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Aware Baby vs. No Cry Sleep Solution: Comments?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
I'm wondering about this because I read the Aware Baby many months ago. The author, Alethea Solter, asserts that crying is a stress release mechanism for infants experiencing the trials and tribulations of infancy. She only advocates CRYING WHILE BEING HELD by a compassionate listener, not CIO.

She feels that sleep disturbances, whininess, and tantrums are largely the result of suppressed need to cry. Suppression occurrs through distraction and use of "control patterns," which include nursing and clutching a stuffed animal. She believes that until a cry is expressed, it remains present. Tactics to stop the cry only suceed in delaying the process and teaching children that their emotions are not respected.

She also says that an unmet need to cry is the reason that babies and small children may fall asleep in their parent's arms but awaken as soon as they are put down.

I thought it was a lot of nonsense until Dd had some irritable days around 7 months, and ended up crying in my arms for 40 minutes. The irritable days disappeared, and she cried in my arms about once a month, for 5 to 10 minutes, always seeming much happier after.

Now that she is a toddler, with more frustrations, it seems like she needs more of this, but as she is more captivated by her world, it is harder for her to sit in my arms and cry when it seems like she just needs to let go. Of course I eliminate all possible causes of crying that need specific attention, which these days is usually teething. I think this has worked really well but if Dh is around when it's going on, he can't stand it and he'll come and distract Dd. He says, see, she's fine. Then he leaves and the party's over, and she's crying again until she's had her say. Solter claims that toddlers can have increased needs for this release.

It's probably just a coincidence, but Dd is really good natured and has moved into toddlerhood gracefully. I give her more credit thatn I give myself. I also think of something I went through a few weeks ago, where I felt off balance and a need to cry that lasted for weeks until I finally was able to cry and express to Dh what had been on my mind. Life is so hectic, I just hadn't had a chance. But right away after I felt like my old self again, with no need to cry. So I've personally experienced that a cry stays with you until you go ahead and do it. At least with me.

Then comes the No Cry Solution. I have read Solter extensively, but not Pantley's work (we do not really have any problems that need solutions, dare I say). I understand that while Pantley is trying to offer moms a break from the night nursing, the lack of crying is of utmost importance, and she uses a stuffed animal to help accomplish this. I don't know if she goes on to say that tantrums are in any way affected by her approach.

Experienced parents please tell, So which is it??
post #2 of 23
Pantleys book directly addresses sleep problems and doesn't really address crying at any other point in a childs life. Her book (or at least the title) in in direct response to the cry-it-out method of getting your child to sleep. She simply offers alternatives. Yhe two books focus on completely different crying.
post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 
Solter claims they are the same (she doesn't discuss Pantly, but I think she is describing the same kind of crying Pantley seeks to deal with), that crying at night before sleep is an opportunity for discharge of the days stress - that when kids are sleepy they are most subject to feeling the stress and needing to release it. She also believes the cause of broken sleep and need for nighttime nursing (in a child who no longer needs the nighttime nutrition) is the result of pent up stress and need to cry.
post #4 of 23
I haven't read either book, though I'm very familiar with Pantley, so take my opinion for what it's worth. I'm a bit doubtful of what Sotler is saying, b/c it seems to me that she attributes a bit too much to "the need to cry". I'm sure that sometimes babies do need to release emotion, like we all do, but my own personal philosophy is that adults get this way and not really babies (so this is where I disagree with Solter) b/c adults are conditioned to suppress emotions (taught to do so) and have "adult stresses" (jobs, money, relationships, etc) that babies just don't have.

I look at parenting and babies in more of a biological way and believe that crying is communication. I think crying is part of the stress response, causing the release of cortisols and other stress hormones. Crying suggests something is "not right". That is why I believe it always needs responding to, to the best of our abilities (recognizing that sometimes we just don't know what the need is and can't fulfill it).

I do agree that distracting a child from crying is useless, though, b/c you aren't treating the underlying problem. I also think that sleep issues are more b/c of the way babies are designed and how far we have come from that in our expectations. Babies are designed to be carried around with a moving human being, always on the go, always able to nurse, etc. and sleeping by their mother's side. So to me, the inability to be put down, the need to be rocked/held, to nurse to sleep, are not for any real reason other than that's the environment they evolved in.

Sounds a little simplistic, but I don't want to write a novel here, lol. Guess what I'm trying to say is so far.. .I don't buy what Solter is saying. But that's JMHO!
post #5 of 23

I've read both books as well, and feel some of the same confusion about it all myself. Like you, I read both books awhile ago, and they were really all "theory" to me at the time. DS has been a smooth babe and now toddler, and I wasn't convinced that he "needed" to cry. I also found Solter's books to be lacking in real practical situations, and since I certainly wasn't parented in the style she talks about, I had nothing to base it all on. Since then, I've found a few other authors that I think are right in line with her style, but offer a bit more of the real-life situations and solutions that I really needed to understand what they're talking about. (Lawrence Cohen, and Patty Wipfler, specifically).

Anyway....at around 22 months, we started a drastic transition to toddlerhood and independence with DS. To my surprise, he started to wean himself, and with that, came a flood of transitional issues. Lots of tantrums, raging, whining, etc. All of this from a babe who has been a breeze until now! He was clearly seperating himself from me, but having a hard time finding a replacement for the nursing he had been doing. I desperately read every book I had again, looking for solutions, and *finally* Solter's work clicked for me. It really felt like his whining was emotion "leaking out" slowly. So we started helping him discharge, mostly at night is when he seemed to really need it. I couldn't believe how well he responded to it...he kept crying "boo boo" during the first few sessions...it seemed to me that he was really getting the idea of releasing some hurt. Anyway, since we've incorporated discharging into our family life (DH and I are working on it too!), things are really looking smoother for us....

I had tried in the past to give DS a lovey, at the suggestion of Pantley's book. He never took to it, and I now really do think it is just replacing one control pattern with another. I still think Pantley has some valuable things to say, especially in response to CIO, which I think is what she tries to create an alternative to. It's just that Solter has really clicked for us.

Sorry I rambled and probably didn't even address what you were asking about. You mentioned that your DH doesn't quite get the discharge idea? If you do like Solter's work, I'd suggest checking out Patty Wipfler's stuff...her site is www.parentleaders.org . Under "articles" there are some really good, short articles you can read/print off. I gave a few to DH, and it helped him tremendously to understand what I've been talking about. He has a lot less time than I do to read an entire book, so her site helped him a lot.

mama to Calvin, 1/23/01, and baby bean #2 arriving 4/03
post #6 of 23
Thread Starter 
MamaMae - thanks for the story and the link. I especially like the article on laughter (Playlistening). I believe that laughter, as well as lots of running around playing (working off steam) are also excellent outlets for the stresses of babyhood.

68 - This is long, if you didn't write a novel, I have: I beg to differ with you, respectfully, that infants do not suffer stress. I did not go into that detail because I can't review all of Solter's background material. I'll just go into my own revelations.

There was a psychological study some years ago that showed unpleasant workplaces were not a cause of stress nearly as much as the sense of a lack of control in a job. Lack of control: the story of a baby's life.

Imagine, getting jostled by strange people from afar, who call themselves grandparents and want to hold you. You can't control your bladder or bowels. You can't get from here to there. Or you can but not as well as you like. Mom's left you in the crib because she had to use the bathroom and the sling is in the wash. Who here is arguing or is that the radio? OK, your parents taught you to sign, but they only gave you a sign for tofu, not the desired tofu teriyaki instead of the presented coconut curry tofu. You were so enjoying naked time and suddenly you've poopered on the carpet you know mom likes to keep clean because you like to help her sponge up the spots. Trapped in the carseat!

I remember in elementary school some teacher on a bad day started yelling at us about how great we had it as kids, because one day we'd have to think about working and paying bills. I remember thinking, at least I'll be able to decide what to have for dinner. Through a turbulent professional life, I've never felt as out of control as when I was a child. I did not come from a bad home by any means, just one where the decisions were not mine to make, and I didn't like it. Enough about me...

I'm reading Love at Goon Park right now, about Harry Harlow whose studies of maternal attachment and interaction in primates led the way to rooming in for newborns, and gave credibility to the previously ridiculed work of Bolby, who first coined the term "attachment." Harlow had contact with many psychologists who went on to achieve prominence. One, Levine, studied the effects of early life stress on adult behavior in rats. His interest was the biochemical response to stress.

He had 3 rat groups; A stayed with mom in a cage, B were handled for 3 minutes, and C, the supposed stress group, got 3 minutes of mild electric shock. As adults subjected to stress of an open area in which to explore toys, the mom kept rats showed anxiety. The handled group and the shocked group took the new environment in stride. Levine's theory was that the mom group did not replicate real life of a rat, where mom moves babies here and there. He felt that the cage mom grew bored and apathetic and did not interact with her babies, making them anxious and dysfunctional when subjected to later stress.

He felt that handling constituted a stress not very unlike the shock experience. He also felt that the mothers of those rats were more interactive because she greeted them after the 3 minute removal from the cage (the book is not clear how many days this was done for, or maybe in my bleary eyed state I missed it), with grooming and nurturing behaviors that bored cage mom did not.

He extrapolated to say that normal rats are exposed to "stresses" as part of a regular rat's life, such as being moved, having mom leave to forrage for food, possible appearances of predators, etc. He then gave a list of possibe human correlates, which resembles my thoughts above.

These things are not necessarily bad, just that they cause some level of the fight or flight response to stress.

Solter claims that the stress response precedes the crying. I bet this is a controversial area where research will show it both preceds and follows; the kind of thing where you can find evidence to support your beliefs, whichever they may be. Sometimes I wonder if she manipulates data to make her point. I'm not saying I agree with absolutely everything she says, only that I find it thought provoking and possibly a tool to use when nothing else works. Though I don't do the hold and cry exactly the way she recommends either.

Of course I believe that cause for a cry should be fully investigated. But in Dd's case, occasionally she gets what I call The Nothing Satisfys." She will point instead of get things herself (my first cue something is not quite right - she'll be alittle clingy). She'll point to the stuffed owl, I give it to her. No, she points to the lip gloss. Then she doesn't want it. Then she wants something else, only to shun it when I give it to her. Three of those and it's an official case of the Nothing Satifys; Dd usually knows exactly what she wants and is happy to play with it when she gets it.

As I said in my first post, I thought Solter was total nonesense until this sort of thing started happening, shortly after Dd began to crawl and I think the world got bigger (and more stressful).

Regarding the learning to suppress emotions, Solter claims that this is learned early in infancy, when parents do not let a baby cry (held, to release stress). When I speak of not distracting a crying baby, rather, when she speaks of not distracting, she means only in this circumstance. She does not mean to use distraction when there is something awry or even a simple desire (tonight's saga: I want an diaper on my doll before I will go to sleep). Let me say that another way: when you've decided baby is stressed and whiny or crying as a result, let them cry with you, don't wave a toy at them in an effort to cheer them up and stop the cry.

To make a long post short - you believe crying is a response to something wrong - but according to Solter that something wrong could be stress, and what I'm saying is that what we do not consider stressful, a baby well may.
post #7 of 23
Wow, Curious, that was a very interesting and thoughtful post!

Reading it, and the one from MamaMae, I am struck by a fundamental omission in my previous post: I wasn't considering the older baby or toddler. My own DD is not quite 6 months old, and I tend to look at everything from that perspective. But the examples you two gave regarding your older children, the frustrations they must feel/experience, and the pentup emotions that must generate, make a lot of sense to me. And in that case I can see a use for "venting", so to speak, and just wanting to be held while releasing that tension.
post #8 of 23
My initial reaction is: I cry when I'm sad, and no one stops me. But, if I'm some place where it would call a lot of attention, or with someone I really don't want to cry in front of, I hold it back. Otherwise, I let the waterworks lose.

Kids are less complicated in that they don't have the social constraints or the logical foundation to talk themselves out of crying.

I'm reading a book called Born Dancing that describes this type of expert advice by saying that all kids are their own person, a complete individual, and as the AP (they don't use that term, but it's pretty much the same thing) intuitive care giver, whathaveyou, you will know what your child needs if you are intuitively attached. And if your child needs to vent a little frustration by crying, so be it. As long as you're there to soothe them as they need it, and stand back if they don't, interacting with their needs. They called it dancing because it's not just about giving the child what they need when they need it, but how they learn from being with you and interacting with you. One of the things the author makes a point of is that laboratory experiments are very limited, and babies are a heck of a lot more complex than a lab environment could ever express. So, for simple solutions, the expert advice could help, but for involved issues, you know best.

It can be hurtful to watch them cry. As with your dh, but soothing them while crying if they seem to need it is better than distracting them. So, I agree in a way, but think that you know best. I guess the point is I don't really like it when experts generalize how all babies need this or that. But you bring up a lot of other issues than just what the exper has to say...

post #9 of 23
Good point about the attachment, MHM. I was thinking some more about this topic last night, and thinking that with my DD she only cries if she is tired, hungry, or wanting a "change of scenery" (ie. I'm bored with being on the floor, let's get up and walk around a bit). And she rarely ever gets past the staccato "fussy cry" into a serious cry. I like to think that this is because I am so attached to her that I know her moods so well. I can meet her needs before her communcation escalates into full-blown wailing. All her grandparents comment on how she "never cries" (I hadn't put her in that category, but she appears to be, lol).

But, say she accidently gets hurt, she will cry her "I'm hurt" cry and of course I can't take the pain away but I hold her close and comfort her and let her cry until she feels better. DH tries to distract her by roughhousing with her and I don't like that b/c I feel it is telling her to "get over" her pain and like he's not acknowledging it. For him it's just that he can't take the pain away, so he wants to soothe her (get her to stop crying) b/c it makes him sad to see her cry. When I thought of this example, some more of what Solter said (based on the OP) made sense to me.

I always love it when I can read something here and gain a new perspective on things!!
post #10 of 23
Thread Starter 
68 - you raise a common and sensitive point; what happens when baby gets hurt and cries. Some believe you make fusspots out of them if you hover and comfort, and should show them "that wasn't so bad," and distract.

Solter believes the full cry should be allowed, and that older children will benefit from a retelling of the story. Dd accidentally rolled out of bed this AM (probably more traumatic for us than for her). She cried a moment and then gestured a rolling motion and pointed from the bed to the floor. We gave words to it - you were in the bed, you took a roll, and ended up on the floor. Kerplop! Satisfied that she'd gotten the point across, she turned her attention to nursing (Solter would take me to task on this, for allowing a control pattern, but if you want to see frustration try keeping Dd from nursing when she wants to) for a minute or so, and then was fine. {We must repair the broken siderail - aside - I do not recommend the regalo brand}.

She feels that if the full expression of emotion and telling of the story is not allowed, fears will be created. According to her prediction it would go something like this: Dd will take a look over the edge of the bed another time, and cry at the sight of the drop down. Or she will develop a fear of heights.
post #11 of 23
Just to add to the last point....

DS "uses" minor injuries/ hurts as a way to start a discharge session. For example, he stubs his toe, and sometimes a flood of emotions comes out, little or none of it having to do with the stubbed toe. It's kind of like his leftover/built up hurts that he hasn't got out yet. I know sometimes that's what it takes for adults too, you know? When we get hurt is one sort of "accepted" time of crying in our culture...so I think we sometimes use that as an opportunity to cry and release about lots of other stuff.

I think this must be why most toddlers are so obsessed with boo-boos and hurts. It's an "okay" time to be sad/vulnerable/cuddled, etc. And re-telling the story (over and over and over in our case!) of a hurt is looking for more reasurrance/comfort.
post #12 of 23
Originally posted by Curious
...Satisfied that she'd gotten the point across, she turned her attention to nursing (Solter would take me to task on this, for allowing a control pattern, but if you want to see frustration try keeping Dd from nursing when she wants to) for a minute or so, and then was fine.
this is where I take exception with the expert opinion. You know what she needs, and good for you for providing it. and you didn't offer it, she wanted it for herself. : you go, Mama.
post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 


I did not mention above that the first thing I do when Dd seems to be in an unusual mood, is turn up my level of attention to her. Stop doing the dishes, stop trying to pay bills, etc. And with some reading, music, dancing, peekaboo - play led by her, she's fine. It's only when this doesn't work that I consider that she may "need to cry."

My Harry Harlow biography talks about research related to his work, by others who followed. A rat researcher discovered that chemical responses to stress in rats were reduced when they got high levels of maternal attention.

I know Solter is an advocate of AP, but she doesn't mention in her book whether she notes any difference in the need to cry between AP and nonAP kids. I do know that she says babies and toddlers may need to cry daily, and for us we get to that point on an average of once a month.
post #14 of 23
I think Solter has a really valid point that babies (and everyone else) need to cry. Not all alone, despairing, but in a loving, supported environment. I know sometimes my dd needs to cry before sleep. She is so wound up that she can't relax (no matter how late it is) and if I hold her and tell her we're not getting out of bed, she'll rage and cry then peacefully nurse to sleep. I don't agree with Pantley's ideal of no crying at all at bed time. (I don't want to sound like I have have the getting-the-baby-to-sleep mastered, because I am far from it and read Pantley for other tips).

As for crying when hurt/frusterated/etc I know if I were crying (for any reason) and someone told me I was okay, I didn't need to cry, or tried to joke or distract me out of it I would be really mad. I try to respect my daugher's crying no matter what the reason because it's an important way for her to get her needs met and expressed and I don't want to teach her to repress her emotions. When she's much, much older she can learn about "appropriate" places to cry.
post #15 of 23
This is turning into a really great discussion!

Momalea: I actually have memories of being a small child and hurting myself and having my parents do the "distraction" thing trying to make jokes, and I remember being MAD! That's probably why I won't do it with DD.

Mamamae: your example of your son stubbing his toe leading to a flood of pentup emotions really hits home for me. I have noticed since I've become a mother that when I hurt myself, the reaction is VERY strong and overwhelms me. A few months ago I tripped going up the stairs and then banged my head on the wall. Honestly it really didn't hurt that much, but the reaction I felt in me surprised me. I wanted to just sit down and wail like a baby! I called to my husband and I had such a strong feeling of needing to "release", of wanting to cry hard and have him hold me. I wondered "wow, why have I turned into such a baby that just this little boo-boo makes me want to wail so badly!".

I realized it was just that I'm tired alot. I have it good with my babe, but let's face it - mothering is a 24 hour job and it isn't like pre-baby. So I recognized that I have an underlying level of "tired" that manifests itself when I stub my toe, or trip or something. This has also made me understand why DD can topple over and bump her head on the floor, and in the morning (when she's fresh and rested) she barely bats an eyelid, but if it happens late at night near bedtime, she'll wail as if it hurt her really badly.

And I hold her and hug her and soothe her b/c even if she wasn't really hurt, I understand where the tears are coming from and I know that *I* would want to be held too!
post #16 of 23
What a fascinating comparison. My son is almost 15 months and since he turned 1 his sleep has gotten much, much worse. He went from waking 1 to 3 times to 8-12 times. From waking quietly, nursing and dropping back off to sleep to now wanting to sleep with a nipple in his mouth and waking, crying, fussing and crawling all over the bed, nursing, and then repeating that sequence.

Frankly, I'm at my wits end. I'm exhausted. I started 2 accidental fires in the last 2 weeks-- 1 kitchen and 1 from a halogen lamp. We're trying some of Pantley's techniques, and bedtime is getting to be a smoother quicker process.

After reading an article on parentsleaders.org, I'm starting to think we really need to help Augie burn off more energy and emotion during the day and after daycare.
post #17 of 23
Thread Starter 
Anna, I'm not sure how this will apply to you because it was something I noticed when Dd was little more than newborn. She had a great disposition all day but had witching hour from about 8PM until she'd fall asleep. I was carrying her a lot, talking and singing to her, and my mother suggested I try to give her more exercise.

I had ordered a baby gym (Gymni, almost all fabric, colorful but not too obnoxious, relatively non-noisy) but it had been backordered so it arrived when Dd was almost 4 weeks old.

I laid her down in it for about 15 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day. Soon she was kicking and punching at the hanging objects, and wow, what a difference in the witching hour-ness.

Since then, I have found that movement works off stream and makes for better sleep. And the more mobile Dd has become, the more movement it seems to take. I think these winter months are hard, when going outside doesn't seem like much of an option.

I also find, by the way, that Dd seems to need time with me, even if others have kept her busy. I work part time, and running around with me seems to be different than running around with my mother who cares for her when I am working. So even if daycare provides lots of activity, I wonder if you will find that when the activity is with you, it is somehow more satisfying and provides more of the energy release that so helps with sleep.

I find that Solter's cry technique is a last resort, after attention and activity have been tried first.
post #18 of 23
I haven't read all the posts, and I only have a minute, but we recently discussed this book on an API email group I belong to.

I have observed that dd (6 mos.) sometimes needs to release a little bit before falling asleep. For a while, if she would start to cry while nursing at night, I'd immediately get up and start walking, bouncing, etc. Then, when we lie back down, more crying. I'd repeat, repeat, repeat. Finally, one night, I just held her and rocked her back and forth (still lying in the nursing position). It took all of about 45 seconds of crying for her to give up, get back on the breast, and conk out.

So, I will say that although I am about the most anti-CIO person out there, I do think that *sometimes* dd needs to cry for, literally, a minute or two in order to "let go" and fall asleep. This is FAR different though, IMO, from saying that babies "need to cry" in a CIO way (i.e., for 45 minutes, alone in a crib).
post #19 of 23
just curious if anyone has experience using baby massage to help them release the pent up energy? it's supposed to be helpful for this, circulation and bonding.

post #20 of 23
As for crying when hurt/frusterated/etc I know if I were crying (for any reason) and someone... tried to joke or distract me out of it I would be really mad.

How do you help your spouse understand this? I watch my dh do this to our little one, and I know exactly how it feels because dh does it to me too. His intentions are entirely good: he's trying to help us feel better or forget our "troubles". He doesn't realize how invalidating it is: he comes from a family where the expression of emotions is definitely frowned upon. I find myself using distraction alot with ds, particularly if he's having an entire bad day or something, and I'm trying to be more mindful about making sure I'm respecting what he's feeling.

I wanted to comment on babies needing to move in order to release pent up emotion. I've noticed this alot with my babe in the last few weeks. He's having a harder and harder time going to sleep at night. It too has been since he's becoming more mobile. He doesn't cry too much, but he does want to thrash around, kick, pinch me, bat my nose, etc. (This will be while trying to nurse him down or while lying next to him trying to help him get to sleep.) It feels very aggressive. He's not doing it to hurt me, but it's not really exploration either. I can sense the tension he's feeling in his little body, and once he gets it out, he almost instantly will just turn his little head over and sack out asleep. I guess I don't mind being his "punching bag" (it doesn't really hurt me), but wonder if I need to be setting some boundaries too?

As far as massage: I have found that rubbing his palms and the soles of his feet often helps him relax. Massaging his tummy, stroking his face, or anything else either stimulates or annoys him. When he was tiny, I could stroke his face and it always worked, but no more.
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