Inside: I tried Babywise parenting with my first child – schedule feeding, and especially Cry It Out (CIO). When my baby was five-months-old, I finally quit Cry-It-Out, and I’m so glad I did!
I like steps. I love plans. And I really love control.
And sleep, did I mention sleep?
So when someone close to me enthusiastically shared the benefits of babywise parenting, I latched onto the idea, and I latched on hard.
Babywise seemed to fit my personality like a glove. I bought the book On Becoming Babywise, prepared to follow its advice with precision.
What could possibly go wrong?
Only that babies could care less what book you read about feeding and sleep training.
They just want you to figure out what they need and give it to them.
Learning how to trust my mom gut, and stop listening to all.the.advice. – from books, from good friends, from my parents, from the internet – was one of the hardest parenting lessons I’ve had to learn.
And I’m still not very good at it.
When Babies & Books Disagree
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It was 3 a.m. I had endured what seemed like hours of agonizing, heart-wrenching wails.
My face dripped with tears. I sweated like crazy and leaked, warm wet patches spreading across my shirt as my body responded to my baby’s cry, even as my mind and my will resisted it (as On Becoming Baby Wise said I must if I was to “give my child the gift of sleep”).
Finally, her shuddering whimpers petered out.
She stopped crying.
I dried my tears and took the pillow off my ears, relieved I had survived my first round of CIO (cry it out). The quiet satisfaction of achievement soothed my guilt, helping me drift back to sleep.
There were red flags, signs that Babywise was not working for us…I ignored them.
The more strictly I adhered to the book’s schedules, the more stubbornly my baby seemed to resist.
Because she was eating for more frequently than called for, I desperately called my friend, a lactation consultant.
She asked a simple question: “Can you imagine putting a lock on your fridge and telling your husband he can only open it at set times?” (My husband, looking down at his stomach which had also grown during my pregnancy, quipped this might be a good idea.)
Oh no, she actually seemed to be advocating on-demand feeding, which I thought was the opposite of Babywise teachings.
I hung up, dazed and confused.
The situation came to a head a week after the sleep training seemed to have worked — the baby was consistently sleeping through her prior wake-up time of 2 a.m….until she didn’t. I woke at the familiar time to her desperate wails.
And that’s when I knew.
I knew in my gut that I couldn’t do cry it out again. Everything in me screamed that ignoring her cries was wrong.
I listened to that voice.
I picked up my baby and nursed her back to sleep, wiping away her tears and stroking her head gently. She sighed contentedly as she feel asleep in my arms*.
I quit Babywise that day, and I truly believe it saved my motherhood.
Related: Does the Babywise Method Work? The Promises, the Dangers & the Alternatives
First Year Parenting Advice from a Mom of 5
Hind-sight is twenty-twenty, of course. My parenting style is so very different now, on the other side of five kids, than it was with that first one.
I often regret the way I approached my oldest child’s little years.
But all you can do is move forward…and hope this advice reaches a new mom wrestling with the same decision: Baby Wise and cry-it-out? Or Attachment and Gentle Parenting.
1. Be flexible.
It’s the advice I give (if asked, of course) to every new mom at every baby shower:
Be flexible. Don’t cling too tightly to what you think will work right now, on this side of pregnancy.
Read some books and take into account both you and your spouse’s personalities and upbringing. Discuss those things. Talk through the main approaches to baby sleep especially.
But above all, be flexible.
Because there’s one unknown in this equation: the baby.
After realizing Babywise was not going to work for me, I started exploring other options. A friend recommended Secrets of The Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with your Baby, which I would describe as a gentle alternative to Babywise.
For example, instead of prescribing schedules, she helps parents establish routines without set times. And I found the follow-up troubleshooting manual The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems to be both thorough and helpful.
Also, be open to parenting styles that at first glance seem opposite your personality.
I personally swung the pendulum and now lean more toward attachment/gentle parenting. This seems opposite my former A-type personality (I feel like each kid shaves off more of the “A”), but in reality it allows me to prioritize relationships rather than achievement and productivity.
Ultimately, don’t be afraid to abandon what is clearly not working for you OR your baby.
2. Listen to your child.
“No, you’re not hungry right now, sweetie, you just ate an hour and a half ago.”
“Its time to sleep – you should definitely not be awake right now. Go back to sleep!”
Desperate wailing…my silence.
What does this sound like? A whole lot of me dictating and not a lot of listening.
I spent more of my early mommy days being angry at my baby for not doing what she “should” do than actually learning her cues and figuring out what she needed.
Have you ever heard the phrase in marriage seminars “Be a student of your spouse?”
Well, I’m going to suggest that you be a student of your baby.
Learn his temperament (another helpful aspect of The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer).
Is he sensitive and needs a tight routine? Is he easy-going and can be stretched past the usual bedtime? Which cries indicate hunger or sleepiness?
Take the time to try. It’s hard at first, but it will get easier!
Ultimately, I Quit Cry It Out Because Babies Are People, Too
I sometimes dream of the Babywise world with its perfect schedules and orderly days, where babies and kids do exactly what we think they should, what we want them to do.
Days that go according to plan. To-do lists where the items actually get crossed off.
Oh, how I wish it worked this way!
But then I look at my kids, who are so different from each other, who continue to need different amounts of sleep and quiet and people-time, and I know that for my family, I made the right choice.
Our kids aren’t robots. We can’t control them.
They’re people. People with different needs, preferences, and interests.
From the beginning, they have a voice, if only we take the time to listen.
I’m still trying to figure it out, but I’m so glad I’m trying.
*Our daughter went on to sleep through the night around 8 months old. However, our sleep struggles weren’t over, as she resumed regular night waking from age 2 until 7. While she sleeps through the night now for the most part, she is still our little extrovert and a definite night owl. In addition, she continues to have eczema, something I believe played a big part in her night-waking, even from a young age. I’m glad I finally listened to what she needed, even though the sleep deprivation was challenging.
June could talk to you all day about homeschooling, parenting, and minimalism. When she’s not homeschooling, decluttering, or blogging, she loves to enjoy perfect silence while sipping a hot cup of coffee and thinking uninterrupted thoughts—which, of course, with five kids, doesn’t happen very often.
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