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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Our baby hasn't ever cried himself to sleep

We just can't listen to him cry without trying to do something.

Babies' cries are meant to get our attention. For some cultures, a baby doesn't cry without someone picking them up. Even if this means it's a village member, uncle, another child. Babies cry because their instinct informs them that if no one is touching them, they may be in danger. Their cry is sharp, difficult to ignore.

When I was a baby, docs told new parents to time the crying and check the new kiddo every so often... but that they needed to cry to sleep. 

I think some doctors still say this. There is evidence from many studies that crying to sleep at newborn age can cause neurological issues in our babies. Further, the baby will eventually give up on its caregivers coming to help. I really appreciate Dr. Sears' article on this, "Why do babies cry?" We have chosen his suggestion of giving a "prompt and nurturing" response. It just happened that way.

I know every family is different, and that many people don't (or can't) stay with their baby 24/7. We all have different levels of tolerance (his cry makes my ears ring sometimes) and different schedules, and different desires. No judgement implied. I'm writing about my experience. When my baby cries, I feel irresistibly drawn to help him anyway I can.

The PHDinParenting blog has a lot to say about this. I heartily agree. Some of the reasons this blogger lists not to make the baby cry are: (my favorites first) "the world needs more love," "it's disrespectful of my child's needs," it "harms the parent-child relationship,"can result in decreased intellectual, emotional and social development, and it can "cause harmful changes to [babies'] brains."

From a biological perspective, this is the most vulnerable time of our lives. Babies are entirely needy and dependent upon their caregivers and have no way to do anything differently than what they do- cry until their needs are met. It just happens this way. When their cries aren't met with affection, caregiver's attention, food, a clean nappy, or whatever it is the baby senses a need for, they eventually give up.

We don't want our baby to give up on us. And it's actually going well.

 We do our best to meet his needs and haven't "had to" cry it out yet. I also don't feel at all manipulated. When he cries or even starts to frown, I genuinely want to help.

When our little baby dude (LBD) was born, we had no idea how we would parent. His first moments on Earth were in the morning on a Wednesday and we cleared our schedules and stayed up with him that first day. We napped and nursed and looked at each other and did little else. This was the beginning of our bedsharing. He still sleeps in the family bed where he was born. By the way, "The Family Bed" is the title of a book we love! It's written a while back, but still available on Amazon.

On those very first days when he started to cry we naturally pulled him close to us, swaddled him, rocked him, checked his diapers, and offered him mommy milk. Since those first days, every time he cries, we try these things. We've added a few to the list, and there are exceptions. Now we may try to help him pass gas by flexing his legs up to his torso or we may take his diaper off and offer him an "elimination communication" potty session. We might try sitting him up to get a burp (patting his back for burps never worked for us, usually just an upright hug does the trick!) or give him a toy to play with, or a book. If it's bed time or nap time and he's saying "ow-waah" then we put him in a carrier with a muslin swaddle blanket loosely atop it and he falls asleep in minutes of walking around.  (more on the "universal" baby sounds here LINK)

Since birth, we carry our baby most of the time. When he's sleeping, 60% of the time, I'm sleeping with him. I don't expect this to last forever; I don't think it's necessarily a good thing for my sleeping habits, but it is good for my baby. He sleeps beautifully, frequently and is growing fast!

Back to the title of this post, "Our baby hasn't ever cried himself to sleep," I mean that we just don't leave him to cry. We haven't ever needed to. We just do our best to help using our mental checklist (did he poo? is it gas? is he hungry?, etc), and if we can't do anything else, we hold him close while he cries.

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