Thursday, November 25, 2010


There is a fierce opposition in the world to a sleeping method known affectionately as "Crying It Out". This method, coined by Dr. Ferber, originally stated that a baby should be put to bed awake and allowed to cry or fuss until he/she eventually falls asleep. The idea was that babies don't know how to soothe themselves to sleep and that they must LEARN. Sleep is natural; going to sleep is a skill.
Dr. Ferber's ideas were popular for several decades until Dr. Sears finally got loud enough. Eventually, a whole new world of parenting gained momentum. Dr. Sears said NEVER let your baby cry. If your baby is crying, he or she NEEDS something and you could damage your child's psychological skin if you do not help to build your bond of trust by responding to every sound of discomfort. Dr. Sears' following grew so vocal that Dr. Ferber was forced to adapt. An updated version of his book included a modified "Cry It Out", checking on and soothing your baby at intervals instead of just leaving them to cry.
As there are thousands of methods that fall somewhere in between these two extremes, I was forced to research and read about all of them (when I should have been sleeping) to try and decide what kind of parent I was going to be. Am I a CIO or a Sears? If I'm a CIO, am I willing to suffer the slings and arrows of my peers who aren't? Do I wear the badge of "monster mom"? If I'm a Sears, do I give up a majority of my days and nights to ensure my son never, ever has to cry without his mother racing to his rescue? Sure, I brought him into the world and knew that it would be my job to care for him, but does that mean I'm never allowed to sleep again as a consequence?
Then I remembered something about food. That's right. Food. Michael Polan, author of The Carnivore's Dilemma, is often quoted on talk shows as saying, "Don't eat it if your grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food." I decided food is much like sleep, so I referenced Abe's grandmother. I asked, "Did you let me cry until I fell asleep or did you cuddle and love me as much as you possibly could?" And as I suspcted, the answer was indeed somewhere in between. My mother told me that I would cry everytime she talked on the telephone and so, when the phone rang, she put me in my crib. I would usually cry in my crib while my mother chatted. At night if she knew I was fed, clean, and safe, she would let me cry. Occasionally she could come and pat me on the back (because I slept on my belly, too) so that, as she puts it, "I knew she loved me and that I was safe." And on particularly fussy days, my mom would walk back and forth through the living room holding me because she knew I wouldn't be this little forever.
What's the right answer? The right answer is that you do what works for you. On the days that Abe makes me wonder why I gave up pedicures and primetime TV, I may let him cry it out a bit longer. But on the days I know he really needs to be held securely in my arms, I will hold him all day. So on this Thanksgiving I am thankful for friends who don't judge, a baby who smiles so big his face can't even hold it all, a husband who sings ridiculous songs all day long, a mother who remembers in detail the way she raised me, and for my instincts that tell me exactly what is right for my baby boy (the way no book could).

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