To Cry or Not To Cry

I haven't had a full night's sleep in 6 1/2 months. Without a doubt, the hardest, absolute toughest things about being a mama is the lack of sleep. I would give my right arm, heck both my arms (and maybe even my 2 legs, my sight, my hearing) for a full night's sleep.  With my first, I was not at all prepared for the total lack of sleep. I was so niave; no one told me babies were up all night. So 10 years & 4 kids later, you'd think I would be prepared and used to the sleepless nights. I'M NOT. It's every bit as hard.

My sweet Dan, who hates to see me suffering through the tiredness wants to "do" something about it. Guys just always want to "fix" things, bless their hearts. Is sleep training the answer?

Holding, rocking, comforting your baby, your baby is one of the most pure, uncomplicated things in the world.  Why do we have to make it complicated with all this "sleep training" malarchy (love that word). Is going against the purest act of nature the right thing to do?

Needs Vs. Wants = The Same Thing
How do you fix a baby to sleep through the night? Others say, "let her cry" or "she's developing a bad habit if you nurse her every time she wakes" or "she's manipulating you". Let me tell you all something. Babies are not manipulative; they don't even know their hands belong to their bodies yet!
They do not have bad habits, they do not have "wants". They only have needs. What babies "want", they "need".

Unrealistic Expectations
People in American society have expectations for babies that they should be sleeping through the night (STTN) at let's say, 3 months old. People in our society say that we need to fit our babies into our lives. The truth is, we need to fit our lives' to the needs of our baby. 
Sleeping is a developmental milestone. It's not something that can be taught or trained. Just like sitting, walking, first tooth, sleeping through the night is one of these milestones. Sleep training is like trying to teach for baby to cut his first tooth. Doesn't work too well.
Most people think the newborn period is when parents get the least sleep. And yup, not much sleep that first month.  People expect the mama to be getting back to "normal"(what's that?) by the time baby is like 6 months old. Nope! Truth is, babies at 6-10 months roughly wake more often in the night than newborns. Teething and new milestones just rock baby's world! In fact, at 3 months, Indigo was sleeping great at night. Now, at almost 7 months, she is up hourly. I'm expected to be "normal" by now. I am utterly exausted. Like I said, I would give my right arm and more to have Indigo STTN. But the truth is, there some serious dangers to the "cry it out" (CIO) method.

What will "Crying It Out" Teach My Baby?
Moms say this is the hardest thing they ever have to do. That's because it goes against your instincts. A mama's most basic instinct is to nurture your crying baby. Nothing is more pure, more uncomplicated. Does CIO teach baby to "self-soothe"? or does it teach baby that they have giving up all hope that Mama is not coming?  What are we teaching our babies about themselves when we respond to their cries? What are we teaching them when we respond to their cries?  What are the long-term consequences of CIO? Does CIO even work anyway? Remember babies only have "needs". Their need to be comforted and held is just as crucial as their need for food and air.

"When the caregiver is consistently responsive and sensitive, the child gradually learns and believes that she is worthy of love, and that other people can be trusted to provide it."

If you were writing a resume for your baby to apply for the job of being his/her mama, what would your objective be?  
For me, I would say something like "To raise a loving, caring self-secure person who will make a positive difference in our world." Most mamas would say something like that.. I hope anyway.  Well Indigo gave me the job! I better stay true to my resume! :)

"Children who do not have consistently responsive and sensitive caregivers often develop into insecure individuals, characterized by anxious, avoidant, and/or ambivalent interactions. Long-term studies have shown that secure individuals, compared to insecure individuals, are more likely to be outgoing, popular, well-adjusted, compassionate, and altruistic." An abundance of research shows that regular physical contact, reassurance, and prompt responses to distress in infancy and childhood results in secure and confident adults who are better able to form functional relationships."  

Well Like I said, I'd do almost anything for a full night's sleep right now, but I would not risk my child's future for it.

Good for the Lungs?
What the...? Hogwash! (I like that word too) Total wives' tale. The truth is, it's the exact opposite!
"A recent study looking at the immediate and long-term physiologic consequences of infant crying suggests otherwise. The following changes due to infant crying have been documented: increased heart rate and blood pressure, reduced oxygen level, elevated cerebral blood pressure, depleted energy reserves and oxygen, interrupted mother-infant interaction, brain injury, and cardiac dysfunction"

There is solid evidence that crying it out can actualy permanantly damage a baby's brain. CIO actually destroys nerve connections because of the high levels of cortisol (stress hormone) according to a study from UCLA School of Medicine.

Another study at Baylor University found "when chronic stress over-stimulates an infant’s brain stem (the part of the brain that controls adrenaline release), and the portions of the brain that thrive on physical and emotional input are neglected (such as CIO), the child will grow up with an over-active adrenaline system. Such a child will display increased aggression, impulsivity, and violence later in life because the brainstem floods the body with adrenaline and other stress hormones at inappropriate and frequent times"

That's pretty scary and for me, not worth a full night's sleep. We are turning out people here...hopefully good ones that will positively impact the Universe. Okay, that's a little dramatic, but honestly that's how I feel.
Another study showed infants who experienced persistent crying episodes were 10 times more likely to have ADHD as a child, along with poor school performance and antisocial behavior.

Does "Crying It Out' even Work?
Not really. I hate to admit it, but with Ezrah 10 years ago, I dutily followed my pediatrician's advice to do the "gradual" method of CIO. Checking in on him every 15 minutes, rubbing his back, then leaving him for 20 minutes, etc.  I did this only one night when he was 8 months old. I felt in my heart that being this feels so abnormal as a mother, it can't be right.

Other parents I know that have let their baby CIO say "yeah, it works for a few nights". The problem is that babies the first year are constantly going through major things. When another tooth comes in, he get's sick, or he's meeting a new developmental milestone, baby is up all night needing his mama. So you comfort the baby when he's sick and then you have to do the whole CIO thing again. So no, it doesn't even work. So why let baby even cry in the first place?

I remember the show "Mad about You" did an episode of them as new parents going through the struggle of letting their new baby cry and truly thinking they were doing the "best" thing for their baby. The entire episode was one shot with them in front of the nursery door listening to baby's cry, helping eachother to get "through it". But what about the baby's point of view? That wasn't even considered.

The Trust Cycle
The book, 'Love & Logic" by Dr. Jim Fay talks a lot about how the "trust cycle" is so crucial to your child's self-esteem, thus behavior, as they grow up. Think about a baby's point of view. You are lying in your crib looking up at the ceiling. Life is good. Then you don't feel so good; your diaper is wet. You cry out and mama picks you up, changes you. Life is pretty good again. A little bit later, you are lying in your crib and you don't feel so good again. You have a strange feeling, you're hungry. You cry out. Mama comes, smiles at you & feeds you. Life is good again. Every time you baby's needs are met, a seed of trust and kindness is implanted in your baby's mind and heart. So remember that what babies want, they need.

ALL baby's needs are basic needs. It's not just hunger, it could be just the need to be held. After all, "man does not live by bread alone". On an instinctual level, your baby feels that if their need is not met, they will die. What would you do if you knew you were going to die, but could not walk or speak? Just as food is essential to keep baby alive, so is your touch, your comforting, your eye contact.
"Man does not live by bread alone"

So once you baby's needs are met; fed, cleaned, held, nursed, you feel like , "whew - this person just saved my life. What a great world. People can be trusted. I must really be loved".  Let me tell you that self-esteem has EVERYTHING to do with behavior. A child who is secure views the world as a great place, with people that can be trusted, and develop healthy friendships.  It's hard to imagine, but yes, our baby will one day be a teenager. As teenagers, an unhealthy friendship or relationship can led to some dire consequences. Just use your imagination on that one.
But I'm still Exausted!
So this is my journey of attachment parenting. It is not easy. Even though I am walking into walls, my house is a mess, my older kids get hot lunch at school more than I would like, I will battle this out. "This too shall pass." When looking at my 8 and 10 year-olds, I know all too well that this time is like a blink of an eye. Our babies are babies for such a short time. Soon they're talking back, complaining about chores and embarressed when I yell "I love you" out of the car window when dropping them at school. But I have to say that attachment parenting does pay off. They are well-adjusted, happy, secure kids who all sleep through the night.

When I look back and how I raised my kiddos, I want to have no regrets. My goal is to raise good people. It starts now. I'm exausted, but I know how short this time is. This will pass and my little nursling will be all grown up in just a blink of an eye.

Please Please Please check out my references if you are thinking about letting baby CIO. No matter what you decide, at least you'll be schooled.

'Science Says Excessice Crying Could Be Harmful to Babies"

"Cry It Out - The Potential dangers of Leaving Your Baby To Cry"
By Margaret Chuong-Kim M.A.

What parents and caregivers need to know!
by Phyllis Porter, M.A.
The Science of Attachment:
The Biological Roots of Love
by Lauren Lindsey Porter

Dr Sears

"Love and Logic Magic for early Childhood: Practical Parenting from Birth to Six Years"
by Jim Fay and Charles Fay, Ph.D.

1 comment:

  1. Here, here!

    My daughter is 20 months old and still not sleeping through the night. But it also doesn't bother me like it did when she was 6 months. You learn to cope and adjust because you are the adult, and the child is the baby, not the other way around.

    I'm hopping over from Kellymom.

    - Tiffany @ Raising Paityn