believe in crying it out once in a while, but I just can’t/couldn’t do it, and everything seems to be working out in the end.)

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