An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

I think the metaphor here is “cycles”

To set up this post I’d like for you to imagine me wearing a helmet and sitting underneath my desk in an attempt to avoid the rocks and sharp objects and possibly dirty panties that will be aimed straight at my face. Because there are few other topics that divide parents as much as the one I’m going to bring up. It’s kind of like politics and religion, things you don’t bring up in mixed company, except instead of being called a heathen or elitist liberal scum you’re going to be known as a baby killer.

Internet, when Leta was five months old, we let her cry herself to sleep. Hello, my name is Heather, and I am a baby killer.

I wrote about it a few times and was told in no uncertain terms that when I die and am standing at the judgment bar of God that he will not bring up all those times I had sex before I was married, or that handful of times I smoked pot and got so paranoid that I locked myself in a closet (the police wouldn’t look in there!), or the fact that I find Bill Clinton really sexy, no. God is going to shake his head and ask me why I didn’t love my baby. And then I’d be sentenced to share a bunk with John Gotti in a cell next to the public toilets in Hell.

The sleep thing with Leta was a really complicated issue. She wouldn’t nurse during the day, and she’d catnap at night, waking every thirty to forty-five minutes to eat in an attempt to make up for all the eating she didn’t do during the day. And she was colicky, liked to scream and scream and then scream some more. Also, she refused to be held or comforted in any way. So it really wasn’t a matter of whether or not I loved my baby. It was okay, we’ve tried everything short of placing her in a basket and setting it afloat in a river with a note attached that said WILL BITE IF PROVOKED.

So we let her cry it out, and it was really hard, and I might have done more crying than she did. But when it was over she slept through the night, again and again and again. And she’s been a great sleeper ever since with the usual hiccups here and there during transitional or stressful periods. Even now, we read a book and then she goes to sleep at 7:30 PM. Every night. And very rarely she will bring up those nights when she cried and I didn’t come to get her:

“Why didn’t you come when I cried, mom?”

“Because I didn’t love you, Leta.”

Like I said in the video, my philosophy is that you do what you have to do to make you and your family a functional unit. Whatever works. I wanted to co-sleep with Leta, but she wanted none of it. And so when Marlo was born I decided that I would just go with the flow, watch her cues and not force anything. And so far it’s worked out phenomenally, and she has taken the lead, although already she is breaking my heart. (P.S. KIDS SUCK)

First we slept together, I nursed and she fell asleep on my body, and that continued for several weeks. But then she made it clear that she’d rather sleep on the bed beside me. And then she was like, you know what? I don’t like it here beside you, either. I’d like my own space, thank you very much. So we put her in a co-sleeper beside the bed. And that worked for several weeks, until she started to wake up every hour which, although totally maddening, turned out to be her way of saying, Mother, I’d like my own room. And how about a cell phone with unlimited texting.

And that’s where we are. She goes down at about 6:30 PM in her nursery, wakes at about 2 AM to eat, and then wakes for the day at 7AM. We sleep with a monitor in our room, and when she stirs I get up and walk to her room to feed her. I don’t mind this at all, in fact I love those moments together alone with her in the silence and warmth of her room. And after I put her back down and walk back to our room I marvel at how lucky we are this time. Because that’s exactly what it is: luck.

And I didn’t think I was going to bring this up, I was just going to plow through this entry and get it up and then maybe go outside and breathe a bit, but it makes so much sense now. The life and the beauty and the luck of Marlo, a kid who looks just like my Granny Boone when she smiles, my Granny who died about an hour ago. That’s a whole other post I will get to when I pull it together, but I’m just now overwhelmed at the juxtaposition of life and death, even in an entry about getting my rotten kids to sleep. Yes, rotten and wonderful, all of it, the push and pull, the agony and joy and work of what it means to be a part of a family.

Granny Boone

  • My heartfelt condolences to you and to your family.

    P.S. there are MANY of us who let our kids cry themselves to sleep and they turned out just fine.

  • jenn

    I am very sorry for your loss. I named one of my daughters after my granny too and I still miss my granny all the time. Even though it’s a natural part of life it still sucks ass.

  • All my sympathies to you and your family on your loss. I, too, had a Granny and miss her still, 16 years later.

    As for letting the baby cry: We were part of a large (15 family) group in China when we adopted our daughter. She was 13 months old, and we all had cribs in our hotel rooms. When we put her down to sleep, we went out in the hall and sat on the floor with the door cracked. Each night she cried less and less so that by the end of our two weeks, she was sleeping as soon as we put her down. The other families thought we were the anti-Christ. But we got to sleep and they didn’t.

  • Heather, I am so very sorry for your loss.

    I am a very firm believer that what works for one family may not work for another. As long as nobody is causing any harm intentionally, then what a family does to make things work for themselves is “right.”

    It doesn’t matter one bit if anyone else hates it or loves it or even understands it. It ain’t there family.

    Yes, LIFE is rotten & wonderful, all of it. My thoughts are with your family.

  • Jenny

    Losing a granny is the WORST – my condolences. The hardest part is missing her during family events and holidays. The pain doesn’t go away – it has been three years since my Grams died. I just remember how special she made my life and it never fails to bring a smile 🙂

    About kids sleeping – I personally use Babywise and all 3 kids slept 8 hrs a night by 8 weeks. But I don’t give a flying s*#% what other people do. Why do people feel the need to push their methods on others? Its ridiculous.

  • Michele

    what a beautiful post. go with the flow is exactly what you have to do. my second son Cullen is 10 weeks old and is already sleeping 9-10 hours each night- we read his cues and moved him to his own room at 4 weeks and I am so amazed at how easy he is to understand. and when he does wake up in the middle of the room on those rare occasions??? I just cherish the extra cuddle time while I nurse him back to sleep. love it. and my condolences on your grandmother. My grandfather passed just before my son was born, and it truly does put the cycle of life into perspective, and makes coping with life changes more manageable.

  • P.S. I am mortified at the error in my comment, which should read “It ain’t THEIR family”. God, please fix that. kthnxbye

  • Katie

    Oh, Heather, I am so sorry for you and your family’s loss. Thank you for writing to us at a time like this, I don’t know how you did it.

  • kacy

    So sorry for your loss. You have always spoke of her with such love I’m sure she will be missed dearly. You and your family will be in my prayers.

  • Kyrrah

    Very sorry to hear about your Granny. She sounded a wonderful woman in the posts you mentioned her in. Sending lots of hugs to you and your family.

  • sandy

    First – I’m so sorry about your granny.

    As for how to get one’s kids to sleep, I can’t believe people get so hot under the collar about it! I have 2 sons. My oldest didn’t sleep for a year. He was adopted and had experienced twice the phenomenon of going to sleep only to wake up and never see people again. I got so desperate that on the advice of a doctor I tried the old cry it out. For him, it was the wrong thing. In the end, he needed me to appear every time he started to get a little upset after a little while of this, he realized I’d still be there (now at almost 13, I’m sure he sometimes wishes that I wouldn’t ALWAYS BE THERE).

    My youngest was of the “why are you still here, can’t you see I’m sleeping” variety. He wasn’t a snuggler as a baby and I had my time of “Hey! What about me?! Remember me?! The MOMMY!” at about 3 all the sudden he was Mommy’s boy. He still demands snuggles at bedtime and wake up time and he’s Leta’s age (kindergarten! Where did the time go?!).

    Kids are different, circumstances are different, heck, parents are different by the time they already have kids. In sleep, as in all parenting techniques, you do what best serves the child, the situation, and your family.

    End of sermon. 🙂

  • So sorry about your grandma. It’s so nice that you have a photo of her with the girls.

    As a brand new mom, I was FLOORED with the co-sleeping controversy. I started digging a hole into the ground to bury myself when people I didn’t even know started giving me co-sleeping equipment in addition to the evil eye as soon as I uttered “Aren’t there PSAs against that?”. I still love telling my childless friends, yes. there’s. equipment.

    My first foster baby slept like a shark feeding. I would lock myself into the bathroom to sleep, then feel guilty and go back and forth all night to the point that I’m still spending my time at work leaving you a long rediculous post. Uhmm, maybe I should schedule a session with my therapist now…

  • So sorry to hear about your grandmother. It’s funny how life and death dovetail each other sometimes…The first time I felt my baby move was when I was at the hospital watching my Dad pass away.

  • I am sorry for your loss. What a beautiful woman who left such a beautiful heritage in the form of you, your daughters, and the rest of her family. I know she must be so proud.

  • Beth

    I’m sorry about your loss as well. My son is 3.5 months old, but I really don’t have the heart to let him cry it out. He’s not yet sleeping through the night, but seeing as how I haven’t lost my mind yet, I hold out hope that at some point, both of us will sleep through the night.

    As far as cruelty goes, we recently had him circumcised, and I totally can’t believe people do this. It just seems so crazy. I actually had people tell me that ‘it didn’t hurt the baby, he only cried because he was scared.’ OMG.

  • Anonymous

    My condolences for your loss. Your Granny lives on through Marlo. With regards to the Cryout as we called it at our house. I did it with both of my kids, but it was an organic process, not a premeditated decision. It was that or commit ourselves to an asylum. It was so hard to let them cry, but I truly believe that it is better for everyone in the long run. They learn to comfort themselves and now they can go to sleep on their own. Whatever works is the best pholosophy for us.

  • e.

    I am so sorry for your loss, Heather. I hope that you and your family find peace and love in each other during this trying time.

  • JessiCat

    I am so sorry for your loss. You and your family are in my prayers….

  • I know you get thousands of comments, but I’m just one more out here, I guess, to say I’m so sorry for the loss of your grandmother.

  • Anonymous

    If you make a list of everything you remember about her – memories, taste, style, likes/dislikes,etc., it can help bring her back to you and the girls in ways almost unimaginable in the future. I am so sorry for your loss.

    My grandmas died six months apart; I grieve them differently, but having the lists, reminders of their personalities, idiocyncraties and everything helped the process.

    They have both been gone for about eight years but I still have their lists.

    God bless you, your famil and your granny. I’m glad you can see her in Marlo.

  • IrishTigger

    First, I’m so sorry for your loss. Second, this post came at a perfect time for me, as I’m struggling with trying to let my 7-week-old baby either cry-it-out or jumping every time she cries. Your take makes perfect sense to me. Thank you!

  • AJ


  • Oh Heather. I’m very sorry.

  • I’m so sorry that your Granny Boone is gone. It’s hard to lose the ones we love. Take care!

  • sarah g

    I’m sorry about your grandma. Thankfully she met Marlo. God bless you in your mourning and her in her trip ‘home’.

  • man i just started crying. DAMN now i have to go to work.
    sorry for you loss heather.

  • So sorry to hear about the death of your grandmother. They’re such special people and it’s damn hard when they die. I hope you’ll find comfort in Marlo’s smile.

    I left a comment on the momversation disagreeing with the practice of letting your baby “cry it out” and based my opinion on what I know about childhood development. Below a certain age, kids aren’t developmentally capable of learning to “self soothe”.

    However, I wasn’t in your house and you’re absolutely right – you do whatever works for your family. Obviously, you’d tried everything else, obviously you had no tools left in your box of magic parenting tools, so you did what you had to do for your family to survive. I may disagree with the theory, but if the practice worked, who am I to judge?

  • I’m so sorry for your loss.

    And I agree with whatever works. I drove myself crazy trying to be perfect with my kid, and ironically made myself a frazzled, depressed, pissy mom.

  • So sorry to hear about your granny. Thinking of you all.

  • Ev

    So sorry, Heather. I’m so glad she got to meet Marlo. My grandmas died many years ago and I miss them still.

  • Andrea

    Very sorry for your loss, I hope you and your family find peace out of all of this. Treasure the moments you had with her, and be sure to tell your girls all about her.

  • Condolences to you and your family.

    And also – thank you SO much for sharing this sleep story. It’s such a good reminder that ALL kids are different – and makes me feel a little less stabby when my sister-in-law talks, no brags, about how well her son sleeps and tells me repeatedly that I’d be envious. Did I smile just a bit when I got an e-mail from her asking for sleep help since her son is waking up screaming for hours on end multiple times a night? I might have…

  • margaret

    so beautiful.

  • Thank you, again, for sharing your life. I’m sorry to read about Granny Boone. I admire the hell out of you, still and constantly, and when I’m a mom (in maybe a year and a half?), I’ll be unspeakably happy to have read about your experiences.

  • So, so sorry for your loss.

  • Jessica

    My condolences on your loss.

    And kudos to you for recognizing your children as individuals.

  • I’m sorry to hear your Granny has passed. I hope you continue to see elements of your Granny is the delight that is your daughter for always.

    It seems to take such strength to simply say “I am doing what works for myself and my child.” And try as I might I to consciously step away from that slippery slope of mother judgement occasionally I slip. Then I typically utter those words we all hate to hear ourselves “My way is right and your way is awful.” I usually feel quite like the awful ogre in retrospect.

    With sleeping we rolled with the flow for no reason other than not knowing better or different. Our first son was a slept well. Our second son more of a challenge. I’m somewhat thankful that the challenge came second when I was more comfortable in my own mother skin. We did what he needed us to do and what was needed for us all to sleep. Because without real sleep everything was harder.

  • Stephanie

    Wow, does she ever look like your beautiful Granny. I am so sorry for your family’s loss, Heather.

  • Syd

    I never comment despite reading nearly daily for several years, but I want to extend my sincere condolences. And I would if I could see. My grandfather died in March and I’ve got tears streaming down my face.

    Okay, back after a tissue break. I’m really sorry about your and your family’s loss. It’s never long enough.

  • I am so sorry to hear about your grandmother.

    We let all 3 of our kids “cry it out” and it sucked, but it worked wonders and I don’t regret it. I think I am a better mother when I get more sleep. I think my kids are happier when they get more sleep. It is horrible at the time, but so worth it at the end.


  • I am so sorry for your loss.

  • CarrieB

    What a beautiful photo to end an equally beautiful post. I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you have warm and fond memories of your Granny, and that they will bring you comfort. Bravo, Heather.

  • I’m so sorry.

  • Beautiful metaphor, Heather. Last night my husband’s sweet grandma passed away, and earlier in the day I was holding my one-week old niece, her great-granddaughter. Life is sad and beautiful and has a strange order sometimes.

    May your grief be short and your memories warm.

  • Emily

    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your Granny Boone. Losing a grandparent can be so awful; I’m so sorry.

    On your other topic…
    I’ve got 2 daughters (4.5 and 2.5), and in nearly 5 years of parenting, I’ve learned one (and only one) thing: You never know.
    You just never know. You don’t know until you’ve lived it.

    You make plans… You hope and try… And sometimes, it’s great. And sometimes, it’s shit. And then you change things up, and you try some more.

    First daughter: Slept terribly. We refused to allow her to cry; didn’t have the strength. “Trained” her at 7 months, with soothing techniques that didn’t allow crying. Took 6 weeks, but she got it, and has slept perfectly ever since.

    We vowed to do the same with our 2nd daughter — it worked with the first! It will work with the next!

    2nd daughter slept with us (more out of convenience than any kind of belief system). For 3 months, it worked. Then, suddenly, it didn’t. NO ONE was getting any sleep, and we were ALL miserable. Most of all, I was an exhausted train wreck who couldn’t enjoy either of my girls during the day, because I was SO DAMN TIRED from none of us sleeping well.

    Ready to completely break down… Felt I couldn’t go on another minute… Was NOT being even CLOSE to the mom/wife/human being I wanted to be and knew I could be… Things HAD to change, or else I knew I’d lose it. Like, for real. And there was NO WAY we could go the slow route like we did before, and “train” her over 6 weeks. Things needed to change NOW.

    So we dumped our previous philosophy and decided to let her cry it out. Took 4 nights… Four nights where I cried as much as she did… And then, bam. She slept. And slept and slept. In her own bed. And she has ever since.

    Both girls are smart, funny, engaging, joyful, and, yes, occasional pains in my ass. And they both sleep amazingly well, with no seeming need for a future therapist (not for this, anyway).

    You’re exactly right: You do what works for your family. What works for each kid.
    Because until you’ve done it? You don’t know.

    Again… I’m so sorry for your Granny.

  • I’m so sorry for your loss, Heather. My “Grumblema” passed almost a year ago today at the age of 90. I’ve been missing her a lot lately. It’s so wonderful that your Granny got to meet Marlo, and maybe Leta will have memories of her.

    On the co-sleeping – you know it doesnt’ have to be permanent. My son slept in his bassinette/ crib for the first year, then somehow made it back into bed with me on a permanent basis by the time he was 3. (Daddy can’t stand my snoring so sleeps in another room anyway). He’s a good snuggle bug, and doesn’t mind my snoring. I’m less thrilled with his bed-wetting, however.

  • Dooce, my version of Granny Boone died just over a year ago. It sucks donkey balls (a phrase I’m sure your Granny would adore). I’m so very sorry.

  • Lori Moore

    I’m so sorry for your family’s loss.

  • whatever works for the family is exactly right! what works for one kid may or probably won’t work for the next kid. crying it out is heart wrenching, but if it’s what you have to do to preserve your sanity (hello, world revolves around mommy, someone has to stay sane) then that’s what you have to do. guess i’m a baby killer too.

    So sad to hear about your granny, i hope you have many wonderful memories of her. your post made me want to cry for remembrance of my sweet grandma Grace who passed this May, just one month after my daughter – also Grace – was born. You’re so lucky Granny Boone knew your girls, my grandmother never got the chance to meet either of her great grandchildren, and due to severe dementia wouldn’t have known it even if she had met them.

  • cat

    Sorry about your granny.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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