"Aware Baby" Opinions please... - Mothering Forums

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"Aware Baby" Opinions please....

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MyThreeLittle Women
Member posted 07-06-2001 01:40 PM
I am wondering if any of you have read "The Aware Baby" by Aletha Solter? And if so what do you think about it? There are parts that are so right on and other parts that I get a little wiggy about. Specifically her chapter on crying. It makes sense in a way but I am just not feeling it fully as being the best way to do things. She raises good points about crying and how it makes you behave and feel when you are an adult depending on how you were treated as a child when you cried. As a baby my mother let me cry without end, alone in my crib. As she put it "you cried when we held you, you cried when we put you down, so I put you down because at least that way you would fall asleep." UGH! Makes me want to cry just thinking about it! I have always suspected that much of my 'issues' as an adult stem from that approach to parenting and this book seems to confirm it. Very interesting thing is that recently when my mom was visiting us after our baby daughter was born she related this situation to me - again (she thinks I should do the CIO thing ---no way thank you very much!) and added an interesting detail that they thought that perhaps I was a tiny bit autistic because I would cry so hard when they held me. In the book it is suggested that some forms of Autism may be caused in part by being left to cry alone. Hmmmmm.... very interesting.
Anyway - I digress - in regards to her suggestion that after assuring that baby's immediate needs (hunger, comfort, pain, etc.)are met that you allow your baby to cry IN YOUR LOVING ARMS without using any control methods such as pacification (artificial or breast)rocking, jiggling, etc. and that is where I have problems. She suggests that the baby needs to discharge stress and that using control methods to stop the crying just postpones it until later, whether that be short term delay or long term delay to even adulthood. Perhaps it is because of my own experience having been left to cry alone that makes me want to stop my baby from crying any way that is possible. Her crying makes me want to cry. But I certainly don't want to prevent my baby from discharging her stress in the loving arms of her mama. I am really torn on this one.

Thoughts, opinions and discussion on this?


Member posted 07-06-2001 01:44 PM
i haven't read it, but it would feel unnatural to me & i couldn't do it. i think babies discharge enough cry-y energy with the vicsittudes (sp?) of ordinary life- teething, stuck in carseat and hating it, kitty walks on you etc. why add to the misery by being afraid to comfort?

Member posted 07-06-2001 03:00 PM
Hi there!
"There are parts right on and other parts that I get a bit wiggy about".

I agree exactly with that assessment. I bought the book when I took a class in Santa Barbara from her. In person, she is really nice, and somewhat different than how she comes off in her books, which I found interesting.

I do think the idea that crying releases stress hormones to be valid IMO, because I always feel better after a good cry! So the idea that a child who uses various forms of crying to communicate kinda makes sense. But adults are adults, and children are children - with different forms of emotional maturity and experiences!

On the other hand, CIO does NOT make sense to me, at all!

If crying is a form of communication, then if I correctly interpret her beginning cry (instead of her full-fledged cry) correctly, and meet her needs, then her communication has been successful sooner rather than later.

On the other hand, sometimes babies just cry and the only thing you can do is hold them.

I think her point is that sometimes people rock and jiggle and sing to their babies to get them to *shut up*, NOT to calm them so you can communicate and find out what it is they need or want.

She was very patient with a young couple who had a rambunctious two year old, whom they would spank to make her behave, or slap her hands. Ms. Solter was totally against that. She was more advocating natural consequences type of discipline. She also advocated making the environment child-friendly, reasoning that a child-friendly home and play yard would naturally result in happier children & parents because there would be less conflict (ie don't touch that, don't dig in the garden, keep your room tidy etc).

In person, I liked her ideas. In her books, I'm less inclined to like her ideas, though some are good.

Keep what works for you and leave the rest!

Member posted 07-06-2001 03:31 PM
I think there's cry it out and then there's cry it out. It's one thing to set your child down and let them cry--it's another thing to hold them and let them cry. Sometimes with my very little dd (7 weeks), it seems to me that she just needs to holler a little and get some of her frustration out. So I try and hold her or lie in bed with her, talking softly to her and telling her that it's okay for her to cry if she needs to. Now, of course, I don't do this indefinitely, and when the time seems right, I go back to actively trying to comfort her. I guess my perspective is that from the beginning, I want it to feel safe to feel and express the whole gamut of emotions. I have to say that I was wondering if this was a weird thing to do, so I'm interested to hear about this book.
As in all things, it seems that it's about paying attention to your child and responding to his or her needs as you perceive them. The trick for me sometimes is trying not to put too much of an adult lens on her emotional experience.

Member posted 07-06-2001 05:13 PM
Glad you brought this up, Katie. I've recently read this book and have a friend who's REALLY into it. The questions that come up for me are around nursing my 11mo ds down for naps and sleep at night. I believe she doesn't advocate for nursing down, but I find it so comforting and, well, so easy. And then I feel like I'm going to be damaging my son by not letting him discharge at night. Whenever he hurts himself or gets frustrated, I do give him loving attention while he cries. I used to pop the ole boob in the mouth at the first sign of crying because of how uncomfortable it made me, but now I hold him and love him and then, if he still needs the comfort of the breast, I offer it to him.
I love what she says in the rest of the book about play and discipline. It's just the crying thing that's got me bogged down. I find that lately I've been doubting my instinct. I think my instincts are right on about comfort, but the nighttime thing........

Any comments or advice?


Member posted 07-07-2001 06:59 AM
I have this book as well. I thought it was very interesting.
I really do think she is right in her assesment of the need to discharge, and perhaps the difficulty is knowing whether any given parent is *aware* enough themselves to practice this approach with their babies without turning it into a CIO sort of approach.

I saw her point on nursing too. Some parents are so afraid to deny nursing or pacification that they offer it even when they know the baby doesn't really want to nurse and is just fussing endlessly. At that point it would be better IMO to take Solters approach and just listen and let the baby cry if that is what they want to do, in your arms of course with your full attention.

I think it is one of those books that sounds worse in print than in practice. It is hard to imagine sitting and holding a baby while they cry and just listening, but in reality this happens to parents all the time, except that the parent is futily trying to stop the crying and nothing is working. It really would take the edge and stress out of the situation if the parent just said "okay, it is fine with me that you want to cry and I won't spend all my energy trying to stop you. Go ahead and I'll hold you and listen". If anything, that sounds *better* than trying to out-do a crying baby with endless walking, patting and rocking when clearly it is not helping.

Someone mentioned the concern over attributing to babies the emotions of adults.
I do think that babies have emotions just as complex as an adult. I can recall back to the age of 2, and several friends of mine have memories from their first year. Everyone agrees that what they were thinking at such young ages far exceeded what they could express. I once wrote next to the picture of a baby in a photography class in college "We learn to speak because we already have something to say". I really believe that. Sometimes I watch a toddler or 4-5 year old talking, and it is so clear that they are thinking so fast their mouth cannot keep up with their thoughts. It comes out jumbled and hard to understand, but you can just see how much they want to communicate.

So, I don't think Solter over attributes an emotional capacity to babies. I think it is remarkable that she acknowledges it and has made an effort to give parents a tool with which to help a baby in need of emotional healing to release some of the feelings that are troubling them.

You should follow the cue's of your baby. If nursing to sleep is happy for your both and your days are happy, then enjoy it. If you suspect the day has not gone so well and baby doesn't want to nurse, just cries, then I think it is a brillant tool for such situations to just listen and accept rather than busy yourself with futile attempts to stop it. And if your baby is troubled by trauma (bad birth, loss of parent, etc), then I could see where regularly ending the day with an opportunity to release emotions would be wonderful therapy. Just follow your heart and the cue's of your own baby.



Member posted 07-07-2001 08:30 AM
I agree there are two parts to the story and one part of it makes me sad.
On one hand, our society enourages being overly restrained when it comes to breastfeeding in my opinion....it grossly underestimates the wonderful normalness of breastfeeding often, especially past the newborn period. There are so many benefits to nursing often such as improved jaw and tooth development (less braces)...more immunities and perfect brain building food...pain relieving and sleep-inducing chemicals in mother's milk which are no accident...more milk supply....and calming the child, sending them off to sleep dreamily and happily....in many cases.

On the other hand there may be times, sometimes, where a child really wants to cry to get out their anger or sadness, even as a baby. In those cases I agree that it's better to hold the upset baby than leave them alone.

If we close the book and listen to the child....what is THIS child saying at THIS time?

My mom used to tell my siblings, who were sad when I was crying it out alone, "she needs her sleep." Yeah, but I wish I had been sent off to sleep with hugs instead of alone. Maybe if I had been parented to sleep (instead of "learning to soothe myself" as some detached parenting authors describe it...) I wouldn't have suffered from nightmares and terror of the darkness for so many years.

[This message has been edited by Momtwice (edited 07-07-2001).]

MyThreeLittle Women
Member posted 07-07-2001 10:37 AM
"If we close the book and listen to the child....what is THIS child saying at THIS time?"
Right on! This seems to be the best approach in any parenting "method". Not getting too wrapped up in questioning if you are "doing it right" or not. Trusting our hearts and not handing the power of our instinct over to anyone. I don't even know exactly why I bought this book to read in the first place, as I am usually strongly opposed to following any method. I guess it was a time of doubt and fear that motivated me. Or perhaps looking for that special little tidbit of info that might give me more insight into my children and my parenting. Of course I have learned again that no one can teach me better about how to raise my children than my children themselves. People say that kids don't come with manuals, but in a way they do... they just keep it written in a special secret code that can only be deciphered with lots of love and attention and listening.

I guess that if I did get something from this book it is that crying in itself is not bad (I need to step outside of my personal experience with crying as a baby) and that if I listen and trust what my baby is telling me I will make the right choices in parenting.


Member posted 07-07-2001 10:48 AM
Regarding nursing down to nap: I guess my "conclusion" (so far) with my 9 mo old is that as she develops she naps less and less anyway so it becomes a non issue! You might as well nurse them down if it works for you both. Mine has just gradually switched from 3 naps a day to two, on her own of course. When she was six-nine months she would wake up around 6:30am to start her busy day and then go down to sleep again about an hour and a half later. Now she is waking at 7:30 - 8 am and she is cutting out her extra nap. Motion also puts her to sleep if she is in the car or out walking being carried etc.

Member posted 07-07-2001 01:51 PM
I read the book when dd#2 arrived on the scene (actually, I had been reading Tears and Tantrums for insights into dd#1, but that's another story, right?). Sweet Baby Girl had lots of crying to do...I am SO glad I had read Solter's words of assurance. I had had a very stressful pregnancy, and I think she was just processing the whole stressful shebang. Mom would comment, "She's crying if you hold her or not -- why not just set her down and get some rest?" And I would counter with, "that's not a very nice way to treat someone -- essentially telling them I only like you if you act a certain way." On the other hand, mil (and several others) were determined to jam a pacifier in her mouth. Dd wanted nothing to do with that, thank you! Now, though, she seems to be over all of that stress. And, yes, we do nurse to sleep alot of the times.
I can look back at incidents with dd#1 when I would try ANYTHING to get her to stop crying -- walking her outside, jiggling, using the breast as a pacifier. It's 20/20 hindsight, of course, but I wish sometimes I'd let her just be herself and own her own emotions. Now we're having to deal with folks (including dh) that have trouble listening to a 5yo cry and express various emotions.

Didn't Solter write an article for Mothering a few years back?

Moderator posted 07-07-2001 06:14 PM
I found Solter's book to be very good, but as others are saying, it is not a "blueprint" for how to respond in every situation. There were definitely times when my babies were crying and I wanted them to stop just because I felt it was too hard at that particular moment (I was sooo tired, or it really hurt me emotionally to have them be in pain, etc.) Solter reminds us that we also have to be Aware Parents, to notice when our own stuff is getting in the way of our baby's needs. I do believe in the need for babies to discharge, but certainly this is not EVERY time they are crying. Reasonable efforts at soothing should happen, I think, but then when all fails (even nursing) mom or dad can just hold them and support baby through a crying spell. I actually found this approach to be even more helpful in the later years--toddler, preschool, and even now when my oldest is 6. There are times when my kids are just irritable and holding them and letting them cry (even if it is MAD crying) totally shifts their mood to a more relaxed one afterwards. So, I do think the discharging is necessary, and I do think many of us have to teach ourselves to become comfortable with dealing with this, and that I think is the value of the book.

Member posted 07-09-2001 08:59 AM
I think that her reasoning may make sense in some limitted situations, but that it is overly simplistic and does not take into account the wide variety of reasons that babies cry.
For instance, my dd cries sometimes when she is exhausted and doesn't want to sleep. If I let her do what she wants - stay up and crawl around, roll all over the bed, etc. - she stays fussy and doesn't go to sleep. But if I hold her, she cries for a minute, and then nurses and falls asleep immediately (usually). In that instance, the crying does seem to serve to let out frustration so that she can settle down.

But when dd hurts herself, or is lonely or has colic, of course she needs "pacifying", and my methods are usually the breast or rocking and singing.

Don't stress so much about what you read. If it doesn't feel quite right, take the parts you like and disregard the rest. No "expert" can tell you what's right - although they provide intriguing ideas that can inform and help shape your opinions, you still need to trust your own judgement.

I like Sears the most, by the way (although I disagree with some of their stuff, too!)

Member posted 07-21-2001 02:11 AM
Often a baby crying triggers feelings in the parents (and should for their survival) that make them so uncomfortable they want to end it. I am more able to sit with crying than my partner. He tends to get agitated with the need to "do something". When all has been done the parent can be a rock for their child to weather the storm.

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