(or, FERBER FRIGHTENS ME)
We respond to Abishai's cries differently now than we did in the early months. Continue reading for more information on why, at first, we answered them immediately.
We wanted him to trust us. Contrary to what some parents would like to believe, trust is earned, not automatically granted, even from human beings as inexperienced as infants. We wanted Abishai to know that there was not any time, day or night, when he would need us and we would not respond. We went on the assumption that, in the first four months (this is longer, perhaps, than for an easy baby), every time he cried, he needed an immediate response of some kind.
We did not believe he was manipulating us. Ooh! Controversial. If you believe babies are born with a sin nature, this is especially difficult to swallow because of the unloving beliefs about babies many teachers have propagated. However, I touched on this briefly on the What Is a High-Need Baby? page and I want to reiterate my point now. Let's take a look at the actual meaning of the word "manipulate" as defined in the dictionary. It means, "to manage or control artfully or by shrewd use of influence, often in an unfair or fraudulent way." Thank you, Webster's. Take a look at your newborn and try to convince me that she is so brilliant that she has already learned how to manage and control you artfully. To me, that sounds like you are placing the worst, least loving interpretation possible on her cries.
We believed his cries were signals of needs, not bad behavior. Correct me if I'm wrong, but crying is a baby's only vocal communication, right? For the first six months developmentalists say they are absorbing language patterns. Until then, 99% don't say a word. Crying is a baby's only recourse when she has a wet diaper, when she's tired, when she's hungry (and breastfed babies especially are hungry a lot), when she's sick of looking out the window, when she wants mommy's loving arms...for anything!
We wanted to learn his signals. To me, an important part of the art of mothering is learning to anticipate my baby's needs so that he doesn't feel he has to cry to get those needs met. The less crying, the better, right? I felt that if I ignored his cries, that would lead me to desensitize myself to the pre-crying behavior he displayed, and also hamper my understanding of the nature of his crying. Knowledge of what those cries meant allowed me to determine, much later, when he was "milking it," as Joel heartlessly puts it. J
THINGS YOU MIGHT WANT TO KNOW ABOUT CRYING
My mom says I'll spoil our baby if I respond to her crying right away. What exactly does she mean by "spoil"? If she means that if you hover over your child, anxiously awaiting the first little hint of discomfort, you'll make a fussy baby out of her, then she's probably right. If she means, however, that going to your baby when you hear her crying will lead to her being whiny, clingy, and overdependent, in my own experience this has not been the case. I might add that my experience has been echoed by many other AP moms I've talked to, as well as Dr. Bill and Martha Sears, who raised eight children. My baby was born fussy; I did not make him that way, believe me.
How will my baby ever learn to sleep through the night if I don't let him cry? By getting older, that's how! Guess what? Most babies are not biologically designed to sleep through the night. However, as they grow older, their sleep patterns mature and they eventually learn to sleep through the night as their brains transition from infancy to toddlerhood. This milestone is later in coming for most high-need babies. Letting them "cry it out," whether from birth (as Babywise once mandated, but later changed to seven weeks) or six months (as Ferber suggests), is unnecessary and shows no more sensitivity than many people show to a puppy.
Also, keep in mind who these people recommending CIO are and ask yourself, what makes them experts? Is it their education? Their research? I don't know anything about Dr. Ferber's qualifications, but I do know that Gary Ezzo holds no bachelor or associate degree from any university. He got his master's of arts because of "life experience" being credited. The Ezzos also have no formal training in anything regarding child development or psychology or medicine or breastfeeding. Anne Marie Ezzo hasn't worked as a nurse in something like 20 years. I know, supposedly a doctor helped them write "On Becoming Babywise." Well, let me tell you, I've seen that book and I've seen its predecessor, "Preparation for Parenting," which is the Christian version and was not written with a doctor. They're pretty much identical. What makes these people qualified to speak into your life about your parenting practices? To me, it seems like they're just rehashing good old Western-centric childrearing practices under a new format.
My friends say they followed the Babywise/Ferber method and now their baby sleeps through the night all the time. Their baby might, but let me tell you, if yours is a high-need baby, she won't. That is an awfully certain statement, you might think. I have talked to mothers of high-need babies who have given these methods a shot. They do not work for infants with high need levels. Instead, they lead to the baby screaming for hours on end, hitting her head violently against the crib railings, sometimes even vomiting from sheer distress. In the days following, the baby clings to her mommy like a little monkey, is whiny and depressed, and usually the parents give it up as a bad job. Of course, sometimes the baby doesn't freak out quite as badly. Sometimes she learns to lie alone at night, staring at the ceiling, because she's figured out that mama won't come when she calls if it's dark. Is that baby sleeping through the night? No.
"Well," you might think, "I'm pretty sure my baby's not high-need. Maybe I could try it." Yes. You could. It might even work. The question is, do you want your baby to learn to sleep through the night for her own sake, or for yours? If you want her to sleep through the night for her sake, then ask yourself why you feel the need to artificially hasten this developmental step. Is it because your doctor told you she should be sleeping through the night? Let me assure you that doctors are taught nothing about infant sleep patterns in most (if not all) medical schools, and that any advice on sleeping is coming from his own little opinion factory, just like any of your acquaintances. If you want her to sleep through the night for your sake, well, ask yourself if it's worth it. Remember, she won't be learning to sleep through the night because she's ready if you pursue these methods. She'll be learning to sleep through the night because she's learned that, at night, no one responds to her calls or picks her up. Her babyhood is a very short period of both your lives. Her attitude toward sleep that is forming during that babyhood is something that she will carry for the rest of her life. I suggest you try other things, like sharing sleep. And remember, making decisions about what to do about sleep while you're exhausted is like going to the grocery store when you're starving. You'll buy anything and everything.
Why are you so harsh about crying it out? Everybody does it. Everybody also used to wean their babies to cow's milk at seven months because otherwise they would get "too fat." Just because everybody does it doesn't mean it's right or good. I love my parents. We have what I consider to be a great relationship going. They let me cry it out. I am not saying that if you let your baby cry it out, your baby will hate you. However, twenty-two years after my parents let me cry it out, I literally have to force myself into bed every night (and that's with a high-need baby!). I frequently wake at night and can't go back to sleep. I often can't go to sleep in the first place. I am afraid--not paralyzed by, but afraid--of the dark. My attitude and sleep problems are shared by millions of Americans, and I can't help but wonder if there's a connection to the sleep conditioning methods our parents chose.
If you still don't see the point, let me share an excellent illustration given in Granju's book, Attachment Parenting. To paraphrase, she reminds the reader that elderly people often wake up a lot at night and don't always go right back to sleep. But if a nursing home staff started locking them in their rooms "for their own good," ignoring their requests for food, drink, clean sheets, or hugs until the morning came, there would be a huge scandal! In my opinion, it should be scandalous to treat a baby the same way.
Do you still jump to Abishai's every cry? Absolutely not! By the time he reached about four months, I'd let him fuss for a minute or two if I was busy with cooking or something, although I'd always call, "Mama's coming." Then I'd go take care of him. Now that he's almost a year old, sometimes I'll let him fuss for a few minutes without much of a response beyond, "you're okay," if I can see he's just bored. Depending on the time of day, he'll usually just go find a toy to amuse himself with for a while, or I'll point one out and play with him for a few seconds before returning to my interrupted tasks. I also never give in and let him have something I feel he shouldn't, just because he's crying. A little frustration never killed anyone. I just redirect his interest to something more acceptable.
Interesting Link: Click here to see how many prominent Christians have responded to the Babywise program (which was originally written for a Christian audience). Also, please look at the latest update on the Ezzos here.
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