As a writer, blogger, and mouthy Jewish Mama, I’ve done my fair share of jumping on to the third rails of motherhood, including breastfeeding, vaccinations, and, yes, sleep training. Yes, I have opinions about all of these issues, but I also respect that every child is different, every family is different, and my opinions are not necessarily relevant for anyone else.
Which is precisely why I can’t stay quiet in response to Renee’s recent piece against letting babies cry it out. I don’t know Renee, but from what I have read, she seems to be a thoughtful, concerned, and loving grandparent. I respect her opinions, but I don’t necessarily agree with them.
Yes, some doctors believe that crying it out is harmful to babies. In some cases, they may be right. But there are other doctors who disagree, and they’re right too. There are studies in support of both perspectives, and there are so many different factors to consider, that I don’t see how there can be one best answer for every family. The truth is that anytime anyone tells me that there is one right (or wrong) way to raise a baby (short of blatant abuse or neglect), my little red flag goes up and my cynic light starts flashing.
I have a few concerns with Renee’s piece. First, sleep training is not an all-or-nothing practice. The phrase “crying-it-out” triggers images of babies wailing and screaming for hours on end, and that is rarely what actually happens. In my house, I will let my daughters cry for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, because I have learned through trial and error that going into their rooms agitates them even more. I would rather have them cry for 10 minutes and get a good night’s sleep then go into their rooms and spend the next hour (or longer) trying to soothe them back to sleep (which rarely works with my girls–they really prefer to put themselves to sleep). The point is, there are gradations of letting your babies cry, and for many families, if some amount of crying results in more and better sleep for everyone, it may well be worth it.
Furthermore, the idea that we should never let our babies cry because chronic fatigue is all part of the parenting job is a rather privileged view. The soul-crushing exhaustion that all parents have experienced at one point or another is a lot more tolerable if one is home during the day and can nap for a few minutes when the baby is asleep. (As a part-time SAHM, I can attest to this.) But for those parents (especially single parents!) who have to work out of the home, who have to get up, go to the office, and be functional in their interactions with other adults, well, that level of continued fatigue just isn’t an option. Read the rest of this entry →