Monday, November 22, 2010
BabyWise vs. Attachment Parenting
This topic got brought up in my Bradley class I am currently teaching. I can't stop thinking about it and decided maybe this is a better venue to express my thoughts on this topic.
Most of the people I know, or have known, that have "done" the Baby Wise method of parenting have gotten into it because other couples at their church do it. The people I have encountered have been interesting for me to observe. They tend to watch the clock instead of their baby. For example, baby is fussy, and instead of putting the baby to breast, mom looks at the clock and announces that he shouldn't be hungry yet, not for another 20 minutes! By the time she feeds him, he's hysterical.
I had someone in class explain how the method is actually suppose to work, and I must admit, if I didn't have children, I might think it sounds like it makes a lot of sense. Here's the idea: You want your baby to learn to get good sleep and sleep for longer periods of time, because, like adults, they will learn better, grow better, etc., if they get good rest. They talk about the possibility of developing ADHD and having learning difficulties when the child doesn't get enough rest. (Have you been to Walmart at 10:00 at night and seen all the crying kids and frustrated parents? I'd have to say that I agree -- kids should be in bed when they have school the next day.) You are not to let the baby fall asleep at the breast, but keep the baby awake longer so that he will sleep longer. Baby Wise also does not want baby to always breastfeed to go to sleep.
My favorite part though was not having a baby that is a "snacker." The idea is that if you "let" your baby breastfeed whenever he wants to, he isn't getting "good protein" -- WHAT?! Whoever came up with that has no idea how breastfeeding actually works. Baby gets "good protein" at every nursing, long or short. They advocate for the baby to have "meals" instead of "snacks." Dr. Sears, in The Baby Book, talks about all the different types of nursing babies. Having breastfed 4 babies for more than 7 years of my life, I will tell you that all babies are different. My first did not ever nurse for less than 40 minutes at a time. His little head would sweat like crazy. I'd have about an hour, maybe 1 1/2 hours, before we'd do it all again. He is my healthiest child!
My 2nd baby was finished with nursing five minutes after it began. She would go 3-4 hours between feedings. I could never have made her nurse longer. I would have had a very frustrated baby, not to mention a very frustrated mom. She slept more than any of our other babies. She was the only baby who would not fall asleep nursing. She wanted to be left alone to go to sleep. Sounds like what every parent hopes for, right? Think again. She was not a cuddler. She has been my only child prone to ear infections. She is almost 10 years old and very smart, a very deep thinker. She likes to spend her time alone and has lots of self-soothing techniques that have become very disruptive in her life -- so much so that we are seeking counseling. Don't leave your child to soothe herself. My "squeeky wheels" seem to have more "normal" ways of dealing with life. I don't want to see parents do this type of parenting on purpose.
My other two babies were more in a classic category, as far as breastfeeding.
Some babies, especially newborns, will want to breastfeed every 20 minutes! This is a good thing. You will establish a good milk supply. It is the frequency of breastfeeding, not the duration, that stimulates your milk-producing hormones. So, snacking is great! Babies have very intense sucking needs those first few weeks. This is not a coincidence. It helps establish a good milk supply if your baby is at the breast very often. You absolutely cannot spoil your newborn baby! What will spoil this wonderful relationship is giving your baby a pacifier or bottle. Babies are built to breastfeed and so is the mother! Let yourself enjoy this time by following your baby's cues. He will let you know exactly what he needs if you will listen to him and not some kooky book that tells you your baby needs to teach himself how to go to sleep.
As far as sleeping goes, you cannot force a baby, or anyone, to fall into certain sleep cycles. Sleeping is an absolute basic need. Food, water, sleep, shelter. Honestly, no one needs to be taught how to sleep. Babies have very different sleep cycles from other age groups. A good book to read on this topic is "Sweet Dreams" by Dr. Paul Fleiss.
I was completely obsessed with sleep with my first baby. And then one day, I was trying to make him take a nap, and my aunt said to me, "You know, he will sleep when he's tired. He must not be tired. Let's go play!" This was so freeing to me. He was 3 years old at the time. He quit taking naps shortly after that, but his bedtime was moved to an earlier time. He is such a great sleeper since I quit obsessing over it. He's 12.
We had a big sleep progression over the years. I wish we could have just started with baby #4. We never even set up a crib with her. When we had a crib, we felt obligated to use it. (Dr. Sears tells a story of being in a foreign country and was asked, "Is it true that American mothers put their babies in cages at night?) Yes, it is true.
Let me tell you about sleep with Darcy: I nursed my baby to sleep every time she was sleepy! I would never recommend not doing that. It was stress free. I knew she'd fall asleep and if she didn't, we'd try again later. I knew this was my only time of her life that we would have this opportunity. I loved to nurse my sweet baby to sleep, to smell her milky breath as her mouth opened once sleep came and extra milk ran down the side of her cheek. I never had to pick her up and take her to her bed. Our bed was her bed. I simply laid her down and felt her body mold to mine. Unless you have experienced this closeness to your baby, you just cannot understand or imagine the sweetness. David and I both treasured that time, knowing it is too short.
Darcy was never afraid of sleep. It was a comfortable, safe, warm, happy place to be. What is wrong with nursing your baby to sleep, even every time your baby is tired? Why is this frowned upon in our society? I promised, it will not last forever! You will not create a monster.
Our bed sits high up. We taught her early on how to get off the bed -- "feet first" was a phrase all of our kids learned early on. When she was very small, we would put a monitor on the bed and get there as soon as we heard her wake up.
There were some sleepless nights. Sometimes, she'd be wide awake in the middle of the night and want to talk. Sometimes she'd kick David in the back. Sometimes we slept in the "H" position. This would have happened no matter what bed she was in. It would be very easy to ignore her if she were in another room. Usually, however, she would simply nurse back to sleep. I was her mother in the daytime as well as the nighttime. We have a king-size bed, and really, that is a better investment than a crib.
I hear parents say they are afraid the baby will never leave their bed. Of course they will. When Darcy was about 20 months old, we were trying to get her used to sleeping in another bed in our bedroom. We were going on a Tim McGraw cruise in a few weeks and wanted things to be easier for my mom who would be staying with the children. That was such a stressful time to try to make her sleep somewhere she wasn't comfortable with. After a few weeks of trying, I decided it just wasn't time for her to be out of our bed. What a relief.
She moved into her sisters' bedroom when she was 28 months old. We talked about it beforehand and felt that she was ready. She did not try to come out of the bedroom even one time! Again, sleep was never scary for her. It was an easy transition. She quit breastfeeding around the same time. She'll be 4 in March and is still a great napper, which always takes place on my bed. It's my favorite time of the day to snuggle up with her and feel her breathing sync with mine as we drift off to sleep.
Let's go back to the Baby Wise idea of not letting your baby fall asleep at the breast. First of all, I say this is nearly impossible. There are some major problems with this philosophy. When I am talking with a breastfeeding mom who has a baby that is not gaining weight, the first thing I ask her is, "Who is ending the feedings?" The baby should be the one ending it, usually because he falls asleep! Mom should not be ending it because the longer the baby stays at the breast, the more hindmilk the baby is getting. This is the fat, or "dessert," after dinner. Baby needs this to grow. Second, mom's body produces a hormone called prolactin which the baby also receives during breastfeeding. It is often called "the mothering hormone" because it causes her to be calm, even sleepy. Same effect on baby. Why would any mother not want to have this wonderful hormone surging through her body and her baby? Again, I ask, why is it bad to let your baby fall asleep at the breast?
Follow your baby's cues. Don't be a clock watcher. Don't schedule your baby. Together, you will fall into a natural routine. Routines are great. Schedules, not so much. Think of what is best for your baby. If it's best for your baby, it's most likely best for you too in the long run, even if it seems inconvenient right now.