[It's Saturday, but here's this week's Friday Q&A. Better late than never!]
Joanna sent us this question:
We have an 11 1/2 month-old who we've been rocking to sleep for naps twice a day and at bedtime for the past 9 months or so. She now would rather not take the time to lay in our laps except to take her bottle before sleeping. Now, she wants down to go play (she indicates this by wiggling around, etc.). I have been holding her at nap and bedtime for the bottle feeding, but when she finishes, I lay her in her crib. Now, of course, she cries but no longer than 6-7 minutes. My husband says this is cruel and unkind, and he feels like we're "putting our baby out." When he says this, I feel like he's right, and I should run and pick her up. But a big part of me says, "you have to do this to train her to fall asleep on her own." I have also changed her bedtime routine so that after she finishes her bottle, I read her a book and then lay her down.
I have a 7-year-old who I rocked religiously for almost 3 years at bedtime, and I don't want our baby to be the same way. Am I right or is my husband? Are we putting our baby out when we do this?
I'm not sure what you mean by "putting our baby out," but if you mean that you're being cruel and unkind to her, then I have to say no, you're not being cruel and unkind. She's probably crying because she wants to play and be with you, yet it's obvious she's tired because she's only crying for 6-7 minutes. I know it's unpleasant to hear her cry, but it doesn't sound like she's crying because she's scared. It sounds like she's crying because she's not getting what she wants (to play with you). Instead, she's getting what she needs: sleep.
Think of it this way: when you're trying to feed your child broccoli and she cries because she wants a cookie instead, do you give her the cookie and not give her the broccoli so you don't have to hear her cry? I would guess (and hope!) that you don't because you know she needs the broccoli and she's just crying because she wants the cookie. What we want is not always what we need, and that will cause us to protest.
Children need sleep, and they need to learn to sleep on their own because they'll have to do it eventually anyway. We may think we'll help them for several years to fall asleep and then they'll somehow magically learn to do it on their own, but it often doesn't happen that way. When you have a long-standing routine with a child (or even an adult -- I can't sleep when my husband is out of town!), it is almost always difficult to wean them from it. That's why child development specialists (at least the one's I have spoken to) suggest weaning children from bottles and pacifiers before 18 months. After that age, they're so much more aware, and the weaning process can be far more difficult on them than when they were younger.
Alternatively, if you don't want to rock her to sleep for two more years, but you also don't want to hear her cry at all, then have your husband rock her!