In my last post I wrote about my defensiveness I feel about the sleep-training I have been doing with my 9 week old daughter. The reason for this defensiveness is the attitude out there in the land of baby wars about letting your child cry while they are learning to fall asleep without your help. You can read about my experiences of sleep training here. My sister has also contributed her experiences which are useful for anyone considering this method for themselves.
The thing is, I don’t feel guilty about leaving Lottie crying alone in her cot while she works out how to shut her eyes and go to sleep without motion, without a boob in her mouth, without being rocked in my arms. I don’t feel guilty that my baby is slowly but surely working out how to sleep without my help, a skill which is invaluable for her gaining more sleep, something that is incredibly important for my child’s development and the health and wellbeing of my family. The crying is hard but it gets less and less as she gets better at it, and it’s not emotional crying. It’s actually just whinging.
But according to those who don’t share my philosophies about parent-led sleep-training methods and routines, I should feel guilty. And not just guilty. According to many mother-experts on online forums who sit on the attachment parenting side of the continuum, and even some apparent sleep experts, I am lazy and selfish for wanting a baby to fit into my life instead of giving up my life for my baby. In fact, according to a famous rant by well-known lactation consultant, and not a doctor or a scientist, blogger Pinky McKay, I am a ‘baby tamer’ whose sleep-training methods will fill my child with ‘stress hormones that will fry his tiny brain and screw him up for life!’. After reading this rant, I felt like a good rant myself. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t mind a rant. So here goes.
Excuse me Pinky, I am amazed that someone who sells ‘gentle, no cry, guilt-free’ methods for putting a baby to sleep can be so the opposite of gentle in this poisonous expletive-laden rant that is full of statements and accusations aimed at making new mothers feel guilty and upset because of your nastiness and judgemental attitude. I’m not concerned about expletives, as I often use them myself while ranting about politics. Tony Abbott deserves expletives. But do mothers of new babies deserve to be sworn at? No, your rant was not tongue in cheek Pinky. I very much doubt you have the intelligence to even understand what tongue in cheek actually is, but your rant, I can assure you was not that.
I personally found the post about ‘most frequently asked stupid questions’ highly offensive, and as a new mother who doesn’t have post-natal depression, since it brought me close to tears I can only imagine it might push a more vulnerable and desperate mother over the edge. I wonder if you considered this. In fact, I have never read anything so offensive about parenting methods, apart from your faux-apology for writing this highly offensive post. Do you know what a faux apology is? It’s a thing that is offered in place of an apology which is in fact worse, as it’s basically the act of justifying the original offense whilst failing to actually apologise.
The absolute corker of a statement in your faux-apology, which I must admit made my blood-boil with rage, was the desperately sad tale of the death of your brother’s baby, which you say was a factor in pushing you over the edge and forcing you to write your rant. You say that when this death happened, you questioned ‘why do such amazing parents who have never ever left their baby to cry, who would do anything for their baby without complaining about the ‘inconvenience’ have to go through this?’ Read that to yourself a couple of times and think about what you’ve just said. You’ve said parents who sleep-train their babies, who, in your words ‘let their baby cry’, are more deserving of a dead baby than parents who don’t let their babies cry. This is grossly, outrageously, nastily offensive. If you can’t see this, I really don’t think you should be anywhere near vulnerable parents, let alone newborn babies.
There are many other things that I found offensive in both your articles, but rather than narrow in on all of them, let me just talk about your attitude towards sleep-training as a whole. Firstly, parents who sleep-train their children are doing it out of love, not out of selfishness or convenience. Although I won’t deny convenience is a bonus side effect. The fact is, sleep-training is difficult so lazy people wouldn’t attempt it. But I know that my baby is happier and healthier when she has had her daily sleep requirements and I am happier and healthier when I have not been up all night helping my baby to get back to sleep again and again and again. I should not, as a new mother, be made to feel bad about myself for wanting to get as much sleep as I possibly can for my child and for my family.
I am so sick and tired of the martyr-attitude of many people like you all over the internet who claim that any mother who tries to work out ways to manage their child’s sleeps in a way that doesn’t leave them with a two year old who needs to be rocked to sleep, or who has a child stuck in their bed, or who can’t leave their child with a babysitter or go back to work as their boob is the only thing that puts their baby to sleep, is not as ‘loving’ as a martyr ‘cuddler’ who is against sleep-training.
I am so sick of the attitude that crying is harmful and that anyone who ‘lets their child cry’, even for a moment, is damaging their child, destining them to have unstable emotional attachments as adults, who you imply will abandoned, perhaps even kicked out of home as teenagers, by their selfish parents who never wanted them in the first place. I love my child Pinky, and your suggestion that me wanting my child to have healthy sleeping habits is akin to child abuse is downright disgusting. I am so sick of these ‘no-cry’ methods being touted as the ‘guilt free’ way to get your child to sleep when really no parent should ever be made to feel guilty about working really hard to raise happy, healthy, children, of which good sleeping habits are an important ingredient.
I have no idea what your book actually specifically advises people to do because I haven’t read it. But I do find it ironic that, from what I have seen from the advice you give people on your blog, when parents come to you looking for solutions to wean from night feeding or want to stop rocking or feeding their child to sleep, you suggest putting the baby down awake. The only difference between your ‘put down awake’ and my ‘put down awake’ is you suggest then picking baby up every time they cry and starting over. This actually is sleep-training Pinky. That thing you hate – you’re actually advocating. Your sleep-training method would, in my experience, just take much longer than my sleep-training method as every time the child lets out an exasperated whinge saying ‘why, oh why oh why can’t I sleep when I’m so tired, I just want go to sleep’, you suggest the baby should be picked up and the whole process started over next time. So the result is that the baby has not been allowed to go to sleep and is now in mother’s or father’s arms where she doesn’t want to be, she doesn’t want a cuddle, she just wants to go to sleep, which is what she desperately needs when she is tired. But also the parents are told they should feel guilty if they don’t respond to every peep and once they have responded, they have to start over and this could go on and on and on and on and meanwhile no one is getting any sleep and the problem is not solved. Again, I must admit I haven’t read your methods, but from what I’ve seen it all sounds very frustratingly ineffectual.
My baby is still feeding during the night (one dream feed and one other feed) but I expect her to be sleeping all the way from 7pm to 7am by the time she is about 6 to 7 months old. You no doubt think this makes me lazy, and as you say, you can’t believe I conceived her in the first place since I’m apparently so lazy. Offensive. I notice when you complain about parents like me who would like to eventually stop feeding their child during the night, you claim they should never expect this of their child as not even adults expect to go for three hours a time without food and drink. Sorry to break this to you Pinky, but your adult-baby analogy here makes no sense at all, because most adults I know, including me, have three square meals a day and don’t get up during the night to eat and drink. That is my ideal and there’s no reason my child can’t achieve this when she is old enough. Now I think of it, the only time I don’t have three large meals a day which tide me over for an entire night’s sleep is when something like cake is offered to me, perhaps for morning or afternoon tea, or even dessert. When people put cake under my nose, I must admit I find it hard to resist. A bit like when a boob is shoved in a baby’s face and they find this snack, at 3:00am, when they’ve woken up and cried out asking their parents to rock/cuddle/pat/feed back to sleep, hard to resist. What if the baby doesn’t actually need their parents at 3:00am, nor a boob in the face? What if they could go back to sleep on their own and so there is no crying in the middle of the night and therefore less crying overall in a 24 hour period, and low and behold, a happy and healthy family who doesn’t need to be made to feel guilty about anything?
I’ve read many of the comments on your post from happy parents who are so relieved to be told that they don’t have to make the very hard decision to listen to their baby cry in order for their child to have healthy sleeping habits. The overall tone of these comments is one of relief; relief that it’s ok to help get your child to sleep if that’s what you want to do, and good on these people I say if they’re willing to invest hours day and night to this martyrdom quest not to let their babies cry. I just hope Pinky that your anger, your nastiness, your aggression towards parents who sleep train their children isn’t caused by a niggling, insecure idea that floats in the back of your mind where you banish it as desperately as you can; what if you hate what you call baby-tamers because you know our methods work? What if those relieved parents who are told by you that you’ve got a better solution, don’t find this solution works for them in the long run when they’re exhausted and desperate and looking for help to make a change to their situation? What if what they find in you is not the help they need, but instead is an aggressive, judgemental, ideological nastiness which ends up making them feel terrible in their sleep-deprived misery as you tell them the one thing which can actually help them, letting their baby cry, is child abuse? No wonder you’re so angry. I’m angry with you too.
PS: You might be interested to know my 8 week old is currently asleep happily in her ‘‘fancy pants’ safety standards approved’ cot, where I put her down at 7:00pm and she self-settled without any help from me. I know she’s happy because she has a smile on her face which I can see with my infrared video monitor. Her being asleep right now is, coincidentally, very convenient, leaving me the whole evening free to write this post and still have time to, how did you put it, ‘check everybody else’s train-wreck lives on facebook!’ My life isn’t one of the train-wrecks though because I’m getting plenty of sleep. Sorry to sound smug Pinky, I couldn’t help myself.