Parenting choices (or why I won’t leave my son to cry)

Another name for this post could be; About choosing a different parenting path to those of your own parents or friends.

I’m fairly sure every parent has been there at some point. That awkward crossroad when it becomes blatantly clear that on some issues your parenting choices, beliefs and preferences are wildly different to those of your parents, or your friends. And it is only natural that they are, as we are all different. Whether it’s a question of breastfeeding or formula, attachment parenting, night weaning, controlled crying or the billion other parenting choices we make, we all have our own views on what suits our family best.

I can only imagine how hard it must be to sit by and watch while your kids make what you probably think are horribly moronic mistakes. But that doesn’t mean that what they do is necessarily wrong. We all have our own ideas about what’s best for our own children. The best piece of parenting advice we were given, and the only one I really took to heart was this: “The people who know Anakin the best are you, his parents. You know what is best for your child.” Damn straight! We may be new to parenting, but that doesn’t make us parenting imbeciles.

So while I am sure we’re receiving rolling eyes and raised eyebrows in response to some of our choices when it comes to dealing with night feeds and sleep issues, know this: we are doing what we believe is best for our son and our family. Our choices suit our parenting style. You did what you thought was best for yours. Some choose to let their kids cry at night, some choose to force the night weaning more than we do, and the key word here is choice. My maternal child health nurse fed one of her 4 kids every 3 hours until the baby was 18 months old because she chose to feed on demand. There is nothing wrong with that. Some people choose to co-sleep. There is nothing wrong with that either.

I choose not to leave our son to “cry it out”.  I choose to try a gentle, gradual approach to night weaning that takes time rather than tears knowing that I am willing to live with one overnight feed if my son still wants it. (When we eventually get down to one, that is.) I choose this knowing it may very well be a long lasting thing. And there is nothing remotely wrong with that either.

I should mention that the idea of “controlled crying”, or cry it out, doesn’t sit well with me. I really don’t believe it’s good for the baby or the parents. And I can’t believe the amount of pressure I’m getting from other people to leave my baby to cry or “sort himself out”. If it worked for you, fine, but it’s not for my son.

Jean Liedloff described a likely perception of a baby waking at night in her volume on anthropology, The Continuum Concept (Addison-Wesley, 1977):

He awakes in a mindless terror of the silence, the motionlessness. He screams. He is afire from head to foot with want, with desire, with intolerable impatience. He gasps for breath and screams until his head is filled and throbbing with the sound. He screams until his chest aches, until his throat is sore. He can bear the pain no more and his sobs weaken and subside. He listens. He opens and closes his fists. He rolls his head from side to side. Nothing helps. It is unbearable. He begins to cry again, but it is too much for his strained throat; he soon stops. He waves his hands and kicks his feet. He stops, able to suffer, unable to think, unable to hope. Then he falls asleep again.

(Quoted in Elizabeth Pantley’s No-cry sleep solution)

It’s heartbreaking and I actually cried when I first read it. Recent studies are finding that babies stress levels do not decrease after going through controlled crying as sleep training though it may seem that the baby is quietly self settling to sleep after a few days. I won’t reiterate everything I’ve read, but I’ll supply a couple of the links at the end if you’re curious. There is probably a lot more research that needs to be done on the subject, but I am finding what is out there more than enough to back up my belief that this method is not for me or my family.

In my opinion it is not natural to leave a baby to cry until it learns to settle. Babies cry for a reason. If you left your kids to cry and it worked for you, then that’s entirely your business. But I wish people would stop telling me it’s the only way to go because it’s simply not true. And you don’t need to be a parenting expert to figure that one out.

In the end it comes down to what works for you and what you’re comfortable with. A miserable baby with miserable parents are just that, misery in company. I’m still reading Pantley’s No-cry sleep solution and will be figuring out a strategy once I finish it and have time to discuss it with my partner. I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes. In the mean time we’ll keep trucking. With less sleep for me, that’s true, but a whole lot of loving arms and security for our son while we figure it out.

Some links on controlled crying for those interested:

Baby stress and controlled crying : http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2012/06/19/3528487.htm

The myth of controlled crying: http://parentingaustralia.com.au/newborn/care/39-controlledcrying

The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health, Position Paper 1: Controlled crying http://www.aaimhi.org/inewsfiles/controlled_crying.pdf

Science says: Excessive crying could be harmful: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/fussy-baby/science-says-excessive-crying-could-be-harmful

Getting baby to sleep through the night: correcting myths about normal infant sleep patterns: http://suite101.com/article/parenting-myths-about-sleep-a55923

Controlled crying- some facts and information: http://bawlingbabies.blogspot.com.au/2007/06/controlled-crying-some-facts-and.html

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4 responses

  1. Mette Haugland

    I told you I was not going to comment on this, but now I feel I must. I am so proud of my daugther that make her own choices. That is what I always have wanted my Children to do. I love you. Love mamma

    September 11, 2012 at 4:20 am

    • Thanks, mum! I love you too!! You did a fine job raising an independent woman who stands by her convictions while still loving a good cuddle from her mama. You’ve always supported me in whatever I’ve done and for that I am forever grateful. xx

      September 11, 2012 at 2:38 pm

  2. Josara

    Hi Dida,

    I absolutely agree with you that you should do what works for you and your family! It really is nobody else’s business. The liberties people take in lecturing others about how they should bring up their child is astounding and insulting.

    Many may see your views as a veiled critique of their own (real or hypothetical) parenting choices. This is coming from personal experience: your posting of that Liedloff quote above to me suggests that you must feel that we have abused Otto by letting him cry. Mind you, he has different types of cries, and we strongly feel that we can recognise when he is distressed (as opposed to testing his developing boundaries) and then we attend to him. As you can see, I somehow feel the need to defend our choices… as you apparently did too, hence this blog post. Funny, isn’t it (in a sad kind of way…)

    Personally I am not convinced at all by what I see as a badly designed research study on baby stress that gave rise to some of those posts you linked to. And the quote above makes me want to cry too, because it is so brimming with gratuitous pathos. However, I really don’t care what reasons you have for doing what you do, you make it abundantly clear that you act in what you feel is Anakin’s best interest, and that is all that matters – that is what makes good parents.

    September 11, 2012 at 10:00 am

    • Josara, I totally see your point. I do not in any way think or want to suggest that you have abused your son. I wholeheartedly agree that there is a huge difference in types of cries and that not all necessarily need responding to. The quote was not meant as some veiled attack, it really just struck a chord with me during what has been a rather sensitive and trying time. The need to post about this does indeed come from a lot of pressure to leave Anakin to “sort himself out” from a lot of people who think that they should know what is best for my son because what they did worked for them. I think it is just as important that whatever path one chooses works with us as parents as well, and my issue with CC also comes from that I just can’t bare it. It’s not for me.
      I knew is was going to step on some toes when I wrote it, but as with everything else, I try my best to make it clear that these are just my opinions and feelings on the matter. I do not pass judgement on you for doing what works for you. And I know that Otto is a happy and fulfilled little guy with loving parents. But if I spent half the post advocating for “the other side” or apologising for my views it wouldn’t really do me any good. I write a lot of what I do to reflect on my own parenting journey, to vent and to share. I also should add that I believe every kid and every kid’s need, personality and so on is different and it is our job to work with that as parent. Nothing fits into a cookie cutter in the world of children and parenting.
      I appreciate your point of view. It’s not black and white, nor should it be.

      September 11, 2012 at 10:46 am

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