“The only thing responding to your baby’s cries does is teach them you will always respond to their cries”
Did you read this as a good thing or as a bad thing? We want to take some time to really look at some of the things that are often viewed as negative in early parenthood and see if we can reframe how you see them a little bit.
We find it so interesting that in so many places you would turn to for parenting or sleep advice, you read this as a negative thing. That by responding to all cries you’re making your baby “too” dependent on you. That your baby will come to expect you to always respond to all their cries and therefore make them cry more somehow.
We’re encouraged to leave our babies to cry themselves to sleep if all physical needs have been met. We are told to ignore and not respond to unwanted behavior during the day out of fear of drawing too much attention to it and reinforcing the behavior. We are quick to label toddlers as “good” or “bad” depending on how they can handle their emotions and what the subsequent behavior looks like.
Isn’t this ridiculous?
Can we shift our perspective to the positive?
By responding to our children’s cries consistently (and this doesn’t mean say yes to every ask but to just acknowledge and respond), we’re teaching them that whenever they need ANYTHING they can rely on us to be there for them. Whether it’s the middle of the night or the middle of the day. This is only a good thing and is critical for attachment.
Our children need to feel significant and welcomed to exist in our lives regardless of their behavior. They need to know they’re loved no matter what. Their behavior is rooted in attachment. If their attachment needs are met their behavior will follow.
Similarly, when we’re asked who still HAS to help their child fall asleep, instead of who still GETS to help their child fall asleep we’re putting all the emphasis on independence again.
Have you ever stopped to think about WHY we're rushing our children into independence?
From babyhood we're obsessed with how our children are falling asleep. Are they doing it independently or do they need support? Do you still HAVE to help your child go to sleep?
What if instead of viewing our children's need for support to sleep as a negative thing, we viewed it as a privilege. If we appreciated it as an honour that we are the ones our little ones want to end the day with? That only we will do when it comes to sleep?
If we can appreciate their littleness and soak up those bedtime moments do we let go of the anxiety and frustration we sometimes feel if our toddler asks us to sit or lay with them until they fall asleep? Can we be the calm presence to help our babies to fall asleep when they are struggling to do so?
Or when our babies are newborns and we often hear they won’t sleep anywhere but on us. What if we looked at that as a design, not a flaw. Can we shift our perspective to see it as a time to build our attachment to this new little person in our lives? Can we see it as a time they’re asking us to give ourselves permission to just rest and just to be? Can we slow down enough to really recover and rest from the exhaustion that comes from the 4th trimester of life?
Finally, we’ll leave you with this old La Leche League story. “There’s an old La Leche League story of two new mothers, one of whom says with a tired voice, “It’s been way worse than I expected! If I’m not holding him or nursing him, he’s crying.” The other says, “It’s been so much easier than I expected! All I have to do is hold him and nurse him, and he’s happy as a clam.” Some babies are definitely a lot easier than others. In general, though, the more you carry your baby, hold your baby, and sleep with your baby, the less stress both of you will feel.”