The Case against Cry-It-Out Methods: Why Attachment Parenting Works

Weary mothers are often met with a barrage of seemingly helpful “sleep solutions,” from various family members and friends. Some suggested methods, while offering a possible system to attempt, may actually conflict with the mother’s natural parenting instincts. One such method, advocated by authors such as Ferber or Weissbluth, is known as the “Cry It Out Method.”

What is Cry-It-Out?

“Ferberization” is a sleep-training technique invented by Dr. Richard Ferber to solve infant sleep problems. Ferber advocates babies crying themselves to sleep with parents only soothing on a time schedule. This technique does not recommend holding your baby when they cry, or soothing them to sleep through touch. Put your baby in the crib, come back to pat and say soothing words at 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, etc. Increase the times every night. Hopefully your baby will stop crying and go to sleep. Dr. Marc Weissbluth advocates crying to sleep without parent soothing. In contrast to the Ferber method of crying it out, Weissbluth suggests open-ended time with no limit. You are, if you follow this advice, "leaving him alone to forget the expectation to be picked up."

Why Cry-It-Out Hinders Valuable Bonding and Breeds Unhealthy Sleep

Dr. William Sears, author of many books on gentle parenting approaches, including “The Baby Sleep Book,” explains at length the scientific reasoning behind why Cry-It-Out methods are biologically incorrect, going against what a mother is programmed to do, which is to tend and nurture her baby’s needs. It also leads to unhealthy sleep patterns for the child. “A baby who cries furiously before falling asleep will sleep in a state of hormonal havoc,” Dr. Sears explains in The Baby Sleep Book. “Crying releases stress hormones into baby’s circulation. Going to sleep should be a relaxing process, a time when stress hormones go down, not up. Frantic, unattended-to crying that escalates in intensity can keep a baby from going to sleep, and when eventually he does drop off to sleep, he may have trouble staying asleep. Then the crying starts all over again.”

What is Attachment?

Attachment - A bond between an infant and a caregiver, usually its mother. Attachment is normally formed within the context of a family, providing the child with the necessary feelings of safety and nurturing at a time when the infant is growing and developing as a human being. This initial relationship between the infant and his caregiver serves as a model for all future relationships.” 

Why Embracing Dependence Fosters Independence

Babies and children are born with the need for their parents. Author Peggy O'Mara, editor and owner of Mothering Magazine explains simply, “It is the nature of the child to be dependent, and it is the nature of dependence to be outgrown. Begrudging dependency because it is not independence is like begrudging winter because it is not yet spring. Dependency blossoms into independence in its own time.”

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