bad habits vs. expectations

I've been checking out this "NEW DAD DIARY" written by a pediatrician/father (who happens to be the son of the famous parenting author, Dr. William Sears), and I really love what he has to say about creating "bad habits" vs. expectations. I fully agree with how he explains this (and I also parent exactly as he describes):

"Mar. 3 - Creating bad habits?

Some new parents tell me in the office that they don't want to breastfeed their baby to sleep because they don't want the baby to become dependent on this. This kind of sounds reasonable. After all, everyone wants a baby that will fall asleep peacefully on their own. My wife, however, feels differently. She doesn't mind nursing Joshua to sleep. In fact, she insists on it. She likes the bonding and closeness. This is what we have done with all our kids so far. What about a year from now when he has gotten so used to it that he won't fall asleep without the breast? Well, that's ok. My wife is up for that. I guess it all has to do with what your expectations are for the future. On one hand, if, in a year from now, you want a baby that is independent at night, then you might think twice about nursing down to sleep at this point. If, on the other hand, you are okay with a prolonged nighttime attachment, then creating this closeness from day one is just fine. Our expectations are that Joshua will nurse to sleep for a couple years, then need to be rocked to sleep, then patted down to sleep. When he is four or five, we might even need to sit with him as he falls asleep. Heck, my 5 and 9 year old like me to sit in their room while they fall asleep at night. I'm fine with this. I just grab a flashlight and a good book, and enjoy a nice quiet half hour of reading. This is simply what we expected it would be like, and I am guessing it will be like this for Joshua too.

So, are we creating a habit by nursing down to sleep? Yes, we probably are. Is this a BAD habit? It depends on what your expectations are. For us, the answer is no. We are just creating closeness. That's what attachment parenting is all about."

Your mileage may vary.

I still enjoy getting my children to sleep most nights. Last night, lying down with my 11 year old daughter for 10 minutes before she fell asleep, we had the best time talking and snuggling and laughing over some really bad jokes. I was grateful for that time with her, not resentful. And yes, my two younger children (9 and 11) still like for me to lie down with them each night for a few minutes to ease them into sleep mode. It's a privilege.

Now don't get me wrong, there were nights in those first baby/toddler years when I felt exhausted or overwhelmed. It's not all sunshine and rainbows and attachment parenting perfection. I did wean my middle child from night nursings (meaning, I would still nurse her to fall asleep, but declined to nurse her again 'til morning) when she turned 2, and my youngest quit wanting to nurse at night on his own at about that age. But in the big picture, I don't mind being an active night time parent. Overall, it's what has worked well for us. And I feel really lucky that Jon has the same approach. He's great about helping to get Elliot to sleep at night with a snuggle or a story. Elliot sometimes now prefers Jon to me for these bedtime routines.


Cathy said...

You make it sound very reasonable, but I still feel like we are part of a secret society for the choices we make. Family and friends don't even approve.

Anonymous said...

The Sears were on a Dr. Phil show last week. One of the few of his shows that were worth watching.

Anonymous said...

The Sears were on a Dr. Phil show last week. One of the few of his shows that were worth watching.

Anonymous said...

I remember a bit of advice I read once. It doesn't really matter what the rules you set are, as long as they are consistent, and as long as you consistently bend or break them as you or your child really need to.
I agree with Sears. You decide what behavior you can or cannot 'do' and then plan around it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you seem to be picking my brain lately. Many topics you've written about have been ones on my mind. What I have yet to find advice for (anywhere) is what to do when one parent is fully committed to the night parenting but the other parent isn't? For that matter, advice on what to do when one parent is doing the A.P. thing and the other isn't so into it? All people doing attachment parenting can't be so lucky that both parents fully agree on all aspects!

mamalife said...

Well said. To me, they are small for a relatively short time, and if they need us at night for a couple or few years, that is okay... all too soon, they will be grown and move out and fall asleep and get through the night without us!