Recently I got into with some mamas over CIO (cry it out, to the non-recent parents). On FB of course…The most common reaction to my critiques of CIO is offense. People feel negatively judged when I state that I believe leaving a baby to cry (because they feel abandoned) is emotionally harmful. They assume I am implying that because it is harmful, the parents who do it are baaaaad. But I don’t! I truly believe everyone is doing their best. Read that again. EVERYONE…..BEST!! Radical empathy, I’m into it. Not that I’m necessarily good at it, but I’m trying.
So, with my empathy comes great respect, for everyone. Like I said, I know you are doing your best. So even though I may harshly critique your approaches, I still respect you as a person. Again and again, I know you are doing your best with what you have. Please let that sink in and know that I think you are wonderful and beautiful in spite of my disagreements. That way we can have honest discussions about what is ideal for our children without getting wrapped up in guilt, shame and offense, yeah? Then we can really talk about how to get there!!
So, CIO, it is a complex issue. Different families do it for different reasons. Some because mom hasn’t been able to nurse for various reasons so baby will not sleep peacefully when she smells mama and cannot nurse. Some because their MD says they should. Some because everyone in their family has done it that way in recent history. Regardless of why, I think most if not all moms have a hard time doing it at first. And that is what I want to highlight. If mama’s instinct says NO! why do we stuff that and push through? I believe doing that is damaging for mama, baby and thus…EVERYONE! A lot of people do it because everyone does it, and “we’re all fine”…I’m sorry, but I hate that response…we’re not fine. Our society is an emotional health wreck! Even if it is not apparent on the surface, many people have repressed psychological issues that manifest in not so obvious ways. Emotional health effects physical health…There’s a tangent…
ANYHOW, one major thing I want to point out is that I wish we could change our expectations to match what is best for baby (yes, I am assuming CIO is not best for baby…I know that many believe the emotional damage is outweighed by the sleep training at a young age. I am happy to hear respectful critique of this assumption but my heart and many professionals tell me it is wrong…). So, if baby doesn’t sleep peacefully alone in the crib how do we facilitate what baby needs? I know that many parents are pushed to CIO because they spend all night rocking or bouncing or swaddling or whatever to get baby into that crib and are exhausted beyond reason, but there are other options. Instead of giving up and doing CIO let’s reach out and get the support we need to do what is best for baby, which in my opinion is not leaving them alone to cry.
Understandably people react strongly when I use harsh language to describe CIO. But be honest. What does CIO feel like from the baby’s perspective? From a biological perspective and for the vast majority of human existence and still in most of the world young babies sleep with their parents till 2…3…4? It seems crazy, to me, in perspective to leave a baby under 1 year (often as young as a few months) alone, crying for mama. It breaks my heart.
To close, I want to emphasize, I don’t think that parents who have done CIO are bad. I have just as much empathy for the parents as I do babies and I do not want to shame anyone, at all. But I hope that everyone can truthfully examine the effect leaving a baby alone to cry might have. Imagine you are that baby. What else can you possibly think is going on if you cry and cry and cry and no one comes to you? As a parent, please do not feel guilty, but do truly consider the emotional effect of doing that to a brand new person. I know your MD probably says it’s ok, but does considering CIO with real words (abandoned!) make you cringe? Does it TRULY sit well in your heart? And if not, what do you need to make that feel right? Please, share. With me and with your community. Let’s get the support we need to do what is best for our children and thus everyone.
Thanks to you all for doing your best. Much love and respect.