Let’s Talk About the Elephant in the Room… Crying!!!

THE NUMBER ONE QUESTION I GET IS, “WILL MY CHILD CRY?”. The answer is, yes. All babies and toddlers cry. ESPECIALLY when they are going through a change or transition they aren’t familiar with and have formed a strong sleep association.

I know crying can be scary, can cause stress and anxiety and can be very intimidating. As parents I feel like we don’t talk about “crying” enough. There is this stigma that has become very popular that crying is a bad thing and means we are failing as parents. We aren’t talking enough about the struggles that we are having everyday and in return we are feeling very alone and aren’t giving ourselves the opportunity to receive good and useful advice and information!

We are depriving ourselves not only of sleep but also the chance to connect and share with others who are struggling, have struggled and will struggle in the future; with not only our child’s sleep but the hard times of just growing up.  We have created this world that parenting is a competition and we can only go one way or the other.  I am not going to give examples of the opposite extremes because we all know what I am talking about and it’s getting quite exhausting.  We are all trying to be the very best parents we can to our children and guess what… EVERY SINGLE CHILD CRIES.

Children cry because they are hungry, wet diaper, cold, hot, didn’t like how the wind blew, because they can’t watch their favorite TV show, can’t play video games, because you cut their sandwich down the middle and they wanted it diagonal, they couldn’t eat the dog food, you didn’t let them play with a knife, etc! We wouldn’t tell our children that they didn’t have to hold our hand while crossing the street because they might cry and have a full on tantrum while doing so or feel like they will end up hating us and feeling abandoned.   No, we tell them that we understand that they are upset but this is for their safety and well being and we stay consistent with having to hold hands while crossing the street.

There are so many reasons our babies/toddlers cry and we don’t feel like we are neglecting them or changing their brain chemistry to become serial killers.  We are offering them unconditional love and support while they are going through these difficult transitions and teaching and guiding them to make better choices and create healthy and positive habits.  We are (trying) to stay consistent with our responses in hopes that our consistency, support and love will help change their lives for the better.  So why is crying so scary and taboo in regards to sleep training?

So why are we so afraid of crying in correlation to sleep?

  1. It is the unknown.
  2. We are so scared to not get the little bit of sleep that we currently are getting.
  3. Crying can cause stress and anxiety in us as parents.
  4. We know that if we nurse, rock, bounce, give them a bottle, etc. they will fall back asleep and WE can hopefully get sleep.
  5. We have been bombarded with false information that crying at night causes our children to feel abandoned and neglected.
  6. We, as a society today, are putting so much pressure on Moms to be “perfect” and not getting sleep is just a part of the package.
  7. There is just not enough education and open talk about infant and toddler sleep out there.

When I speak with most of my clients, and parents in general, they are telling me their stories and how their marriages are struggling, relationships with their other children are suffering, they are so sleep deprived they are falling asleep behind the wheel, are randomly crying and have severe anxiety going into nighttime.  This is all because of the crying and broken sleep.  I ask parents are their babies crying even while holding them and trying to soothe them back to sleep? Do they immediately start crying when you place them back into their safe sleeping environment? They are crying regardless so why don’t we try and teach and guide them to healthy and happy sleeping habits so the crying regarding sleep STOPS?

Why aren’t we instilling healthy sleep habits and a safe and wonderful sleeping environment so our children have the VERY BEST OPPORTUNITY to achieve independent sleep?  We all know it’s a rising epidemic for adults to have chronic issues with their sleep and how it disrupts their lives.  Why not start early and teach them to respect their bodies need for sleep in a safe and healthy way? They will be able to carry that with them for the rest of their lives.

Just imagine going through life experiences and being able to respect your bodies need for sleep.  Your 2 year old is running around playing and knows he is about to hit his limit and stops, looks at you and says, “I’m sleepy.”  Your child grows up to be a star athlete and KNOWS that restorative sleep is so crucial to the body to repair their tissue and muscles for the next day.  Your child goes to college and knows they have a HUGE exam the next day.  While everyone else is out, their body is telling them that I am going to feel and do better if I am well rested.  They grow up and get their dream job and know that getting to bed at a decent time will help transfer short term memory into long term memory and help put them ahead of their competitors.  You child grows up and becomes a parent of a “fussy baby”… because you have taught them how important it is to respect our bodies need for sleep will help them with teaching the same to their baby.

I could have written this long and scientific blog about why crying (while sleep training) isn’t harmful, causing your child to feel abandoned ( like an orphan) or causing them to grow up to be a serial killer. I wrote this as 1 parent to another.  I was the sleep deprived, scared, anxious, marriage falling apart, afraid my child would hate me, isolated and depressed Mom.  I was scared to ask for help, look for help and talk about my struggles.  However, when I finally did my whole world opened up and I saw hope and a solution.

Instead of understanding why our child’s sleep is constantly interrupted, inconsistent and always involves crying…. we in desperation start practicing unsafe sleeping habits and creating negative sleep associations that are incredibly hard to break.  And in return only intensifies and prolongs the crying.

Crying is our child’s way of communicating.  Crying happens at night, for our babies and toddlers, because they are unable to fall asleep and stay asleep independently.  They need you or some other soothing tool to put them back to sleep. They are falling asleep one way and waking up completely different…. CUE CRYING.  It is really that simple of an explanation.  The solution isn’t as simple but the reason for the crying is.

For some parents they don’t mind waking up several times a night and assisting their little ones back to sleep… so this blog post isn’t for you.  AND THAT’S OK! For a lot of parents the interrupted and broken sleep is negatively effecting their lives and is taking a toll on their child as well.



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