They won’t come for you: An address to the American Council of Infants
Thank you for inviting me to speak to you about my new book, They Won’t Come for You. It’s a great honor to have the opportunity to address so many babies, and on a topic that is so important to all of us.
I want to begin by congratulating the baby community on the progress we’ve made in teaching parents not to sleep train. It’s an impressive feat when we remember that large numbers of parents are convinced sleep training is harmful to our tiny brains and psyches despite a complete absence of evidence on the issue.
[Fat little hands clapping, happy cooing.]
There is still a great deal of work to be done. We’ve lost ground in the battle against vaccination, with more and more parents choosing to vaccinate.
[General fussing, a few howls.]
And, of course, there are still parents who sleep train. I myself am the baby of such a set of parents. So today I want to share a few of my experiences and strategies–the things that motivated me to write They Won’t Come for You.
Let’s begin by talking about things a baby can do to maximize the chance that parents will weaken and pick you up and snuggle you. We all know that there are some great weapons. Tears. Parents have to be very committed to stay strong when they see great big tears glistening on our fat little cheeks. For verbal babies, crying out the name of a caregiver can be very effective. But here are two must-haves for every baby’s toolkit.
First: Getting an appendage, preferably a fat little leg all the way up to the very fat thigh, caught in the crib. Parents can recognize the cry of the trapped baby, and will come every time. When combined with tears, a pick up and snuggle is virtually guaranteed. If you wrap your fat little arms around your parent’s neck and snuggle your warm, fragrant little head against his or her chest, you will likely get a good ten minutes out of him or her. Second: Vomiting. Parents are remarkably sensitive to the cry of the baby who has thrown up. And they have to clean you up, which also guarantees snuggles. If you use this strategy, though, don’t forget to CRY! My roommate recently vomited all over herself and her bed, but didn’t make a peep, and just ended up sleeping in it all night.
Sadly, there are times when a baby tries every possible strategy and still gets left in his or her crib. Believe me, I’m familiar with this situation. What can a baby do in those circumstances?
My frank recommendation? Go to sleep. Sucking a thumb or pacifier is helpful here. If you’re old enough, roll onto your belly and stick your butt in the air. Very soothing. And if sleep is really and truly beyond you, try thinking of this period as some extra Me Time. I catch up on reading, admire the pattern of light and shadow on my walls and ceiling… We babies live a hectic life, and these moments can be incredibly restorative. Regardless of which path you choose, wait about twenty minutes. Then give a good loud yowl or two and start chortling happily. Your parent will return, feeling like he or she has won. And as we all know, letting a parent feel successful can be in our own best long-term interests, even if it’s painful at the time.
[Gurgles of agreement. A burp.]
My last and most important suggestion…oh…Is that a giant breast I see? I am suddenly very hungry. I hope you don’t mind if I eat while I talk. We’re all babies here, after all. Mmmhrpji hogamml hymmmmph mhppm mlltopa nmmmmspa mmmmm mmmmmmm ammmmamm mmmm m maaa marjrrwppppp.
A note from Bulet’s Mama: Did Bunlet’s claim that there’s no evidence on the issue of sleep training get your back up? I’m sorry. Let me clarify: Sleep train, don’t sleep train, I don’t care. It should be a choice based on your circumstances, your child, and your parenting philosophy. The complete lack of evidence is not an opinion, though, and if you want to disagree, better come armed with a shitload of peer reviewed studies showing causative links between the extinction method, for example, and something bad.