Monday, August 8, 2011

Unpopular parenting methods, found here!

Please accept my apologies before reading:  This is one of those posts that I must get out of my system or it's going to burn a hole in my brain.  That, or I won't sleep until the birds start chirping at dawn.  So instead, here it is. You lucky readers, you.

I read a lot of mommy blogs.  And a good portion of those mommy blogs tend to feature the same types of things:  outrageous birthday parties, a zillion pictures of the kids (sometimes several per day) nearly always dressed to the nines, picture-perfect homes with organized rooms and even more organized schedules for everyone under the picture-perfect roof, and so forth.  Now, I have nothing against a really great birthday party (except for, well, wasteful spending, but that being such a subjective thing, I tend to leave it alone) or well-dressed babies or even a fabulous example of organization (duh).  However, the one thing that I see featured on a lot of mommy blogs that really sticks in my craw over and over and over again is the assertion that fostering "independence" in children from the get-go (yeah, that means *birth*) is the right way to go and the "correct" method of parenting.

Well, if that's right, then I'm here to say I'm wearing wrong from head to toe.  I'm wrong all over, y'all.  When I was pregnant with Will, I was given several books on parenting (methods, topical, Q&A's, etc.).  A few weeks before his birth, I cracked open the one on breastfeeding, but just so I could get some answers to a couple of questions I had -- that's it.  At baby showers, at church, at the grocery store, I was told to read this person, watch this DVD, check out this website.  Dear readers, I didn't because I just didn't want to.  Rather than having everyone and his brother tell me what kind of parent to be, I wanted to figure it out for myself.  Marty and I both did.  And we still do.  When we need advice, we ask my parents.  I ask my best friend.  I poll other mommies who I know aren't going to push a program on me, but who are going to offer guidance based on their own invaluable experiences.  I take everything in, talk it over with Marty, and then we forge ahead with a plan, a mutual plan, *our* plan -- no one else's.  Because our children are *ours* and God gave them to *us* and thankfully, He also gave us brains and instincts and love and compassion and patience (more than we thought we had). 

I say all of this because I want to counter the conventional "wisdom" floating out there in blogland about raising "independent" children.  Prepare yourselves, I'm about to make a super controversial statement:  If you are uncomfortable with "crying it out" and methods that espouse this strategy, please feel free to reject it and them.  Yes, I'm giving you permission.  Permission to keep your baby in your room with you, in a cradle, in a bassinet, in a bouncy seat, even in a car seat if that's what makes your child comfortable.  Keep your baby with you as long as you need to, even if it's (*gasp*) for your own sanity and peace of mind.  Let me also give you permission to feed on demand.  Oh, and while I'm at it, here's permission to enter your child's room if he or she cries during the night, even if Baby is fed and dry and safe and "should be perfectly fine."  Because let me remind you and all of us about a little something called the human condition, which is this in a nutshell:  It's dark out there. Things can be scary and sometimes we all have a need to reach for comfort, and when you're 6 weeks removed from that most perfect of all environments -- the womb -- you might be a bit shocked by this dark, scary world and want your mommy's touch and voice and warmth.  And guess what else?  Mommy might need some of that comfort, too.  Even though she's dead-tired and believes that sleep is something beautiful experienced only by other, outrageously lucky people.  Despite this, Mommy might just want to scoop up her precious bundle and smell his hair or stroke her little fingers.  She might want to nurse him and she might want to rock him until he's fallen asleep with a gentle sigh.  She might take the greatest of pleasures and the deepest of comforts from these simple activities that, for some reason that seems to escape me, are somehow verboten in current (trendy) parenting methods.  Oh yeah, the reason is this:  You want an "independent" child.  You want a child who sleeps through the night.  You want a child who can problem-solve, who can look inward for comfort and reassurance.  What if I told you a secret?  What if I told you that you could ultimately achieve these things *without* listening to the heartbreaking cries of your child in the night, without clenching your hands so tight you have nail marks because you're fighting every mommy instinct you have in your attempts to ignore those cries? 

Take our experience with parenting and hold it up to the others that you'll read (and you'll read far, far more of those).  Just know that you have another option.  Just know this:  we kept our son with us in our bedroom, in a cradle, until he was 8 weeks old.  Even after he moved to his own room, when he cried in the night, I nursed him -- I fed him on-demand.  I fed him and then I rocked him until he fell asleep.  I did this as many times in the night as he "requested."  Yes, I was bleary-eyed, I was exhausted.  But we pushed onward...  Our son is now 2 years old.  He sleeps through the night with no problems whatsoever, and has been doing so for a little under a year.  Yeah, there were some difficult nights.  There were times we thought we'd never sleep normally again.  There were moments we thought we were absolutely doing things wrong.  But we never rejected our instincts, never gave up on our own ideas about parenting.  And you know what?  We ended up in the same place as everyone else:  our child sleeps through the night.  And guess what else?  Everyone who has ever observed Will has remarked that he is "the most independent child" they've ever seen.  I kid you not.  And they're right -- he loves to play by himself.  He gets very involved in his own world and doesn't like to be disturbed, especially by his little sister!  He can even self-soothe...I've watched him do it.  If something upsets him and I can't get to him right away, he'll seek out his pacifier or his "silkie" (blanket) and he'll sit down in his chair and watch Dora or hold his cars to his chest for a few minutes and voila, he's happy again.

But guess what else?  When my child cries in the night, which he very rarely does -- over a nightmare or a diaper leak -- he knows I'm coming.  He knows Mommy or Daddy will be there.  He knows it's just a matter of minutes before one of us will appear at his crib. He knows that help is on the way. 

Yes, Marty and I suffered through quite a few more sleepless nights than the cry-it-out crowd.  But I did not have children just so I could immediately make them function without me.  I did not have children to teach them to get used to handling problems alone.  No, I actually had children so we could enjoy a relationship, so I would know the joy of offering comfort and companionship and shelter and love and help to someone and so that someone could receive it.  Period.  Plain and simple. 

Please know that I have nothing against those who adopt the method of crying-it-out.  I just have something against that method being touted as "correct" or "right" and other methods being frowned upon, or worse, being rejected without consideration simply because they're unpopular.  Look, we all have to work things out for our own children, our own families.  Let's just offer grace to each other.  We're all headed toward the same destination:  happy, healthy children.  There are different paths to getting there. 

Okay, my brain might not have a hole burnt through it after all.  I might very well sleep tonight.  But if you're not sleeping tonight because of a wakeful baby, hang in there.  You don't have to listen to me, but please do listen to your instincts.  They won't misguide you.  And you will sleep again!

10 comments:

Bonnie Bruner said...

I'm so proud of you for posting that!!! I was constantly criticized for doing EXACTLY what you did - even my pediatrician gave me a stern lecture on how I was doing my 3-month old a disservice by nursing her in the middle of the night when she cried. God gave us instincts for a reason, and I'm glad He guided me through those difficult months!!

Anonymous said...

Yes! Love this! There are other ways of dealing w/things out there! I always laugh to myself w/some parents talking about how their method is perfect. My two boys are so different! I used similar 'methods' w/both kids. Aidan didn't sleep through the night till he was over 2 years old and then Ezra came along and slept through the night at 5 weeks. Same sort of parenting - just a different child! I hear parents pride themselves that their kids 'slept through the night at blah blah weeks'. It usually just depends on the type of kiddo you have if you ask me. We just all do our best parenting and do what our guts and our God tell us. Love that you posted how it worked for you and that it wasn't what so many others are going on (and on) about. :) - Stefanie C

Kristen said...

Well, I'm here to say that we did it both ways. We were more than gently nudged to let Simon and Jonah cry it out. We did it. It was awful.

But I'll tell you, after losing two babies in pregnancy, I was a little more than attached to sweet Anna. She was the blessing all of those tears soothed. When she was three months old and "still" not sleeping through the night, the same crowd came advising. I couldn't do it this time around. Anna's infancy was super tough with the relux (requiring meds) and I wasn't about to let her work it up and scream for us. Matt supported me, totally.

Now, it's not like we don't crave a full night's sleep. We haven't seen a recurring full night's sleep yet. Anna's 19 months and still not stomaching milk, therefore, we're "still" on formula. She sleeps 5 or so hours and then needs nustled back to sleep. I feel quite like a zombie some days. But, you know what? She will sleep all night, eventually.

She will only be little for a little while. Believe me. Just try registering your 6th grader for school. It comes too quickly.

Becky said...

@Bonnie: I've realized that most pediatricians tow the "company line" (i.e., what the American Academy of Pediatrics says). We have been blessed to find a pediatrician who encourages us to listen to our instincts and follow our own parenting voice. I love her. :)
@Stef: You are so right -- different kids do different things so why is there ONE rule that parents are told to follow? I didn't mention Lucy in my post because honestly, she has been so much easier (well, once she reached a certain age). We worked with Will his entire first year, but Lucy has been sleeping through the night for probably 3-4 months now. If we have a third, I'm sure the story will be different for him/her, but I'm here to say I'm going to work with that child for however long he/she needs me. That's why I'm the parent; I'm supposed to be the one to sacrifice, not my child!
@Kristen: Girl, you know I know what you're saying. I think that's exactly why, even in the midst of utter exhaustion, I felt I needed to hold and comfort and rock and feed Will -- I'd waited *so long* for him and by golly, I was going to be his mommy and enjoy every second of it, sometimes even despite my human frailties (need for sleep!). And oh my stars, those voices, that crowd who crows to us to do it their way. We have to rise up and say "Shut it already! I'm gonna do it MY WAY!" I'm so glad you're working with Anna and coaching her through learning to sleep, rather than dumping her in the cold, deep end of the pool. Yeah, both methods work. But why can't we choose the kinder, gentler one? Good for you for making this choice and owning it, and I'm so glad you got the chance. SO GLAD.

emily ann. said...

Yes. :) We let Nells cry herself to sleep - but only when we were ready and only when she'd been randomly sleeping through the night.

We're big fans of avoiding parenting books and advice so we can trust our instincts without doubt. When something comes up we generally seek out people's advice - from people who parent like we do.

Well said Becky.

Marty said...

Honey, that's a great post! You're just saying to parents out there, "do what you think is right for your children, and don't be cowed into doing the 'accepted' thing." Taking care of babies is the single hardest thing I've ever had to do (it even beats studying for the bar exam!), and anything that difficult is certainly open to a variety of solutions.

Here's my political point: I think there's a political movement to de-infantilize children and to infantilize grown-ups. I'm all for babies being babies! Let them enjoy their mother's comforting as often as they can. Of course, if folks want to try something else, feel free - but there is no "wrong way."

Our instincts (like the natural reaction to stop the noise of a baby crying - if you're a daddy in bed, or just a dude in a grocery store) have a purpose and are God-given. Following them is OK!

I hate to have to stop in the middle of a thought, but I've got a meeting!

Joette said...

I'm so glad I found your blog. Thank you for your honesty and candidness.

If you read enough research about sleep, you will learn that "sleeping through the night" for infants is considered only 5-6 hours at a stretch. Just as adults go through sleep cycles, waking up periodically, so do babies.

We did not let our baby cry-it-out. I felt it important that he knows we are there for him when he needs us. I cannot tell from the other room if his cry is just a sleep disturbance or if he is hurt or sick. When he cries, I attend to him...even at 10.5 months. He does sleep about 10 hours at night...now. There were nights and days where I felt a little psycho because of the lack of sleep, but I somehow made it through, and so did my husband. Even when my ped said to start letting him cry-it-out, both my husband and I disagreed and continued to attend to him when he woke at night. And you know what, I wouldn't take back all of those sweet moments in the middle of the night where I got to breastfeed and snuggle and comfort my baby back to sleep. This stage, afterall, is only temporary. And I can only imagine that in a few short years, I am going to be wishing these days back where I could hold and snuggle him back to sleep despite my own lack of sleep.

I also breastfed on demand until his system worked out its own little schedule. I read an article recently where feeding schedules/programs in the beginning have been linked to failure to thrive in babies.

Our baby stayed in a bassinet in our room for 10 weeks, and I missed him when I did move him to his bed.

With all that being said, I'm just saying that I couldn't agree with your points more.

Kendra said...

Randomly blog hopping tonight and came over from your comment on Blue Eyed Bride (which isnt even a blog I read! But I linked it from Kelly's Korner...told ya, hopping tonight =) )
I just wanted to say I totally agree. For some people, CIO is what works for them. I did not have it in me. Our twins are 16 months old, and they didn't sleep through the night until they were nearly 11 months old. I breastfed on demand. Against a lot of advice. But, I stuck with it because I was *pretty sure* it's what my instincts were telling me. I say pretty sure because I was EXHAUSTED and a new momma and incredibly overwhelmed, so at the time I wondered if my instincts could be trusted.

But I am so glad I stuck with them.

Now, at 10 1/2 months the twins started waking up MORE at night (they had been down to 1-2 feedings each a night) and I was pretty sure they didn't "need" to eat since they were on 3 meals of solid baby foods at this time and still nursing on demand all day long in addition. But we still went in and comforted. We ended up doing some LIGHT crying it out AFTER we'd soothed. I'm talking like 5 minutes and then go in and soothe again. I felt comfortable with this -even though it tugged at my heart- because going back to getting up 6-8 times a night was making a zombie during the day, and I had two busy crawlers that I couldn't keep up with being so exhausted. It was making me mean and cranky all day long, and I finally realized that THAT wasn't best for my babies. After a short time of light crying it out, while still being willing to nurse at least once a night, the twins started sleeping through the night.

To this day, if they cry out in the middle of the night, we give it just a second to see if it'll stop, and if it doesn't within one minute, we go in, replace a binky, pick up, hug, cuddle, kiss...whatever. They know we will come.

And I've read PLENTY of research that shows that babies and toddlers who have their needs consistently met in the early years are MUCH more independent and secure in the later ones.

But even that being said, every baby is different and every parent is different. And research? Well, you can pretty much MAKE it say anything you want it to.

Anyways - I enjoyed this post =)

Melissa said...

Love your honesty Becky! So refreshing! I can tell you that before Lacey was born, I thought about doing the BabyWise method, which I guess is a form of CIO but once she was in my arms (knowing this is probably our last baby) I quickly changed tunes...held her ALOT, craddled her, rocked her to sleep, nursed on demand, kept her in our room for a long long time (6 months at least). I held her so much, taking in every cuddle moment I could, that she didn't crawl until after 10 months and hasn't completely started walking and she's now almost 14 months. She is sleeping through the night, can soothe herself and even play by herself...and the moments when she holds out her arms and wants to be cuddled....I just melt!

And one more thing...as one who has pride herself on being independent (ME)...I can tell you that independence isn't always a good thing. I am learning (now in my 30's) that being independent also means that it's much more of a challenge for me to depend upon my Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ. Having the attitude that "I can do it all myself" doesn't leave much room to step aside, take that leap of faith, fully trust and fall, completely fall, into the arms of Jesus! He's the one who does it all! Not little ole me!

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for this post. In a sea of Stepford Mom Blogs, it was more than welcomed and oh-so-refreshing.