Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cry it Out

Okay, so I have several friends who have recently (say, in the last 6 months) had babies. And several of those have recently been talking about letting their babies "cry it out". And, to be honest, I've done my best not to let my head explode. I'm even doing my best to keep my mouth shut. And, seriously, this is one of those things about which I find it really difficult to keep my mouth shut. Uh, so I'm gonna vomit it all up here. Okay, so please know that if you did/do practice CIO with your kids, I don't think you're a terrible parent. But frankly, even if I did (and seriously, I don't), what does it matter what I think.

To start, I absolutely think there is a difference between letting a 1 year old fuss himself to sleep, and what I'm talking about here, which is letting your 4 month old (or less!) "cry it out" for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour or more. The former I have no problem with. Though I do recognize there is sometimes a fine line between the two. There are always gray areas. But, some things, well, they're a little more black and white. At least to me they are.

I spent almost 8 years talking with new parents about the importance of that first year of life, that the parent's job, first and foremost, is to teach that child to trust them. This is achieved through feeding whenever baby is hungry. Changing diapers whenever baby needs to be changed. Playing, talking, rocking, walking, cuddling. Doing all of those things promptly, when a baby first cues that she needs it, teaches a baby that she can trust her parents. People talk about a baby being spoiled, but, in truth, a baby is incapable of the manipulation necessary to truly become spoiled. A baby is incapable of crying just to see what  she can get her parents to do. She cries because she needs something. And the need to be held, is as important as any other need. This includes the need to be held, even when going to sleep. Or in the middle of the night.

So, to me, it makes sense that in letting a baby cry it out, it does the opposite. It's teaching the baby that, no, actually you can't trust me to be there no matter what. Sometimes you just have to put on  your big girl diaper and deal with it yourself, you 3 month old, you. Suck it up, baby.

Now, I completely understand why parents do cry it out - they want their babies to sleep at night, and they want them to be able to put themselves to sleep, be self-reliant. Interestingly, this really is a Western culture value, this desire for our children (our babies!) to be self-reliant. If you look at many other cultures around the world, what you'll see is that babies cry much less frequently than they do in the US. In fact, only western cultures experience colic. I firmly believe their immediate responses to all of babies' needs is responsible for this. You probably think, sure, they get what they want immediately, of course they don't cry. You know what, though, those babies also learn to sleep through the night. And all without all those unnecessary nightly tears - by both parents and baby.

Does CIO it out work? Sure, with some babies it does. Do babies of parents who do cry it out grow up to be normal, functioning adults? Sure. Of course they do. Because kids are flexible and resilient. They put up with a lot of stupid things we do as parents and survive in spite of us. Do I do stupid things as a momma? Uh, yeah. For sure. But this isn't one of them. I'll make my mistakes elsewhere.

Today's lesson - if it doesn't feel right, don't do it. This is so the case in parenting. I don't care who says it, your bff, your momma, your pediatrician, someone you hardly know from facebook - if their advice leaves you with a knot in your stomach, or a little voice in the back of your head going "I can't do this", or in tears listening to your baby's own tears, don't do it. She will eventually sleep through the night, in her own bed. She will not go to college, or even Kindergarten needing you to put her to sleep at night, or sleeping in your bed. It will be fine. And it does not necessitate any more crying.


Lechelle said...

I completely completely agree with your thoughts on this. I go absolutely nuts when I hear about crying it out with a brand new baby. They just spent nine months all cuddly and snug and warm in a womb (basically nine months of being held) and are thrust into a scary world, being held is a necessary comfort.

I used to work in an orphanage overseas where the caretakers refused to allow us volunteers to hold the babies when they cried because "then they would expect it all the time". It broke my heart and did not produce emotionally healthy kids.

I do have to say that crying it out is useful in one situation, when a parent is frustrated. Set the baby down, let him cry, and walk away. Spend a few minutes to yourself (or however long you need) calming down, and then go back and hold your baby when you are ready.

Emms said...

I love you right now. Really. With my bug I've always said we wont CIO. Granted, there were times I had to let her cry for a few so I could breath. But thats it. I nursed to sleep for probably 9 months or so. We have had a lot of problems lately with getting her to sleep on her own. K and I had a long conversation about CIO and luckily he was still on the same page as me, in not doing it.
Timing of this post was perfect :)

Camilleta said...

I feel you, but I'm always afraid to say anything! I had SO MANY people telling me to do CIO. I had so many people tell me they did it and it worked. I stuck to my guns and did the whole attachment parenting thing. My 2 and a half year old is independent, goes to sleep by herself, and sleeps through the night. I never sleep trained her in any way. I completely "spoiled" her and now as a result she feels secure and comfortable. She just started sleeping by herself when she was ready, which was right after her second birthday. People tell me I was crazy to "put up with it" that long... But I miss getting up with her. The baby days go by way too fast.

A Life Being Lived said...

I'm a few days behind on my reading....I teared up reading this post!!! To me, when I read about attachment parenting, and sleep training and all of that, they make sense, but I understand that some people have other opinions. But it's honestly a life or death matter when it comes to helping an infant feel safe and secure and build trust in his/her parents. Of course there are parents who aren't unconditionally loving or supportive and may also show that as early as infanthood, which is super sad. I think so many more parents should learn about this seemingly simple act- bonding with your child and loving/nurturing/comforting them unconditionally. Thank you for being such a thoughtful and committed parent. The world needs parents who understand that a 4 month old can't "manipulate" you with crying any more than a houseplant can. The more intuitive, supportive, involved parents there are, the better our world will be.