Tuesday, October 14, 2008

To cry or not to cry?

I love mommy message boards, and most of the moms I've "met" online are sweet, supportive women. These communities are also always lucky (ahem) to have a few moms who know everything about parenting and are happy to share their wisdom, whether or not it's requested. Here are a few things I've learned from these know-it-all...um, I mean all-knowing...moms.
  • If you feed your baby formula you're guaranteeing them health problems for life.
  • If you breastfeed past a year, you're just plain weird and have an unhealthy emotional relationship with your child.
  • Put your newborn in a baby jail...er, crib...and you're clearly a detached parent.
  • Sure, you can co-sleep with your baby...if you want that spoiled kid to still be sleeping there 13 years later.
  • Vaccinations don't work, cause autism, and are only required because of a vast government/pharmaceutical company conspiracy.
  • If you don't vaccinate your child, you must not care at all about public health, and you must want your kid to die of measles.
And don't even get me started on those Commie Obama Mamas or warmongering McCain supporters!

I know, this is really helpful stuff, and I should write a parenting manual or something. And I'm not even done yet.

We haven't talked yet about whether or not you should let your child cry it out. This is one of the most controversial mommy message board topics. After all, doesn't everybody know that if you don't pick up your baby every time they cry, they'll have lifelong trust issues and probably some sort of larynx injury? And that if your baby doesn't cry it out, they'll be keeping the sleep disorder clinics in business in 30 years?

With Chickie, I was pretty firmly in the attachment parenting camp. I didn't ever require her to cry herself to sleep unless she was in my arms or in the carseat. I spent many, many hours helping her fall asleep; and she learned to fall asleep independently about the time Zoodle was born.

She is usually happy and well-adjusted, and I am thankful for all the cuddles I had with her. But I knew my schedule and my sanity couldn't survive if Zoodle required that much help with sleeping.

At first, he went down for naps and nighttime easily...but then he hit the four-month mark, and it started getting more difficult. Over the last couple of months, I gradually noticed a couple of things. One, I seemed to be actually keeping my little guy awake by trying to "help" him fall asleep. He's very social. Two, at times when he was crying for a few minutes while I was dealing with Ana or another task, he often went to sleep very easily once I re-entered his room.

So within the last week or two, I've started doing something I really didn't think I would ever consider. I've been consciously and purposefully letting Zoodle cry. Our going-to-bed routine doesn't fit perfectly with any of the experts, but it works for both of us.

I put Zoodle down and sing a song to him. When I leave the room, he usually starts crying. I let him get a little crying out of his system for about two minutes. I re-enter the room, replace his binky, and rub his back for a couple of minutes. I leave again, and if I need to repeat the process I do. I usually enter the room one to three times after initially putting him down, and then he's asleep. The whole process generally takes three to ten minutes. He's happier because he's sleeping more, and I'm happier because I am still helping him get to sleep, but it doesn't take half the day.

One of the things I'm learning with our second child is that a lot of parenting isn't about finding the perfect philosophy; it's about just plain figuring out what works. That may mean I'll never be one of those all-knowing message board moms, but it also means I'm a generally happy mom with generally happy kids. And that is a wonderful feeling.

(Yep, that's my breastfed, vaccinated baby who sleeps sometimes in his Pack-n-Play and sometimes in our bed, whose mama doesn't feel like talking politics on her blog, and who will probably end up just as neurotic as the rest of us.)


SciFi Mama said...

We did almost exactly the same thing in getting Paige to sleep by herself as well. Yep, we co-slept for a while, I breastfed until she self weaned at 10 months. I wore her in a sling and loved it. I also used disposable diapers that are clogging the landfills & had her vaccinated.

And did I see that you rub his back? Does that mean he's sleeping on his tummy? How dare you! Don't you know babies ONLY sleep on their backs? LOL!!!

beckiwithani said...

Good post!

That is actually almost exactly the method recommended by at least one "expert" (I don't remember which one; I just know I came upon it when we were trying to figure out how to sleep-train Molly, from about 6 to 8 months. We ended up doing something VERY similar, but let her cry for longer since she was older when we started.)

Here's one of the best things about letting them cry, while still going in to check if they haven't stopped themselves or if they are obviously frantic: once they're really well-trained, they don't usually cry for long at all unless there's something really wrong. So you actually get to where you can pick them up a far greater proportion of the time after awhile, because you know that if they've been crying for more than a couple of minutes, they really NEED you. It takes a lot of the guesswork away, and I like that. If Molly wakes up in the night and starts crying, really crying and not just whimpering, we always go see her. It hasn't made her regress to the whole waking-up-multiple-times-every-night thing, because she really is only crying when there's a genuine issue.

C. Beth said...

Angie--Oh, no, I gave away my deep, dark secret! Yes, when we stopped swaddling him, I discovered he likes sleeping on his tummy. But just remember...if you call CPS on me, you won't get that bear. ;)

Becki--Well, clearly whatever "expert" promotes this plan, got it from me. I know that would have required some time travel and everything, but I'm determined to believe this is my unique idea.

beckiwithani said...

Well, yeah, duh! That's why I put the quotation marks around "expert!" I knew you are the only person in the world who could've thought of this! :)

stacief said...

I have had a similar experience with my 2 boys. The oldest has been a pretty good sleeper, but the youngest a bear. He didnt sleep thru the night till we started letting him cry at 11 months. I never thought I could do it but sleep deprivation makes you crazy!

Isabella said...

Great post!

Don't forget this part - that if a dad shares his opinion on a hot topic, he'll be verbally slaughtered in one way or another. :)

Sincerely -

The mother of a breastfed, vaccinated baby.

Anna said...

shame shame Beth, you forgot all about not circumcising your kid either?
I think we are all experts in our own houses/families so people need to take a chill pill and that all kids are different, so what is great for one might be totally wrong for another!
You are doing a great job with Chickie and Zoodle and that's all that matters!

Becky said...

I think parenting, like politics, is a matter of taking in all the information and then deciding what is best for you and your family. It's hard for me to understand the either/or thinking, because for most parenting (and political) issues, my choices fall somewhere in the middle. And what worked for my first child, doesn't work for my second. Or what worked for my second child yesterday, doesn't work anymore today.

Those mommy wars are fun to watch from a distance, though!

Anonymous said...

Great post and great reality check. I also have a breastfed, vaccinated, tummy sleeping, thumb sucking, cuddly March '08 baby who can put herself to sleep! With a 2 year old too they either put themselves to sleep or sometimes don't sleep at all ;)


C. Beth said...

Becki--Whew. Glad we're clear on my amazingness.

Stacie--I think Zoodle is actually a better sleeper than Chickie, by nature. I'm just not NEARLY as patient the second time around. :)

Jen--Oh, yeah, so true! I mean, a man couldn't have anything USEFUL to say, right?! Sad!

Anna--Totally forgot the circ thing; that was a debate OVER AND OVER AND OVER on Zoodle's birth board. So, just for you: "We left Zoodle intact, but if the rest of you crazies want to mutilate your child and ruin any chance he has of a good love life in the future, GO FOR IT!" Does that work? ;)

Becky--I know, I get way too into reading some of that drama. It's like watching a train wreck (but MORE fun!)

Sarah--We should actually be on the same birth board for our 2nd kiddos, since Eli's a March baby. But he was due in April so I stuck with that board. I think I'm the only one from our Jan. '06 board who is also (somewhat) active on the April '08 board. Are you active on the March board? Maybe I should visit....

Our Scoop said...

Love this entry! Love the guilt talks! Also a mother of a breastfed, vaccinated (though fearful of them), co-sleeping 28 month old boy!! (Notice I only have one baby though). I think the "expert" was Ferber?? The "Ferberize method"?? I don't know - I don't remember. I read so many silly books!


Unknown said...

I think anyone who reads those Mommy Boards and manages to avoid the neuroses is pretty amazing. I, for one, just got all frustrated! :) Both SS#1 and The Manimal were breastfed AND formula-fed, vaccinated, circumcised, co-slept, slept in the pack-n-play occasionally AND I sometimes let them cry themselves to sleep! Oh my!

C. Beth said...

Our Scoop--Thanks! You said "fearful" of the vaccinations--I think that's one drawback to ALL the info we have available these days. We're probably a lot more AFRAID than our parents were. It's a bummer, huh?

ElleBee--Oh, I get frustrated too sometimes, with the mommy boards. But I've found a lot of genuine friendships and support too...and now usually look at the "drama" as entertainment. I USUALLY don't get too drawn into it anymore. :)

Kama said...

Ummm, didn't you just have that baby? Goodness, he has gotten big! And soooo cute!

LOVE the comments on "mommy boards". So true! Haven't been there in a a very long while. Amazingly, my kids are still alive. Even if they DID have both breast and formula, are vaxed, circed, AND cried themselves to sleep, but were in my bed. Goodness, I think I just saw CPS pull up.

Anonymous said...

I get so frustrated reading posts where the moms are so vehement that it's their way or the highway. I've really slowed down my reading and commenting on BBC because I get so torked about people just trying to stir the pot.

I have three kids and each one was raised and parented differently. You definately relax as your kids get older and each child teaches you how to be a more successful parent. Some things work and others don't, but you have to be willing not to place each of your children in the same box.

C. Beth said...

Kama--Hey, it's great to see you! Thanks for stopping by! Our January board is pretty slow these days...which makes it very easy to keep up with. And pretty drama-free, too. :) You should come on by.

Sandi--Words of wisdom from a mama of kids that seem very well-adjusted (from what I can tell as a loyal blog-reader, that is.) I'm not as involved in BBC these days either but I can't seem to stop reading entirely.

Anonymous said...

You're so right Beth. Each child is different and it's all about doing what works for you and the child. I've learned alot over the years but each of my boys is amazingly different and needs different things from me.
Parenting would be so much easier if there was one answer!

Faith said...

Right about the time I think I have 4 kids & am now an "expert", one of them throws up or starts waking up all night or gets some unknown reaction to something I fed him. The minute I say "all my kids have.....", one of them makes me a liar.

God love them for being individuals. What a cute little boy you have there. Can't believe how big he is already!

C. Beth said...

Steph--Yes, having one answer would definitely be easier...but that would be so boring too! :)

Faith--You're such a great mommy to your 4! I'm glad they're still keeping you on your toes. And thanks...yes, Eli is getting so big!!

Anonymous said...

I found ( and love) your blog through our community email, but I just realized we much frequent the same online group. Are you a Bargain hunter?

C. Beth said...

Laurel--Oh, how great! Thanks for reading. :) I have lurked just a little on Bargain Hunters and there's some pretty entertaining stuff there! But I don't usually visit that board.

Anonymous said...

:) I thought for sure with all the judgment being throw around it had to be the BHB:) It's a good day when you realize no matter how you parent you are wrong:)

Laurel-extended breastfeeder and ex co-sleeper (sorta):)