I’ve been learning and reading a ton lately on parenting styles. Specifically the ones floating around in the camp of the Attachment Parenting, Gentle Discipline styles. I’ve always felt that one is obligated to be informed about both sides of an issue before making a decision or having an opinion, and sadly I haven’t done as much research as perhaps I should have on this issue.
The issue that’s in the forefront of my mind these days is sleep issues. Isaac has never been a “great sleeper”, but he’s never been “the worst” either. Right now we are dealing with him resisting falling asleep at nap/bedtime.
Here’s the thing… there are generally two approaches to getting a baby/toddler to sleep: 1) let him cry it out (CIO) / sleep training, and 2) “parenting-to-sleep”, for lack of a better term. I know for a fact that I have friends on both sides of the debate. Some who have kids, some who don’t yet. There are people for whom I hold great respect on both sides.
We have let Isaac cry it out in the past, to varying degrees of “success”, however we have recently decided that we want to avoid that method from now on. I’m sure some would say we “weren’t consistent enough”, or whatever… but the nitty-gritty of parenting is that it’s not always black and white. There is a lot of “using your judgment/intuition”, which can be confusing at times! You can let him cry and have him doing great, bedtime is a (somewhat) breeze… then wham! he gets a cold. Well, it’s kinda cruel (in my opinion) to let a child who is sick cry it out. Especially because crying only increases the snottiness, until they can barely breathe, etc. So you rock him, and wait until he’s better, then everything is undone!
There is also the issue of *why* he is crying… some believe that a child who is well-fed, with a clean diaper, given snuggles, etc. should be put down to “learn to fall asleep on his own”, and that if he cries, there is nothing actually wrong… he just doesn’t *want* to be alone. Others believe that a child who cries is communicating a legitimate need for physical/emotional closeness. I’ve heard it said that a child who is always rocked/nursed/whatever to sleep will not learn to fall asleep on their own, and will continue to wake up in the night, etc. etc. Parents on the other side of the debate, however, will say that the CIO method “works” only because the baby learns that the parent will not respond to their cries, and thus gives up and falls asleep feeling abandoned.
I have always wondered in the back of my mind… why is it that we (in Western culture) *expect* babies to fall asleep on their own? Most other cultures in the world do not expect their babies to fall asleep without a parent, and stay asleep through the whole night. So where did this expectation come from?
My hunch at this point is that we place these expectations of control on our children, because we are a very “control-driven” culture. We expect to be able to control them, and when they act like, well, children, we seek to “train” them to be more like adults, so that they cease to inconvenience us and our lives. I’m not so sure this is a good thing.
I don’t want to say that the only other option is to rock him for an hour and half until he settles down and falls asleep. I want to find other solutions that will work in a peaceful and gentle manner. There of course many nuances between each stage of babyhood and toddlerhood (rocking a tiny baby to sleep is pretty much just part of the job, whereas with an older baby/toddler there enters into the equation a battle of wills or show of resistance in falling asleep).
The answers are elusive right now, but I am praying for patience and joy in the journey. My babe deserves nothing less, and I want to respect his needs as well as the needs of the rest of my family.
Opinions? Thoughts? Come on, I know you’re out there… feel free to speak up in the comments! (Just keep it respectful and loving of course!)
Keeping it real & humble…