Friday, November 30, 2012

Cry It Out and Co-Sleeping

I've been doing some extensive research on crying it out this week. It was something that never seemed to sit right with me, even before I was a mother. I'm also a huge advocate for co-sleeping, and and safe bedsharing as well if suitable for your lifestyle. The two obviously don't work well together.

Reading some psychology articles on crying it out (sometimes known as the Ferber method), it is obvious that this method of "sleep training" has some dangerous and long term repercussions. This Psychology Today post debunks the myths that CIO helps babies become more independent. In fact, they become more insecure. Some points in the article include the following:  Neurons die, disordered stress reactivity can be established as a pattern for life, self-regulation is undermined, trust is undermined, caregiver sensitivity may be harmed, caregiver responsiveness to the needs of the baby is related to most if not all positive child outcomes, and more (to read more on these topics, clink the link above).

Yesterday was a hard day for us. My baby girl was crying almost all day. Crying is a baby's means of communication. It was horrible for me, hearing her cry and not know what was wrong. I responded in every way I knew how. We took a bath, nursed as often as she would take the breast, we cuddled, changed diapers frequently, and she would calm down and start crying again. Every fiber of my being screams for me to respond to my baby when I hear her cry. This is totally normal. For this reason I don't understand how parents can let their children just lay in bed and cry.

About two weeks ago I was at the mall with my daughter, checking out at a store, and the cashier was taking to me about her son, only a few weeks older than my little one.  She had to return to work before she wanted because she risked losing some of the benefits of her job and a demotion if she didn't (don't even get me started on America's sucky maternity leave system). She was explaining to me how she has to let her son cry at night so he can get used to her being gone during the day and how she goes outside to sit on her porch and cry because of how much his crying affects her. That's because her instincts are telling her to comfort her baby!

Many parents choose the CIO method because they want their  baby to sleep through the night so they can sleep more. One thing many people fail to realize, is that it is totally normal for a baby not to sleep "through the night" for many months. Many toddlers still get up and need something before going back to sleep. This is where co-sleeping, and/or bedsharing comes in.

A practice commonly associated with attachment parenting, co-sleeping means your child sleeps in the same room as you, may it be bassinet, attachable co-sleeper, crib, etc. It is often mistaken with bedsharing, which is the term for having your child sleep in the same bed as you. Both of these are easy solutions for the new baby sleep problem. It's so easy to wake up, nurse the baby in bed, and put her back in the bassinet. Or just leave her in bed with you. Once 2:00am hits, my baby sleeps til we get up for the day. And its just an easier transition for her to bassinet (or stay in bed, we do both), than to get up and go into a separate room and such.

Notre Dame Professor James McKenna is well known for his research on co-sleeping, which you can read more about here. He says in this post that co-sleeping improves the rest of both baby and mother, and for breastfeeders, improves milk supply and probability of continuing to breastfeed, among other things.

The point of this post is to remember that it is normal for babies to cry, and necessary to respond to them. I tie it in with co-sleeping because its a great alternative to CIO. Your baby will sleep through the night when ready. My baby goes back in forth, depending on her day and stimulation. Please go to your baby and comfort them. Don't let them feel abandoned and alone.

To read more on Cry It Out, click the following links:
Babies Need Touch

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