Wednesday, March 31, 2010

More thoughts on babies and sleep and trusting your gut...

It seems that everywhere I look I see some article, or read advice from one parent to another suggesting that if they just let their baby cry it out (CIO), their baby will learn to sleep on their own and will sleep all night. I just spent a good hour or more reading a couple of posts (and the comments) about CIO:

Cry it out (CIO): 10 reasons why it is not for us

After I wrote My Take on Attachment Parenting and Sleep, I had lots of thoughts enter my mind. Most of these thoughts surrounded the issue of how everyone is different and how there is not one right way of doing things. I did not make clear that I certainly do not judge those parents who do decide to do CIO, I just hope that they really think about what they are doing, I mean really think and do some deep reflecting on their decision to see if it actually feels right. Also, I just wanted to share my standpoint and some info on Attachment Parenting for those who may be new or looking for more info on it. Anyways, the above posts really got me thinking more. Some of the comments are pretty interesting.

For me it comes down to this...yes CIO works for some babies and not for some. However, we just don't know if/what happens to those babies because of CIO. But there is more and more research showing that the stress babies who are left to cry alone feel, does have effects on brain development as well as how those babies will form relationships in later life. Almost all the parents who say they have done CIO state something along the lines of, it felt wrong, weird, it broke my heart etc...but we did it, only took a few nights, etc, me this means that parents are going against their instincts, which again, are there for a reason. I then ask, why would you go against your instincts? Because someone has claimed that your baby is now X amount of pounds and should be sleeping through the night? Whatever the reason, I would really encourage mommies and daddies to think twice about following the advice of someone who tells you to do something that feels wrong/weird/breaks your heart.

There are extremes to both Attachment Parenting and doing CIO. There are some parents who do overprotect their children and go to them when they are just making noises in their sleep just as there are parents who totally ignore their babies at night, I imagine that both of these extremes are detrimental in some way (i.e. the sleeping baby may learn to wake up even when she does not need to, while the crying baby will learn that mom and/or dad do not come to meet his needs). Then there are parents somewhere along that spectrum, some leaning more toward one extreme or the other, but not quite there. To all parents I ask this...If there is any doubt whatsoever on the long-term effects of CIO, are you willing to risk it? The fact is that there may never be conclusive research to end this debate. However, we should think twice about going against the characteristics of human babies which Mother Nature, God (or whatever you believe in) has so carefully created and pruned over many, many years. Babies cry for a reason. Babies do not sleep deeply and for long stretches of time for a reason. Babies need to be dependent for a reason. The list goes on...

Babies will eventually start sleeping longer and longer, until one day they sleep all night! Like I mentioned before, if you want to nudge them along, there are many ideas for doing this that do not involve CIO.

I'd like to provide a link to a summary of research by Macall Gordon and Sheri L. Hill on infant sleep titled "Is “crying it out” appropriate for infants?"

Everyone needs to make their own choices. However, in order for them to be your own choices you have to be your own advocate and listen to your gut and what feels right for yourself, your baby and your family. Don't let someone convince you to do something that feels wrong, even if that someone is some sort of "expert" (e.g. a doctor, a sleep expert, etc). For what it's worth, doctors do not go to medical school to learn how to be parents and how to deal with the many aspects of parenting. Any advice they give you will be based on their own personal views. Some doctors will suggest you do CIO and others will not. A decision such as this should be left for the parent to make, after all they are the expert when it comes to their baby. My hubby, who is a doctor, said the other day, "Asking a doctor advice on stuff like this is like asking a complete stranger you meet on the street to give you advice on your marriage...sure they might give you advice, but it certainly won't be advice suited to your own personal situation and it may or may not fix the issues you are having." And I agree!

To sign out, here's an episode of Mad About You where there are so many great lines! But the last two minutes really sum it all up for me...Our babies are only babies for so long and we only get one chance...

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