I know I’m a little “late to the game” when it comes to this parenting topic, but it’s something I’ve been researching more and more these past couple of weeks.
The reason? Every time– EVERY TIME– I’ve tried to put Gregory on a “schedule”, it’s only served to bring us both grief.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that parenting is “one-size fits all”. Far from it! But I also don’t think that it’s the baby’s sole responsibility to fit into the parents’ lifestyle. As I put it to someone last week, I’m the one who’s had 25 years to learn to control my passions. A baby isn’t even chemically able to, at this point! So it seems silly to demand that the baby learn to fit my lifestyle, instead of the other way around.
On the other hand, we can only do as much as we are able. This involves taking into account our individual personalities. Some parents need their personal space more than others, and simply cannot consider Attachment Parenting.
I’ve tried putting Gregory to sleep on his own, many times. Sometimes, it works like a charm. Other times, he wails helplessly. I’ve never tested how long he can go before stopping. Hearing him cry like that makes me feel nauseous. The few times I’ve tried letting him cry for 10-15 minutes at a time, I’ve accidentally cut, burnt, scratched and bruised myself, sometime in pretty major ways, all without even realizing it! I think my brain and my body detach whenever he begins to cry.
And then there’s the fact that it’s always felt instinctually wrong to let G cry it out. Perhaps it only comes down to his personality. Perhaps I have the only child in the world who wails if I’m not near him when he falls asleep.
If he responded differently, I suppose that my response would be different. Then again, that’s kind of the point, right? Learning to understand the individual child, not some example in a textbook. Not buying wholesale into any one method, just because some author says so. I think that many of motherhood’s mistakes could be rectified if we only chose to listen to our instincts more than the “experts”. Every time I’ve done this with G, it’s been incredibly rewarding for the two of us. I learn to trust my gut, and he learns to trust me and finds peace in the fact that he communicated his needs effectively.
The main way which I am wrestling with Attachment Parenting is when it comes to naps and sleeping through the night. I cannot stress this enough– G falls asleep easily, without fail, and for long periods of time, just so long as I am lying beside him, carrying him in a sling, or sleeping in the same room. This past Sat. night, for example, he slept 9 hours. Straight. That’s becoming a more frequent occurrence as he sleeps more and more in our room/bed. We’ve never done any sort of sleep training, any sort of strict “bedtime”. All we’ve done is fall asleep beside him. Easy.
In fact, trying to rely on the clock has only made our evenings miserable. I would love to have the flexibility that comes with a schedule, but not at the expense of my family and my child’s psychological health.
So, as a result of many unanswered questions, I’ve been researching Attachment Parenting, in an effort to see if I’m following any sort of model.
Turns out, by listening to my instincts on these particular subjects, I am!
From ATI’s website:
Parents who are frustrated with frequent waking or who are sleep deprived may be tempted to try sleep training techniques that recommend letting a baby cry in an effort to “teach” him to “self-soothe”. New research suggests that these techniques can have detrimental physiological effects on the baby by increasing the stress hormone cortisol in the brain, with potential long term effects to emotional regulation, sleep patterns and behavior. An infant is not neurologically or developmentally capable of calming or soothing himself to sleep in a way that is healthy. The part of the brain that helps with self-soothing isn’t well developed until the child is two and a half to three years of age. Until that time, a child depends on his parents to help him calm down and learn to regulate his intense feelings.
I’ve definitely seen this to be true with G. Half of the reason he can never self-soothe when he’s by himself is because he doesn’t know how to calm himself down. He gets intensely lonely and upset when left by himself. In order to break him of this, I’m afraid I’d have to break the part of him that loves having us around!
One of the arguments against Attachment Parenting is that the child will never learn independence. Again, never? Seriously? The “never” part of the statement seems to be operating on pure fear. “If I do this one thing that seems right, I will be locked into this method. FOREVER.” I have not met a child yet who lacked a desire for independence. From the looks of it, I don’t think G will be any different. So I think it’d be foolish to ignore his cries for love and affection in favor of a long-term possibility. Why worry about tomorrow’s problems now?
Also, putting children on a set schedule can actually take away their independence, teaching them to trust a clock over what their own body is naturally telling them!
Help your child learn to trust her body when she is tired by recognizing the signs of tiredness, and not forcing her to sleep when she is not tired, or keeping her awake when she is tired, just for the sake of a routine.
More from ATI’s website on Solitary Sleep:
It’s important to note that infant solitary sleep is a relatively new practice that has evolved in the western world only within the last 100 years. Recently, there have been efforts by various medical and professional organizations to discourage parents from sleeping with their children for fear that it contributes to an increase in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, new research demonstrates that co-sleeping, when practiced by informed parents, can be safe and beneficial. In fact, many cultures where parents routinely sleep with their children report some of the lowest SIDS rates. In some of these cultures SIDS is non-existent.
API encourages parents to respond to their children’s needs at night just as they do during the day. Parents are also encouraged to explore the variety of different sleeping arrangements, and to choose the approach that best allows them to be responsive at night. Individual babies’ sleep patterns and needs vary a great deal. Remain flexible and understand that it is developmentally appropriate and normal for babies to wake up during the night to feed and seek contact.
These are just my initial thoughts, based on what I’ve experienced these past 6.5 months. If anyone else has any articles or comments, I’d greatly appreciate the input!