Frustrations With Anti-Cry-It-Out Articles

Decades ago, Dr. Spock was the leading authority on parenting in American homes. His method of sleep training was to set a child in his or her crib, walk away, and not come back in until after they had slept.

For some children, who naturally learn to fall asleep on their own quickly and easily, this method might work. For an older child who is refusing to fall asleep on their own long after it shouldn’t be an issue, it might be the best method. But too many parents have children who will be more hysterical after an hour than they were after fifteen minutes, or who will scream so hard for so long that they they vomit every time. This method doesn’t take into account health issues like reflux that can make it difficult for a baby to fall asleep.

There are articles all over the place about cry-it-out sleep training, some for it and some against it. The confusion comes with the definitions and ages being spoken of, especially with the articles against it, because many methods of sleep training get labelled as “cry-it-out” even if it’s much milder than Dr. Spock’s method, and the articles against it don’t differentiate.

Let me explain. A lot of the time you’ll read something like, “Cry it out sleep training damages babies who are allowed to cry for extended periods.” The whole article is then based on that, citing sources that are be difficult to find or need to be paid for in order to obtain. But they so rarely define the most important terms.

Cry-It-Out: does this refer to Dr. Spock’s method, or any method that involves crying, even those that allow for frequent comforting or that limit the crying to a short time? It’s not hard to imagine that there’s quite a different between a baby crying for five minutes and then being soothed versus a baby being left alone to cry, perhaps hysterically, until overwhelmed by sheer exhaustion or defeat.

Damages: this is unfortunately the best defined part of the statement, leaving parents stressed out about what harm they may be doing to their baby.

Babies: What hurts a newborn may not hurt a six month old, even though they’re both babies. For instance, I read recently that the Ferber method (a strict method, but gentler than Spock’s) doesn’t damage babies after about six months old. That implies that, in this case, the “babies” it potentially damages are babies younger than six months old, rather than all babies. Virtually any sleep training method is going to be damaging to a newborn. But a few very gentle things can begin to be done very early, like beginning to put the baby down in their own crib once their asleep, or putting them down right before they’re fully asleep and letting them finish falling asleep on their own. The older a baby gets, the more you can reasonably do. Since we shouldn’t give in to a toddler’s demands just because they’re crying, there’s obviously a point where stopping a child’s tears is no longer necessary to their health in every situation. These articles almost always fail to define the age range or development of the children that can be damaged by certain sleep training methods, or define at what point the risk is lower or altogether gone.

Allowed to cry: there’s a clear difference between a baby who’s just complaining or mad because they aren’t getting what they want, and a baby who is truly in need of their caregiver’s comfort. I don’t soothe my eight month old when he throws a fit because I took away something he shouldn’t have, and the fit usually lasts only moments anyways. But I will comfort my son immediately when he’s hurt, anxious, or otherwise truly in need of my comfort. When he goes down for a nap, he’ll sometimes just complain for a few minutes and then go to sleep, but other times the cry will turn to a “Mommy save me, I really need you” cry, which is different. But what kind of crying are these articles referring to?

Extended periods: what is an extended period? Some parents may feel this is no more than five minutes, while others think it’s an hour. So what is it? Five minutes? Fifteen? Thirty? Sixty? More?

Obviously, it can be hard to make decisions about parenting when you don’t have all the available information. A parent who sees this largely undefined assertion, with the only thing being made clear is that babies can be damaged, might be afraid to do anything for a long, long time, perhaps even into toddler stages. They may put themselves under wholly unnecessary stress, and even rob themselves and their child of the ability to sleep better and longer out of fear.

It’s obviously important to not damage our children. But we as parents also deserve the full evidence available, rather than having unreasonable fear instilled in us.

A lot of parents to choose a middle ground, especially with children who don’t respond to longer sessions of parental absence well. Some kids sleep train quickly and easily, but others don’t. Most parents seem to be of the opinion that, at the very least, a child who resists falling asleep should be checked on and soothed at intervals, especially if there’s any risk of the child vomiting. Some sleep train gradually, one step at a time rather than all at once, which still often allows for some crying as sleep props such as being rocked through a nap or nursing to sleep are taken away and as the child is encouraged to sleep in their own bed and to put themselves to sleep. Obviously these methods aren’t nearly as harsh as Dr. Spock’s method, or even the Ferber method, which are the methods I suspect are being referred to.

Most parents also realize that their newborn should not be sleeping through the night, and that there can be many factors that delay sleeping through the night. Many, like myself, understand that maintaining at least one night feeding can be essential to keeping up breast feeding long term, even if the child is technically old enough and big enough to sleep through the night without the feeding. Most parents approach sleep training by what they can do for the child’s age without undue stress on either themselves for their child. This is again not nearly as harsh as some of the more extreme methods out there. I even read about one a few months ago that suggested starting to refuse night feedings to a baby starting at only weeks old. That one made me angry. Most parents instinctively know that such a thing is horrible to do to their baby.

But most parents also know that their six month old shouldn’t need to be rocked through his or her whole nap, or doesn’t need to be nursed to sleep every time, or can start learning to put him or herself to sleep. And sometimes, that involves a few tears.

It would be really helpful if the articles on sleep training would just define their terms or share more of the pertinent details of their cited sources. Instead of causing many parents to feel condemned or making people think that anyone who doesn’t use their extremely “gentle” method is cruel, we might actually be able to get some answers on what actually is best for our children, and what shades of grey between the extremes are acceptable.

Hard Days and Interviews

My last post showed some of the roughness of this passed week. My pastor resigned, even though he hadn’t been found to be disqualified and the elder board had put together a plan of restoration for the non-disqualifying sins they found him guilty of. My husband is facing something potentially problematic with work, although we thankfully have had some reassurance on that one, so it should be alright. I learned that it is pregnancy loss awareness month, and though I haven’t shared it publicly before, I am one of many women who have had an early miscarriage which I mourned. An LDS friend of mine, unwilling to see my heart of love and worry for those who follow false teachings, decided to unnecessarily inform me that she wasn’t going to allow my posts to show up on her Facebook newsfeed anymore because she felt that the ones directed at Mormon beliefs were “immature” and “negative.”

The week wasn’t all bad. I’d say there was really only one truly rough day, when three out of the fourth things happened.

There were good things too. My son brings me joy daily, and is sleeping better at night plus starting to go down on his so own for naps more often. My husband works hard at his job and has been hitting the gym lately, and his upper body is starting to look really strong. I got to spend a morning with my awesome midwife, who became a friend, and that same evening was spent with my sister-in-law and at Mom’s Night Out. Life isn’t bad. It just has its hard moments.

One of the best things about this week, though, was getting to interview for a leadership position in student ministry with my campus pastor, Pastor Ryan, and his intern. I hadn’t quite realized when the intern emailed me that “meet with Pastor Ryan on Sunday” meant “interview,” but I actually had a good time with it.

The purpose of the interview was largely to establish that I’m not a heretic and that I know what I’m getting into with this position.

The theological part left me feeling really positive. Pastor Ryan asked me if He could just kinda hit me rapid-fire with theological questions. I said sure. The questions weren’t too surprising or deep, but the were important. “What is the gospel?” “Who is Jesus?” “What is the role of the Holy Spirit?” “How are people saved?” “What is complimentarianism?”

Some of them, I pretty much had to get right to be able to do ministry. Like the gospel one. Others, like complementarianism, if I’d disagreed with the church but didn’t hold a heretical position, I would have simply had to agree not to cause discord about. Thankfully, I attend Mars Hill because my theology generally lines up with theirs, even on most secondary issues.

What made me feel really good was that they said a few times that if I had been sitting in reach, there would have been high fives for my answers. I was told that I’m very good at giving concise answers to these important questions, but in a way which makes it clear that I could go much more in depth if necessary. Pastor Ryan told me that that is extremely important in teaching, especially if I need to give a quick and simple answer to something that one of these teenagers asks.

More exciting, feel-good things came from that interview too.

One was finding out that, once a month, the leaders will be answering one or two questions these teenagers have, which can (and often will) be questions that require apologetics to answer. He told me that in a few months I could start teaching on these sometimes. That was exciting, and gave me an opening to share that I love apologetics and am considering getting a degree in them in the future, and that part of my heart for doing student ministry was to help keep these kids from being part of the statistic of about 50% of kids raised Christian leaving the church for at least a time after graduating high school and moving away from home. I shared that I want to help them with their theology and their questions so their foundation is firmer and they know they have places to turn when skeptics ask hard questions. Pastor Ryan thought that was great, and shared that he was able to do the same when he was in youth ministry.

The second thing was him asking if I’d be willing to share my testimony–my conversion from Mormonism–with the church on a Sunday sometime, if eh gave me a few weeks warning. I was very surprised, but agreed. It’s one of those things that I’d thought of doing before, but had never been asked to, and I wasn’t about to be so presumptuous as to ask if I could unless there was an invitation for people to share their testimony with the pastors with the possibility of sharing it with the church. I know my story of God’s work in my life is not a super common one, and that it has a real potency to it, but many others have beautiful and important conversion stories too. But I’m excited and nervous to share it at church, in front of people. I hope, if and when it happens, that God will use it well.

Also, my own little amusement that I just can’t get over…Pastor Ryan is Australian, and he says “mate.” It’s made me smile since we started attending over a year ago, and now that my husband and I have had some personal conversations with him, I STILL get a little smile inside when he says it. I think part of it is that I grew up absolutely loving Steve Irwin. You know, the crocodile hunter. I cried when he died. He said “mate” a lot too. I’m just fond of it I guess.

As for church itself, with the first Sunday since the sad news, it went alright. I almost cried listening to the announcement about it before the sermon, even though the statement was very similar to what had been posted online by the church already. There were no surprises, it’s just hard. No matter what he did wrong, I feel terrible that part of Pastor Mark’s decision came because of the danger his family had been put in during the whole mess, and even if he deserved any of what happened, his wife and children didn’t. But people were there. I was afraid there were going to be a lot less, since a number of attendees and members have abandoned Mars Hill rather than riding out the difficulty like the family a church should be, but it wasn’t too bad. As long as the pastors keeps faithfully preaching Jesus and reaching out to the community, I think growth can start again.

Well. Obviously, I’m now looking forward to my first time with the student ministry, which I think will be the second Sunday of November. I’m sure there will be more to share then.

Thank You, Pastor Mark

I read the news of Pastor Mark Driscoll’s resignation from Mars Hill Church in Seattle today.

After reading it, I went and snuggled up with my husband, fighting tears, because the news saddened me deeply. We’ve been attending Mars Hill for over a year now, and I’ve been following Pastor Mark’s sermons online since a few months after converting to Christianity about five years ago. When he stepped down about two months ago, I was extremely hopeful and optimistic about his return after the investigation and review that he submitted himself to. I was shocked, saddened, frustrated, and grieved when I read today that he voluntarily resigned even though he wasn’t asked to and the findings have even been that he is still qualified.

I know we have other gifted teachers at Mars Hill. I know our elders are very committed to the Word of God, and I will be hesitant to leave Mars Hill as long as that is true. I would certainly need to find a church that is similarly faithful to the Word and that my husband and I feel we should attend instead. I wouldn’t walk away from Mars Hill for any less, even without hearing Pastor Mark every Sunday. We didn’t attend because of Pastor Mark, we attended because of the teaching, and definitely developed a little group of friends through community group who we care for very much. In many ways, attending Mars Hill has given us the ability to fight through some of our roughest points of marriage, the points where other couples would sign the divorce papers, and I have great hope that the preachers still at Mars Hill will continue to be so faithful to the members.

That said, though, there have been many things that Pastor Mark has brought to Mars Hill, and I very much believe that he has brought these talents and teachings into the church through the gifting of the Spirit. And if, by some chance he ever reads this, I want him to know how much God did through him.

I want him to know that, as an ex-Mormon and a new Christian when I started listening to him in 2010, his preaching helped shape my theology and helped me know what I should be seeking to learn. His “Doctrine” book and series was hugely helpful.

I want him to know that my husband and I have had a very rough road in our almost five years of marriage, but his faithful preaching of biblical marriage and sexuality has been helpful in knowing what we should be striving for. We have stuck together even when we could have been justified in divorce, and the preaching we heard at Mars Hill contributed to that. It can be hard to know biblical theology on marriage in this culture, so Pastor Mark’s willingness to be counter-cultural where the Bible calls for it is something that I will always be grateful for.

I want him to know that the community groups that he so strongly encouraged people to join is responsible for introducing us to the other Mars Hill member who was instrumental in getting my husband his career. The environment that Pastor Mark created or allowed wasn’t all bad. In fact, I’d say it wasn’t even mostly bad, and I am confident that it wasn’t so bad that Mars Hill can’t change it, because the members have the great ability to be hugely helpful and giving to each other, as we have experienced in this fundamental area in our life.

I want him to know that, when he expressed that he wished to be teaching as Mars Hill until he was too old to do so, I was rooting for that and thought that it was God’s plan, too. There’s a part of me that hopes and prays that it still is, but that it has simply been put on hold for a time to allow for healing and for Pastor Mark to re-enter eldership at Mars Hill in a healthier way, both for himself and for the church. I know that he always felt called to plant church, equip men, and teach the Bible, and I hope that he won’t take more than a break for healing from that calling. I truly believe, based on the fruit I’ve seen in Mars Hill, that he was equipped and blessed for that calling.

I want him to know that I do believe that the head of the church has always been Jesus, not Pastor Mark, so I do trust that we will still have the guidance and blessings of God, no matter how rough the transition of eldership will be or what will happen to Mars Hill over the next  season. But I also think that Jesus used Pastor Mark in some very powerful and tangible ways. Many lives have been changed, many people have called on Jesus as their Lord and Savior, many people have been baptized, because of the message that Pastor Mark faithfully taught every Sunday.

I want him to know that I am confident that the Spirit will bring about the necessary repentance and change in his personal life. I am confident of that both because I have seen positive changes from his position at the pulpit over the last few years, but also because I am confident in the power and faithfulness of the Spirit to convict and change.

I want him to know that I am sad by everything that has happened to him, his family, and Mars Hill in this rough season. I am saddened by how the media contributed in horrible ways. I am saddened by the damage this likely did to him and his family. No matter his failings, he was not a heretic who needed to be called out publicly and loudly in the way that he was. I am saddened by the persistence of so many Christians in tearing him down based on the media hype rather than simply demanding that the truth be sought out and reported, and then having patience during the process.

I want him to know that we aren’t abandoning Mars Hill now that he has resigned, even though we are hopeful for his eventual return and deeply saddened, even frustrated, by the loss of such gifted Bible preaching. Perhaps in a month, a year, a decade, we will be called elsewhere or life circumstances will cause us to have to seek a new church home. Perhaps — please God, don’t let this happen — Mars Hill will lose its focus on the Word of God and the great commission, and we’ll resign our membership because we refuse to be a part of that.  My husband and I know that this is going to be a rough season, and that we valued Pastor Mark’s teaching greatly, but we know good Bible teaching isn’t exclusive to Pastor Mark, so good Bible teaching is what we will expect from Mars Hill and pursue if and when Mars Hill is no longer our church home, whatever the reason may be for us leaving. We’re not about to leave this Sunday just because we know Pastor Mark won’t be behind the pulpit again for a while, if ever, but we do have expectation on Mars Hill to continue to preach the Word faithfully and powerfully.

I want him to know that our expectation for faithful preaching of the Word of God as a requisite for our church home comes largely because he demonstrated what that looks like. He wasn’t perfect, and neither was his preaching, but even before we started attending Mars Hill he helped shape our expectations for what good preaching should look like. I hope and pray his example will continue to shape the preaching at Mars Hill in the future.

Most of all, if Pastor Mark ever reads this, I want to say this to him: thank you. Thank you for your service to God and to the Mars Hill family. Thank you for obeying God’s calling on your life, because though you did so imperfectly, God worked through you powerfully to make an impact on my life and marriage, and I’m sure on the lives and marriages of many other. Thank you for preaching God’s Word almost every Sunday for years. Thank you for your faithfulness to your wife and your transparency with everything you’ve learned in your marriage, even the hard stuff. Thank you for loving your children and being willing to show your father heart for them in a beautiful, positive, emotional, masculine way.

Thank you, Pastor Mark.

Mama Needs Sleep

We have a little one bedroom apartment. We made a rough transition to my husband being the source of our income in early spring of 2013, so we couldn’t afford anything bigger even knowing that we were expecting a baby. At the time, we thought we were going to be renting my parents house from them by now, since they thought that they’d be moving onto the new property that they’re building on. Unfortunately, their building plans have had changes and delays, and we’re still in a little one bedroom with a seven month old.

We do have prospects for moving out; it’s mostly a question of when, and whether we’ll be making our first home purchase or renting again and waiting a year or two to purchase.

Until then, we’re a family of three in a one bedroom apartment.

At first, having our son in our bedroom was a blessing. Newborns need to eat regularly through the night, and safe co-sleeping — which can include simply sleeping a few feet away from the parents in a separate sleeping space — can be highly beneficial to breast feeding and to reducing the risk of SIDS, assuming parents aren’t smokers and such.

But my son is old enough that he doesn’t need to wake up multiple times through the night. He doesn’t need me the way he did as a newborn, or even as a three or four month old. He’s old enough, big enough, and on solid foods, which all means he can sleep through the night, or at least wake up significantly less often than he tends to.

The stretch between 4am and waking up in the morning, usually by 7am, is the worst. He always wakes up at least once, and it’s not uncommon for him to wake up 2-3 times in that short stretch. A seven month old does not require that. I know he doesn’t require it, because only about two of the times that he wakes me up through the whole night are for actual real, full feedings.

I know that hearing his every little complaint or difficulty getting comfortable doesn’t do my sleep any favors, even on the occasions that he doesn’t start crying and demanding me, and having us and the cats in the room didn’t help him either. Worrying about my husband needing to work first thing in the morning kept me from being able to ignore my son while he complained and resettled, too, because it would wake my husband up and make him potentially get even less sleep than me.

My husband and I finally did what we needed to do a couple of days ago. We rearranged our apartment.

This does mean that the bedroom is not longer our bedroom. It’s like we have a studio apartment for ourselves, and a bedroom for our son. My bookcases are now our headboard, and I can dive onto the bed from our dining area if I wanted to. And from our desk. And from our living room.

I really can’t wait for a house.

However, this is already significantly better as far as getting a good nights’ sleep. My son has actually been able to sleep in after we’ve been out late with family, which used to be a never. Last night, he only woke me up twice through the night, and when I thought we were about to be up at 7:30am, he ate and fell back to sleep for another hour-ish.

Its very possible that I’m simply sleeping through him waking up. He has to actually get kind of noisy instead of just complain in order to wake me up. I’m totally okay with that. It is very normal and healthy for him to learn to put himself back to sleep when he rouses, just like adults do. Adults don’t usually even remember resettling. If he’s truly distressed or in need of me, he’s going to get loud enough to wake me up. That kid is capable of some impressive yells when he wants to. But if he’s not truly in need of me, I’m okay with him complaining to himself for a few minutes and putting himself back to sleep. It will teach him to resettle the same way adults do, which is ultimately more restful for him, and in the meantime I get more sleep, which is more restful for me.

What about nursing, you ask? Well, I’m okay with him waking me up 1-2 times. He’s not going to go without. This is the plan, which worked out perfectly last night: nurse him shortly before or right at bedtime (8pm) so he goes to sleep well fed. Wake him up again when I go to sleep, which is usually around 10-10:30pm. Then he can have up to two feedings through the night, around 1am and around 4pm, give or take about half an hour. He then normally wakes up around 6:30-7am, and gets fed again not long after waking up. All this means that he gets to eat every 2-4 hours through the night still, without taxing me beyond what I feel I can continue to maintain long-term. He could probably be perfectly healthy and well fed with one less feeding at night, in fact, but I’ll let that happen after we’ve gotten used to this new schedule. We’ll give up night feedings over time, ending them altogether when he stops needing to breastfeed if they haven’t ended already. Waking up at least once through the night helps keep milk supply high enough to breastfeed to 1 year or longer, but 1-2 times isn’t so stressful on my body that I don’t get enough sleep to function well.

What about getting enough calories in him, you ask? Well, he is on solid foods for some meals now, and I’m increasing as needed. A few other moms have told me that getting foods with higher fat and protein content, like meat, make the most difference. That makes sense, since those are more useful to the body than carbohydrates and take longer to digest. Evening feedings are the priorities with solid foods right now, and I’ve been trying to get in at least one food with more fat and/or protein in it. Basically, he doesn’t get so few calories during the day that he can’t go longer at night, which will be important as we start dropping the night feedings.

I know a lot of people are about feeding on demand for as long as the baby/toddler wants. The problem I was having with this is that he came to expect to be allowed to latch every time he got upset and wanted comfort during the night, because my reaction to any crying or complaining was to nurse. The truth is, you don’t have to stick a boob in your nursing baby’s mouth every time they cry to be a good parent, or to feed them enough. It’s okay to truly take a careful look at their actual needs and your actual needs, and meet both. And its okay for both of you to need to sleep better at night. The transition to doing so may be a little rough, and like my son, they’ll probably need their own room to do it.

That’s okay.

Heck. I know my son and I have both slept better the last two nights than we have in a few months. That’s definitely okay.

Took Some First Steps

Remember that little (big) dream of mine that I posted about not too long ago? If not, this post talks about it.

Well, I’ve taken a step. Or rather, a step is in the works and going somewhere. I expressed interest in working in the student ministry, particularly with teachings the students. I was contacted by the guy who organizes it all. He told me they’d love to have me, I asked some questions, we figured stuff out, he referred me to one of the pastors to talk to because they like to get to know the potential leaders.

Today, I met with said pastor after church service. He explained that it would be at least six months after I start serving for me to become a teacher since they want to know teachers well enough to trust them and their doctrine, but that I could start getting involved and leading in the meantime. He was very happy to hear that I’m doing membership classes (along with my husband, as long as his work schedule doesn’t interfere) so that he and the other pastors could get to know me a bit before I stepped into student ministry. He was also pleased that I’m married and have a kid because it can be helpful to have leaders that are a little more ahead in age and life stages than the kids.

The pastor really liked what I said about wanting to be able to use my interest in apologetics to help the kids with doubts and struggles. We didn’t get into my more long-term aspirations with apologetics, but there’s plenty of time for that.

At this point, I’ll only be able to serve every other week because it’s the same day as my community group, which I don’t want to give up. But things change over time, so we’ll see what happens with that. It’s possible that one or the other may change which day its on. I certainly hope so. I love my current community group. We’ll see.

Some people suggested that I extend and invitation for a book study with apologetics once the kids have gotten to know me a bit. If the pastors are okay with that, I may do that.

I was also relieved when he confirmed — without me even asking — that it is only the Sunday preaching pastor/eldership positions that women are excluded from. (I attend a moderate but staunchly complementarian church.) Me teaching students will definitely be okay, and it’ll probably also be okay if I do apologetics classes for adults in the distant future. And if you’re egalitarian or non-Christian and have a problem with the complementarian position, don’t give me a tirade, especially if you haven’t taken the time to look closely into the complementarian viewpoint and its biblical support. That’s another matter entirely, though, so I’m not going to get into it on this post. Suffice it to say, it’s not going to be what limits my aspirations.

I’m excited and nervous all at the same time. We’ll see how this goes in a month!

Dreams Maybe Solidifying

I’ve thought before about the need for a greater emphasis on the reasonableness of the Christian faith. Churches largely fail at this, especially with the youth. Churches often even fail at establishing sound doctrine with our teenagers, and they certainly fail at making the church intellectually viable.

And what happens when these youth go to a liberal university? What happens when a new or doubting Christian encounter hard questions and don’t know where to find answers, or that there even are answers? All too often, they leave.

Non-religious parents have a high chance of their children being non-religious as they go off on their own and go through college and into the workforce. Christian parents only have about a 50% chance of their children being Christians when they leave the home and enter the secular world.

I would imagine that, if you looked at the way that the church the family attends teaches, and what the parents teach their children, you’d find a few important things. You’d find that churches and families that are sound in their doctrine and teach it well have higher retention rates. And you’d find that churches and families that equip their children to, at the least, know that there are reasonable answers for hard questions and where to find them, have even higher retention rates. If a kid knows how to face the problem of suffering, or the question of macro evolution, or the reliability of the Bible, they’re not going to be thrown for a loop when a professor or atheist friend or coworker says something about it. But if they’re not equipped with these answers, and don’t even know where to find them, what do they have to help them?

But what happens when parents don’t even know apologetics, more or less that they should be introducing them to their children? What happens when the local church is, if anything, worse? Our children aren’t necessarily going to become committed believers when their faith is based on some moving camp experiences and pizza with other kids once a week. What about systematic theology? What about the important questions?

I think that I might want to address this deficit by starting a program for teaching these issues in my local — and very large –church in the future. This is a very long-term thing, and I’ve only just really started voicing it.

See, there are many things I enjoy, that I’m even passionate about. I’ve thought about a number of careers. I’ve thought about massage therapy, but I know its a physically taxing job that I’m not sure I want to commit to. To be completely honest, I don’t find the thought of massaging morbidly obese people appealing. I’ve thought about anthroplogy, and I probably could really enjoy such a job, but I’m not totally sure, particularly since it would possibly involve travelling. I’ve thought about teaching piano, and in fact have and probably will continue to do so a little, but only as a supplemental income and as something I can stop doing if life demands it. I’ve thought about sewing garb and such, but that is something I’d really only like to do as a hobby, not something full-time. Sitting at a booth at medieval events for the whole event just isn’t appealing to me. I’ve thought about being a nutritionist or personal trainer, but I don’t know that I’m passionate enough about the fitness and health world to make a living out of it, and I can certainly still be healthy, fit, and even help people with it without doing it for a living. Inviting people over to a garage gym and doing some Paleo stuff online doesn’t take an unreasonable amount of time, after all.

But apologetics. Evangelism. Counter-cult ministry. I’ve been doing that practically since I left the Mormon church. I’ve been studying since then, starting with C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and continuing from there. I love it. I love the knowledge. I love that my book collection is steadily growing. I love that I’ve been a direct instrument of God in a few people’s conversion from Mormonism to Christianity, and that I’ve planted seeds for others. I love learning to debate logically, to recognize logical fallicies, to engage my intellect in something important.

And I’d love to use that to help the church in this area that it struggles.

Again, this is a long-term goal, which means that, if it doesn’t remain a goal and continue to grow in interest and possibility, it won’t happen. I’ve got plenty of time to realize that this is not actually something I want to devote myself to, long before I start putting any significant money or other resources toward it.

Realistically, if it is going to happen, a few things will need to happen. I want at least one more child, and I want my children to be at least old enough to entertain themselves while I do online classwork, which means that starting education towards this is going to be a few years out; the youngest would probably need to be a year minimum, and possibly older. I’ll need to be able to afford education, since it’s going to take at least a two-year certification, and it might be best to just go all out and get the full Master’s degree. Thankfully, I know at least one quality Christian university offers the full six years online. In the meantime, I can become an official member of my local church. I can get involved in the church, preferably in an area that directly relates to my long-term goal. I could get involved with teaching youth. I can eventually start offering an apologetics books study in my home for youth and/or adults. Then the transition to something more official would hopefully be smoother. I’d have credibility as a teacher and as a dedicated member of the church so that they would know they could trust me with such a position. And of course, I can continue my own personal studies.

So…we’ll see what happens.

Yes, I Sleep Train My Baby. No, I’m Not Abusive.

There is a lot of loaded discussion when it comes to sleep training. I’ve seen enough comments along the lines of, “People who let their children cry it out are cruel!” to know that there is a lot of emotion involved in this topic.

The one that always gets me is when they throw out some study or other that “proved” that crying it out is damaging to children because of something like impairment of brain development or something along those lines. I have to wonder how many people have actually seen the full study(ies), and if they could answer some of these questions for me:

  • What kind of cry-it-out training was studied? For instance, was this a sort where a parent chose a naptime arbitrarily, rather than based on the child’s natural rhythms? Where a parent put them down and walked away without ever checking in, offering comfort, making sure they were fed recently enough before nap time, etc? Or was it a cry-it-out that was based on the child’s natural nap needs, where the parent didn’t just ignore their child, and where it was teaching them to be comfortable falling asleep in bed rather than in a parent’s arms or while nursing or rocking?
  • Was the child well-fed? Did the cry-it-out training involve not meeting their nutrition needs, especially a younger infant’s nighttime needs? Or was it a sleep training that also met their natural eating rhythms, but made them routine and which evolved as the nutritional needs did by, for instance, doing less night feedings as the child needed less with age, weight, and adequate day feeding?
  • Why would cry-it-out training be more damaging than, say, colic? Both involve crying, and colic can involve hours upon hours of crying at a time, which crying-it-out (especially when not done neglectfully) usually does not, particularly after the first couple of days on average.
  • What control(s) were used? Who were involved in the comparison groups? What were the standards and the measurements? What confounding factors, such as age or weight at birth or health conditions, were controlled?

See, not so black and white.

Or the people who claim that sleep training makes a child lose trust in their caregivers and feel neglected or abandoned. Many of the same questions apply as above. What sort of sleep training are you talking about? What objective measures are you using?

I can certainly see how some forms of sleep training can be neglectful or abusive and therefore damaging, but I think that many parents who sleep train are anything but and their methods are anything but.

You see, my six month old son has learned to go to sleep almost every nap time without tears, and with no more than a minute or so of protest. I make sure he has his binkie, his “cuddle buddy” (one of those tiny blankets with a stuffed animal head in the middle), and a blanket. He cuddles up with the cuddle buddy and falls asleep happily most of the time. I don’t have to feed him to sleep. I don’t have to rock him as he fights me (him fighting me is what prompted me to begin sleep training). I don’t have to kill my back rocking him for half and hour or more when he gets sleepy and cranky. I wait until he’s clearly tired, usually about three hours after he last woke up, and I put him down with those comforting things, and he falls asleep.

How is that cruel? How is that neglectful?

It’s not that we never have a rougher nap time. He’s in transition from three naps to two right now, so he’s often still very tired in the evening, but not willing to sleep. I’ll often still put him down when he gets cranky, but if it’s clear he’s not going to fall asleep, he comes back out of the crib, usually within half an hour. I can’t force sleep on him, after all. I’m looking forward to when this transition is done, because a cranky baby who won’t sleep is no fun for anyone, including the baby.

And that’s natural.

We’ve also begun working on giving up the night feedings that he doesn’t need, being six months, about 14 pounds, and eating some solids. He still comfort feeds when he wakes up between sleep cycles, and since he’s capable of finding the comfort he needs right in his own crib with little or no fuss, we began working on doing so this week with one of his night feedings. Last night, it took only about fifteen minutes for him to fall asleep when he’d normally nurse. There was some protesting, but no screaming. No tears. I rocked him for a moment, and then set him down the same way I do at nap times. I am hopeful that in a few days, or at most a few weeks, he will have learned to put himself back to sleep quickly on his own. Then we’ll move on from there to another night feeding. My goal is to get from 4-5 to 1-2 night feedings very soon. Who knows? Maybe training him with one feeding will naturally carry over to the other feedings where he’s not actually hungry, and we’ll both sleep better at night in no time. Consistent night sleep is good for both of our brains, after all.

How is that cruel? How is that neglectful?

Honestly, children cry, and sometimes they do so in response to learning good things. Sometimes they fight things really hard, even if it’s something they ultimately will benefit from. There’s a difference between making them cry through cruelty and neglect, and making them cry because you’re teaching them something beneficial. There’s a difference between putting them down and ignoring them, regardless of their current needs, compared to teaching them a new habit and a routine.

The parent shouldn’t abdicate involved in the process of them learning this. They shouldn’t assume that the bed has become the parent the moment they are put down. My own son has this silly habit of rolling onto his stomach when he’s fighting falling asleep, and it will make him so mad that he’ll cry, spit out his binkie, and won’t roll back over. I check on him frequently enough that this never lasts more than a couple of minutes, because I’ll go in, roll him back over, replace his binkie, hand him his cuddle buddy, cover him back up, and give him a smile or a soft touch or spoken reassurance or a song before leaving again. Many times, this has been all he needed to calm down and fall asleep. Occasionally, I’ll pick him up, reassure him and cuddle him for a minute, and then put him back down. This has also often been all he needed to fall asleep. And because of this, he now often falls asleep easier in his own bed than if I try to rock him to sleep.

How is that cruel? How is that neglectful?

Routines are good for children, even very young ones. Finding comfort and familiarity with something good — their own bed at nap time — is a good thing. Children sleeping through the night is a good thing, as long as their needs aren’t being neglected (such as a younger infant’s need to eat at night still). And being able to do this while saving a parent’s body, mental health, and even giving them less sleep interruptions, is a good thing too.