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Do Unto Others... - Livin' the Good Life

May. 23rd, 2009

01:44 pm - Do Unto Others...

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A friend of mine was talking to someone she'd just met in the park while they were bouncing their babies on their laps, discussing the old classic question, "Is your baby sleeping through the night yet?" My friend is part of my moms group, and we adhere to "attachment parenting" principles, so her answer was something like, "I don't pay much attention to that. I'm breastfeeding, and I want to keep up my milk supply. Frequent feedings throughout the day AND night are optimal for making sure I make enough milk for my baby. Plus, my baby wants to be with me at night, so we have him sleep with us. It's so comfortable and cozy, we just love it! I can rest better knowing that he is safely beside me, and frankly, I don't care how much he wakes up. It's no bother." I teach my moms that parenting responsibilities don't stop at bedtime. Parenting is a 24 hour a day job, and in the early years that means waking up at night to tend to our little one's needs. And one of baby's primary needs is to be close to its mother. Look at any other mammal. They all sleep near, if not ON, their mothers, nursing often.
The other mother said she would have none of "that night waking stuff". That "night time is MY time". She explained how she used a "sleep training program" that has her put her baby in its crib, then firmly and cheerfully say goodnight, turn out the light, and close the door. She needs to let her baby cry (scream, if necessary) until it goes to sleep. It could take an hour or more, she was warned, and that her baby may only stop and go to sleep when it's too exhausted to continue. The next night, she should do the same thing. The baby should only cry about half the time this time. By the third night, the baby will not cry but a minute or two. After that, she can expect her baby to go to sleep without crying anymore. Mission accomplished.

This was the method used by my mother, and many mothers of her generation. I can't believe people are still going for this inhumane treatment of babies. I had nightmares for years in which I was crying for my parents in the dark because I was scared and lonely and wanted comfort. No one ever came in those dreams, nor, apparently, in real life.

When I remember the Golden Rule, I just can't believe that people, and most of all Christians, can go for this method of dealing with their precious children. I remember reading about a group of women from an undeveloped country (can't remember which one) who were being interviewed about their childraising practises. The interview came about because some Westerners had the brilliant idea of supplying strollers to the local stores for these poor, uneducated, behind-the-times mothers who carried their babies everywhere in slings made from shawls. Surely they would love to be relieved of the burden of carrying their children everywhere on their tired aching backs! But, no one bought a single stroller. When asked why, they said they wanted their babies in their arms WHERE THEY BELONG! When asked about their practises of sleeping with their babies, (and wouldn't they prefer to put them in cribs so they could have privacy and space?) the answer was that their babies were "much too valuable" to be separated from their mother's watchful presence for ANY length of time! Amen!
Imagine for a minute the unlikely scenerio that you, yourself, are scared, sad, mad, or in need of comfort at bedtime, and all you want is to be held and reassured. But, your husband (or wife) says, "No you go sleep by yourself in the other room. This is my time for myself. I'll see you in the morning." So you go off to the other room and cry yourself to sleep. It takes an hour, and your partner never comes to comfort you, all the while LISTENING TO YOUR CRYING! It happens again the next night. Only, you become exhausted sooner this time and only cry for a half hour. By the third night, you know that your partner is not going to come, so you give up after a minute or two. By that time, you've learned that no one will be coming. You give up on comfort. You give up on the other person. This kind of thing probably rarely happens to adults (and if it did, it surely would result in a divorce!), but it happens to children all the time. And there's nothing they can do about it. Here we adults enjoy the comfort and companionship of sleeping with our spouses, but we expect a small child to be happy about sleeping alone. What sense does that make?

When considering the best way to approach bedtime practises, I believe that each parent needs to put themselves in their children's place and ask themselves, "How would I like to be treated at bedtime?"


Date:May 24th, 2009 01:20 pm (UTC)
I have never read it better explained than you just did. I have also never thought of it in terms of the Golden Rule. Makes perfect sense to me. My mom gently offered through the years of having me bring my baby to her house for a few nights so he could "cry it out" and get use to sleeping through the night. I could never do that, I never wanted to do that, thank goodness. By the time I had #3 and 4 son I quit trying to get them to sleep through the night and just put them in bed with us. They each stayed with us until they were 5 and I think we are all better for it.
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Date:May 25th, 2009 01:31 am (UTC)
Keep preaching it, Darlene.

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Date:May 25th, 2009 01:31 am (UTC)
That last comment was me. :-)
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Date:May 26th, 2009 06:28 am (UTC)

Well said.

I think the idea is that a baby is like a new dog whose behavior you need control--crying is just unpleasant behavior, not communication, like when your dog eats your couch cushions, and if you reward your new animal for its unpleasant behavior you will just get more of it. Part of the blame for this idea, I think, belongs to Behaviorist psychology, which was dominant for the first half of the 20th century and thought of all behavior and motivation in terms of rewards and punishments. They no longer dominate, but their ideas remain in the form of 'common knowledge.'
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Date:May 26th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, Nathen, there are still a lot of them out there, and they are making a lot of noise. There is a Christian couple that wrote a book called BABYWISE, and they have influenced thousands, if not millions, of mothers and fathers that crying it out is the way to go. The problem is, it "works". Babies start sleeping through the night and start being "seen and not heard". Oh yes, and they are more obedient. Probably because they've figured out that if they aren't obedient, they will get no adult attention at all. It's a whole system of childcare that bears watching. In fact, since you will be dealing with families in your future career, I urge you to study this method. Those adult children may end up in your office someday.
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