What I'm currently thinking about motherhood...
So I know I am long over due for a post on one of Jeff's projects...this blog is called Look What JEFF Did after all. But Jeff took our camera to work with all the recent pictures on it, and what's a DIY post without pictures? So you'll have to wait a little longer, but I promise they are coming. So on to this post on why we didn't let Wesley "cry it out" because, after all, this is MY blog. :)
I have been thinking about this post for a while and wondering whether or not I should share this parenting choice of mine with the world wide web. I'm worried that there are two many out their that disagree with me and will think I am crazy. But, I have decided to write about it not because I believe our way is the best way or the only way, but because I want to encourage others who may need support in their decision to NOT let their baby cry it out.
A few other things before I continue:
1. I do not think I am a sleep expert or any kind of baby expert. Just writing about my own experience here.
1a. I am not an expert on the cry it out method. I have only read lots of stuff online, so if I misrepresent that method, I apologize.
2. The only thing I strongly believe about parenting (other than not hurting kids...I do work for CPS) is that good parents are the experts on their own children and finding what works for your family is the way to go. YOU know YOUR baby better than anyone else!
3. I am not writing this to seek help for Wesley's sleeping, nor do I intend to change anything. I am content with my choices, and even though I wish he slept better, I do not want to sacrifice my parenting choice to achieve that.
4. I do not really care if you let your baby cry it out and I am not suggesting that you are a bad parent if you do/did. I know many amazing parents who used the cry it out method because it worked for their kids/family.
Ok, enough with the disclaimers I think, let's get on with my story...
So, its no secret if you are a regular blog reader or real-life friend of mine, that Wesley is a HORRIBLE sleeper. He turned one on Sunday and still has to be rocked to sleep. The bedtime routine might take 5 minutes or 50 minutes, he just sometimes flat out refuses to go to sleep. He might even squirm and scream at me while i am cuddling him, singing, and rocking him to sleep. He just doesn't want to miss anything. And because he doesn't take great naps during the day he can be over tired at night. But, if we put him down to early, he will be up at 4am just ready to go. We have been urged by friends, coworkers, "child experts", doctors, and strangers to "let him cry it out." Actually, I have been told that I HAVE to let him cry it out and if I don't, it will only get harder and he will never learn to sleep on his own. But it never sat right with me, ever. Even with other people's kids that I would babysit when I was younger. Because we did try it. We didn't do a full on this-weekend-we-are-going-to-sleep-train-him thing. But we did let him cry several times, and each time it went on beyond 45 minutes and he only escalated, so we didn't pursue it. And here are my reasons why:
1. My Personality/My Upbringing
Like I said, it just doesn't sit right to me to let babies cry. I am a nurturer by nature. I love babies and am drawn to them. I hate to see them cry and will do anything to help them stop crying. My mother is the same way. If you know her, you know what I mean. She just retired from being a preschool director for 27 years and was working with preschoolers several years prior to that. And she only retired so that she could drive 200 miles every week to help take care of Wesley. And she loves every minute of it. She is nurturing to the extreme. If a baby needs to be held all day so he/she does not cry, she will do it. And sing to him and rock him, and anything else they need with a smile on her face. Being around children feeds her soul, and I take after her in that way. (FYI, my mother has a master's degree in child development, teaches child development classes at her local community college, and does not believe that crying it out is good for babies) I have always loved being around kids and have wanted to be a mother my whole life. My mom even tells stories of me carrying around my baby brother when I was only two because I wanted to help. Now that I am a mother, I love it, love Wesley and hate to see him cry. I know that it is part of being a baby, but if I can help him stop crying, then I want to do that.
2. My Background in Attachment Parenting
As I briefly mentioned, I work as a social work for Child Protective Services. I work in our adoption program, finding adoptive homes for foster children and helping facilitate their adoption. Parenting a foster child is very difficult, for several reasons, and research has found that attachment based parenting is very effective with foster children. Throughout my years as an adoption social worker, I have had the opportunity to attend several trainings and seminars on attachment parenting, and I really like it. I have seen its positive effects in our foster children and think that there are some great techniques to consider when raising your own children as well. Let me explain. When I say "attachment parenting" I am not talking about breastfeeding or co-sleeping until your child is 5 or 10 for that matter. I'm talking about the basic principle which looks like this: Your baby has a need-> they express their need (cry)-> you meet their need (feed, soothe, etc.)-> they stop crying because their need is met. This cycle repeats and repeats and that is how you and your child attach. So even if you don't think you have an "attachment parenting" style, chances are that you developed a healthy attachment with your child by following this cycle for most things, or until your child was a certain age. I guess where things change is when children get older, people might think that they can cry longer and longer before that need is met. And by letting your child cry it out, they end up meeting that need on their own and no longer needing a parent to meet that need. So here is where attachment parenting effects my parenting choices. One, I believe that even though Wesley is older, I am still meeting his needs fairly quickly in order to use every opportunity to attach to him. So when he cries in the middle of the night expressing that he is uncomfortable, hungry, or needs his mom, I respond immediately to him, thus creating an opportunity to attach. Part of the reason I do that is because I believe its the best way to parent, but the other part of it is because I worry unrealistically that if I don't meet his need, he will have attachment issues. Did you catch that? I know logically, that if I let him cry it out, that he will be fine because I am a good parent and we have plenty other opportunities to attach, but because I work daily with children who have attachment issues, I tend to think its a normal thing. In my line of work we call that counter-transference. And its not a good thing.
3. Wesley's Temperament
Still with me? The third reason we haven't done the while cry it out thing with Wesley is because of his temperament. This kid is a screamer. Ever since he was itty bitty, he would scream bloody murder at the slightest thing. He has two levels: Screaming and off. Even now that he is older he is either laughing or crying, go go going or asleep. He is intense in everything that he does, so when he is upset, you know it. That is part of what made it so hard to let him cry those few times that we tried it. And instead of tiring himself out, he just escalated and worked himself up.
4. I like my middle of the night bonding time.
Our sleep solution has Wesley in our bed most of the night and to be honest, it works for me, I like it. As a working mom, I am away from my son 11 hours a day (4 days a week). I leave right after he wakes up (sometimes when he is still asleep) and get home just a few hours before he goes to sleep. The middle of the night is when we do our best bonding and I love it. Just the other day, my mom watched Wesley overnight for Jeff and I, and it was so nice to sleep through the night and wake up with out a hand in the face or a foot in the rib. But just as I was saying how nice it was to wake up kid-free, Jeff said, "yeah, but I miss him." So Jeff likes it too.
So that's why we didn't do the crying it out thing with Wesley. What do our nights look like? Here is snap shot of a typical night:
8pm- give wesley a bath
8:15pm- Pjs, books, bottle
8:30pm- Rock, sing, bounce him to sleep.
(this can last anywhere from 5 to 50 minutes. sometimes, the other parent has to come in for back up)
Then put a sleeping Wesley in his crib, in his room.
Between 8:35-11:00pm- If he wakes up, pat or rock back to sleep in crib.
Between 11:00-2:00am- If he wakes up bring to bed with us
Between 2:00-6:30 am- Wes usually sleeps pretty well once he is in bed with us, but occasionally he is very restless and will have to be rocked to sleep again, even though he is in bed with us. We have mastered the rocking while laying down move. Its awesome.
So that's our life. Sorry if you are not a parent and I just scared you from ever having kids. I still think you should. Everything else totally makes up for the sleep thing. Wesley is the most amazing kid ever and I am so in love with him.
I hope some of you gained some encouragement from this post for whatever parenting decision you make, even if its not the most popular. It took me a while to believe that I was doing the best thing for my kid and for my family because of all the "noise" (parenting books, websites, experts, etc.) out there. Trust your instincts.
Again, I am sorry if I offended anyone, that is not my intention. Please re-read #2 and #4 in the very beginning of this post. I think you are the only expert on your kid.
If you are reading this...thanks for sticking with me in my longest post ever. you rock.