When I decided I wanted to write a story about letting your baby cry it out, and my fine editor at Chicago Parent approved the idea, I never thought I’d be sitting here, 10 months later telling you that I let my research for the “balanced” story get to me. The story came out last month, but I had long since decided that I wasn’t going to let my baby cry it out anymore. If you remember, I posted about this topic for the very first blog post for Second City Baby. It got quite a few comments and I was pretty adamant about my position – I let my kid cry and self-soothe until he figured it out and slept through the night.
But I’ve changed. I wrote that article balanced for a reason, but what I didn’t publish were the notes from my lengthy and informative conversation with Dr. James McKenna of the Mother-Baby Sleep Laboratory at Notre Dame. I don’t know exactly why – if it is because it’s my second child, if it’s because I already did the CIO and he was sleeping great at night, if it was his soothing voice and demeanor, or because I really believe what he says is the truth – but our conversation hit a nerve. From the moment I wrote up my notes from the interview, my husband and I have been running into the baby’s room as soon as he makes a peep. He literally doesn’t cry for more than 1 minute for anything now. I think my four-year-old is now a terrible sleeper because I never went into console him when he cried at night as a baby. Now he fears sleeping alone. I don’t blame him. I’m not advocating for attachment parenting or co-sleeping. Neither or for me, but I now feel strongly that I cannot leave my one-year-old crying unattended. So I’m not.
I know some of you commented on my last post on the topic and asked me in person about why I changed my mind, and so after combing through the conversation I had with Dr. McKenna I wanted to post some of the soundbites and excerpts that really struck a chord with me and that weren’t published in my article. I’m not an expert in this area and I’d never claim to be. I’m just a mom who had access to an interesting expert on the topic sharing some information. I’d love to know what you think. Would you change your tune?
Notes/ Excerpts from interview with Dr. James McKenna June 2010:
About babies from “Westernized” cultures. (The thought being that parents from other civilizations and countries are much more relaxed about sleep patterns of their babies):
What we’ve done to babies in western culture- we’ve socially constructed ideas about the way we want them to be and live and the problem is that babies will never get the cultural memo because we are never as close to our genes or without culture and learned behavior as we are when we are babies.
They [babies] want to be held and with their parents. This is what 100,000 years of human evolution history will be. no cultural memo will be negated and no science can’t disprove why babies might cry. The reason they call their parents is it is in their adaptive best interest and their bodies are designed to do it.
That there’s no such thing as a “good” baby:
We know culture has taught us certain things and we’ve risen to a certain concept of the good vs. bad baby. And there is no such thing. There are just babies. The good baby is labeled because they sleep through the night, there are no such thing as bad babies- it’s an ideologically based value – some middle class white guy who never took care of babies made this up so everyone strives to get this “good” baby. babies are designed for different things.
On the generalizations of “proper” sleep behavior:
The stringent and terrible generalizations of what babies should be are generalizations like weapons, nothing to do with scientific evidence of who babies are and what they do, but they are all generalizations of how a western 6 month baby should do. Any child is not independent. The harder you push at the start, the less confident they will become. They need to secure all the confidence and affection and touching, and grooming as much as a child can possibly get when they’re young to get them to be resilient, adaptable, and be with others.
Even with all you hear with the solitary sleep baby being independent never had one scientific study shown that to be true. Lingering mythology that have been disproved when the child becomes an adult.
There is no developmental advantage to self soothing. never even meant to me any concept of development – not a developmental milestone.
You’re told everywhere it’s important and you think it’s emerging from research – we have the least happy and the most exhausted and the most well read parents in the world. and we are the least satisfied parents in the world with our children sleeping behavior. That’s because all of our parents are reading ideas of what their babies should be and how they should sleep and it has nothing to do with babies but with cultural ideologies which are recent developments.
(I think it was that soundbite above that really got me.)
On breastfeeding babies and sleep (again, not promoting breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, just reporting my notes):
The whole paradigm of infant sleep was modified based on bottle fed babies. The 6 month old breastfeeding baby wakes up to feed. they priviledged sleep over baby nutrition – growing a brain in the best possible way and it doesn’t sleep through the night because it’s drinking mothers milk and it burns calories quickly and they certainly don’t need to consolidate their sleep at 4 months of age.
(My notes – he studies breast fed babies) – how sleep architecture- two related processes – metabolism and delivery of breastmilk- critical processes of how babies sleep – the smells, the affect of giving the milk, and then once the baby takes the milk it changes heart rate and body temp and those are critically important.
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