She is sitting with her back to me as we approach the park.
Did I mention that we're having Aaron tested to see if he fits somewhere along the autism spectrum? I know, I know! If only I had taken the time to hold my baby instead of isolating him in his jail-like bed at the far end of the house with nothing but a BPA laced bottle decorated with licensed characters in lead paint filled with Nestle Good Start and violence filled television programming for hours on end while I selfishly slept and pooped alone, maybe he wouldn't be so messed up at the tender age of 5. If you've met my kid (which is my not so direct way of saying "don't bother commenting on what I've done wrong unless you've met my kid"), you know that he has always been his own person. If he has been over to your house you know all about his fixation with light switches and how he has to try them all out to make sure that they do the same thing in your house that they do in ours. Chances are he's even tried to explain to you how he thinks the wires in your walls/electronics/body work to carry the energy to and fro, making things work. Remember his blankie? Still very much an integral part of his life. And yes, I've been informed that an oral fixation is likely the result of weaning him off the breast before he was ready. Not by anyone with any formal training, mind you, but doesn't research via Google count as just as good as a medical degree? When the director at his preschool (I desert him there three days a week while I go out and have a wild time doing things like grocery shopping! Cleaning the house! Going to therapy! Volunteering at a local elementary school! You just wish your life was so glamourous.) pulled me aside and asked me if I had ever considered having him tested, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Bricks of relief, that is. Relief that I wasn't teetering dangerously close to the edge of munchausen because I was finding myself questioning his "normal-ness" with increasing frequency. Of course, those bricks were generously mortared together with guilt. Why had it taken me so long to take steps to get my suspicions checked out? Why did it take someone else pointing it out, confirming my thoughts to push me to do something?
posted by susan at Tuesday, February 08, 2011
I'm trying so hard to just keep out of this (and all other controversy that doesn't directly impact my present life), but as a former member of the CIO camp, I feel that some balance is needed in the discussion. Not, I recognize, that there is much discussion going on over here lately. But maybe, just maybe, I keep thinking, someone will stumble on my site while trying to make sense of where they want to fit into this conversation. Maybe, just maybe, that someone will find comfort in the notion that we don't all have to make the same parenting choices to be supportive, nurturing parents. So here's my 2 cents, the long version.
First: I am confident that it is rare amongst those of us who make the choice to let our children learn to soothe themselves to sleep to find a parent who began sleep training in the "first few months". Aaron was in his own room, in his own bed from the third week of his life on. For our entire family to function safely it was critical that we all get an appropriate amount of sleep. Josh had up to an hour commute depending on the Philadelphia weather/traffic during the winter following Aaron's birth and it certainly didn't make sense to send the sole-bread winner out into the snowy, icy streets on less than 5 hours of sleep. Because of the nature of his job at the time, it wasn't uncommon for him to receive a call after midnight that he would have to respond in person to, nor was it rare for him to have to get up to leave the house before 4 in the morning. And, again, given my inability to sleep through rain, every rustle, hiccough, breath that Aaron took in his Moses basket by our bed during that first week woke me with a start. New-mom panic led me to check on him every time I woke up. (The word "check" here being defined as picking him up because in my sleep deprived state I wasn't absolutely certain that yes, I did see his chest rise and yes, I did feel his breath or was that just a figment of my imagination, better pick him up and make sure.) I/he slept, on average, 2 hours a night those first weeks. I have no idea how much sleep Josh got. When we moved him into his own room, we finally began to find a rhythm that included sleep for all of us. The baby monitor was on 24/7 and as an extremely light sleeper, I was often awake long before his rustles became cries. On those long nights that he just couldn't seem to settle down, I slept in the big comfy chair in his room. I attended to his needs on as much on demand as any other mother, AP, CIO, MOM, [whatever acronym you wish to insert], would have.
At 4 or 5 months old, several weeks after Aaron had given up his middle of the night feeding, we began the process of letting him soothe himself back to sleep when he would wake in the middle of the night. He no longer needed me for sustenance, of that much we were certain. If Josh were to go to him in the middle of the night, he would settle right down and go back to sleep for another 3-4 hours. If I went into him in the middle of the night, he wanted to stall. He'd tug at my shirt. I'd think, "Oh, he's hungry!". We'd sit down to nurse. He'd play with my nose, my ear, my chin. I'd return him to nursing. He'd dribble milk down his chin and reach for my hair. I'd think, "Maybe he's got a bubble." I'd pat his back. He'd gum on my shoulder. I'd think, "Well, he's definitely hungry, then." I'd return him to nursing. He'd push back from my arms and reach for my nose. At some point it became obvious that he was equating "Mom" with "play". An adorable trait at 3pm. At 3am? Not so much. And with Josh still getting up to leave the house by 5am at the latest, (see above explanation) I wasn't keen on sending my husband out on the icy roads sleep-deprived day after day, blah blah blah. So we began the experiment of teaching Aaron to self soothe. We began an experiment in letting him cry it out.
We did not come up with "our" plan on our own. We used bits and pieces from others who had posted about their own experiences in finding a family rhythm that fit them better than the more popular attachment parenting method. We took a bit from here, a bit from there, tweaked it a little there, and adapted it as needed. A process, I'm certain, familiar to most who have taken a step off the current-trend-in-parenting path. A process, I'm confident, familiar to most who follow the current trend. Our plan looked like this: Final nursing at 10pm. Tuck Aaron into bed, drowsy, but not asleep. Leave the room. Aaron would talk to himself for 5-10 minutes, then fall to sleep. Sometime between 1 and 3 am, Aaron would wake himself up. I would let him fuss for 5 minutes, then go into his room to settle him back down. I would pick him up, pat his back, whatever felt appropriate to the moment, tuck him back into bed drowsy but not asleep and leave the room. He would talk to himself for 1-2 minutes, then start to fuss again. I would let him go for 10 minutes this time, then go back into his room and settle him back down. Then 15 minutes, then 20 minutes. He never once fussed longer than 20 minutes. It seemed like an eternity, but my wristwatch showed that it was only 17 minutes at the peak. That "traumatic" night happened 8 days into our little experiment. On night 9, he woke me up as usual. I soothed him, put him back to bed, and set my watch to begin the countdown. I woke up at 6am and rushed into his room, certain that he was dead. New-mom panic led me to "check"(see above) on him. He grinned at me as he woke up and reached up to tug at my nose. I haven't been able to join in the sleep-deprivation mommy talk with any regularity since.
Second: In reference to an infant old enough to begin sleeping through the night on his own, I find this sentence a tad on the melodramatic side (see entire article at http://parentingfreedom.com/cry-it-out/):
For a few minutes a day, his longing is suspended and his terrible skin-crawling need to be touched, to be held and moved about, is relieved.I can only speak from my personal experience, but my own child is enough to firmly convince me that all children do not have a "terrible skin-crawling need to be touched..."
From the day we brought him home, this was Aaron's preferred position to be held in. He would tolerate being held closer only if he was actively nursing or if he was asleep. He would fuss if he was held for too long in a position that kept him from taking in what was going on around him. He hated, hated, HATED to be carried around in that sling thingy until the day that I finally decided he had good enough neck control to be turned around. Even then he fought against the confinement of being held so tightly against my body. Mine is a child who feels confined when embraced too long or too tight. Mine is a child who wants to see it all and take it all in at a distance before he is forced to feel/try/embrace it for himself.
Mine is also a child who firmly believes that the world revolves around him and only him. And this brings me to my third point -- the idea that not immediately responding to the wants of a child is because of "our selfish, sinful nature desires to neglect our own children." I would argue, instead, that by not immediately responding to every whim and want of my child, I am fulfilling what I consider to be my most important role as a parent. I believe that I am preparing my son to recognize that others have needs, too, and that the needs of others are every bit as valid as his own. I believe that I am teaching Aaron that "want" doesn't always equal "need". When I tell him "I will play that game with you after I finish cleaning out the dishwasher", I believe that I am teaching him the skills of respect and responsibility that he will need to become a contributing member of society. I don't believe that older children will learn that "babies are inconvenient, and we must prevent them from interfering with our lives by controlling and ignoring them" because their mother (or father) chooses to allow her littlest one to fuss for a few minutes before responding unless the mother (or father) responds in a manner that suggests that babies are inconvenient, etc. I do believe that taking a "wait a minute" approach could be looked at as an opportunity to teach older children the skill of quiet observation -- that not everything has to be "fixed" right now -- that we as humans are endowed with the incredible ability to negotiate and work things out for ourselves given the right support, tools, and encouragement. I believe that my role, as a mother, is not to be a necessity to my child. Instead, I believe my focus must be on preparing him to live free from me, successfully. I chose to sleep train with my child. Not because of religious pressure, not because of "...childhood issues of abandonment, or [because I] may be lacking certain nutrients in [my] diet.", but because it was what worked best for my family.
My final thought is this: it is impossible to prove that one method of parenting is best. There is no way to limit the number of variables to absolutely prove that this way works and that way damages. No two children are exactly the same. Even with identical twins, one was born shortly before the other, rendering any further testing unusable simply because it is impossible to rule out that difference in time when accounting for differences in the results. Parents are not exactly the same with each child each moment of each day. Personalities differ child to child. Hormones fluctuate. Work stress, diet, family shifts, weather changes, differences in sleep... it all plays a role in keeping this game of parenting from being something that can be mastered. I'll even allow for the possibility that if we hadn't chosen to sleep train Aaron that he would have decided on his own on night 9 to give up his middle of the night playtime. I can't test that theory, though, and there is no benefit in second guessing myself at this point in time.
Suggesting that there is a "better way"? Without first stopping to consider all the twists and turns that led to the way that was taken in the first place? It is, quite simply, irresponsible. It's ignorance at it's absolute worst. Fear of something different, of there being another way driving us to separate into artificial groups of them vs us. It's the biggest waste of our time. And I don't know about you, but I'm finding that time is the last thing I have enough of to waste these days.
posted by susan at Wednesday, February 02, 2011