12 January, 2011

Why I don't let my baby cry...

Every baby cries. It's just something that goes along with having a baby. They cry when they are hungry, cold, tired, too hot, need to be changed...babies cry for a lot of reasons since they don't have the language down yet. It's how they let mom and dad know that they NEED something.

After months and months of long nights, and being sleep deprived, moms and dads are generally at the end of their ropes. I know, I've been there. That's when the advice starts in. "Let your baby just cry in his/her crib. It's okay." "I did the [insert method type here] method, and it worked perfectly for us! Now so and so just goes to sleep and sleeps all night!"

While, IN THEORY, we'd all love for there to just be something magical that happens that makes babies sleep through the night and not cry. I would have loved it with Reilly, and I would love it now with Ophelia. Tons of different doctors have written books on how to get your baby to sleep though the night with different CIO (cry it out) methods, and people who use said methods claim that they work.

 The Ferber Method tells parents to leave their baby in his/her room, and check on them periodically, until they fall asleep, starting with small time frames, and working your way up. (ie - check on your baby after 3 mins, then 5 mins, then 10 mins, until your baby falls asleep.) In theory, this could work without letting your baby cry. But those of us with babies know that if they are upset and NEED something, they are crying (read: not fussing) before those three minutes are up. Ophelia can go from happy to sweaty crying in a minute. (Usually in the car). I honestly don't know many parents that can handle their child crying for three minutes when they know that there is something that they can do about it.

Gary Ezzo (read: not a doctor) created a method called Babywise.  He created (along with his wife) a parent-directed routine for babies. Suggesting that they have a strict schedule of eating, sleeping and play time. Here is an excerpt from the website:

Babywise presents a parent-directed schedule or "routine" for nursing, napping and wake-times to give parents control over their baby's day. The Ezzos believe this promotes character formation in the infant by giving the baby experience in delayed gratification and submission to parental direction. By contrast, they have portrayed demand feeding of infants as a dangerous, child-centered practice which indulges undisciplined desires for instant gratification.

I'm sure you all read that and this weird contorted facial expression came over your face, and if we had word bubbles, yours (and mine) would probably be censored. I have the biggest problem with this guy. His methods have been linked to failure to thrive and poor weight gain in infants because he preaches that feeding your baby on demand is spoiling them and that your children are trying to manipulate you by crying. To be honest, I have considered testing the pediatricians that see Ophelia and asking them if they have anything to try to get her to sleep through the night and see if they recommend this guy. Thankfully the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), as of the late 90's, has stated that this isn't a healthy method to follow. (Here is a resource link filled with good info: http://www.rickross.com/reference/gfi/gfi5.html)

Personally, I've never used a CIO method. I never let my babies CIO. I think the first time I let Reilly "cry herself to sleep" was when she was about 19-20 months old. By that time, she knew it was bedtime. She knew I was there. She was just fighting it. Within 5 minutes of letting her "CIO", she was asleep. I wouldn't even consider it CIO....She was standing in her playpen, "yelling" at me, stomping her feet, and just refusing to lay down. Once she laid down though, she was out. We've never had a problem with Reilly needing to be cuddled to sleep or sleep in my bed for long periods of time...she just goes to sleep. And she's a great sleeper.

The point is, babies cry. They cry because they NEED something. My baby...my 4 month old baby...isn't trying to manipulate me. Hell, Reilly didn't even try to start manipulating me until she was about 3. If you think that its okay to just let your baby cry, even after all their basic needs (ie: hunger, warmth, diaper) have been met, you are just plain wrong. A basic need for infants consists also of being close to mom and dad. Getting cuddled. Being held. Sometimes, babies just want to be held....to be close. Ophelia does it all the time. Yea, she has periods of the day where she is perfectly content hanging out in her swing, or laying on her play mat or the couch and just playing. But other times of the day (mostly at night) she just wants to be loved on. And why should I deny my baby something that can so easily be given, just to do things around the house?

my sleeping baby. fell asleep WITHOUT crying.
A lot of mom's and dad's get defensive when you bring up the fact that babies shouldn't be left to just cry. I have a theory as to why. When we leave our babies to cry, it tugs at our heart strings. When Ophelia (or even Reilly still) cries, I physically hurt. All I want to do is cuddle her till she can't be cuddled anymore. And sure it gets frustrating (especially those babies with colic), but my job as a mom is to comfort my children. And I honestly believe that the reason people who use the CIO methods get so defensive is because they feel guilty that they let their babies just cry.

Crying isn't just bad for mom and dad, who feel emotionally (and sometimes physically) bad for letting their babies cry. Of course its bad for babies. Our babies depend on us to be there for them. And what happens when we aren't? What happens when they are left all by themselves to cry? They come to realize that mommy and daddy aren't going to be there to fulfill their needs. "I'm crying. No one is coming. My needs aren't being met. I'm all alone." And honestly, who needs that? Research has found that leaving babies to CIO can cause brain damage. (http://www.drmomma.org/2009/12/crying-it-out-causes-brain-damage.html - this was done in 2006, but still.)

So why would you subject your child to just cry it out, feel abandoned and alone, when you, the parent, could do something about it? Even just holding your child while they are crying is better than just sitting your child down, away from you while they are crying.

It's just something Brad and I aren't fans of. We don't let our babies, especially Ophelia, cry.

(side note: if you feel like you may hurt your child because of their crying, please just place them down in a safe spot, like their crib or swing in a separate room, and step out for a few minutes. One of the biggest causes of baby injury is Shaken Baby Syndrome. It can be prevented, and stepping away for a few minutes to clear your head or take a break is better than a dead or brain damaged baby. Please DON'T SHAKE YOUR CHILD! They did nothing wrong.)

1 comment:

Annika said...

Nicely said! One of the books I read w/my first kid had a nice point about not leaving your baby alone to cry; basically it said you should put yourself in their place - imagine yourself crying & scared, and *then* having everyone you love & trust walk away from you... It was one of those simple points that really stuck with me.

OF course, my kids are terrible sleepers & end up in my bed every night. But since I love them like crazy, and they're already getting older than I can stand, I can think of worse consequences... :)