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Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

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Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby Teddoman » 01 Jun 2012, 00:08

No one told us before we became parents how hard the basic daily tasks of parenting would be, nor did anyone tell us how hard it would be for us to develop the knowledge to become competent parents.

I've sort of realized parenting is this major knowledge challenge unlike the other rote and repetitive tasks we have done our
whole lives. In parenting, you have no formal training or experience, probably. So you have to survey the available knowledge, which might be books or could be advice from family and friends. Then you have to apply it to your own kids on the fly.

There's your mother, mother-in-law, or other experienced family member who has never read a book but sometimes has some good old fashioned common sense ideas based on her experience, and you know she has the child's best interests at heart. A lot of her advice may run contrary to what you read in books.

As for books, parenting authors belong to schools of thought. Knowing that is half the battle.

Even prior to birth, you have to figure out what the schools of thought are. The Democrats would be the Lamaze method of natural birth at a hospital. The Republicans would be modern medicine ob/gyn who eventually does a C-section. The Green party would be natural birth at home, using only a midwife, using a birthing ball, a tub, with your kids and neighbors watching, while someone videotapes, while you eat ice cream and get a Shiatsu massage.

For feeding, the Greens are the attachment theory school (Dr. Sears) who want breast feeding for as long as the child will take it (multiple years). The Democrats want breast feeding for at least 6 months. The Republicans think formula is fine.

When it comes to feeding or sleep scheduling, the Democrats are the attachment theory school (Dr. Sears) who want feeding or sleeping on demand so she doesn't cry, as crying is bad for kids in their eyes. The Republicans are the old schoolers who are ok with some crying, like crying it out for a baby to learn how to sleep on its own (Dr. Weissbluth). Then on the far right are the Tea Partyers, which are ok with a lot of crying in order to get the baby onto a schedule. I think BabyWise falls into that category. And many of these are the probably the more systematic, well researched authors. Then there are plenty of shoddily written books or web articles written solely for commercial value where the content is of dubious added value.

For constipation/incontinence, the Democrats are the naturopaths who think it's related to diet or think it can be solved with supplements. The Republicans are the pediatric GI doctors who prescribe Miralax (a laxative) for years on end. The radical independent party is both conservative in its old school methods and liberal at the same time by taking a psychological approach and believes in suppositories/enemas for psych retraining.

Every major parenting issue has multiple authors taking positions and usually criticizing or ignoring the other side. As a parent, you should get used to hearing people criticize doctors and you will soon take it as the conventional wisdom that doctors are only good for certain things and don't really know anything about real parenting solutions. So you can't even rely on a doctor for good advice on many daily parenting task. They could be Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader, depending on if you're a Democrat or a Republican. And as hard as you try to do the "right thing", it's very hard to determine what the right thing is. No one can seem to agree on what that is.

Finally, as hard as you try, parenting by its nature is not scientifically rigorous. There is no double blind, randomized, control group. For many, parenting isn't even empirical in any sense (e.g. you might not have a baseline of prior experience for comparison because you didn't have younger kids around you growing up). In terms of the knowledge that we bring to bear, parenting for most of us is essentially speculative and based on fragmented book knowledge (how many books can a frazzled parent really read?), or based on word of mouth anecdotes from friends and family at best.

Whatever you do sends you down a particular irreversible path. You cannot repeat the experiment. Your sample size is 1. This is a live experiment that you have to make work in real time.

EOR (end of rant).
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby Petrichor » 01 Jun 2012, 03:25

Teddoman wrote:No one told us before we became parents how hard the basic daily tasks of parenting would be, nor did anyone tell us how hard it would be for us to develop the knowledge to become competent parents.

I've sort of realized parenting is this major knowledge challenge unlike the other rote and repetitive tasks we have done our
whole lives. In parenting, you have no formal training or experience, probably. So you have to survey the available knowledge, which might be books or could be advice from family and friends. Then you have to apply it to your own kids on the fly.

There's your mother, mother-in-law, or other experienced family member who has never read a book but sometimes has some good old fashioned common sense ideas based on her experience, and you know she has the child's best interests at heart. A lot of her advice may run contrary to what you read in books.

As for books, parenting authors belong to schools of thought. Knowing that is half the battle.

Even prior to birth, you have to figure out what the schools of thought are. The Democrats would be the Lamaze method of natural birth at a hospital. The Republicans would be modern medicine ob/gyn who eventually does a C-section. The Green party would be natural birth at home, using only a midwife, using a birthing ball, a tub, with your kids and neighbors watching, while someone videotapes, while you eat ice cream and get a Shiatsu massage.

For feeding, the Greens are the attachment theory school (Dr. Sears) who want breast feeding for as long as the child will take it (multiple years). The Democrats want breast feeding for at least 6 months. The Republicans think formula is fine.

When it comes to feeding or sleep scheduling, the Democrats are the attachment theory school (Dr. Sears) who want feeding or sleeping on demand so she doesn't cry, as crying is bad for kids in their eyes. The Republicans are the old schoolers who are ok with some crying, like crying it out for a baby to learn how to sleep on its own (Dr. Weissbluth). Then on the far right are the Tea Partyers, which are ok with a lot of crying in order to get the baby onto a schedule. I think BabyWise falls into that category. And many of these are the probably the more systematic, well researched authors. Then there are plenty of shoddily written books or web articles written solely for commercial value where the content is of dubious added value.

For constipation/incontinence, the Democrats are the naturopaths who think it's related to diet or think it can be solved with supplements. The Republicans are the pediatric GI doctors who prescribe Miralax (a laxative) for years on end. The radical independent party is both conservative in its old school methods and liberal at the same time by taking a psychological approach and believes in suppositories/enemas for psych retraining.

Every major parenting issue has multiple authors taking positions and usually criticizing or ignoring the other side. As a parent, you should get used to hearing people criticize doctors and you will soon take it as the conventional wisdom that doctors are only good for certain things and don't really know anything about real parenting solutions. So you can't even rely on a doctor for good advice on many daily parenting task. They could be Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader, depending on if you're a Democrat or a Republican. And as hard as you try to do the "right thing", it's very hard to determine what the right thing is. No one can seem to agree on what that is.

Finally, as hard as you try, parenting by its nature is not scientifically rigorous. There is no double blind, randomized, control group. For many, parenting isn't even empirical in any sense (e.g. you might not have a baseline of prior experience for comparison because you didn't have younger kids around you growing up). In terms of the knowledge that we bring to bear, parenting for most of us is essentially speculative and based on fragmented book knowledge (how many books can a frazzled parent really read?), or based on word of mouth anecdotes from friends and family at best.

Whatever you do sends you down a particular irreversible path. You cannot repeat the experiment. Your sample size is 1. This is a live experiment that you have to make work in real time.

EOR (end of rant).


:lol: Lots of truth here but I'm not sure about the last part. You repeat the experiment with subsequent children. You make fewer mistakes with the second. By the time you get to the third you realise that as long as you feed them and love them they'll mostly turn out okay.
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby Teddoman » 05 Jun 2012, 07:25

Petrichor wrote: :lol: Lots of truth here but I'm not sure about the last part. You repeat the experiment with subsequent children. You make fewer mistakes with the second. By the time you get to the third you realise that as long as you feed them and love them they'll mostly turn out okay.

Yeah, hopefully it all just works out. I guess I just figure even with a pretty good bit of parental education, we are still going through problems which could have been easily prevented with even more parental education than we actually underwent (e.g. feeding issues and constipation issues). So part of wanting to educate ourselves a bit more is just to try to keep our own headache level to a minimum. Still, it's so hard trying to sort things out because everyone contradicts everyone else!

Anyway, I will consider us blessed if we don't have a third opportunity to use all this great knowledge and experience. Our plate is completely full with just two little ones! :)
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby housecat » 05 Jun 2012, 08:55

You're on the right track by thinking about it in the first place.

But Parenting just can't be taught. Yes, you can take classes, and yes there's an awful lot to learn. Some good basic knowledge is great. Some common sense advice is gold. But ultimately, you are a human and your child is a human. You have to learn to trust your instincts, go with your gut, and let your love for your child and your desire to do what's ultimately best for him or her guide you through which mistakes are worth it and which aren't.

There are times when I have to make choices for or about my son, or something that has nothing to do with him, but will directly affect his life. I don't always know what is best. I often don't know enough of the variables to make the best choice. This is what parenting actually is: helping your child through the process. Good or bad, best or worst, you're there for your child. You do the best you can, of course, but you can never hope to control everything.

And it's good that you can't, because watching you deal with things, seeing how you help your child deal with things, is how your child learns. So, sometimes a less than best circumstance is a good thing for a child. Just like it’s good for a child to puke his guts up if he's snuck around and eaten all the Halloween candy at once, or pilfered a cigarette somewhere and tried out smoking. In spite of my mother's best efforts to keep me away from it, I insisted on touching the hot oven door when I was a toddler. My hand was blistered. But I never touched that door again!

I'm a much better parent than my mother was and this is mostly directly because I have made a huge effort to learn from her mistakes. We all live and learn.

You'll make mistakes as a parent. That's okay. The only thing that counts is how you deal with the fall out. Be there for you kids. Salve the blisters if they insist on learning the hard way. Ask forgiveness when you know you should. Treat your kids with the respect of consideration and discipline. Always listen actively--it's how you give them a voice. Teach them to use that voice respectfully by having, and enforcing high expectations. They know low expectations equal low opinions. And be ready with large measures of grace and forgiveness when needed.

Just be THERE. Love them actively. It really is all that matters.

This post was recommended by 2 Forumosans: Brendon (08 Jun 2012, 04:05), Petrichor (05 Jun 2012, 15:15)
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby Vay » 07 Jun 2012, 22:23

Well here's a question related to the schools of thought listed above: can one "spoil" an infant with regards to putting her to sleep? I'm asking this because I'm becoming quite the master at dancing my little darling into dreamland - to the point where my MIL with 10 years nannying experience just hands her over to me when it's bedtime. However, a mother of two reacted to this with surprise: "Better be careful - you'll spoil her, and it'll be a lot of work getting her to bed later on if you don't let her put herself to sleep now."

Any opinions on this?
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby Teddoman » 07 Jun 2012, 22:57

housecat wrote:And it's good that you can't, because watching you deal with things, seeing how you help your child deal with things, is how your child learns. So, sometimes a less than best circumstance is a good thing for a child. Just like it’s good for a child to puke his guts up if he's snuck around and eaten all the Halloween candy at once, or pilfered a cigarette somewhere and tried out smoking. In spite of my mother's best efforts to keep me away from it, I insisted on touching the hot oven door when I was a toddler. My hand was blistered. But I never touched that door again!

Yeah, mistakes are nature's teacher. Much better to be learn from mother nature than have to listen to mommy or daddy tell you what to do or not to do!

Most of what we're dealing with right now are not really their mistakes, because our kids are so little. It's more mistakes we may or may not make that ends up making them (and therefore all of us) miserable until it's resolved.

But point taken in regards to mistakes they make. Our son jumped off our bed twice when he was really too young to even learn from mistakes. So that really traumatized my wife and I, and it took us a while to get out of that overprotective mode. But what helped us is a blog called Play At Home Mom where one of the things they do is let really small toddlers climb a lot. Still, it took me months to convince my wife to let our toddler start climbing all over the furniture. Being over protective can actually impede their development. But now he climbs all over the place. We still hover and verbally caution him when we think he's not paying attention to where he is, but it's great to see him show us his climbing competence combined with knowing when he is in danger of falling.

housecat wrote:I'm a much better parent than my mother was and this is mostly directly because I have made a huge effort to learn from her mistakes. We all live and learn.

I think I read somewhere that parents today are very different from a generation or two ago. There is more of a striving to be good now. In the old days, parenting just happened, and you dealt with it. Certainly that's my impression of my parents at least.

The irony of my own parent's mistakes is that their worst mistakes are what define who I am today. So I would not be who I am without all the conflicts I had with them as a child. I was molded in that fire. My parenting style is the complete opposite of my parents. I reason with my older son, because no one ever deigned to reason with me when I was a kid. I hope it's not the case that you have to be an a-hole to your kids in order for them to grow up to be reasonable people. :ponder:

housecat wrote:You'll make mistakes as a parent. That's okay. The only thing that counts is how you deal with the fall out. Be there for you kids. Salve the blisters if they insist on learning the hard way. Ask forgiveness when you know you should. Treat your kids with the respect of consideration and discipline. Always listen actively--it's how you give them a voice. Teach them to use that voice respectfully by having, and enforcing high expectations. They know low expectations equal low opinions. And be ready with large measures of grace and forgiveness when needed.

Just be THERE. Love them actively. It really is all that matters.

Sounds like your kids are a little further along in age than ours. We're still dealing with really basic infant/early toddler stuff right now. But yeah, all good advice on how to proceed. We haven't really had many behavioral issues to work on yet.

The biggest behavior issue has been random meltdowns on occasion. Like getting frustrated by a toy, and instead of just dealing with it well, sometimes he'll just go into meltdown mode and just wants to cry and nothing will console him. If we're lucky, we catch it in time and distract him quickly enough before he really melts down. But this type of behavior seems almost out of his control, like it's triggered by lack of sleep, hunger, stress, being sick, or some other unknown factor. When it started happening a lot at one point, we realized he wasn't getting enough sleep (plus he had been sick) and we were more aggressive about him getting more sleep, and it has improved a lot since then. So we haven't really tried to deal with it as something requiring him to "learn how to behave" since it seems like it was just a symptom of other issues.

Vay wrote:Well here's a question related to the schools of thought listed above: can one "spoil" an infant with regards to putting her to sleep? I'm asking this because I'm becoming quite the master at dancing my little darling into dreamland - to the point where my MIL with 10 years nannying experience just hands her over to me when it's bedtime. However, a mother of two reacted to this with surprise: "Better be careful - you'll spoil her, and it'll be a lot of work getting her to bed later on if you don't let her put herself to sleep now."

Any opinions on this?

How old is your infant?

You've landed right smack in the middle of schools of thought land, so all I can do is describe the landscape a bit.

Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep, Healthy Child is really good for understanding how important sleep is. He's an old school cry it out guy, and that's not something every parent can stomach. We held our first son to sleep until roughly 5.5 months, at which point we discovered Weissbluth and let him cry it out. It was pretty rough for us. It worked just like predicted. But part of me wonders at what cost. I do feel like his personality changed after we went through that. Very unscientific and I honestly just don't know.

We are currently using some of the tips in the No Cry Sleep Solution and No Cry Nap Solution for our 4-5 month old. We don't swaddle anymore. The latest iteration (we've gone through many) is rocking him in our arms until he's pretty sleepy, put him in the Playard bassinet, turn on soothing music (which auto shuts off in maybe 10-15 min), then rock the bassinet, then slowly stop rocking, then leave the room. It's imperfect, because he needs a lot of rocking to get to sleep, but at least we're not holding him until he completely falls asleep like we did with our first.

Would love to hear anyone else's advice on transitioning them to sleep on their own where you put them in the crib and they just fall asleep like an older toddler does. Vay, crying it out is always an option so you can always exercise that option. The real question for me is, are there any other options for teaching them to sleep on their own? We've tried the No Cry Sleep Solution ideas but there's very little concrete troubleshooting advice, it's mostly high level advice that sounds good on paper but hard to execute.
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby housecat » 08 Jun 2012, 07:34

Teddoman wrote:The biggest behavior issue has been random meltdowns on occasion. Like getting frustrated by a toy, and instead of just dealing with it well, sometimes he'll just go into meltdown mode and just wants to cry and nothing will console him. If we're lucky, we catch it in time and distract him quickly enough before he really melts down. But this type of behavior seems almost out of his control, like it's triggered by lack of sleep, hunger, stress, being sick, or some other unknown factor. When it started happening a lot at one point, we realized he wasn't getting enough sleep (plus he had been sick) and we were more aggressive about him getting more sleep, and it has improved a lot since then. So we haven't really tried to deal with it as something requiring him to "learn how to behave" since it seems like it was just a symptom of other issues.
My son is nine years old. When he had these kind of problems--frustration with a toy--he couldn't just deal with it well because he didn't know how. I taught him specifically and exactly what to do. We practiced this when he WASN'T frustrated. I talked to him about that time yesterday when he was upset and he cried and threw his toy. I told him that if it happened again he sould STOP, PUT THE TOY DOWN, TAKE HIS HANDS OFF OF IT, AND COME ASK ME FOR HELP. Then we practiced this three or for times. Then later, when we were doing something else entirely, I said, "Kitten, show me what you need to do if you get mad at your toys." And we practiced again. Later, when he was getting frustrated with a toy again, I said, "Kitten. What are you supposed to do when this happens?" That was all it took. He knew what to do. Sometimes I had to tell hima few times to take his hands off of it, but after he had, and he'd walked away from it to ask me for help, it was a much easier situation to deal with. No more melt downs, but a lot of active parenting. These days, I use that same formla for some other problems. There's one particular playmate who seems to love to stir up stuff between my son and his best buds. This kid is currently going through a lot of things and isn't really coping well. I've spoken to my son about this, but I've also told him that, just like the toy, he has to just stop, drop it, and walk away. Come talk to me about his feelings if he's angry at this friend, or his feelings are hurt. Still, the hardest part for him is letting it go, but it does help.

Oh, and you are correct in your observations that with toddlers, as with most adults, being tired, hungry, or sick makes it much, much harder to cope well with most things! But it's still okay to teach stratagies to help.

Vay wrote:Well here's a question related to the schools of thought listed above: can one "spoil" an infant with regards to putting her to sleep? I'm asking this because I'm becoming quite the master at dancing my little darling into dreamland - to the point where my MIL with 10 years nannying experience just hands her over to me when it's bedtime. However, a mother of two reacted to this with surprise: "Better be careful - you'll spoil her, and it'll be a lot of work getting her to bed later on if you don't let her put herself to sleep now."

Any opinions on this?

Some people just seem to have a magic touch, right? My mom had a friend with a day care when I was 20 or so. One baby there just never wanted to go down for a nap. I happened to go there one afternoon for something, not sure what now, but there was something going on, fixing a sink, or something. Anyway, they asked me to stay and sit with that baby while the other's were asleep and they were bussy with fixing whatever it was in the other room. I had that baby asleep in ten minutes, and in fact, dozed off myself--in spite of the noise. Because of this, they asked me to come back at the same time the next day. After two weeks of this, the kid would fall asleep almost just looking at me! HA! It got so I had to drive over there so they could lay him in my arms for about five minutes. I'd hand him back and be on my way.

So, that mother's advice is likely spot on. You'll end up being the only one who can put the baby down to sleep, and if you ever can't be there to do it, there will be some miserable care givers out there. Unfortunatly, I don't have a real answer for this one. I'm a pretty good mom most of the time, but my nine year old still sleeps with me! I figure in the next year or two, he'll move out on his own because he'll want some privacy, but we are very acceptional in this reguard. Most people would not be okay sleep sharing for so long. I guess this has been possible because I'm still single, but for now, we're both still happy enough with things the way they are.

Oh, and it wasn't Kitten who ate the candy and smoked the cigarette--those exploits belonged to my cousins, but my aunt tells some colorful stories about what they learned, and how they learned it! :cool:
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby 914 » 08 Jun 2012, 16:00

I was the best parent until i became one. Then everything got thrown in my face and i realized holy crap, parenting IS hard. Id rather be at work at a regular job than be a stay at home parent! Heck, i prefer mopping the floors and scrubbing the toilets to disciplining my toddlers.

I never read any parenting books until i held my first one in my arms. They say if your first is an easy baby, dont be too smug because payback is a bitch. My second was payback times ten during infancy, but now is an awesome almost two year old. We just learned to parent as we went along. There is so much info nowadays I find it too overwhelming sometimes. Attachment parenting, cio, helicopter parents, french parenting, liberals, bullying, tiger parents, therapy, paraphrasing emotions, etc. too much info is not always good nor easy.

Anyway, before four months, I don't see how u can spoil a baby. Theyre still in their fourth trimester. Thats what I believe anyway. I also believe in sleep training at four months, and I do cry it out. From my research, thats what works best for my family, but i respect families that dont do that. We just had another one and baby is co sleeping with me so easier for me to feed. I enjoy the bonding time too, though some would say co sleeping gets them into a bad habit. Just do what you are comfortable with. Everyone elses comments can be used as reference, but youre the parent, so you do what keeps yor family sane.
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby Vay » 08 Jun 2012, 16:06

Teddoman wrote:How old is your infant?


Coming up on six weeks.

Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep, Healthy Child is really good for understanding how important sleep is. He's an old school cry it out guy, and that's not something every parent can stomach. We held our first son to sleep until roughly 5.5 months, at which point we discovered Weissbluth and let him cry it out. It was pretty rough for us. It worked just like predicted.


What was the desired goal in doing that?

But part of me wonders at what cost. I do feel like his personality changed after we went through that. Very unscientific and I honestly just don't know.


In what way did he change?

We are currently using some of the tips in the No Cry Sleep Solution and No Cry Nap Solution for our 4-5 month old. We don't swaddle anymore. The latest iteration (we've gone through many) is rocking him in our arms until he's pretty sleepy, put him in the Playard bassinet, turn on soothing music (which auto shuts off in maybe 10-15 min), then rock the bassinet, then slowly stop rocking, then leave the room. It's imperfect, because he needs a lot of rocking to get to sleep, but at least we're not holding him until he completely falls asleep like we did with our first.


May I ask why you switched "schools"?

housecat wrote:So, that mother's advice is likely spot on. You'll end up being the only one who can put the baby down to sleep, and if you ever can't be there to do it, there will be some miserable care givers out there.


This is my big concern. My MIL just dominates in baby care, so it worries me that she's hanling the baby over to me on this issue. While it's great to be appreciated, I'm afraid I might be causing future problems as my friend suggested.
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Re: Developing Parenting Knowledge: Doing The "Right Thing" and Schools of Thought

Postby Teddoman » 09 Jun 2012, 05:59

Vay wrote:
Teddoman wrote:Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep, Healthy Child is really good for understanding how important sleep is. He's an old school cry it out guy, and that's not something every parent can stomach. We held our first son to sleep until roughly 5.5 months, at which point we discovered Weissbluth and let him cry it out. It was pretty rough for us. It worked just like predicted.

What was the desired goal in doing that?

Going to sleep on their own, it's basically sleep self-regulation which is good b/c they get more net sleep if they know how to fall asleep on their own, and the parents get more sleep too

Vay wrote:
Teddoman wrote:But part of me wonders at what cost. I do feel like his personality changed after we went through that. Very unscientific and I honestly just don't know.

In what way did he change?

Really hard to say. It could be my perceptions just b/c it was hard on us too.

Vay wrote:
Teddoman wrote:We are currently using some of the tips in the No Cry Sleep Solution and No Cry Nap Solution for our 4-5 month old. We don't swaddle anymore. The latest iteration (we've gone through many) is rocking him in our arms until he's pretty sleepy, put him in the Playard bassinet, turn on soothing music (which auto shuts off in maybe 10-15 min), then rock the bassinet, then slowly stop rocking, then leave the room. It's imperfect, because he needs a lot of rocking to get to sleep, but at least we're not holding him until he completely falls asleep like we did with our first.


May I ask why you switched "schools"?

We didn't switch per se, for our first son it was the only school of thought we were exposed to and we just followed it. For the 2nd, we learned there was more than one school of thought. Cry it out is a backup at the moment, just because we figure we might as well try some gentler ways before we get desperate.
Teddoman
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