Tuesday, April 12, 2011

From the Heart

Welcome to the February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Essentials
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared the parenting essentials that they could not live without. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I find parenting in public to be difficult.  When I hear about other people's parenting methods (like 'cold-turkey' weaning or the mother leaving her baby so she can go on vacation), I have to really search my heart to decide whether to stay silent or to just state how our way of doing things is different.  I try to remember that other parents love their children as much as I love mine even if they choose a different way of forming relationships with them.

But sometimes I know that I have to speak out against someone's parenting practices.  It's not about being judgemental or superior--it's about trying to encourage parents to form a closer, more trusting relationship with their child.

Recently I learned that someone who used to be a big part of my life had had a baby and was determined to use the cry-it-out method to make the baby (at 8 months old) fall asleep on his own at night.  I hear about the cry-it-out method all the time, and although it always makes my heart ache for the little one, I can usually put it out of my mind.  But because in this case the parent was someone with whom I used to enjoy a close relationship, and who I always believed would be a compassionate, authentic parent, I was really disturbed and I knew I had to act.

It had been over 5 years since I had had contact with that person, but I sent the following email:

Dear _________,
We have been out of each other's lives for a long time, but I felt very compelled to contact you today.

I am confused and distressed to hear that you have begun to let your baby cry himself to sleep at night.  I have always known you to be a kind and compassionate person and I know how eager you were to become a father.  For many nights I was unable to sleep as I pondered how you could have accepted this strange practice.

I can only assume that you are unaware of the dangers and drawbacks of letting your baby cry unconsoled.  Here are some articles that you may find helpful:

  1. Dr. James McKenna is sleep researcher.  This article explains why it is natural to sleep next to your baby.
  2. Dr. Sarah Buckley is an attachment parenting expert.  This article explains how making your baby sleep alone will not make him independent.
  3. This article explains how the hormonal effects of prolonged crying alter the function of your baby's brain. 
Please know that I am not a hypocrite in this regard.  None of my 4 children has ever had to cry her/himself to sleep for any reason.  Even my oldest daughter, who is almost 7 years, still chooses how and where she will fall asleep and if she chooses my bedroom, that is fine with me.  Yet if you met her, you would see that she is not at all clingy or attention-seeking; she is, in fact, quite independent.

I have also taken the bold step of sending you a book that I find very helpful.  I turn to it regularly to guide me on my parenting journey.  You can read more about the author, Naomi Aldort, on her website.

I regret that I did not contact you with words of support and congratulations when your son was born.  I know that you are committed to being an excellent parent who would never deliberately do anything to prevent your child from achieving his full potential.  I hope that you will consider the information in these articles with regards to your son and sleep.
So I sent it, and I've never heard a word back about it. I did hear through the grapevine that the father in question did not read Naomi Aldort's excellent book.

But I don't care.  I felt so strongly about what they were doing to their baby that I could not be silent.  And since the relationship was already dead in the water, I felt I had nothing to lose. 

I hope I made a difference.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon April 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • Natural Parenting Advocacy by Example — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her blog, Twitter and Facebook as her natural parenting soapbox.
  • You Catch More Flies With Honey — When it comes to natural parenting advice, Kate of The Guavalicious Life believes you catch more flies with honey.
  • — Patti at Jazzy Mama searches her heart for an appropriate response when she learns that someone she respects wants his baby to cry-it-out.
  • I Offer the Truth — Amy at Innate Wholeness shares the hard truths to inspire parents in making changes and fully appreciating the parenting experience.
  • Advocating or Just Opinionated?Momma Jorje discusses how to draw the line between advocating compassionately and being just plain opinionated. It can be quite a fine line.
  • Compassionate Advocacy — Mamapoekie of Authentic Parenting writes about how to discuss topics you are passionate about with people who don't share your views.
  • Heiny Helpers: Sharing Cloth Love — Heiny Helpers is guest posting on Natural Parents Network to share how they are providing cloth diapers and cloth diapering support to low income families.
  • Struggling with Advocacy — April of McApril still struggles to determine how strongly she should advocate for her causes, but still loves to show her love for her parenting choices to those who would like to listen.
  • Compassionate Advocacy Through Blogging (AKA –Why I Blog) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how both blogging and day-to-day life give her opportunities to compassionately advocate for natural parenting practices.
  • A Letter to *Those* Parents — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how to write an informed yet respectful reply to those parents — you know, the ones who don't parent the way you do.
  • Why I Am Not A Homebirth Advocate — Olivia at Write About Birth is coming out: she is a homebirth mom, but not a homebirth advocate. One size does not fit all – but choice is something we can all advocate for!
  • Why I Open My Big Mouth — Wolfmother from Fabulous Mama Chronicles reflects on why she is passionate about sharing parenting resources.
  • Watching and Wearing — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life advocates the joys of babywearing simply by living life in a small college town.
  • Compassionate Advocacy . . . That's The Way I Do It — Amyables at Toddler in Tow describes how she's learned to forsake judgment and channel her social energy to spread the "good news" of natural parenting through interaction and shared experiences.
  • The quiet advocate — Lauren at Hobo Mama cringes when she thinks of the obnoxious way she used to berate people into seeing her point of view.
  • I Am the Change — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro describes a recent awakening where she realized exactly how to advocate for natural parenting.
  • Public Displays of CompassionThe Accidental Natural Mama recounts an emotional trip to the grocery store and the importance of staying calm and compassionate in the storm of toddler emotions.
  • I will not hide behind my persona — Suzi Leigh at Attached at the Boob discusses the benefits of being honest and compassionate on the internet.
  • Choosing My Words — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares why she started her blog and why she continues to blog despite an increasingly hectic schedule.
  • Honour the Child :: Compassionate Advocacy in the Classroom — Lori at Beneath the Rowan Tree shares her experience of being a gentle and compassionate parent — with other people's children — as a classroom volunteer in her daughter's senior kindergarten room.
  • Inspired by the Great Divide (and Hoping to Inspire) — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis shares her thoughts on navigating the "great divide" through gently teaching and being teachable.
  • Introverted Advocacy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she advocates for gentle parenting, even though she is about as introverted as one can be.
  • The Three R's of Effective and Gentle Advocacy — Ana at Pandamoly explains how "The Three R's" can yield consistent results and endless inspiration to those in need of some change.
  • Passionate and Compassionate: How do We do It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the importance of understanding your motivation for advocacy.
  • Sharing the love — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about how she shares the love and spreads the word.
  • What Frank Said — Nada at miniMOMist has a good friend named Frank. She uses his famous saying to demonstrate how much natural parenting has benefited her and her family.
  • Baby Sling Carriers Make Great Compassionate Advocacy Tools — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shared her babywearing knowledge — and her sling — with a new mom.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Who needs Superman when we have a community of compassionate advocates?! Dionna at Code Name: Mama believes that our community of gentle bloggers are the true superheroes.
  • Words of advice: compassionately advocating for my parenting choices — MrsH at Fleeting Moments waits to give advice until she's been asked, resulting in fewer advocacy moments but very high responsiveness from parents all over the spectrum of parenting approaches.
  • Peaceful Parenting — Peaceful parenting shows at Living Peacefully with Children with an atypical comment from a stranger.
  • Speaking for birth — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud soul-searches about how she can advocate for natural birth without causing offense.
  • Gentle is as Gentle Does — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how she is gently advocating her parenting style.
  • Walking on Air — Rachael at The Variegated Life wants you to know that she has no idea what she's doing — and it's a gift.
  • Parenting with my head, my heart, and my gut — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares her thoughts on being a compassionate advocate of natural parenting as a blogger.
  • At Peace With the World — Megan at Ichigo Means Strawberry talks about being an advocate for peaceful parenting at 10,000 feet.
  • Putting a public face on "holistic" — Being public about her convictions is a must for Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, but it takes some delicacy.
  • Just Be; Just Do. — Amy at Anktangle believes strongly about her parenting methods, and also that the way to get people to take notice is to simply live her life and parent the best she knows how.
  • One Parent at a Time... — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that advocating for Natural Parenting is best accomplished by walking the walk.
  • Self-compassion — We're great at caring for and supporting others —from our kiddos to other mamas — but Lisa at Gems of Delight shares a post about treating ourselves with that same sense of compassion.
  • Using Montessori Principles to Advocate Natural Parenting — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how she uses Montessori principles to be a compassionate advocate for natural parenting.
  • Advocacy? Me? — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers that by "just doing her thing," she may be advocating for natural parenting.
  • Feeding by Example — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip shares her experience of being the first one of her generation to parent.
  • Compassionate Consumerism — Erica at ChildOrganics encourages her children to be compassionate consumers and discusses the benefits of buying local and fair trade products.
  • The Importance of Advocating Compassionately — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood acts as a compassionate advocate by sharing information with many in the hopes of reaching a few.
  • Some Thoughts on Gentle Discipline — Excellent resources - thank you for giving me a new article from Natural Child Project, I love that site!!
  • Compassionate Advocacy: Sharing Resources, Spreading the Love — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle shares how her passion for making natural choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting have supported others in Dominica and beyond.
  • A journey to compassion and connection — Jessica at Instead of Institutions shares her journey from know-it-all to authentic advocacy.
  • Advocacy Through Openness, Respect, and Understanding — Melissa at The New Mommy Files describes her view on belief, and how it has shaped the way she advocates for gentle parenting choices.
  • Why I'm not an advocate for Natural Parenting — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog delivers the shocking news that, after 10 years of being a mum, she is NOT an advocate for natural parenting!
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy — Even in the progressive SF Bay Area, Lily at Witch Mom finds she must defend some of her parenting choices.
  • A Tale of Four Milky Mamas — In this post The ArtsyMama shares how she has found ways to repay her childhood friend for the gift of milk.
  • don't tell me what to do — Pecky at benny and bex demonstrates compassionate advocacy through leading by example.


  1. It's so, so hard to hear about babies that can actually be physically harmed by parenting decisions. That is exactly the reason that I make an effort to be a compassionate advocate - so that others might learn that there are alternatives to harmful practices that have been promoted for years. Your letter was very to the point and non-judgmental, I hope that the parents gave it some thought!

  2. Wow. I'm not sure if I could be so direct, but I applaud you for saying something and following your instinct.

  3. I think there is something to be said for letting people do as they please, but I also REALLY applaud you for doing this. It is so hard to know when to speak up and when to turn the head...especially when you are armed with research and knowledge. I often wonder about others' parenting choices and think if they would make the same choices if they had done the reading/research that I have done. How can your read about the dangers of CIO or Babywise and still support it?

    Anyway, thanks for speaking up!

  4. I have parented my children alone for the last 10 years -- trusting every instinct and learning as I go -- and I have never never never EVER let my children cry themselves to sleep or cry just for the heck of it like most people think you "have to". Two more loving, healthy, confident, and trusting children I have never seen -- and good thing too because these two are mine. My boys are 10 and 7. Thank you Patti for speaking out <3. I appreciate it and I hope it makes a difference.

  5. What an interesting dilemma and approach. I often see people from high school on Facebook mentioning practices that are so not my thing... I usually just figure that my posting my own experiences and links to my blog is as much as they want to see/hear of me, since we weren't very close. One time a classmate asked how to go to the bathroom in public with a baby and I offered that you can pee while wearing your baby!

    I'm not sure how I might react if these were people who surprised me with their mainstream-ness like your friend did. I think I would probably -- if I felt like I HAD to say something -- try to first ask maybe if I'd heard correctly and just try to be really positive about my experiences. I wonder how they responded to a research-based approach. So interesting to think about.

    I wonder if knowledge will ever come back to you from these folks -- even years down the road. Let's hope they respected your good intentions, quietly flipped open the book and got some inspiration. And then passed it along to someone else. :-)
    Thanks for sharing!

  6. I hope that your courage will pay off for that little one. Kudos for speaking up when you knew you were in a position to make a difference.

  7. Wow, brave you.

    I personally don't like the approach. You didn't bother welcoming this beautiful child into the world, but the parents are to believe that you have the best intention at heart.

    I think parenting, like most of life, is about choice. And is is best to be informed fully before making that choice. So BRAVO on being willing to educate someone.

    Next time offer a get out of jail card with some free babysitting time, it's possible he may just need a break.

  8. I think it's great you took the time to offer information to an old friend. I think it's sort of sad that, even if they disagreed with you, you haven't heard from them since.

    Perhaps that book (I love it!) was sent to Goodwill and someone did open it, read it, and become inspired.

  9. Wow... it takes a lot of courage to be so direct. I'm sorry it didn't work out the way you'd hoped, but perhaps you planted a seed, and that book will get opened (and read!) with their next baby.

  10. I don't think I would be able to do what you did, but I'm glad you were brave enough.

  11. It is the hardest thing to reach out to someone you know with information that could help them grow as parents, especially when they might not really be receptive to it. I have done something similar and lost the friendship over it because they were not looking to change, and though I do not regret reaching out to them, I sometime wonder if the outcome would have been different if I had approached them differently. Sometimes advocating for children makes you seem the villain but it is never in vain.

  12. CIO makes me so, so sad. Long before we were parents, Sam & I used to babysit a little guy whose parents believed in not responding to his cries. We couldn't take it while we were babysitting and frequently went against their wishes, but I now regret I wasn't upfront with them about our distress over their choices. At the time, I didn't know anything about sleep research or attachment parenting — I just knew it felt wrong to hear a baby cry and not answer.

    Thank you for advocating for a baby who could not advocate for himself. It sounds like the parents were offended or dismissive of your letter, but you tried. Maybe they'll mention it to someone else who will take the message more positively.

  13. I had a very similar experience to yours (in that it had to do with CIO and I just couldn't get it out of my head and heart!). I belonged to a "due date" online forum when I was pregnant with my son and when the babies born the same month as he turned 5-6 months old, SO many of the mother's started doing CIO. It BROKE my heart. I seriously did often stay awake at night thinking about it! I always piped up in the conversations, I didn't do so in an attacking way, but I did always provide the well researched reasons of why we were not doing CIO. I also realized that many of the moms were doing CIO because they thought they had to...and they had not looked into other options. So I decided to start doing workshops on Gentle Parenting (aka AP) and I was pleased with the results. Unfortunately, you can't make people change, but you can provide an example of other ways of doing things by practicing what you preach. I do believe that even a tiny pebble can make far reaching ripples. I'm 100% sure the info you provided to that family did not fall on hidden eyes or closed ears, even though it might seem like they didn't take it in. Thanks for sharing your story :-)

  14. I applaud your passion for helping these parents consider another way. I also feel very strongly about CIO and will go out of my way to help parents understand that there are other alternatives. Whether they heard you or not, at least can choose a different path if they are able to make that leap.