(This was a comment on my post 7 Reasons To Calm Down About Babies Crying)
Sleep specialist Eileen Henry responds…
“7 Reasons to Calm Down about Babies Crying” is a great article. And my experience with parents is in line with Janet’s. In the eight years that I have been working as a sleep consultant, I have yet to meet a parent who can leave their baby to cry. Even the parents I meet who do the “Cry It Out” method or “Ferberize” end up going to their child at some point and offering some form of support. Sitting in the next room, listening to the child suffer and having that fight with the parental brain is a doomed scenario…
However, our parental brain still holds obsolete instinctual drives that tell us to “stop the crying” at any cost. Even though we may intellectually know that all is well (we have the shelter part of our basic needs down — there are no wolves at the cave door), the intense urge to follow the impulse is still there. We can have a head full of rational knowledge and still have great difficulty convincing the heart to sit back and listen to our beloved baby suffer.
Good news…you don’t have to.
Your reader above raises some very good points and familiar concerns. Once we know all of our child’s needs have been met, now is the time to satisfy the authentic need for sleep…but how do we support our child in their efforts to settle in and get a good, uninterrupted, period of sleep? As this mommy knows, the best way to raise a successful sleeper is to allow the child to learn how to go from sleepy to asleep on their own. And at 6 months of age, “On their own…but with a little help,” might be the ticket.
As mentioned in 7 Reasons To Calm Down About Babies Crying, the parent’s emotional state is key. I put this first in the list of ways to help our children through any disturbance. Since my program, Compassionate Sleep Solutions, is strongly rooted in Attachment Theory (or Regulatory Theory, as I like to call it), the first order of business is to offer soothing from a “self soothed” emotional state. To best help our child emotionally regulate, we must first make certain we (the parents) are emotionally centered.
The second thing I recommend is to try to distinguish between struggle and suffering in the child’s cries. Since struggle is inherent in all development, we can be confident that our child can develop a healthy relationship with struggle by allowing them to have their struggles.
If at any time you hear what sounds like suffering, by all means go in and offer soothing and comfort to your child. We will always respond to suffering, but we can do so without “rescuing” or “fixing” the child’s sleep.
Infants may have many wants, but until they are verbal (and arguably even then) we will never know what they truly want. But if we are certain that sleep is what they need, we do not want to rob them of this wonderful time of rest and rejuvenation. I find over and over that acknowledgement, empathy and compassion can be most powerful in helping our children through their learning struggles and inevitable suffering in this life.
I am reminded of what Thich Hhat Hanh refers to as The 4 Aspects of True Love. And true love is a deep and continual practice of compassion.
The fourth aspect is said to be the most difficult for the adult human. It is because we have fear and pride. Perhaps we have fear that we will not be helped and are therefore too prideful to ask, or perhaps we have been trained to only think of the other:
Eileen Henry, RIE™ Associate
Compassionate Sleep Solutions™
(Isn’t this the best photo ever?! It’s by Sellers Patton on Flickr)
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