Infants & Sleep: Why I Will Never Leave My Son To "Cry It Out"

'Is your baby sleeping through the night yet?'

For some reason this is the question new mothers get asked more than any other by friends and family, as though an accurate picture of mother and baby's health and happiness can be judged on their sleeping patterns alone.

It isn't just friends and family though, it's doctors, Childcare providers, authors, and other mothers. Our entire society seams to be oddly preoccupied and grossly misinformed about infant sleep.

Hollywood shows us quaint scenes of mothers and fathers looking in from the doorway at their peaceful cherub faced babies sleep soundly in cribs before heading off to talk and make love uninterrupted.

Companies produce baby products like night lights, sound machines, special blankets, and mobiles that they tell us will soothe and calm our babies into sleeping soundly through the night.

Every tom dick and Harry has a son/daughter/nephew/godchild/grandchild that slept through the night the day they were brought home from the hospital.

The worst part is the words we use to describe these sleepy infants. the labeling of babies who sleep through the night as 'good babies' suggests to the desperate over tired parents of babies who do not sleep through the night that there is something 'bad' or wrong with their children.

If you are one of these desperate and over tired parents, or someone without children who has bought into these ideas about infant sleep I have something to tell you.


What's more, that is not how babies are MEANT to sleep.

It is time for our society to stop expecting so much from infants who can not and should not meet these ridiculous expectations of their behavior.

It is a baby's instinct to wake up in the night for two very good reasons.

1) To eat. Whether you breastfeed or not, your child's need to eat in the night should NEVER be ignored. Frequent eating is needed at regular intervals over a 24 hour span to replenish the calories that babies need to grow. Even formula fed babies NEED to eat during the night, despite what the formula companies tell you about formula keeping a baby fuller longer.

2) To build and maintain milk supply. Contrary to popular belief breasts do not store milk, they MAKE milk. What's more they make milk on a supply and demand basis. The more frequently and the longer a baby nurses at the breast the more milk the breasts create. Even if a baby is formula fed, his/her instinct is to eat frequently day and night to ensure supply.

There are some that believe that the need for night nursing passes after the 6th month. It is my belief that these people are wrong. Every baby is different, and while a 6 month old baby may medically be able to go through a night without eating, it certainly doesn't mean that they should or have to. In fact, as babies become more active and interested in the world around them and less interested in sitting still to eat their need for extra nighttime calories increases to make up for what they may have been too busy to take in during the day.

With our sleeping expectations so high for our infants it is no big surprise that the disappointment and desperation of many a tired parent has lead them to believe that a baby who does not sleep through the night needs to be fixed or 'trained'.

When these parents reach out for help, there is no shortage of 'helpful' (and sometimes expensive) advice out there for them. Sadly, much of this advice is dispensed with little to no consideration of the facts listed above.

Much of this advice encourages the idea that infants will never be good sleepers if they are not 'taught' to sleep and taught to sleep without the assistance of a parent or sleeping aid. According to our society, babies 'have to learn to put themselves to sleep' in order to be 'good sleepers' in later life.

And so, tired and desperate parents are told that all of their problems will be solved if they simply leave their babies to cry themselves to sleep.

Not surprising in our society that values independence above most everything else, the idea of crying it out has been stretched much further than sleep. Not only are parents told that they're sleep problems will be solved, but the advice to cry it out often comes with other false promises of less whining and better behaved children.

Many proponents of the cry it out method go as far as to tell parents that failing to leave a baby to cry will 'spoil' the child and sentence those parents to a long hard life of servitude to a demanding brat.

Well cry-it-out supporters, I am quite obviously not buying it.

I will never leave my child to cry it out, and here are my reasons why:

First of all I believe that it is cruel. My baby's instincts tell him that to be alone is to die. He needs me to fulfill all of his needs so that he can survive; it is my job to be available to him.

What's more it is MY instinct to respond to his cries. There is a reason why the cry it out method is so hard for mothers, our response to our baby's cries is so strong it is often physical. For our babies it is much worse. Where we have the ability to reason that they are in a safe place and are not in danger, our babies do not yet have that ability.

Secondly I believe that responding quickly and consistently to my baby's cries is a vital part of his development. Part of learning to communicate is learning that his actions affect the world around him. When he is hungry he says so and I feed him, when he is frustrated he says so and I can help him, when he is hurt or scared he says so and he is comforted.

When I respond quickly and consistently to my baby's cries he also develops confidence and independence. As he grows my baby will play and explore, learn and experiment with the knowledge that I am here if he needs me. He will also develop security with his own sovereignty in knowing that his actions can affect the world around him. It is my belief that children who are left to cry do not develop this kind of confidence so easily.

We are the models by which our children base their own behavior. From day one they are watching us. As my baby gets older and starts interacting with people outside of his immediate family group, he will take how he has been treated as an example of how to treat others. By responding quickly and consistently to his cries I am teaching him compassion and kindness.

By responding quickly and consistently to my baby's cries I am making him a smarter healthier human being. I don't really have any hard evidence to back that up, but it makes sense so me that the less time and energy my baby spends crying for my attention, the more energy he will have for growing, and more time he will spend learning.

Most importantly, by responding quickly and consistently to my baby's cries I am accepting that he is after all, just a baby. His needs do not have to be in conflict with my own, they are simply different.

He will not be a baby forever, and when these quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) nighttime moments are gone I will miss them (a little anyways). He will eventually learn to sleep through the night, and even learn to fall asleep on his own, and I will teach him those things gently with love and support.

I would not leave my baby to cry himself to sleep any more that I would refuse him training wheels and a helping hand to learn to ride a bike, or leave him alone in a room with a book to learn to read.

Night waking is simply part of being the parent of a small baby. There is nothing wrong with that.

I am not saying that tired parents need to remain tired (well, over tired, you're going to be tired the rest of your life whether you sleep 8 hours or 2). Part of taking care of your baby is taking care of yourself.

My advice to tired parents:

Sleep when your baby sleeps whenever possible, day or night.

Household chores, emails, showers and phone calls can all be done when baby is awake with a little practice and determination... Or done when your partner or someone else is with the baby... or can even be done by your partner or someone else.

The fact is that even a baby who does not sleep through the night will sleep anywhere from 12 to 16 or more hours in a 24 hour period. If you're sleeping when your baby is sleeping you will be getting that much too... Just not all together, and not always when you think you should be getting them... But you will be getting them!


Culinary Countdown to Summer: Edemame Salad

I actually got this one from Alton Brown's 'good eats', (only I always at least double the garlic in all of Alton's recipes. He never adds enough in my opinion!) one of my favorite shows for sure!

This salad is packed with protein and is therefore great for vegetarians.

Because it can be served chilled or at room temperature it's great for summer picnics, bbq's and potlucks, and leftovers are great for lunch if you're brown-bagging it.

You will need:

2 cups frozen edemame
1/2 cup corn (2 ears)
1/4 cup diced scallion
2 cloves garlic minced
1 TBSP olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 fresh chopped tomato
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
1 TBSP red wine vinegar

To make:

1)Combine edemame. Corn, scallion, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper on 13 by 9 baking sheet.

2)Roast for 10 to 15 min or until browned at 400 degrees F. (oven works fine, but we all know that the word 'roast' really means bbq!)

3)Cool in refrigerator for at least 30 min.

4)Add fresh tomato, basil, and vinegar and toss to combine.


Food & Mobility

It has been 6 months since Oliver was born. 6 months! That's half a year that has already sped by!

As if it wasn't bad enough that it's been a whole half a year already and I am feeling dizzy and sentimental about how fast the time is whizzing by me, it turns out that a lot of stuff happens in the 6th month of life to further prove to me that my little sunshine won't be a little baby forever.

The first of which is food. Solid food. Food other than the food that my body makes especially for him with all of the love and extra calories it can muster.

At first it looked as though I need not worry about food just yet. Which was just fine with me. Solid food may be the start of a whole new and exciting adventure in a child's life, but it is also the first step in weaning.

I do not plan to fully wean until at least 18 months of age, even the thought of partial weaning is breaking my heart, but my many and varied thoughts on that are another post all together.

So I digress, at first it looked like I wouldn't have to worry about food yet. Although at 5 1/2 months Oliver was very interested in the food on my plate and watching me eat it, he would immediately spit out/gag on any food I offered him and then shudder with disgust.

That is until we tried sweet potatoes.

Oliver would like sweet potatoes to be his new best friend.

The other major development that throws itself at you in or around the 6th month is mobility.

Oliver doesn't crawl yet... Though he's definitely interested and determined... But he has devised a system of rolling and wiggling that can pretty much get him wherever he wants to be.

And some places he didn't exactly mean to be.

Just the other day I came back from the other room to find him wedged under my armchair and grunting with exertion trying to get out. He looked almost embarrassed that I'd found him that way.


Culinary Countdown To Summer Sundays

Do you hear that? That tiny background buzz that has come over the bald Canadian prairie? It may be the wind, after all, this is, as I mentioned just a second ago, the bald Canadian prairie! But it's different, warmer than the wind that's for sure, and uplifting! It’s in the wet splash of car tires on the melting road, and the musky smell of dead grass poking out from under all that snow! It's the buzz of summer on its way!

I love this time of year, for me this is resolution time! January, while the official 'new year' is always so bitterly cold a depressing that it is really hard for me to look forward and feel energized, because let's face it, in January the rest of the year is still stuck somewhere after February, and February is stuck under quite a few feet of snow.

Mid-late March though? Mid-late March is an excellent time for looking forward and feeling energized and making hopeful resolutions, as the oppressive weight of the dark winter cold is melting away and flowing in babbling steams down the sewer drains and out to wherever it is that sewer run off goes.

The sickening pulse of the morning after Saint Patrick’s Day is also pretty helpful in stealing ones resolve towards positive changes in their lives! Not that I get to have hangovers anymore, but I do have vague memories of them.

One resolution I've made for myself is to spend more time on this blog. And I figured a good way to do this would be to have a challenge or series or some other such thing as a kind of assignment for myself to keep the words flowing.

It seams like a really good idea, but the reality is that more than a year after starting the Grace in Small Things challenge I've only completed 37 of 365 entries. And after only one actual contribution to (w)rite-of-passage I have all but given up on having any real time to devote to something so creativity intensive.

So what fun thing can I come up with that will equal content without being labour intensive and something that requires a bit less than 365 days worth of time commitment?

How about a culinary count down to summer? Because when one does nothing but watch endless hours of food network TV between diaper changing and breastfeeding, there is no shortage of really awesome cooking ideas!

I am going to start off with something easy, because I really like to cook but have no patience for anything overly fussy everything I make is easy! But this one is particularly easy, it's the quintessential taste of a hot summer afternoon, tasty homemade lemonade with a ginger twist!

It’s simple really; Find a bunch of lemons, some sugar and water and you’re laughing! Well, not exactly but pretty damn close, you will need:

4 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice

4 cups simple syrup – (equal parts water and sugar)

Frozen grated ginger

Lemon zest

The 1st step is to create simple syrup by heating equal parts sugar and water in a large sauce pan. As your syrup is heating grate in your ginger and lemon zest, don’t worry about measuring it out, just add as much or as little of each as you would like.

Once that has heated to a boil, you can add your fresh lemon juice and set aside to cool. Once cooled simply add 4 cups of water, some ice and tada! Yummy ginger lemonade.

Once you have your lemonade there are an infinite number of delicious things that you can do with it. Like adding Grenadine to make your home-style lemonade into home-style pink lemonade.

Piper suggests you add Gin. . . Lots of gin, and some club soda, to make yourself a Tom Collins.


I am Still Fat, But Getting Thinner!

After 30 days at curves I have gained 2 pounds. . .

At first this information came as a devastating blow to my confidence in the work I’ve been doing there. At my first work out my coach Avril told me that this would happen, after all, muscle weighs more than fat, but I had convinced myself that I would be an exception, that my work outs combined with the extra 300-400 calories burned per day by breastfeeding would put me on the fast track to skinny.

I was wrong of coarse, but as my 30 day check in went on I did find some pretty cool results. I’ve lost 1 ½ inches on my bust (ya know the ‘misshapen milk pustules’ I mentioned before), 1 ½ inches on my waist, 2 inches on my abs, and 1 inch on my hips. That’s a total of 6 inches lost in just 30 days! And as I went on thinking about it through the rest of my check in and that days work out, I found that I took more comfort and pride in the immeasurable results of my membership; like the camaraderie and friendships I am forging, the energy I am finding, and the stress relieving awesomeness of a good work out.

My gym membership has also had great results for the rest of the family as well. My first few work outs were a little stressful for everyone really. Das Piper was still nervous about being alone with Oliver, and Oliver was still nervous about being anywhere where his mommy wasn’t, but now, after just over a month of my being away for an hour three times a week I no longer come back to a screaming and inconsolable baby reaching desperately for me, but a happy baby full of smiles and coos telling me about all the fun things that happened while I was gone.

When Mommy’s at the gym it’s jam time for my boys, who spend the hour playing guitar, harmonica, rain stick, chanter, rattle and ukulele. Both of them have gained a new confidence in being left to their own devices, and along with a stronger bond that I can see between father and son it has also given Das Piper the confidence to comfort, cuddle, and nurture and otherwise take and even more active roll in all of Oliver’s daily activities. In fact, when I came back the other day Oliver had ACTUALLY FALLEN ASLEEP WITHOUT ME! It hasn’t happened since, but I’ll take it!

I can feel myself getting stronger, and now, as the weather is getting progressively warmer, little bits of brown muddy grass are poking out from under the snow, and the city smells like dirt and melting dog poop, I will continue to go to the gym 3 times a week and I can add daily walking to our routine to practice for our MS walk at the end of April!


GIST #36 of 365

1) Spring is in the air and on the 7 day forecast!

2) I lost a total of 6 inches this month!

3) Coffee

4) Little baby hands stroking my face while baby is nursing.

5) Das Piper mindlessly rocking back and forth despite the fact that he is not holding the baby at this time!