True Confessions Behind Cry It Out
Mom is mean-
So I have really met (and I am sure you have to) women who are just.....selfish. You know, you wonder why they had kids. (No, I am not talking about YOU!). But, obviously, there are selfish people in the world and some of them are bound to be fertile.
So, some people really probably have kids and then just expect the child to totally conform to all their needs.
These selfish moms "need" nine hours of unbroken sleep each night. They need a strict schedule. They need nice nails, lots of "me" time, and everything "their" way.
They see their children as an inconvenience rather than a blessing. They use harsh sleep training methods from day one. All parenting kind of revolves around mom and her needs with no respect or thought for the child, who obviously, though small is also a person.
I hope this kind of mom is rare. I have only actually met one woman who employed cry it out on a newborn and admitted it. I hope that this isn't done very often and I can only assume that women who DO this with very young children might be getting very bad advice from people who love them and other experts. Or maybe she is just mean.
Lack of understanding about normal newborn behavior-
Many people probably really don't know what is "normal" in the average newborn. We kind of expect our babies to be like....us, and then we also expect to go right back to our pre-baby life. These "lies" about what a newborn should be like tend to be encouraged by baby trainers as though they ARE the normal and certainly the ideal.
I have bad (or good, depending on how you look at it) news. Babies are not exactly like adults, they have small stomachs, frequent needs, lots of growing to do, and food that is liquid and moves quickly through them.
As far as you are concerned, you will never be the same again. That is part of the growth of being a parent. Your old life is GONE forever. This isn't a bad thing. This is a really great life. It is just different.
Babies often need to eat frequently, every two hours or so, for the first months of life, maybe longer, depending on the child. YES- some babies do sleep all night from very early, but not many. For a young baby, really, the longest stretch you will probably get is one or maybe two, four hour stretches of sleep in a 24 hour period. This is IF you are lucky.
Four hours is "sleeping through" for a baby.
Sarah Buckley's thoughts on this are really somewhat eye opening and a quick read.
I think if we realized what was normal and age appropriate for our children many of us would have less stress and lower expectations that are really just realistic if we were familiar with what babies are like.
Sometimes it helps not to talk to people who have perfect children when you are struggling. I think the Dr Sears "Baby" book is a good one for understanding normal newborn behavior and also knowing when average growth spurts occur so that we realize when they may need to eat more. I also love Harvey Karp's tips in his video, "The 5 S's". He not only explains some normal newborn behaviors and reactions, but also gives some idea of ways to help a baby calm better that are kind, mimic the womb, but can increase baby sleep.
Mom is overwhelmed and/or under-supported-
Most of us live in single family units with mom and dad and other children. Many women go back to work outside of the home when children are young. The "normal" lack of sleep that babies cause when added into the schedule of mom who has many other responsibilities during the day can make dealing with sleep deprivation very difficult.
Adult humans really do need sleep too. For me personally, if I don't get at least one three hour block I have a hard time functioning in a healthy way. When I am up every hour all night long, dealing with life becomes a lot harder then next day.
Over and over I see mothers who are overwhelmed and miserable with their children or babies. They are looking for alternatives. Some find help from others, from co-sleeping, from supplements, from pharmaceuticals, and some find help with baby training methods.
I think that many women turn to cry it out methods because of a combination of not understanding what is normal and a hugely overwhelming feeling of simply not being able to cope brought on by sleep deprivation. Add in a need or desire to live normally even with a young baby and you have a recipe for an overwhelmed mother.
I "wish" all mothers were supported. I "wish" all mothers could spend a year or so just caring for baby. I "wish" more of us gave ourselves a break and didn't expect much from ourselves for that first year or two. Do we really need to have a career, go to school, be something that "matters" outside of our children immediately after baby? Why do we feel that just being mom isn't enough? But I don't believe this is possible for all women. I can't ignore my house and other children because I have a baby. Mama has some needs too.
When I hear people talking about cry it out in black and white terms, it makes me a little uncomfortable. I don't know if this issue is all black and white. Yes, leaving a baby to cry sucks. But sometimes it sucks less than the other alternative.
I have four children, all with very different sleep patterns and temperaments. Let me tell you about them.
My first was not an easy sleeper. Looking back he was probably pretty normal. He ate every few hours and preferred to sleep with mom. He always nursed to sleep, even well past a year. When he was little my husband started graduate school and we moved to a new state where I knew nobody and the closest family was a few thousand miles away. My husband himself was surviving on about four hours of sleep a night because his schedule was so intense.
I remember when he was about eight months old that he was up every hour. I felt like I was literally going insane. INSANE. I would get maybe four hours of broken sleep each night. That simply was not enough for me to function. Co-sleeping didn't yield magical family sleep hours, it just got me kicked in the head all night and my husband on the couch.
I tried to let him cry because nothing else worked. Letting him cry didn't work either, but if it had, I would have been grateful. Some kids really can be left alone for a minute or two and they give up and go to sleep. Others, just get more angry. He just got more angry.
We survived. But despite my Dr Sears love affair, I was a little more humble about attachment parenting after that.
My second slept like a Baby Wise baby- ten hours straight from two months on. I didn't know that was possible. She also refused to comfort nurse.
My third was very difficult again. A combination of strong personality, desire to be busy, and physical sensitivity to her surroundings made nighttime very difficult. When she was around 18 months old and I was more than halfway through my pregnancy with my fourth, I had had enough.
She was still, as she had her entire life, getting up every hour or two and screaming. I know my daughter and she was not hurting or physically ill. She is stubborn and sensitive and she simply didn't like sleep. She still doesn't.
At some point I gave up. I let my husband try to "sleep train her". She was about 18 months old. It worked some, but truthfully, nothing really worked with her. And some of you will find the same thing-- none of the tricks or books or advice will "fix" your baby.
But I can tell you this- eventually they start to sleep a little better. In my experience it is usually after 18 months for the "harder" babies. The hard times pass. They fade from memory.
My advice, which you can totally ignore, is this:
Be gentle on yourself. Don't expect the world from yourself just because it seems like everybody else has everything together and is clean and happy. They don't. I know they don't because they have kids, and nobody who has kids has everything together. Some just fake it better.
Remember that life lasts longer than this moment. You can be more educated, more rich, more awesome.... later. Sometimes the most awesome thing you can do is be the mom. Sometimes the education you need the most is learning what that difficult child is trying to teach you. Sometimes the richest blessing you can have is learning your limits and your limitless love.
Really DO sleep when baby sleeps. This applies to NAP TIME and doesn't just apply to the first six weeks. For goodness sake, if your 18 month old sleeps like crap at night, then nap with them during the day. It just might save your sanity.
Be gentle on each other. I love my difficult babies. (It is easier now that they are a little older.) I love what they taught me about myself. I love that they taught me some humility. I love that they taught me that the harder you work and the more you sacrifice, the more your love grows.
When I see mothers attacking one another because somebody is torturing their child with cry it out, I cringe a little. Not because I think letting a baby cry is the way to go, but because I have been there. I have felt that hopelessness that mom feels when she is at her limit, in dire need of sleep, has nobody to help her, and the baby starts screaming. Sometimes the best thing is to just stay in bed and collect yourself.
I think sometimes we as mothers try so hard to do everything perfectly that we push ourselves past the point we can handle. I hate it when I see "perfect" attached mothers walk away from their kids, have their marriage fall apart, or escape somehow from their life, because they simply could not sustain on their own this notion of 100% attached perfect parenting. This kind of parenting, I believe, is impossible to do alone all the time without something needing to give.
So my point, now that I am finally getting to it is this- cry it out may not be right- but we don't usually know where another person is coming from. I am not saying, "To each their own, anything goes, go torture your kids."
What I am saying is, we don't know where another woman is coming from when she parents in a way we think is wrong.
I don't think that Baby Rabies blog post was really about cry it out at all. It was really about a mom who was at her limit. I don't think it was trying to encourage cry it out, I think it was a mom, like you and me, who admitted publicly something that was really hard for her as a parent.
Sadly, she got a lot of hatred for it. Cry it out might be wrong, but a mom who openly admits that she is suffering from anxiety partly caused by sleep deprivation, probably doesn't need any more stress. She shouldn't be commended for letting her baby cry, but she SHOULD be commended for being truthful about her struggles. We don't need to destroy each other when we see somebody who is open enough to admit a weakness or a struggle.
If she says that her child will calm faster when left for 5 minutes than when comforted, I believe her. I have had a child like that. Mothers know their own children better than some stranger online who thinks they have figured it all out.
I have been there. Someday you might be there too.