Adventures in Attachment Parenting: The Crying It Out Controversy By Allison Silver
This week I was watching the NBC Nightly News and a segment came on that caught my attention. A new study from Pediatrics had been released and was advocating that sleep training techniques have no lasting effect or cause any psychological damage to parent or child. No way, I thought to myself. My mothering instincts tell me not to let my baby cry it out, but here on my TV is Brian Williams giving a direct assault on everything I believe in. What is an attachment parent to do?
So I did what most people do and Googled it. I found out the study that the Pediatrics article is based on did not support letting children cry it out all night. But it did support sleep training techniques in which babies seven months and up were put in their cribs while still awake and were left to cry for short amounts of time while the parents were instructed to wait increasingly longer intervals of time before comforting their child. The participants of the study were followed for five years and at age six they noted no long-lasting detrimental psychological effects between the group of children that received the sleep training techniques and the children who did not.
I personally do not think five years is enough time to be considered a long-term study. Think about it. If tobacco companies used five years as a basis for their long term studies, there would appear to be few long lasting effects from smoking. I want the researchers to follow these children for fifteen to twenty years or at least into adolescence. How will these children be as teenagers? Will they be more or less responsive to their parents?
In our western culture we are so concerned with how and where children sleep. In most parts of the world, young children sleep with their parents and there is no issue about how and where they sleep. There are so many books out there on this topic. Why are we so worried about this? I think it stems from our preoccupation with getting our lives back to normal and putting our needs ahead of our childrens’ needs. I have heard people say time and again that you have to teach them to sleep on their own so you can get your life back to normal. Back to normal?! I have news for you: your life is never going to be the way it was before you had children. And that’s ok. If you really want your old life back, then why did you have children? Just as your children will change, so will your idea of normal. So forget about your old normal and create a new one.
Now here is the real shocker. A year ago I would have probably supported this study. As a teacher and consultant, I designed parent education programs where I trained parents and gave them advice on how to teach their children to sleep by themselves. Now, granted, I was helping parents who were trying to get preschool-aged children to sleep on their own, but nonetheless I was in the sleep training camp. That was until I had my own child ten months ago and my whole parenting philosophy changed. There is no way I can let this baby cry it out!
This is not to say that my own child may not pull away from me or become despondent as a teenager, but my hope is that by not ignoring her needs now she will not ignore me later. I know some of you think that this is just crazy talk and all teenagers ignore their parents. But does it have to be that way? Or are we teaching our children from a young age to ignore us as we have ignored them? Perhaps this is my own long-term study. This belief of putting my child’s needs ahead of my own may or may not work. And if it doesn’t work you can bet I will be blogging about it and telling you all to just let your children cry it out and get your life back to normal as soon as possible! But until that day, I will be putting my maternal instincts ahead of any published study.