(Note on recent silence: I've been sick. Still am, but not as bad, finally.)|
So, I just read a thing about how it's apparently bad for babies in comprehensive ways to let them "cry it out". (It's all pretty reasonable and seems all scientific and stuff, except in the addenda the post's author has some comment about co-sleeping that seems in favour of it and I'm a bit, wait, doesn't that sometimes get babies killed? But anyway.)
At the same time, I have some issues with it. One, it sort of seems to leave the implication that if a baby is crying, the parents screwed up. They missed some pre-crying indication of the baby's need, and babies aren't supposed to cry - the author says something about how crying would signal predators, which to me, misses some fairly obvious points about human development. And, well, animals in general, actually. Babies of most species cry. Baby *birds* cry. Most animals with vulnerable young set up their young in conditions where they'll be protected from predators, humans very much included.
And humans have been establishing "home" conditions, protected from predators, for a VERY long time. Human infants are more vulnerable, for far longer, than any other species' young because of our crazy brain development stuff. But when that kicked in, we also had smarter adults to set up protections.
And sometimes, babies cry. Yes, the kind of distant, essentially neglectful parenting the column mentions is all bad. Babies need to be held, they often need to be comforted, and so on. But babies cannot be prevented from ever crying.
I adore babies. The probable reason I got sick this time around, initally - although the total collapse of my body appears to be centrally based on my cold kicking off a serious asthmatic meltdown, and I have a raft of new inhalers to prove it - is because a couple of weeks ago, I spent an entire day, pretty much, cuddling a baby I know because he had a cold, and he was miserable, and when he was awake, he wanted to be being held, because it made him feel better. (Understandably, really.)
It was my day to visit my friend and her two young sons, and babysit the boys so she could run errands and things. That day I spent extra time there, hanging out on the couch, snuggling with the baby so his mother could get some things done while she had two hands available. (When I arrived, I was instantly asked if I wanted to hold the baby, in a not-really-asking tone, because she was giving his older brother breakfast, and had not had a free hand yet to eat her own.)
Despite the week and a half I've been super-miserably sick, including stuffing up my head so badly I've got persistent vertigo and suchlike, I still have no regrets, because: I spent the whole day snuggling with the baby, and I even made him smile, when he was mostly just miserable otherwise. I love babies in general, I love him in particular, and it was just worth it. (Plus, eh, it's early winter, there's a cold going around, even if I'd managed to weather velithya having a cold without getting sick myself, it was only a matter of time. Could have done without my lungs shutting down though.)
Anyway, I establish my baby-loving credentials to point out that it is no dislike for babies that leads me to say that sometimes, babies cry. One even develops a discernment of their crying when spending a lot of time with a particular baby. Sometimes, a single cry will yank at your hindbrain and you will race to comfort them with all speed. Sometimes, they will wail, and you will think: yeah, nice try, buddy, but no. (Sometimes you will think: Oh, honey, if only you could understand. Specifically, when they're getting tired, but don't realise it, and are clearly upset that this doesn't feel good, and they don't want to be put to bed until they feel better, and seem to think that any attempt to persuade them that going to sleep will in fact be what makes them feel better is an attempt at rank betrayal. It's like they've learned to recognise that "I feel bad in some way" is something that adults fix, like if they're hungry they get fed, and so on, and so they want the adults to fix this one, without having made the connection that sleep is what fixes being tired, and the adults putting them to bed are in fact trying to do exactly that.)
The first three months of my life, I cried. I screamed. I had well-developed lungs and an underdeveloped digestive system, and I just screamed, for hours, non-stop. My parents tried everything to comfort me, and they couldn't, because I was in pain, pain that they couldn't fix. No-one could.
It's not impossible this damaged my brain in all the ways the article says, and contributed to the degree to which my brain is, these days, broken and malfunctioning, but I kind of get raised hackles at the implication that this was in any way a failure on behalf of my parents. My parents weren't perfect at parenting, no-one is, but I am damned sure that if they could have helped me in any way, they would have done it. Letting me cry was something they had no choice about doing, until, at three months, I suddenly stopped. (Apparently that was really, really disconcerting.)
The baby I was snuggling the other week is sometimes allowed to cry. He doesn't do it much, in my experience; far less than his older brother, who would wake up, cry for a couple of minutes, and go back to sleep, during naps - but not go back to sleep if you picked him up, or anything like that. (Except the first time I babysat him, when the treacherous little ratbag went back to sleep about two minutes before his mother came back for him, like he wanted to pretend he'd been asleep all the time. ADULTS HAVE VERBAL SKILLS, kid, I told her what you done.) This doesn't seem to have affected either boy's bond to their mother; they're trusting, joyful kids, they're kind of amazing. Because when they cry for a reason that needs attending, she attends to it. If the baby wanted to be held non-stop, all the time, he'd have to get over that, and he might cry, and that, I think, would be okay. But he can have being held all the time when he's sick, because being sick sucks.
At the end of the article, the author mentions her own history with emotionally distant parents. I think sometimes people overcompensate for ways in which they were parented badly, and develop conclusions based around ideas that the behaviour that their parents over-did must never be done at all, and sometimes that's right, but often, no, in small doses that may be a good thing.