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Hush Little Baby... Don't Cry It Out (Part 1)

John

Even though it's been quiet in the Twinmommy101 world these past few weeks, I can't say the same for the house! I have SO much to report on.  I have felt a void where my blogging time usually is.  But let me tell you something ... that thing they say "it gets better as they get older..."... it DOESN'T get easier when they get older (and by older I mean mobile!)!!!! Compared to now and when they were first born... well until they started rolling and scooting, it was a CAKE walk! Not that I don't enjoy being (a twin) mommy,  just know you've been warned...  (Hopefully now those last few stubborn pounds will work their way off, btwn wearing them now at a whooping 30 lbs combined and chasing them; I didn't loose weight from breast feeding, I eat too much lol.)  I have A LOT to say so this is coming in TWO parts.  (There are TONS of links throughout this post that I insist you check out!!! I kinda felt like I was back in school writing a paper bc a LOT of research went into this post.) Out of the handful of points I want to address... I have to HAVE TO HAVE TO start with a VERY (maybe one of the most??) controversial subject. yes, yes, yes.. I speak of the concept of "Sleep training."  (Be sure to like our Facebook Page for info on upcoming posts about BLW, more food info and recipes, how our potty learning is going, breastfeeding past a year and also (bf) and drinking (it's been such a hot topic lately.. espec with the mom that got arrested for having a drink and nursing...) and I really want to touch and follow up with babywearing too! We started composting and planting a few of our own vegetables and herbs, so OF COURSE I will be reporting back on that soon too!)

So, we have opted to not to "sleep train," and go against yet another one of the many popular parenting practices in our society.  The main reason I want to touch on sleep training is bc there is SO much confusion about it! The fact that Moms with young age babies (like a few weeks old.. or even worse NEWBORNS!)  even considering crying and "self soothing" as a viable option, and the overall idea that sleep training is necessary has made the psychologist in me want to clear the air.  Many people don't know the psychological implications of sleep training because no one really talks about them. However, not responding to an infants only form of communication/ leaving a baby crying by themselves repeatedly and hindering the "nurture" aspect of development are just a few things that come to mind.  (** Note that sleep training will from here on out refers specifically to the cry it out (CIO) method**)

First and foremost, I have a HUGE PSA!!!! I am in NO way, shape or form implying that one way is better than another or that parents who opt to sleep train are "bad parents" or worse parents than those who do not! PLEASE BE CLEAR ON THIS!!!  I just have seen SO much back and forth about it and so many misconceptions about sleeping through the night and ways to make that happen that the psychologist in me HAS to set the record straight before it completely goes crazy! SO, where do we start with this heated topic?

The psychologist in me has to start with "data and facts."  (Sure, it's not all "fun", but it helps you get through the "games") The word ATTACHMENT is a somewhat familiar one, but it is SO much deeper than "just a word." (I had to pull out my old child's developmental psychology textbook for this one... just so y'all know).  Attachment is defined by Psychology Today as "The emotional bond that typically forms between infant and caregiver, usually a parent." They also discuss how it "not only stimulates brain growth but affects personality development and lifelong ability to form stable relationships." The most vital part, that seems to be the lesser know fact about attachment, is that "neuroscientists now believe that attachment is such a primal need that there are networks of neurons in the brain dedicated to it, and the process of forming lasting bonds is powered in part by the hormone oxytocin."

There is that O- Word again! Oxytocin... If it looks familiar to anyone from previous posts (or even from a breastfeeding class) that's because it is! It is the "love hormone" that helps with milk production. So with that being said, you can see why the psychologist in me refuses to let the girls cry for any excessive amount of time.  (Again please remember that this post is not here to "judge" anyone, but simply to provide information that may not be as widely available as other info.)  What we do with CIO is allow babies to expect their needs to not be met on demand. Excessive crying prevents babies from developing secure attachments because we force babies to develop a sense of "independence" (which in the long run forms more dependence because it denies children the ability to use the primary care giver as a source of "comfort and reassurance when upset.")  Psychology Today states that "The fact is that caregivers who habitually respond to the needs of the baby before the baby gets distressed, preventing crying, are more likely to have children who are independent than the opposite."  Psychologically speaking (and to me this is pure common sense and instinct no matter what anyone can tell me), crying is the "stimulus to trigger innate caregiving behaviors by the mothers," which is why I, personally, can not leave my girls to cry. (No, we don't rush over to every whimper and pick them up. As with all things, we feel it out. Babies make noises all the time.  It is our job as parents to know which ones need tending to and which ones are just "passing by.")  These premises alone are enough to make me have to take a step back from sleep training in general and reevaluate what "experts" are telling us these days.  In order to better understand sleep training, we have to go back in time to it's origins. It's been around "forever" (under different contexts) and why society has made it popular and "necessary."

The concept of "cry it out" has been around for many, many, many years (dating back all the way to the 1880's! But back then it was was because babies transmitted germs and what not, so people avoided touching them...).  Erik Erikson (a developmental psychologists) believes that personality development cannot be fully understood without looking at the environment of the child as well.  (THIS is why I do not take sides with any specific parenting styles/methods.  Parenting is a holistic concept and can not be "evaluated" by just one factor. Like Erikson, I believe that development is psychosocial.)  He holds the belief that development occurs across eight stages and that the child needs a strong sense of positive personality through their "quest for identity." There is a shift at around 7 months between the developmental phases of attachment (wonderweeks; THIS is the BEST resource with a breakdown of each one).  Babies go from learning how to interact with (and develop a working model of reliability and trustworthiness), to developing emotionally AND physically.  (FUN FACT: if your baby is separated from mom or dad, and cry and search for them if left around "strangers," they have a secure attachment bond.)  Our goals as mothers (for our babies psychological development) is to become our children's secure base.  This allows them to "regulate their feelings of insecurities and fear by controlling their distances btwn themselves and their caregiver."

Additionally, we have to consider the psychological milestones that intertwine with the concept of sleep training.  The recommended age to begin sleep training is at around 6 months, and it is important to note here that "normal infant sleep patterns" show that night wakings occur up to 3 years of age!!!  The less popular/known fact is what is going on with babies at (or around) 6 months of life.  This is the time in their development when they are achieving a "sense of self" and are now realizing that they are a separate entity from their caregivers.  Nighttime wakings are not indicative of "sleep problems," but rather are likely results of separation anxiety.  Secure attachment is related to parental responsiveness, and when we leave a baby crying by themselves for excessive amounts of time, we prevent them from growing.  Babies grow from being held (hence my babywearing... they get to be close and snuggly with me while I still have free hands to do things... like when one of the girls doesn't want to nap, I wrap them up on my back and them BAM laundry and cleaning is done WHILE I get to hang out with them! everybody wins!!) In addition to "short-term" growing, we also have to consider the long term effects on the brain from sleep training.

Because, "Leaving babies to cry increases babies’ stress levels and often keeps them awake longer. It does not guide them emotionally or physically toward the goal of regulating their own distress and response," we can only expect that crying has effects on the brain as well. (HERE are some ways to calm your baby, and where the above quote came from.) THIS article breaks down how neural interconnections play a part in brain development in regards to crying/stress in infants. (and does it better then I ever could. I was never into the "brain" part of psych.)  

It is also extremely important to acknowledge that we live in a consumer society.  Sleep deprived mothers with new cute, squishy, and demanding babies are a GREAT target audience for some big profits. THIS article is SO eyeopening and mind blowing.  I strongly urge everyone to read it at some point.  It really made things fall into place for me.  I always knew some of these facts (that we are one of the only nations that consistently favor putting babies in their own beds/rooms; that we have somewhat atypical expectations that babies sleep through the night at ages as young as 3 months, 6 being the average, and the benefits of cosleeping.), but she really puts things into perspective by making some noteworthy comparisons with other "nonwestern" societies. Additionally, when considering both consumerism AND the idea of sleep training combined it is hard to forget the IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT BABIES. We have to remember that babies just spent 9 months with their moms getting carried around everywhere.  Take your time separating yourselves, one day they won't want you around! (Another reason why I babywear. They come and do stuff with me like they did when I was pregnant.  Except now they have room to move and can see everything... and talk to me :D )

Tune in to PART 2 to read about our bedtime routines and how we put the girls to bed at night without CIO, and be sure to check out the whole series about "sleep training"

NOW FOR A LITTLE PHOTO BOMB:

A little afternoon shopping with daddy! (The seat covers lost the fight to the wrap.... SAMs is one of the only places with a dbl seated cart... and we still chose to wear)

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