Two things I do believe and several things I don’t

I believe “crying it out”* is not good. I believe it should never be the default method of sleep training, and I question whether “sleep training” is even the way we should think about babies and sleep. I believe it can be ever so slightly bad, or pretty bad, or very very bad, depending on a whole load of variables, and while I believe it might sometimes be the least bad of the limited options available (and I blame the kyriarchy and a society that isolates women who mother for those limitations), still I believe it is never a good thing.

Now here are many things I do not believe:

  • I do not believe using CIO makes one a bad person.
  • I do not believe using CIO makes one a bad parent.
  • I do not believe that parents who use CIO do not love their children.
  • I do not believe that parents who do not use CIO love their children more than those who do.
  • I do not believe that all children are measurably and irreparably harmed by CIO.
  • I do not believe that using CIO will definitely make your child hate you, or think you don’t love them.
  • I do not believe that CIO should be illegal.
  • I do not believe people who use CIO should be shunned or ostracized.
  • I do not believe I have any right (or desire) to tell any other parent what to do.
  • And I do not believe that saying that I believe CIO is not good says any of the above.

Another thing I do believe is that it is possible to critique a widespread (dare I say dominant) parenting practice without criticizing individual parents — and I believe it is necessary to try to do so. I believe it is my right, and possibly my responsibility, to explicate the ways that patriarchy both creates and benefits from a society that promotes and routinely uses detachment parenting practices such as CIO — and I believe that until the society changes such that patriarchy is not limiting and influencing our choices this way, getting sucked into attacks and defenses of individual “choices is not only missing the point, it is supporting the patriarchy.

Which is not any individual’s fault, of course. But we can choose to work to avoid it — work to avoid both giving and taking offense as we work to change minds and cultures — and I believe doing so has the power to change the world.

*”Crying it out” or CIO is here defined as any method of sleep training involving leaving a child or infant alone to cry for any length of time with the intent of getting them to go to sleep by themselves. Crying in arms and leaving a child crying alone for a time because one is unable to cope with the crying any longer without risking damage to oneself or the child are not CIO.

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11 Responses to Two things I do believe and several things I don’t

  1. gonna go share the HECK out of this one

  2. Rambling Rachel

    What a logic response to an issue that for me is hard not to wring my hands over!

    It is right to identify it as a widespread practice, detachment practice and a method used by people who love their children. Remembering that people make uninformed choices helps me remember not to be too outraged. But the practice is distressing.

    I'd like to understand what you mean about the "choices" statement toward the end of your post.

    One of the reasons people choose CIO is that they are seeking peace at the end of the day. But if more men were involved in parenting their children, this need would be less or perhaps the parent who didn't spend all day caregiving could parent the child to sleep?

  3. Wowzers, that was so well said! Couldn't agree more.

  4. Once again, well spoke. I really like this.

  5. yes. EXACTLY!


  6. Rachel: "I'd like to understand what you mean about the "choices" statement toward the end of your post." The link on the word "choices" goes to an older post of mine were I refute the so-called "choice" feminism that says any choice is feminist as long as a woman chooses it.

    My point is that we live in a patriarchy — a society in which the choices we have available are limited and our choice-making is influenced by a misogynistic culture — and so it's not as simple as saying "Well, I CHOOSE to CIO/formula feed/stay at home/wear make up/change my name" etc, because there are forces that are, subtly or strongly, influencing that choice. And yes, that includes women who mother being highly isolated in society, fathers who are not fully participant in parenting (whether by choice or necessity), a dearth of extended family and support networks, and of course a culture that promotes CIO and other detachment methods to serve its own means. So that parents who "choose" to CIO, whether they feel good about that choice or not, would likely not have made the same choice in non-kyriarchal, non-misogynist society.

    And to focus our discussion on whether any given individual is "wrong" to use CIO, or is a "better parent" to avoid it, totally misses the bigger picture, which is that we need to restructure society itself so that that choice is not necessary, much less promoted.

    I think that promoting alternatives to CIO, and discussing its harm both to the individuals (child, parent, family) and to society (contributing, however little, to a detached, unfeeling, non-empathetic culture), is fine and well and good, and can be a part of changing the overall culture — as long as the conversation is focused on refuting the method, not attacking its practitioners. And some people will always see any refutation of the method as personal attacks, which we can't really control, but to the best of my ability, I try to communicate the things I do believe without communicating the things I don't. Which is why I laid it out explicitly in this post.

    And now this comment is officially longer than the original post, so I'll just step away from the keyboard. Hope this answered some of your question.

    Do feel free to share! And as always, thanks for the comment love. ^_^

  7. Rambling Rachel

    It would be much easier to try and change people rather than society. Well, really, that could be a debate in itself–which would be easier.

    I think that's what I find daunting about your posts–you address the larger cultural, societal issues that I feel are out of my control. I can control (as much as anyone I think) what goes on in my family and possibly talk to those I love and like about parenting.

    But my whole culture. That seems impossible.

    Anyway, back to the topic at hand–thanks for your perspective on it.

  8. Rambling Rachel

    My friend came to visit. Last night Anna needed to breastfeed and breastfeed and breastfeed in anticipation of the incisors appearing. As I was nursing her, she said, "Do you ever consider crying it out?" I couldn't help my blood pressure, it's a very upsetting idea. I told her that I feel very strongly against it. The emotions I felt were overwhelming.

    She said, "Well, then I can't tell you my success story." But she did. And she said she and her husband chose to do it, he is involved in bedtime and it was a decision they both made.

    They don't fit what you've described.

    So how would you respond in a similar situation? It felt really uncomfortable because I didn't want to criticize what she was doing, but I really feel like it's a mean practice (even though it's not intended to be mean).

  9. I can understand disagreeing with several parenting practices, including CIO.
    I can understand feeling that overall, we live in a patriarchal culture.

    What I can NOT understand is the never-ending battle between women , mothers who love their children and want to raise loving adults who will go out and be unique and caring souls attacking EACH OTHER’S parenting choices.

    You should always feel uncomfortable when you feel the need to criticize someone else’s parenting choices without their request for your opinion.

    That’s your inner adult reminding you that we are all wonderfully different and can have differing opinions and still want what is best for our children and still have terrific supportive friendships!

    For where are we without our friends, and what are we if we can only ‘tolerate’ those with whom we disagree on some matters and restrict our friendships to those with whom we agree?

    And how can we call ourselves decent caring adults if we feel the need to proselytize to and belittle our friends?

    Step in to prevent child abuse- and learn the difference, and stop creating division among those who should be united in mutual support even in the midst of our differences.

    I don’t ‘tolerate’ my friends who have children who’ve never been left to cry it out – I simply offer a cup of tea and listen sympathetically to their tales of never getting a decent night’s sleep, knowing that they truly believe that this is what is best for THEIR families.
    I try to be a FRIEND.
    Try it , next time your stomach bothers you.
    Friendship is a wonderful remedy for the stress of parenting.
    And we all need friends who are not our mirrors.

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