why i don't think cio is the devil

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.

During those first few months (and well into toddler-hood) I spent a tremendous amount of time online, looking for answers. I found many who preached the gospel of This Way and others who refuted it with the testimony of That Way. Each had their own anecdotal evidence that backed up their claims. I felt like a failure because I wasn't doing That. I wasn't successful when I tried This. I didn't agree with him, yet here was all this evidence that his was The Way. Thankfully, amongst all the baby-evangelists I happened upon a few voices of reason. Mothers and fathers suggesting that you do what you do as long as it works and then you try something else. So I guess that's the message I'm trying to pass along here. Dear New Mother, There is no single Right Way. You do what works best for you and I'll continue to do what works best for me. And when I find that what I thought was going to work best isn't working and I'm all out of ideas, I'll check in with you and see if you can give me some ideas for where to head next. And if I find something that is really working for me? I'll share it. Not because I believe that you need to do the same thing or you will ruin your child, but because if it gave me a moment of peace, a moment free from worry, a moment in which I could step back and truly enjoy the amazing young man that my son is turning into, it would be inhumane not to share it with you on the off chance that you might be able to tweak it and get similar results.

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.



Amy Jo said...

Very, very well said.

And happy birthday!

Michael Green said...

Lifted from FB (comments following)...

I guess I will step out on a limb and offer my .02 on this discussion. By way of disclosure, I am a conservative Baptist pastor, so that might lump me in the category of ignorant/narrow-minded. On the other hand, I also have some of the best education on child development/stages of development that other people's money can buy :-)

It is obvious to any parent possessing a shred of common sense, that there is not a perfect method. Each family has to seek their own path through personal education and reflection. Most folks that I associate with find a right fit for their family as far as a newborn and sleep. ALL of the women that I have been blessed to befriend on this thread have some differing philosophies, but have done an admirable job with their little ones!

Having said that I will offer a few thoughts for your consideration. Again, they are from my scope of experience, so take them for what they are worth! First, I believe that all people have a need for closeness with others. In the beginning, God said that it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). I think that this especially applies to those that are brand new to this world. Apparently, this was the case with Adam. Imagine if you were dropped in a strange world with no communication skills or the ability to protect yourself. That would be quite a traumatic situation. So goes the life of a baby. Hence, God gives baby a mother and father to see to those needs. This, IMO is worth whatever sacrifice mom and dad must make! God did not leave Adam alone to cry it out in the Garden of Eden

Erik Eriksson believed that the first stage of development from birth to 18 months is critical to the development of trust, and the most significant relationship for baby is with his mother. In my opinion it can be deduced that the helpless baby who is not left alone when crying (whether hungry/wet/hurt or not) will better develop the confidence/skills needed later in life. Those that are left to CIO begin to develop the concept that those who are the center of their world will not come in distress, so how can they count on anyone else? Frankly, any skills beyond that are not developmentally appropriate for a baby until they are 18-24 months old. In other words, the world does revolve around them.

The concept of CIO is a relative new one culturally. Historically, baby was usually always within close proximity of his mother/siblings/extended family and not left to attempt to soothe himself. I would venture to say that this is the case with most of the world's population today. It was not until our country transitioned from an agrarian to an industrial society did this method begin to change. Although the term 'Attachment Parenting' is a new one, the basic tenets have been a part of our culture since its inception. The big shift eventually occurred during the Baby Boomer generation and the exodus of mothers leaving the home for outside employment. Interestingly enough, this was also the time when many of the juvenile 'issues' that we have today began to increase. Something to ponder at the very least.

As far as opposing opinions I hope that those on both ends of the spectrum can exercise caution to not introduce logical fallacies to the present topic. It is a red herring fallacy to claim that one who suggests a biblical approach to tending to a baby is ignorant. It is also a hasty generalization to claim that the posting of the aforementioned article is an indictment on anyone else. It is simply the sharing of another person's perspective. Interestingly enough, the article appears to be written from one Christian to another and (IMO) appeals to scripture without interjecting generalizations or red herrings.

Perhaps, all participants in this discussion can look at the topic objectively without taking it as an attack on their character/parenting. This lends itself to better communication and learning. I will now retreat back under my rock!

Michael Green said...

Susan wrote:
"BTW, the term "Cry-it-out" is most accurately traced back to a book written by Dr. Emmet Holt in 1895. It would be another 7 years before Erik Erikson was born and there while there are some in the field of early child development who believe that Dr. Holt's work provided an impetus for Erikson's later work, there is little direct evidence linking the two. Dr. Holt was a leading figure in pediatrics during his time and his book, "The Care and Feeding of Children" was widely acclaimed, suggesting that his method of allowing infants to fuss for a time before responding to them was also in vogue. Going back further, to the Elizabethan era, it was common practice for infants of the middle and upper classes to be handed off to a wet nurse whose duties often extended to taking care of the other children, the laundry and other household chores as well. Not much is written about whether or not these "nannies" practiced a form of attachment parenting, but it is commonly held that they would not have had the time available to immediately respond to the cries of the infant in their care. I'm sure that given enough time, we could trace both of these parenting styles back through the ages. It seems to me that the legacy of attachment parenting in our culture is as much a mixed bag as any other form of parenting might be.


Michael Green said...

Susan Contd...
I believe, Michael, that our educational backgrounds are quite similar, though I will happily yield to your present work in the field as to what seems to be currently accepted as most appropriate for child development. That being said, I would hope that you would agree that while there are a number of theories or philosophies in vogue at any given time there are no child development/parenting "laws". As I stated in my blog post, it is impossible to empirically test these theories given the wide range of variables that the test subjects would need to be isolated from in order to say with any sort of authority that this way or that way is better or best.

We as parents, educators, and community members (even if that community is limited to the internet) need to keep in those variables in mind, especially when we are in a position of influencing the potential decisions of others. We need to choose our words very carefully. Hyperbolic language is intended to push an audience in one direction or another and stunts further communication and learning. A fellow teacher and I were talking a few days back about the legacy of "No Child Left Behind". Without getting into those details (though I would certainly be open to such a discussion), she said something that I found very profound. "Of course we were on board when NCLB came out," she said. "What educator wants to leave a child behind?" I use that as an illustration for how hyperbolic language (in this case I am referring to the point where the author refers to the infant's " terrible skin-crawling need to be touched") can heighten the pace at which decisions are made. What mother, or father, wants their child to experience such torture? And if, by extension, that is what CIO produces, what mother, or father, would want to bring that to bear on their child? The author forgets to balance that imagery and leaves the reader with an either-or.

CIO can be taken to an extreme. AP can be taken to an extreme. Providing a child with money for the ice cream truck can be taken to an extreme. I don't believe that my use of CIO or your use of AP or even the author's use of AP fall into those outer limits. But since we represent, instead, the middle, we need to be very careful that we don't use rhetoric impulsively. Some lonely, sleep-deprived, post-partum suffering soul might not be able to differentiate between what is simply our perspective and what is absolute.

And with that, I am going to go find MY cozy rock to crawl back under. Maybe we're in the same rocky neighborhood and we can meet for chocolates later?

PS I hope that you recognize the tremendous respect that I feel for you, Michael, and how thankful I am for the respect that you've shown me in our more recent "discussions". Since feelings don't always translate well on-line, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not offended in anyway by anything you or Sarah or any of the other commentors have had to say here. I love you both and value your input -- recognizing that because we do see things so differently, I can learn a lot that I wouldn't necessarily encounter by cloistering myself with individuals who see things more or less the same way I do.

Sarah: Sorry I hijacked your comments! I probably should have put this in a blog post too... I LOVE YOU!!!! I AM NOT OFFENDED!!!!! And I hope that I have not offended you.

Peace, over, and out!"

Michael Green said...

Hi Susan!

No offense taken whatsoever. I do not think that we are terribly far apart in our philosophies on this particular issue. Hopefully, we linger somewhere around common sense :-)

I enjoy a good debate every now and then. It is good to knock the dust off the ole brain and be forced to think a little differently. You are a great mom, wife, sister, daughter, and human in general. Don't sell yourself short. As I said on FB, of all my favorite sister-in-laws, you are one of them :-)

I love you too (I am pretty sure that Sarah does as well ;-)) and value your insights. You are welcome under my rock any time. We keep DeBrand's Fine Chocolates down here. Seriously, let me know if there is anything I can do to help you.


Michael Green said...

Curse you character limitations!!

susan said...

Or perhaps it is my wordiness that we need to be cursing? I notice that both of your comments fit neatly into the Blogger defined character limitations...)

Thank you, Michael, for pasting and posting the rest of our FB discussion into the comment section here. I like the continuity of having our entire conversation in one place rather than being spread out over a series of posts.

I also left the following comments on the FB thread, but feel that they belong with this conversation as well:

" Just for clarification: I have no problem with parents who choose to use something other than CIO. Having seen firsthand how fiercely and unequivocally both my sister (S)* and my cousin (E)** love and care for their children, I have nothing but respect for the choices that they have made for their own families, regardless of how different they might be from the decisions I have made for my own. (And after re-reading my post, I will be going back to edit the next to last paragraph since it does leave the impression with the reader that I have a problem with the AP philosophy.)*** What I DO have a problem with is the way that the author of this article suggests that her way is the ONLY way. The sky is blue. Ice is frozen water. Those are absolutes. I believe it is reckless to suggest that there are absolutes when it comes to parenting."


"S*: I was not offended by you posting the link. I know that this is a subject close to you heart and because it was something you found meaningful enough to post, I took the time to check it out. I have no problem with this writer providing her own perspective, even backing it with her religious beliefs, any more than I would have been offended by a Muslim/Jewish/Wiccan mother writing about her parenting choices and offering her own texts as "proof" that her views are valid. My concern is for the young/new/soon-to-be mother who finds her post and feels like a failure because she has considered the CIO method and is now reading that it is selfish and sinful to do the very thing she finds most instinctive and useful for her own family. Whether or not this post was written with a particular audience in mind, it has been put out for the world at large to find. What about the non-intended audience member who finds it? My post is simply my way of balancing the internet-cosmos and offering another view.

Michael: I do not believe that it is ignorant to base ones decisions on ones religion. I do believe that it is ignorant to suggest that any other path is inadequate."

*, ** Names removed because I haven't asked to use them.

*** This paragraph has been edited to add the words "I believe..." to many of the original statements that I had made. My goal is not to come across as an authority with some sort of irrefutable proof, but rather to provide another perspective based on my own experiences.

Tracey Laurel said...

Remember the old saying "If Mama ain't happy..."?

I think of it this way. A happy mama is a mama who is following her instincts. If you feel most confident sticking to a schedule, then schedule away. If you are most comfortable taking the moment as it comes, then put away the lists and calendars and let the moment come. A secure baby is a baby who is confident that he is being cared for confidently. Trying to mold your personality to fit into someone else's image is like banging your head into a wall repeatedly and looking for a pot of gold in the indentation. Big headache, no prize.

Lora said...

By way of disclosure, I am a liberal agnostic social worker, so that might lump me in the category of ignorant/narrow-minded.

As someone who has spent every working/waking moment of the past 5+ years dedicated to parenting, whether in the trenches of parenting my own child or in the study of parenting practices or in the implementation of parenting classes, I think I'm well qualified to say that CIO is a viable option. It's not for everyone, but as long as a parent is sure that the child is warm and dry and fed, it is not abuse nor mistreatment.

Are we meant to soothe our children? of course. No one would dispute that. But we are also meant to soothe ourselves. And it is our role as parents to acclimate our children to the ways of the world. If we do not teach them to soothe themselves, they will be poorly received in society and they will not be able to process things that are thrown at them daily in the course of life.

Should we teach them this from birth? I say yes, some say no.

As someone who has seen several newborns abused and even killed by their exhausted parents, I would recommend anyone to allow their child to cry in a warm safe place (crib) if he/she is too overwhelmed to soothe the child.

While I do not believe you can hold a child too much or "spoil" a baby by providing constant contact, I do believe that a parent needs some separation from the infant in order to replenish the strength needed to effectively and positively parent a child. Namely, SLEEP. A parent needs sleep.

And sometimes a mom needs to poop.

I'd venture to say most parents know the difference between a distress cry and a whiney cry. I never knew whether my baby was cold or tired or dirty or hungry, but I knew when he needed something or when he was just fussing.

You are doing an amazing job with A. You have always done an amazing job with A. You will always do an amazing job with A.

Anonymous said...

I am appalled that you would even think it is appropriate to break your child's spirit just so that you can get a few more hours of sleep. I find it very easy to wait to use the bathroom or if I need to I can poop with my child on my lap. I guess it is just more important for some parents to have a spiritless, compliant child than a happy baby. I guess when you kid is willing to follow anyone around and do what anyone tells them you, you'll be happy about that, too.

susan said...

Oh, goodie, Anonymous has joined the discussion! First of all, thanks for using spell-check. Misspellings are just too easy to take a shot at.

Second: Congratulations on choosing to unnecessarily expose your child to the bacteria and germs spewed into the air each time the toilet flushes (unless, of course, you remember to close the lid. In which case, I'm guessing that although the face of the child you are holding is closer to the toilet than your own while you close the lid, at least the only germs you are exposing him/her to are the ones on your hands before you wash. You do remember to wash, don't you?) Oh, wait, that was only part of what you said. Well, if you can read selectively, then I suppose it's okay for me to, also.

Third: I have to laugh at the idea that my child is anything remotely resembling "spiritless" or "compliant". Come spend an hour or two with him. I have plenty of sleep to catch up on and wouldn't mind the unexpected babysitting one little bit. You can also use that time to judge whether or not he's happy. I hope that you'll try to introduce him to the wonders of being kept in close proximity to another person. Being the kind of person who thrives on touch myself, it would be great if you could teach him to sit still long enough for me to catch a hug or two.

Finally: Why don't we hold judgement on where our children are going to wind up until they are a little closer to being old enough to making and keeping the same friend for longer than the 30 seconds that it takes for them to find someone else who is playing with something much cooler and proclaim that person their "best best best best best best best .... friend in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD". Meet me in 10 years and we'll compare notes.

Wait a second, we can't meet up and compare notes, (much less can you come and give me that break I was talking about earlier) because you've chosen to hide yourself under the veil of anonymity. Even I know it would be negligent to turn my kid over to someone who won't put their name on their ideas.

Uncloak yourself the next time you wish to join the conversation. Until then, keep your ideas to yourself and leave my friends alone. I may not agree with everything they say, but at least I respect them.

susan said...

Dearest Lora,

I love you from the tip of your toes all the way up to your liberally agnostic socially dedicated heart! It's your kind of ignorance and narrow mindedness that saved me from the hell of thinking I needed to raise my son the way I had been raised. Virtual coffee soon?