Monday, September 11, 2006

shoulds against our gut

Dave doesn't read my blog, unless I ask him to. Sometimes we talk about what I've been blogging about. (That word, blogging, makes me giggle because it's just so unmelodic but so appropriate for the stuff I blather on about.) Anyways, the other night I told him that I'd been blogging about the doubts I have about our parenting approach. He was quite surprised to hear I have doubts; I guess because it feels so right to him. But I am the only woman in my baby group who's not sleep training her night-waking baby. The conversation made me realize that conventional 'wisdom' (if you can call it that) and so-called experts on parenting and baby sleep goes against our guts, our parental intuition. Sleep training (letting the baby cry himself to sleep) is really hard (I've heard) and you have to suppress all your maternal and paternal urges to comfort your child. I don't think it's an accident that parents want and need to respond to their babies' cries.

I keep replaying a conversation with some friends I had a few weeks ago. One woman is pregnant and when I mentioned that I was much happier since I gave up trying to get Ezra to sleep in his crib, asked incredulously, "but where does he sleep then?" When I told her, she said, "Oh I just really don't want my child to sleep with us at all." I replied, "Well, obviously you have to do what you're comfortable with but I will tell you that if you're breastfeeding, and your baby is going through a growth spurt eating every hour or two around the clock, it's just a lot easier to bring them into bed with you. But having said that, you have to do what you feel is right and don't do anything you're not comfortable with." Someone else at the table, who doesn't have children, shivered with revulsion as she said, "Oh no. There's no way I'd be having kids in the bed. That's a situation for Nanny 911."

So now I wonder, will we end up with a horrible kid who will never sleep on his own? Is taking the easier road (the one that feels right) now going to make us miserable in the future? My gut tells me no but many other voices are saying yes.

I remember when the public health nurse came to visit me shortly after Ezra was born, she said something that made me feel like I was doing a good job and meeting all his needs. I can't remember exactly what it was but I remember noticing that a lot of the people who helped us, nurses, lactation consultants, midwives, were really good at making me feel like I knew what I was doing, like I knew best. But most of the parenting books out there and the sleep experts suggest that parents don't know best and need to be taught the best ways of parenting their child from those books. Dave hasn't read any books about parenting and he trusts his gut completely.

Our decision not to sleep-train Ezra is a decision to go with our gut and do what feels right. I think that most other cultures in the world sleep with their babies and it's a relatively recent event, evolutionarily, to have babies sleeping independently. Having said that, I really don't want this to sound like a judgment on parents who choose the sleep training route. I think we are all victims of the shoulds and I don't want to add my voice to the shoulds. We just have to do what we think and/or feel is right and hope for the best.

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1 comment:

mad_hatter said...

Oh, go with your guts. We were the only family from my Mom's group not to sleep train as well but all the other moms understood our situation. Our baby was just born needier than the rest. They could set their babies down without having them cry and they could leave the room without hearing screams of abandonment. Not in our house. I firmly believe you need to trust your guts and raise the child you were given. There are many years ahead for a more gentle form of sleep training and I tell myself again and again that no matter what, our daughter will eventually want to leave us. Why push her away while she's still in diapers?

Having said that, I do respect parents who sleep train. I firmly believe it works for some babies and some families, just not ours.