Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Crying vs Crying-It-Out

Last night Bear cried a lot. We've been working on night-weaning, and he doesn't like the idea. However a nursing relationship needs to be working for both mother and child, and waking multiple times a night to nurse a wiggly 2year old is not working for me. I need to sleep in longer periods than he does, and I would really like to go through a night without having all the blankets kicked off or getting a foot in my ear or being pushed off the edge of the bed. I'd like for Hubby to be able to sleep a little better--after all, he has a job where he can't fake it as a zombie--he has to be up and coherent (teaching) every day.
So we are night-weaning in an effort to get Bear to sleep through the night and learn to sleep in his own bed (which is a whopping 4 feet away from ours).
Bear doesn't like this, and let me know about it with great volume for about an hour last night. He did not want to be cuddled or comforted for much of this time, and I ended up doing a lot of thinking about the difference between crying, and crying-it-out (CIO).

Some so-called experts advocate CIO, or putting the child in their bed and then leaving them alone to just "cry it out" until eventually they give up and go to sleep. Um, think about that for a minute--I should leave my baby alone, comfortless, and scared (because depending on his age he may not even be aware that I still exist once I'm out of his sight)...and that is good parenting?! How on earth is that good parenting?! Aren't we supposed to raise children with love and compassion? Teaching them to trust? Helping them feel secure? Isn't the role of a parent to be as Christ is--a gentle teacher who is always there when called upon? An example to the child, so that faith comes easily because they have already seen and know and trust the earthly parent, and are therefore able to know and trust the Heavenly One?! No! I cannot believe that there is anything Christlike (or acceptable) about CIO.

On the other hand, not all crying is crying-it-out.
When a child is learning to walk and he falls down, he may cry in surprise, disappointment, or even pain.
When a child reaches for the stove and mother holds him back he may cry in frustration.
When a child is unable to reach that exciting (but unsafe) do-dad on the top shelf he may cry in annoyance and anger.
The tender-hearted child may cry at the simple word 'no' regardless of how gently it is spoken.
Crying is not unhealthy in and of itself--in many instances it could be considered just a natural part of the learning process--even in older people! I have known teens who came to tears over particularly difficult math problems; we all know adults who have cried over a broken relationship. And so I will repeat myself--crying is not bad. It is the abandonment part of CIO that is the problem.

A few weeks ago I wrote of a night when Bear went to sleep on his own in his crib. Well, that didn't last even two nights. For 4 months now I've been trying to figure out the best way to help him do those three things--sleep through the night, night wean, and sleep in his own bed--and I've tried tackling each one independently, with the thought that the others would follow naturally. Keeping him in his bed did not go over well, so I decided to let him cuddle all he wanted but work on weaning. For 4 nights it went really well, and then he got sick and clearly needed the extra comfort (and antibodies!) for a week. Last night I resumed telling him that the nanu was sleeping, and boy did he lose it. I remember that last time we did this (a whopping 10 days ago), he cried a lot the first night, but the second night was easier, and the third was easier still, so I am optimistic. With that said, I also do not feel guilty about letting him cry a bit last night, and here is why:
1--I never left him alone
2--I continuously offered him comfort in the form of cuddles, singing, patting his back, etc. I listened to what he asked for and got him everything except nanu (getting a drink, getting a blankie, sitting in the chair as opposed to staying in the bed, etc). Was he upset and frustrated? Yes. Was his bawl-fest warrented? In his mind, clearly so. Was he ever left alone? No. Comfortless? No. So was he crying it out? Absolutely not. He was crying, but he was not crying it out.
I think the difference is an important one. I remember a wise mother once told me that in a healthy relationship the status quo needs to be working for both of you. If I bend to his every whim (but am unhappy with it) then it is not a healthy relationship. A newborn needs to eat throughout the night, but 2 year old child is old enough that night-nursing is neither a physical or emotional need; it is only a want, and it is ok to say 'no' to a want.


Emily said...

I completely agree! There must be balance in all things, and kids can't always get what they want. But you have clearly done a great job at giving them what they need.

sara said...

In our AP group we call it crying in arms. I think Dr. Sears might use that term too. I always think of that scripture where Christ says "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you".

Anonymous said...

whew I really needed to read this. I've been working on my little guy's night weaning, because, really, at almost 18 months, you should go more than two hours with out nursing at night! I'm re inspired!
My trick has been 'story telling'- he doesn't seem to respond so well to singing, but If I tell him stories he quiets downs. Though the stories are totally random and have no full train of thought.

jcgk said...

YES!! I know this is an old post, but since reading your post about Pants Sunday, I've been stalking your blog. My oldest is on the spectrum (which wasn't diagnosed until he was almost 7!) and his sleep was HORRID!!! I took him to a sleep psychologist when he was 3. Saw him 3 times and decided he was worthless. We seem to have come to the same conclusions about crying vs CIO.

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