I’ve heard it all: “Don’t pick up your child too much, it’ll spoil her” or “Let her cry it out” or again “your daughter needs to be sleeping in her own bed”. I listened, I thought about it, and I pushed it all aside. I seem to know what I’m doing. And now, I’m very happy that I am seeing the results.
Straight out of the womb, Souris has been a little cuddle bunny. She prefers being held. Point final. To get to sleep, she needs to be in someone’s arms (even if they’re not mine). To play, she wants to be close to you. When you’re in the kitchen, she wants to be right there with you. And so, for the past four months, I’ve been doing what I think is best for her; I’ve kept her in my arms whenever she needed to be held.
Having studied in Developmental Psychology a few years back, Bowlby and Ainsworth’s Theory of Attachment has been drilled into my head over and over and over again. I have learned that, in order to make sure that my infant grows up to have a secure attachment to her father and I, I needed to respond to her needs. I learned that when a newborn cries, it’s not to manipulate you, and it’s important that you respond. A secure child can be defined as one who “seeks protection or comfort from their mother and receives care consistently.”
I’ve read over and over again that, when a child is securely attached to his or her parents, he can explore his environment with more confidence, and hence becomes more independent. At first, it might sound counterintuitive to pick a baby up to encourage independence, but research has backed this claim up time and time again.
And so, despite my doctor’s advice to let my three-month old cry by using the 5-10-15 minute technique (where you let your child cry for 5 minutes before going to see him, and then 10 minutes, and then 15 minutes), and despite my mother’s opinion that it was primordial for my daughter to learn right away to sleep in her crib, I did what I thought was best.
Because she’s been falling asleep in my arms, and because she’s slept with me when she woke up scared at night, my daughter is learning to fall asleep in her crib by herself. Yesterday for naptime was the first time that I had successfully put her down while she was still half awake and she slept for an hour! The crowd roars!!! When she is feeling safe and secure, I use the opportunity to challenge her by putting her down, and encouraging her to stay by herself. When she feels scared, I let her know that I’m there and I pick her up.
More and more, Souris sleeps for longer periods of time in her crib, and I’m starting to enjoy having an evening to myself while she sleeps in the other room. It has been hard work, and it has been slow going, but I truly believe that it is in the best interest of my child. With time, I will continue to encourage her to navigate the world by herself with me close-by. By responding to her needs, she is learning to trust that I will help her out and so she needs my help less and less.
Let me clear up however that, once a child learns grows and understands that crying leads to action, and isn’t crying because of a need but more because of a want, I (hopefully) won’t respond in the same way. I will always try not to cave into the demands of my child when these demands are unreasonable. If my daughter, at 1 year old, cries because she wants to sleep with me, yet I know that she is perfectly capable of sleeping in her own bed and didn’t wake up from a nightmare, I will try and say no (we’ll see when we get there because after all, don’t we all think we know how to raise children before we have them?).
The key for me in the future will be to distinguish between the wants and the needs of my baby, and to learn to constantly adapt my techniques to what she is now able to accomplish!