Ask AF: When "Crying It Out" Isn't the Answer

Our expert talks about the pros and cons of letting an adopted child "cry it out."

Q: When our one-year-old son came home, we began rocking him to sleep with a bottle at naptimes and bedtime. He has been home for four months, and he still can’t fall asleep unless he’s rocked. We hesitate to let him “cry it out,” because we don’t want to lose his trust or any attachment that’s been formed.

 

A: Before changing your child’s sleep rituals, wait until you see signs that he’s attaching to your family. Look for spontaneous shows of affection and frequent “mutual” moments — when he looks for you to share excitement or happiness. You’ll also recognize your own deepening attachment through your feeling of having “fallen in love.” Until then, keep rocking.

When you are ready to begin weaning him away from being rocked to sleep, don’t forget that there are middle-of-the-road solutions between rocking and letting him cry it out. You can offer a pat on the back, a lullaby, some soothing words, or you can sit next to his crib.

In the meantime, start tuning in to your child’s cries at night with the goal of learning which ones say “I’m mad” or “I’m scared” vs. “I’m exhausted” or “I need your help.”


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