Thursday, January 12, 2012

To cry or not to cry...

No subject in my new role as mother has gotten me so worked up, so stressed out, so frazzled as the subject of sleep. How does one get a baby to sleep and stay asleep? It is one of those subjects that I dread bringing up with other mothers and fathers because everyone--and I mean everyone--has their opinion about it. To cry or not to "cry it out"--that is the (BIG) question.

Since the rise of the "educated parent" (said with a sardonic grin...I sometimes think all these books have done more harm than good, pandering to many new parent's overanxious tendencies), particularly in the later half of the 20th century, sleep has been talked about, written about, and mulled over to the point of sheer confusion. There exists this long spectrum of techniques, theories, and practical ideas that range from Dr. Richard Ferber and Dr. Marc Weissbluth clearly on the "cry-it-out" end to the middle ground of the "no-cry" advocates such as Elizabeth Pantley to the attachment parenting,co-sleeping, absolutely no cry likes of Dr. Sears on the other end. And then there are countless others with their own special stamp, including sleep schedules, the 5 "S's" of Dr. Karp, etc.etc.

Adela during the first step of her bedtime ritual. She loves bathtime!

What oh what to do? Like most things with this whole parenting thing, I first and foremost tried to follow my instinct. Because more often than not, it leads me in the right direction. But with this subject, with such heated debate on all sides of the could I be so sure? I then turned to my many friends' experience, but they too run the gamut. And now I'm admittedly throwing my two cents into the mix of internet discussion...

To cry or not to cry?

I can't tell you how long I agonized over this. In many ways, Jake and I practice attachment parenting techniques, such as breastfeeding, babywearing, and co-sleeping (oh I so hope our pediatrician isn't reading this!). We try and remain as relaxed and calm as possible because we've noticed how we are feeling does affect how she feels and behaves. We work on bonding with our daughter every day because we want her to know she is safe, secure, and loved. But it was becoming clear to us with the sleep situation that not everyone was so happy anymore. Adela had become much more mobile in her sleep, slapping us in the face at all hours of the morning. Furthermore, trying to lay her down by herself awake--as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends--was next to impossible. Even if we'd painstakingly rock her to sleep, if we even tried to set her down, she was wide awake--and the cycle began again. She was beginning to need us to fall asleep. And I'd be lying if I said that we didn't want our bedroom back to ourselves.

I finally dug deep into my still-burgeoning beliefs of parenting, my internal compass and discovered a few things, with the caveat that the items below are not solely based on the subject of sleep, but on other thoughts that had been swirling in my head lately as well:
1. I believe we learn habits from a very early age. I don't want to establish what might become bad habits because it makes things easier now.
2. I believe that my child's immediate happiness is subservient to the larger end goal of raising this child into a responsible, ethical, and resilient human being.
3. I believe that we show our child that she is loved in numerous ways through copious amounts of cuddles, kisses, hugs, smiles, giggles, and songs.
4. I believe that if we, as parents, are not well-rested, happy, and healthy individuals, we cannot be the best parents we can be to our child.

Why are we so happy?

Because we are baking cookies!

So I bet you can guess where this is going. We bit the Machiavellian bullet, and, after we returned home from MN when she had just turned 5 months old, we let her cry (Ferber style with timed intervals where we'd go in an comfort her...surprisingly against the advice of our pediatrician, who advocates for complete cry-it-out from the get-go...oh let's really hope she's not reading this!). It was hard--oh so hard--and I'd be lying if I said that I don't feel guilty. Because I do. I made my child cry on purpose. That is hard to swallow. I recognize that this method is not for everyone--not every parent, not every child.

But she now falls asleep without a wimper, has begun sleeping in longer stretches at night (4-5 hours before her first feeding because we're still breastfeeding, and I do not expect her to sleep from 7-7 right now!), wants to nurse and be cuddle during the day, and still beams her great big toothless smile to me in the mornings. You won't find me complaining. Or apologizing. We let her cry--and now we all sleep a whole lot better.

1 comment:

  1. Good for you Alyssa. I have no doubt it's a tough thing to start, but sounds like it's working for you. Do what you've got to do, right? And what's best for your family.