Posts Tagged ‘Attachment Parenting’

I think this is a title that is going to keep on giving, like Rocky. 

I am confused and upset, teetering on the edge of the oh-shit-i’m-a-bad-mother pit of despair. Why is this so hard?  Baby Sleep Philosophy seems to be nearly as volatile as religion, with various groups self-righteously claiming that they alone have the truth.  I look at all of them and feel rather certain that none of them do. And meanwhile I have no religion, and also have no clue how to get my baby to go to sleep. 

I just received this comment from PhD in Parenting Blog (really? a PhD?) and unfortunately, have the time to think about it because A. is sleeping. (Note: our sleep problems are generally most pronounced at bedtime.  A. is a decent napper during the day. generally.)

“I’ve personally decided that cry it out is not for us. If you are still on the fence, why not wait a while and try some other gentle techniques in the meantime?

I don’t think there are overnight solutions to very many of the parenting challenges that we will face over our lifetime. The No Cry Sleep Solution that you called the “No Sleep Solution” is not an overnight fix. It lists a number of different gentle techniques that you can use to create an environment more conducive to healthy sleep.

If you have decided this is what you want to do and are convinced it is the right way, then it is not my place to tell you to do something else, but you do seem like you are still unsure and it is hard to “undo” cry it out if you later decide it wasn’t such a great idea.”


oh no.  So I go to her blog and find Baby Shrink  among the commenters: 

[Your sources] come primarily from Dr. Sears and his approach. While I think that’s totally fine, I do think it’s important to let readers know that some of the conclusions drawn at times (maybe not by you, but by other Attachment Parenting sources) have at times misunderstood “scientific information” and used it to support controversial and unsupported claims, such as the notion that NOT adhering to AP practices has resulted in the increase in “Reactive Attachment Disorder”. These kinds of claims unnecessarily add fuel to the “whose parenting is best” debate, and really scare and upset people, since it is simply not true.

Again, I haven’t yet seen you support anything along those lines, and I do think that the practical application of your approach and mine are probably very similar, at the end of the day. I just think it’s important for readers to understand that there’s not really a comprehensive and unified theory to the “Attachment Approach” that is fully supported by the scientific literature, and accepted by the related scientific disciplines (pediatrics, developmental science, psychology, etc.) Perhaps one day there will be, but not at this time.


I thought this was a reasoned, balanced comment, so I went to her site and read her advice on Baby Sleep. She takes a view akin to the Baby Whisperer (i.e. explain rationally to the infant that it is time to go to sleep) and then says, 

“Don’t “push”
too firmly until you feel that she has the emotional ability to
withstand whatever degree of upset that being left alone to sleep will
cause. Some babies will only put up a token protest; others will scream
loud and long, but not really “mean it”; others will truly be terrified
and need to be supported a bit longer before they can sleep for that
long alone. You need to know your own baby, and start to trust your Mommy instincts.”


Oh no! Mine is the “truly terrified” type!  My mommy instincts were telling me to go rescue him from the Hell of his crib! and I painfully IGNORED them!!!  He really did sound like he was being tortured. It was totally awful. Then I think,  maybe that PhD woman is right!  So I go back to her blog and read:


1. Cry it out can cause harmful changes to babies’ brains

… Science has shown that stress in infancy can result in enduring negative impacts on the brain. Prolonged cries in infants causes increased blood pressure in the brain, elevates stress hormones, obstructs blood from draining out of the brain, and decreases oxygenation to the brain. Excessive crying results in an oversensitive stress system (likened to a faulty burglar alarm in one book) that can lead to a fear of being alone, separation anxiety, panic attacks and addictions. Harvard researchers found that it makes them more susceptible to stress as adults and changes the nervous system so that they are overly sensitive to future trauma. Chronic stress in infancy can also lead to an over-active adrenaline system, which results in the child using increased aggression, impulsivity, and violence. Another study showed that persistent crying episodes in infancy led to a 10 times greater chance of the child having ADHD, resulting in poor school performance and antisocial behaviour. However, if you consistently soothe your child’s distress and take any anguished crying seriously, highly effective stress response systems are established in the brain that allow your child to cope with stress later in life.

2. Cry it out can result in decreased intellectual, emotional and social development

At an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, infant developmental specialist Dr. Michael Lewis presented research findings demonstrating that “the single most important influence of a child’s intellectual development is the responsiveness of the mother to the cues of her baby.” More specifically, other studies have found that babies whose cries are ignored do not develop healthy intellectual and social skills, that they have an average IQ 9 points lower at age 5, they show poor fine motor development, show more difficulty controlling their emotions, and take longer to become independent as children (stay clingy for longer).

3. Cry it out can result in a detached baby

Researchers have shown that although leaving a baby to cry it out does often lead to the cries eventually stopping, the cries do not stop because the child is content or the problem has been alleviated. Rather, they stop because the baby has given up hope that a caregiver will respond and provide comfort. This results in a detached baby. Detached children are less responsive, appear to be depressed or “not there” and often lack empathy.

4. Cry it out is harmful to the parent-child relationship

A child that is left to cry it out is less likely to turn to the parents in times of need. Being attended to as a baby is the most basic of needs and if a child learns at that point that she can count on her parents to respond to her needs, then she will also turn to them later in life when she needs their support. But I worry that if I leave my children to cry it out, then they will not see the point in reaching out to us if they have problems later in life and could try to deal with serious issues like bullying, drug addictions, teenage pregnancy, gambling problems, or flunking out of school on their own or turn to peers. Unfortunately, those problems are often too big for a teenager to be left to deal with alone or with peers and it can have disastrous results ranging from making poor decisions all the way to committing suicide out of a feeling of hopelessness.

5. Cry it out can make children insecure

Children whose caregivers are not consistently responsive and sensitive, often become insecure. Long-term studies have shown that secure individuals are more likely to be outgoing, popular, well-adjusted, compassionate, and altruistic. As adults, secure individuals are likely to be comfortable depending on others, can develop close attachments, and trust their partners. Insecure individuals, on the other hand, tend to be unsettled in their relationships, displaying anxiety (manifesting as possessiveness, jealousy, and clinginess) or avoidance (manifesting as mistrust and a reluctance to depend on others). Parents that use the cry it out method often do so because they are afraid that their children are becoming too dependent. However, an abundance of research shows that regular physical contact, reassurance, and prompt responses to distress in infancy and childhood results in secure and confident adults who are better able to form functional relationships.   

(I have read all of this before in Dr. Sears’s books, but somehow it feels new, reading it today.)


OH! NO!  What have I done?  We only did Scream It Out that one terrible night (usually it is Fuss It Out; and a few times of Cry It Out); but Did I scar my baby?  We have friends and family that did various versions of CIO (the moronic –in my humble opinion–Babywise, the classic Ferber, and contemporary Weissbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) and they are thoughtful, enlightened, kind, rested people in good marriages with well-adjusted beautiful kids!  Are they wrong?   And all those books say that CIO will not hurt your baby, and that it will help in the long run because the baby won’t be sleep-deprived, and more able to engage with life!  But by crying, do they mean screaming in terror for two hours??  



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We are trying Cry It Out presently, my stomach is in knots, the baby is screaming.  We’ve done our own version, “Fuss It Out,” many many times, which often concludes with A. joining us in our evening activities.  Other times, he fusses a little and then goes to sleep.  Lately we don’t know what to do.  He is clearly exhausted; fussing, rubbing his eyes; but erupting in protest when we put him to bed. He sounds like he is being tortured, and by extension, I feel tortured.  The alternative varies; some nights we take him out of bed and he is jolly until we all go to bed around 10:30; some nights he is over-tired-hyper-fussy and it seems just as wrong not to put him to bed as it does to do CIO.

Now sad, sad whimpering. 

I never thought I would do CIO.  I am torn.  I read Dr. Fears  Dr. Sears and come away with the feeling that if my baby cries at all or is not attached to me 24/7, I am an unfit mother (hmmm, that’s a post in itself, maybe for the Anger List category.)  Then on the other side is Weissbluth and Ferber, saying that sleep deprivation is borderline child abuse and you must sleep-train the infant over 4 months old.  Then there is the “No Cry Sleep Solution” by Elizabeth Pantley (I think that’s her name?) which reads like the  “No Sleep Solution” to me. Then there is the Baby Whisperer, who I think must have been high when she wrote her book. Charming, though. I can just picture her chirping in her British accent, “Now Johnny it is time to go to sleep! Night night!”  And then Johnny sleeps???  Just to be thorough, I tried that one too– rational explanation.  Which was met with laughing and kicking of legs. But actually, as I remember, she gave mixed messages to her desperate readers: On the one hand, she says to always go in and meet the child’s need if s/he is crying; then two pages later she says to never give in while sleep training. 

Now screaming. It’s been over an hour and a half. 

I worry about CIO being torture, inhumane, that it will cause emotional scarring. The Dr. Sears guilt trip goes far with me (as most guilt trips do). Though, in the end, his manipulative writing style makes me want to do the opposite of what he is telling me to do. It’s not even a “him,” it’s a “them”– a whole freaking band of Searses. That they could have 5 (10?) children and have them all become pediatricians is creepy. 


Part of the problem is our apartment. We live in an old elementary school that was converted into artist lofts, so we have one big open studio which we divided up with short walls. Read: no sound barrier.

Here we have the kitchen on the left and the nursery on the right. 




So it’s not like we can close the door. Because there is no door.  

A.’s crib is underneath a bunk bed, which we put curtains around to make it somewhat dark. 

Screaming uncontrollably.  Stomach still in knots.  Bad. 

I’ve tried nursing him to sleep when he is overtired-hyper and it doesn’t work.  He is still wide awake and just as upset to be put in bed. I don’t know if co-sleeping would work for him, but we’ve decided we’re not up for it. I’m too paranoid that one of the many pillows I sleep with would smother him; that he’d get wedged in the headboard; suffocated in the comforter; whacked by an elbow in a soft spot in the head, etc. My imagination isn’t always pleasant company. We also like our bed and our time together in it. If our baby was in between us, our baby would be in between us. 

I wish we could just make up our minds about what we’re doing, so that I could stand behind that sleep theory with some conviction. Instead I feel like I’m not measuring up to any of them. And I feel like anything/everything I’m doing must be wrong.  

No screaming. Checked to make sure he is still breathing. Asleep. 

I hope my stomach can handle tomorrow night.

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