After that, everything else is just useful to some of the people some of the time.
Ok, as you know I'm behind the Aware philosophy of allowing a baby to cry in your loving arms. There are of course, as with everything under the sun, its critics. Also, I have my own adjustments. I don't want to defend the philosophy, but I do want to clarify some criticisms and put in my 2 pence/cents worth.
The intuitive and thoughtful Cave Mother recently shared with me a site criticising the philosophy. Thanks!
I'm going to ignore what are to me sensationalist and silly phrases in the article, such as 'cult-like' and 'guru', and stick to what seem valid concerns. The author's attitude, terminology, and emotive claims are, for me, enough to disregard her argument. However, valid criticisms or concerns are always worth exploring. This will be in two parts as it became rather lengthy.
The author's main points:
"crying is virtually unheard of in indigenous cultures where babies' needs are instantly met"
I think that comparisons with tribal cultures, for any philosophy, is problematic and can only be useful as a base for ideas. Holding up indigenous cultures as some sort of perfect ideal fails on two counts. Firstly, by failing to appreciate the various child-rearing behaviours across the globe, which include practices that many of us would deem neglectful. Secondly, by failing to appreciate that extreme differences in cultures cannot allow a flawless transfer of methods from one culture to another. I also enjoy Liedloff's Continuum Concept and have been influenced by it, but by no means take it all as a true and unbiased observation. Nor as perfectly transferable.
As far as meeting needs, here is where my own caveat comes in. Despite the great success we've had with the Aware approach, I do not feel comfortable with it for babies under three months of age. Mostly because a baby of that age has a very extreme need to have her needs met immediately. And those needs are almost constant. Another parent with another child might feel more confident though.
Once a baby becomes more connected to the external environment - more alert, more responsive, more interactive - I believe that stresses are being created throughout the day. All babies are easily stimulated, and some more than others. Once they start to look around them more, it seems reasonable to believe that over-stimulation is more likely.
Of course, there is also the mother's stress during pregnancy as well as birth trauma, which I can't discount as valid stresses.
Over-stimulation is also more likely in our modern worlds.
Where do these stresses go? It makes perfect sense that they require release.
To jiggle, rock, or sing to an over-stimulated baby seems counter-intuitive to me.
"Aware Parenting gurus promise that if you follow their path it will provide you with a child who is 'calm and co-operative'. Whatever happened to accepting our children for who they are? Or taking responsibility for our failures rather than trying to 'fix' the child."
Isn't that what a parent is doing, fixing, when they try to quieten a crying baby who may need to cry? 'Provide you with' is a rather manipulative phrase. It's about giving the baby the chance for inner calm. Solter talks about helping older children learn to work cooperatively with others, along with allowing them to express their emotions.
One of my insights into our journey through this has been accepting my baby for who she is. A baby that feels stresses and needs to release them through a good thrashing it out and cry. That's my baby, I accept her rather than try to invalidate what she is feeling.
An awful word this author used there is 'failure'. In other words, if you are unable to anticipate, interpret, and then meet every one of your baby's needs, you have failed. She is lumping every parent of an unconsolable baby together. From those who don't respond, to those who try everything and anything to sooth their little one. My heart goes out to parents of colicky babies. Or when there is 'no apparent reason' for the baby's cry.
"my take is that these 'calm and cooperative' children will feel they weren't listened to; that their cries didn't get their needs met; that they were abandoned by the very person in this whole world who should have helped them"
My take is that a baby who has had every possible need met, and is then allowed to express themselves through crying, in the loving arms of their parent, will learn that their feelings, their voice, is valid.
Does this mean that we are going to get it 100% right 100% of the time? Hardly. But if we are loving parents who do everything and then feel the baby needs to cry and allow them to do so in a safe and loving environment, it seems unlikely that they will internalise feelings of abandonment.
"It is complete rubbish that all babies need to cry or that they need to cry for emotional release."
Hmmm. So babies do not have stress? Babies do not take in their mother's raised cortisol levels in the womb? Birth trauma is a fallacy? Babies are not born with raised cortisol levels? Babies cannot be over-stimulated? Babies don't have emotions?
"If a baby is feeling agitated or taking on the stress from those around them, this can be relieved by carrying them against your body and breastfeeding on cue..."
Solter herself says that neglect and unmet needs are a source of stress, and spends a good portion of her Aware Baby book discussing how to meet your babies needs. Remember, we are not talking about letting a baby cry alone or not responding. The parent is to always respond. A baby that gets no response has raised cortisol levels, whereas a baby that has been allowed to cry in loving arms has reduced cortisol levels.
The author of the article appears confused about the physiological occurence called stress. Stress is not agitation, it's not annoyance, it's not discomfort, it's not hunger. It is an increased production of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which causes a rise in cortisol levels. A rise that, if sustained and not released will cause damage (brain damage, suppressed immune system).
You all remember the old school learning right? The fight or flight response. Cortisol is there to help us achieve one of those. If we do neither, we either release it in another way or we internalise it.
part 2 will follow...