Thursday, April 29, 2010

Parents of the Caribbean: At Wits End

OK so I mentioned the word CIO which always sparks debate...

When Butterfly was 8 weeks old we started her on routines. "Self Settling" became the new objective. That meant putting her down and walking out for 2 minutes, letting her cry and then after that coming in and patting her until she fell asleep. She still cried when we were there, but at least we were there. It was a very stressful point in our family relationship, my hubby couldn't see why we had to do it but I was adamant. The book says I have to do this to have a child who sleeps well. If only I had listened to him.

Butterfly was on routines then for about 4 months. She slept great! Slept through on the rare occasion, and the other nights only woke once. Success! Although she never "self settled" without being in some degree of distress. She never screamed the house down, just cried out for us. I was never relaxed until she fell alseep. And nights were horrid in our house, as bedtime was 7pm but she was always wanted to go to sleep around 6pm... so stretching her out that last hour was hard on everybody.

THEN she hit 6 months. BAM! No more whinges at bedtime, she began to REALLY cry, SOB, like her little heart was broken. She woke every hour during the night. She wouldn't sleep unless I fed her to sleep. I felt like a right failure, as that is breaking one of the "books" cardinal rules. I began to stress out about feeding her to sleep, looked for another solution. Hubby went on the net. We only found one site that supplied an alternative to the CIO method if you can't stand to hear your baby cry. We clicked on it... "go outside" was the advice. SIGH. So we gave it a go. I wish we hadn't, but we did.

We consulted the "book". The cry alone time had increased from 2 minutes for an 8 week old to 20 minutes for a 6 month old. And she cried. And cried. She burst into tears before I had even closed the door each night. I sat on the couch, every cell in my body screaming to go to her, and waited. And listened. And felt my heart BREAK. 15 minutes it took her. 15 MINUTES! According to the book that was fast, but if you cried that hard for that long you would be exhausted and probably fall asleep as well. I am welling up now just thinking about all of this.

And you know what? It worked. It worked in that it she went to sleep and slept solidly, only waking once or twice a night. We did this for maybe 3 nights. Even though I had "acheived" the goal to make her sleep, I wasn't happy. I didn't know what to do. I had been given some money for my birthday and Christmas, and went shopping. I decided to seek out a book Sausage Mama was always going on about, "The Continuum Concept". I liked and respected SM a lot, and wanted to know what the fuss was about.

I read it. And I cried. I cried because it said what I already knew, that leaving Butterfly to CIO was not the best thing for her. AT ALL. I dried my eyes and set about making changes in my house. Step one? Move Butterfly back into our room (she moved out at 3.5 months). Step two? Feed her to sleep. Without guilt. Without hesitation. Feed her because she wants to. Feed her because she needs the comfort. Feed her to let her know that you are here for her, day or NIGHT.

It was a big adjustment, from getting up to a child once or twice a night, to tending to her every hour. It HAS taken me a while to retrain my thoughts. I have had my low points, where I have been sleep deprived and at my wits end. Right now I am at a point in our relationship where we are SO close, SO bonded, and I am happy to go to her, no matter how frequently. She always cries for a reason. Wanting a hug is a real reason. Not that she cries much anymore!!

She is still waking frequently. It has been 4 months. It has recently improved to once every two hours. So don't be under the illusion that I am only able to avoid CIO because my child is a good sleeper anyway. She isn't. But I have higher goals for her than just getting her to sleep through the night in the short term.

SO... my point? I wanted to share my experience for those who felt judged by my dislike for the CIO method. I have been a routine Mum (and at the time, was so SMUG that my baby slept better than others! And tried to get others to read the "book"). I HAVE left my baby to CIO.

So do I think you are a horrible parent for being a routine Mum or letting your child CIO? NO. I would be a total hippocrite if I said yes.

However I do hope you do some research on the topic. If you already have, fine. Your child, your decision. There are studies which support it, and some that say it is harmful. There is a great resource on the peaceful parenting blog. The studies that say it is harmful are not based on someone sitting a bunch of people down and asking them to rate their happiness out of 10. It is a scientific study about the effects of raised cortisol (stress hormone) on a persons ability to cope with stress in later life. Personally I have found the articles that support CIO focus on the fact that it works, not the long term effects. I don't doubt it "works".

Do I think it is harmful to babies? YES. I can't pretend otherwise. Obviously I do to have chosen attachment parenting. I have nothing to lose. If I am wrong, it doesn't matter. But there is also a chance I am right.

I hear a lot of parents saying around forums that there child is "fine" or "the happiest child" etc. I'm sure they are. My beliefs on CIO are not that you will harm your child to the extent that they will not live a happy life. However our society is seriously screwed up and I am trying to make sure Butterfly has every chance of growing up confident, secure, the best she can be.

If my blog has incensed you, please go back and reread it with the knowledge that I am NOT judging you. How you parent has no effect on me. This is just my life, my experience, and that is all I have to offer you.

Please, PLEASE, if you are not coping at the moment, seek help. Postnatal depression is a serious illness that needs to be addressed.

I wish everyone and their babies a happy and fullfilled life! Peace.


  1. Aww I really enjoyed reading this =)

  2. Thank you for sharing your strength and experience. Society focusses so much on 'sleeping through the night' and little else when it comes to night times. Good on you for doing the best for you little girl, as hard as it is with the frequent waking. Love your work.

  3. well said, its hard to admit that you did things a way you dont agree with anymore, we did cio with tylah and we dont with brock. everytime brock needs help getting to sleep i feel sad that i missed out on that with tylah. i remember one night we were out and i had to rock tylah to sleep at a family gathering and it was so nice, but it was only a few times that it happened. with brock its probably twice a week he gets patted to sleep. when he needs it. mostly he just goes to sleep by himself, which proves that you can assist your baby to sleep and you dont ruin them. and when tylah was crying her heart out, we did go outside so we didnt have to hear it because it was difficult. things are so much easier now, but thats the case with your second i think. your first is a trial to find out what works, the second you get to do the right thing from the beginning, third, well havent got there yet. thanks for the beuatiful blog , keep it up.

  4. Thankyou everybody. K, it really is hard to admit you did something to your child that you now consider harmful. Breaks my heart. But I felt I should share so people know where I am coming from. I can't go back, just learn from my experience and hopefully educate some others so they don't have to learn the hard way.

  5. totally know where you are coming from, doing something with one of your kids that you now realise was not the right thing. not CIO in my case, but I do know how that feels.

    :) I will say 3rd kid, something else altogether!
    when #4 came along for me I thought I had it organised and that he would be 'easy' because he'd just have to fit in.. I was in for a shock.

    great blog. keep sharing your heart, I'm sure it is helping someone and encouraging the rest of us too.