I was just randomly playing around with my Google Analytics — a very cool tool for a blogger. Obviously, I don’t produce a whole lot of entries since I pour my heart and soul into a lot of entries, and I usually wait for a spark to write more emotional posts. However, what I can do, is check out some of the ways people have found this site on the internet — what did people search for to find my humble blog? And can I answer some of the things they were searching for? Yes, I can perhaps give some help on those queries. I’ll select a few each week and write a bit about those. I’ll go ahead and address some of the more popular queries.
1. “Best natural disposable diapers” has brought a lot of people to my site. I did address this before, but I’ll definitely address it again. The best for fit and absorbency are Earth’s Best, hands down. The best (in a reasonable price range) that are the best for the environment are Nature BabyCare diapers. They have great absorbency (same as Earth’s Best as far as I can tell), and they are better for the environment than EB. Since they less plastic, they do tear occasionally, but it’s not very often. They use biodegradable packaging, soy ink, and have a reduced amount of absorbent polymers compared to other disposables. The best thing about so-called “natural” disposables is that they don’t SMELL like regular disposables — which to me have an awful chemical smell and something in them makes pee smell even more rank when it enters the diaper. I wouldn’t bother with Huggies Naturals — there isn’t much natural at all about them. They’re just regular Huggies without fragrance, and some of the exterior is made with organic cotton. Earth’s Best, Seventh Generation and Nature BabyCare are chlorine bleach free, which is awesome. This keeps harmful dioxin away from baby’s sensitive bottom. (I don’t like Seventh Gen as well simply because the fit is less generous, and the tabs aren’t as nice as either EB or NBC.) I don’t bother with the GDiaper hybrid diapers, since they always leak and are just a pain to deal with in general! Hope this helps, searchers! (And buy everything on Amazon — get the Amazon mom and subscribe and save discounts, and the fancy natural diapers come down to the price — or lower than the price — of “regular diapers” in the grocery store.)
2. “Safe paint for pregnant women” brings folks around too. Of course, it directs them to my previous post, but I’ll just say it again. Go for no-VOC brands of paint like FreshAire (available at Home Despot). Lowe’s, Ace, McCormick, Sherwin Williams — all of those stores should have their own no-VOC brands. And at the specialty paint stores, they can usually mix up whatever color you want in no-VOC. (The no-VOC was important for me because I just didn’t want to breathe in the smell of the regular paint. It made me just super sick and headachy after using regular, cheaper paint. The no-VOC was worth it! And it’s supposed to be better for the bambinos — born and unborn!)
3. “Best extended rear-facing car seat” brought a few folks by as well. For that, with my lovely penchant for excessive research, I would highly recommend the Britax series. Most all of them rear face til 40 lbs, front face til 55-70 lbs, and they are really high quality and come in cute prints. I have the Boulevard in cowmooflouge and we love it. They are a little tougher to buckle than infant seats, but I can deal with that for safety. Of course, the Britax are ridiculously expensive. This Evenflo Triumph is almost just the same as the Boulevard and costs a hundred bucks less. (My parents have it for my son, and the only difference I can see is that it doesn’t have soft shoulder pads. Otherwise, it appears to be exactly the same. The weight limit for the seat is 65 lbs, and the Boulevard is 70. Only other difference.) Lots of other people love the Sunshine Radian XTSL — I considered it because it goes to 80 pounds and 45 rear facing, but it is very tall, and as the back seats of the Element are raised, I didn’t want it interfering with my driving vision. It is THINNER than other seats, which is an advantage for those with multiple kiddos. Overall, those are the three I considered — and we all love the Boulevard and Triumph. The XTSL will have to wait for our imaginary next kiddo. Happy shopping!
Other answers to brief random questions that sent more than one person to my site:
1. Q: “Does formula make babies feel fuller?” A: Yes, I believe it does. They can take more of it at a time, and it is also thicker than breast milk. This is a plus, because Sam sleeps longer now than he ever did when he was breastfeeding. This is a negative, because it sends little babies (0-3 months or so) into a deeper sleep than they need to be in, increasing the risk of SIDS. That’s my short answer!
2. Q: “What are the best bras during pregnancy?” A: Bras from A Pea in the Pod, like this one, and sports bras from Target (if you can find ones that go nicely under your clothes). Skip Victoria’s Secret. If you’re super rich, go to Intimacy. Don’t wear your old bras — they can compress your breasts and cause pain and possibly damage to your breast tissue.
3. Q: “Are Medela bras at Target the same as the bras at A Pea in the Pod?” A: NO. NO. NO! My Medela bra literally fell apart after a few months of wear. The used and abuse APIP bras are still going strong.
4. Q: “Attachment parenting mom with Babywise friend?” A: There is no true answer to this. I do believe that moms with opposing viewpoints can and SHOULD be friends. My friend did Babywise, and it has worked out beautifully for her and her daughter. She doesn’t let her little girl cry, but the schedule was an awesome fit for both her and her little one’s personalities. It didn’t resonate with me. But I don’t believe crying it out or scheduling are really harmful to babies — Sam is on somewhat of a schedule, and nowadays, we have to let him fuss it out in his crib when he’s tired once in a while. Then he falls beautifully asleep. Point is — short of actually beating on a kid, withholding food from them, feeding them Big Macs every day, or calling them “idiot” instead of their given name — I am trying to be cool with how other people parent. And that would be my absolutely honest recommendation to a lady with an opposing viewpoint from her other lady friend. Friendships are important, and they are worth more than getting upset over a trifling matter like scheduling naps.
That’s all for today! We’ll see what comes up in the next week on my Google Analytics!
Tags: a pea in the pod, are medela bras at target the same as the bras at a pea in the pod, attachment parenting mom babywise friend, best bras during pregnancy, best extended rear facing car seat, best natural disposable diapers, britax boulevard, does formula make babies feel fuller, earth's best, evenflo triumph, extended rear facing, freshaire, intimacy, Nature Babycare, rear-facing car seat, safe paint for pregnant women, Sunshine Radian XTSL, target, what are the best bras during pregnancy
Dr. Momma recently posted this article by Patricia Törngren on something called primal parenting. I generally enjoy the articles on Dr. Momma’s site, but this one made me pretty angry. There are a lot of people all over the internet spreading crazy generalizations about parenting, but this one was pretty nut-tastic in my opinion.
I would urge you to read the article — it is really some interesting reading. The author’s overall point is that because her mother did not feed her on demand and let her cry (to be fair, the mother seemed to have gotten some gross misinformation from her pediatrician) that she was a damaged adult who hoarded food. She also makes noises about “being forced to sleep alone” from birth and not being picked up enough to suit her needs. This of course supports the attachment parenting practices of co-sleeping and babywearing. She refers to the style of parenting in which she believes as “primal parenting — the primal is related primal therapy. (I can’t see how her concepts differ from Sears’ attachment parenting, but I suppose that is beside the point.)
She talks a bit about a book her therapist gave her, which connects long-term breastfeeding with self-worth and autonomy in hunter-gatherer societies, and withholding colostrum and crying it out or sleep training practices with anger issues. In a meandering way, she links crying it out, sleeping in a crib and early weaning (before one year, I’m guessing) with — get ready for it — the development of clinical depression in adults. Just so you believe me, here’s some juicy quotes that show her line of thinking:
[Timothy Taylor] says that for early weaning to be forced onto the child, the child must be made to sleep alone, and its crying ignored…. The outcome of this is very serious. Taylor links it to classical conditioning and Martin Seligman’s theory of learned helplessness… The child has learned from the beginning that trying to get its needs met, or asserting itself in any way, is futile. Tragically, learned helplessness is often the forerunner of clinical depression.
See what she does here? If you wean your child early, he or she must be sleeping in his or her own bed (the horror!). If your child is sleeping independently in his or her own bed, his or her crying is ignored. If the crying is ignored, your child learns that he or she is helpless and no aid will come. Tragic, indeed. BAM! You end up with a depressed adult.
Wow. So that is why there are so many depressed men and women out there. They slept in CRIBS! And cried! My gosh. Finally, an explanation.
Of course she links all of this to her own depression, as I mentioned before. She does let us know that she is now in therapy, recovering from her childhood and her mother not holding her enough or letting her eat as she was crying. (Her experience as an infant does seem to be a uniquely bleak one, which certainly could have something to do with depression. Is it the singular cause? Likely not.)
Of course she ends up telling us how terrible our futures will all be if we do not parent in the way she has laid out:
Hopefully, this nurturing and loving style of caring for children will become the parenting of the future, as it was in our distant past. If it doesn’t, our future as humanity is bleak indeed.
Certainly as someone who formula feeds, “forces” her child to sleep in a crib, and occasionally prefers the stroller to the Ergo carrier, I take issue with many of Törngren’s claims. It seems like she isn’t just putting it out there that primal parenting is one way of doing things that could provide good results — it seems that she believes it is the ONLY way to do things. As I said, I do dig Dr. Momma, but I feel like this is a harmful article. It reinforces, and may even create in some new mothers, the belief that there is only one right way of parenting.
As I write, I am reminded of an article I read by Erica Jong (the noted author of Fear of Flying). The article is called “On the Madness of Motherhood,” and it got me pretty angry at the time I read it — just as Törngren’s article did. (And just like Törngren, Jong comes out with some over generalization and more than her share of acrimony against the “other” way of parenting.) Jong comes roaring out against attachment parenting and the insanity of this new wave of parenting practices:
Attachment parenting, especially when combined with environmental correctness, has encouraged female victimization. Women feel not only that they must be ever-present for their children but also that they must breastfeed, make their own baby food and eschew disposable diapers. It’s a prison for mothers, and it represents as much of a backlash against women’s freedom as the right-to-life movement.
Whoa! Over generalization after over generalization after over generalization. Yikes! (She also talks about how her own daughter “hated” breastfeeding, without any back story. Totally bizarre.) But, after getting all riled up against Törngren, it did make me think back to reading Jong. There are so many people — especially women, and golly do I hate to stereotype — who really think, who really BELIEVE that parenting a certain way (the “attached” way) is the ONLY right way to raise a little person.
In the midst of her own ridiculosity, Jong makes some salient points. Says Jong, “So it seems we have devised a new torture for mothers—a set of expectations that makes them feel inadequate no matter how passionately they attend to their children.” Yes indeed. I see it over and over. I hear so many mothers ask, in different words and in different ways, “Am I doing it right?” I’m one of those mothers of course. And I ask myself this every day. Certainly, this isn’t an uncommon way of thinking — in fact, I would say it’s probably a way of thinking that dates back to when Homo Sapiens first stepped away from the primate world.
But in today’s world, worry is yet another addiction. The world expands rapidly before us, its threats and dangers brought to us over and over, on repeat, on our television and computer screens. “Toxins!” we hear. “Pesticides! Trans fats! Disease! Vaccines! Infected water!”
Despite her undeniable nuttiness “On the Madness of Motherhood,” I now strongly resonate with Jong’s final point:
What is so troubling about these theories of parenting—both pre- and postnatal—is that they seem like attempts to exert control in a world that is increasingly out of control. We can’t get rid of the carcinogens in the environment, but we can make sure that our kids arrive at school each day with a reusable lunch bag full of produce from the farmers’ market. We can’t do anything about loose nukes falling into the hands of terrorists, but we can make sure that our progeny’s every waking hour is tightly scheduled with edifying activities.
Our obsession with parenting is an avoidance strategy. It allows us to substitute our own small world for the world as a whole. But the entire planet is a child’s home, and other adults are also mothers and fathers. We cannot separate our children from the ills that affect everyone, however hard we try. Aspiring to be perfect parents seems like a pathetic attempt to control what we can while ignoring problems that seem beyond our reach.
I think a lot about babies these days. The more I get to know my own little person, I realize that that is exactly what he is — a little person. He’s not some mythical creature that will be damaged without the exact right kind of care — he’s a tiny human. Just as all human beings vary infinitely, so do babies, and so do parents for that matter.
The kind of parenting I support is parenting that responds to the needs of the baby and the needs of the parent, weighing each in kind. This takes into account that a parent must be well and happy with his or her decisions in order to provide the best care for his or her baby. Of course, I don’t support the decisions of doing truly harmful things to children like beating or verbally abusing them. Beyond that, I try to believe that each parent is doing the best for his or her child — as he or she sees fit. Most parenting decisions shouldn’t fall under attack as much as they do from a certain group of parents (particularly mothers) on the internet.
The internet ends up being an extension of that “small world” that we create for our perfectly reared children. And with the anonymity that the internet provides, we can criticize whatever parenting practice we like (cribs are cages! formula is poison!) and over generalize until our faces turn blue. We can extend our control by “informing” and “supporting” and “educating” other mothers about what we KNOW is right. And that way, we can crusade against what we see as a bleak and unloving way of parenting — just as Törngren would have us do.
“Do the best you can,” says Jong at the very end of her article. “There are no rules.”
On that point, Ms. Jong, I agree with you. I won’t be coming out in support of any one way of parenting. Because there isn’t any one way.
I think that every pregnant woman should take a class on breastfeeding — or even better, attend a La Leche League meeting so that she can observe breastfeeding firsthand. As a nation, we’ve entered into a culture that sexualizes the boob so much that it must remain hidden. It is only an object of male desire, and the only way we see it is sexual. This is why so many mothers are turned off from breastfeeding — after all, why give a sexual object to your child? So we come to the first misconception — yes, the breast has a sexual function. However, its primary function is to provide nutrition to a baby.
From talking to other women, and from reading online, there are a lot more misconceptions floating about. Or rather, there are incomplete conceptions. Let’s talk about a few of them.
1. Incomplete conception: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only breastfeeding until six months. The American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends EXCLUSIVELY breastfeeding for at least six months. That means nothing else other than breast milk — no rice cereal, no formula — until after six months. The AAP strongly urges mothers to breastfeed (in addition to introducing solids) until at least one year. In fact, they also say that it is just fine to breastfeed into the third year and beyond. No harm done. (In fact, the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until age two.) If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. Human milk is the perfect food for human babies. Nature made. Mothers have been nursing their babies and toddlers and big kids for as long as humans have been human, and a majority of all the mothers on this planet have nursed well beyond the first year. Many moms nowadays stop around six months, misinterpreting the AAP’s recommendation. Of course, it’s fine to start formula, but six months doesn’t mean it’s time to stop.
2. Incomplete conception: Breastfed babies should eat every three to four hours. Sleep training and scheduling methods like Babywise lead many moms to believe that all babies should eat in a certain way and at certain times of day. Just like adults though, every baby is different. In the first few months of Sam’s life, I was breastfeeding constantly. He ate just about every hour or two, and would eat for almost an hour at a time. This actually helped me establish a strong milk supply — his long nursing sessions made my body know exactly what to provide and when. Now, Sam still wants to eat every two hours in the morning, spaces out his feedings in the middle of the day, and eats every hour or two at night before bed. That’s just his pattern, and it’s part of who he is. Breastfed babies need to eat frequently — and there’s nothing wrong with that. Give them what they want, and chill out about the time table.
3. Misconception: Solids must be started between four and six months. Lots of parents believe they must start solids during this time, and solids must be introduced in a certain way. Rice cereal first, followed by first fruits and vegetables purees. Really, infants need nothing but breast milk for the first year or so of life. For real. That’s all they NEED. There are plenty of reasons to introduce solids around six months, but don’t feel bullied into it — and don’t feel like your baby is abnormal if he or she only wants mom’s milk. This is normal — all babies mature at a different rate. As for the ritualized way solids are introduced, that doesn’t need to be adhered to either. Some folks do it a totally different way, and that is cool too.
4. Misconception: Breastfeeding is a total PITA (pain in the butt). Well, for me it was a total pain in the boob for the first few months. Thrush sucks. And there are a whole lot of other things that can suck — particularly when your body is getting adjusted to breastfeeding. But now? Now it’s a total breeze. I can’t imagine switching over to formula at this point. Who wants to whip out a bottle at midnight when you can whip out a boob instead? Noway — not me. Sam also feeds less frequently and for way less time. Ladies, if you can hold out til … four months or so, you can easily make it the whole first year. I kid you not. It is simply a total easy ride after this point.
5. Misconception: Formula fed babies will sleep through the night sooner and better. This does have some basis in fact — formula sits in the stomach and makes baby feel fuller for longer. This does cause them to sleep longer, but it’s not necessarily the best for them. (Again, not hating on formula, just saying.) Breastfed babies wake more frequently, but they can sleep through the night. (Sam has been sleeping for five hours or more since he was about three months old, and he now sleeps 6-9 hours at a time.) When an infant wakes and nurses, he is getting nutrition, warmth and reassurance from mom. Can’t beat that!
Any other misconceptions (or incomplete conceptions) you can think of? There are lots out there.
Remember, ladies, it gets easier, and it’s the best thing you can do for your baby. Go for it.
I have thought a lot about infant sleep over the past four and a half months. I think about it for a good part of my day — how to get Sam to nap, where to put him to sleep, and what makes him most comfortable. Generally, he’s a nurse-to-sleep (which every sleep book recommends against, but it works for us) or rock to sleep kind of guy. If he wakes a little, he either fusses it out or gets rocked again until he falls asleep. Sleep experts can tell me all day long that I’m ruining him — but one of the things I think about is this — this system so very naturally and intuitively works because it’s been what most of humanity has done for tens of thousands of years. Not one hundred, not a thousand, but tens of thousands of years. Ever since humans were humans, we’ve been nursing and rocking.
What else have we humans been doing? We’ve been co-sleeping. We’ve been bed sharing, snuggling, cuddling, and nuzzling in the night. We’ve done it for warmth, safety, security, comfort, intimacy and love. It’s who we are as humans — privacy and space are modern notions. Indeed, they are notions very specific to the first world, and not even all of the first world. As such (and with hyper-worry over SIDS and kid safety), co-sleeping has not been looked upon kindly in this country.
These are just my thoughts — not my point of view. In my heart, I love sleeping next to Sam. I’ve found I get more sleep when he’s tucked nicely next to me. I wake up quickly when he wants to nurse, and then back to sleep. As for safety, he’s a big dude. I would sure as hell feel it if I rolled on him. And I never have felt that I would. Since he was a tiny newborn, I’ve known he was safe (perhaps, safest) sleeping next to me. I observed that when he slept apart from me in those first few weeks, his breathing was irregular and spotty. When he was next to me, his breathing feel in tune with mine. That’s just nature for you. Makes sense that the spot next to mama is the best one. (There are lots of studies that say co-sleeping PREVENTS SIDS, but I won’t get into that here.)
That’s what I feel in my heart. In my body, which reflexively scrunches around Sam in the night, I feel otherwise. My hips hurt. My back hurts. My arm falls numb underneath my head. My body becomes not my own when I sleep next to Sam. My time becomes not my own when I take him into the bed when I go to sleep. It doesn’t belong to me and my husband. It is his. He is the priority — and of course, he always is. He should be.
So why have I co-slept? Why have I shared my bed?
I’ll tell you — I did it BECAUSE of a product that is meant to stand in place of bed-sharing, the Arm’s Reach Mini Co-Sleeper. This is a hot item to have as a new parent. I’ve seen multiple parents post pictures of it before baby is born, and in fact, most of the moms I know have had one. It gets good reviews on Amazon, and lots of people will recommend it to you. And why not? It is, in theory, a great way to keep your child in your room without keeping him in your bed. It is supposed to prevent sharing the bed. In my experience, it has encouraged it. (And I’m not the only mom who has said this.)
Why? Why does this happen?
Before I was a mom, I thought that you could put a baby anywhere and it would sleep if it was tired. This is a ridiculous viewpoint on my part, but anyway, it’s what I thought. I also thought that I could manage putting the baby back in the bassinet after nursing. Easy peasy.
In the dead of night, you will do anything for sleep. This I have learned. Anything. And you will fall asleep nursing. You will, for sure. The first few weeks, Sam slept great in the co-sleeper. But after falling asleep nursing him ONE TIME, he figured out that it was an option to sleep next to mommy. And oh yeah, he got the picture that that was WAY better than the co-sleeper.
The co-sleeper is small. It is colder than mom, no matter what you put in it. It is harder than the bed (even with the fancy mattress we purchased to go in it). And around one month of age, Sam decided that it absolutely sucked to be in there. Even before he started smiling, cooing or looking me in the eye, he had developed a strong preference for sleeping next to me. When I put him in the co-sleeper, he cried. He screamed, and he yelled. It seems like you could wait this out, but at 4AM all bets are off.
Did you hear me? At 4AM, all bets are off. I’m serious about this. You will think you are stronger than me, and perhaps you are! But really, until you experience repeated wakings, you don’t know what it’s like. It’s crazy insane torture to be kept awake at 4AM after only three hours of sleep prior. So the thought process goes something like this: Ok kid, it’s just you and me. What do you want? I’ll do ANYTHING for you to sleep. Anything. Do you hear me? What is it that you want? Oh you want my boob, and you want to be next to me. Yep, I’ll do that. Yes, now. Sleep. And just like that, a habit is created.
Perhaps you are better than I. Perhaps you will have success with this product. I have very mixed feelings about it. I had to keep trying Sam in the co-sleeper before he would sleep in there. By the time he would consent to sleep in it, he was around three months and already 14-15 pounds. He was rolling on his side, flailing about, and waking himself up frequently. When infants start rolling both ways, it’s recommended that you not place him or her in the bassinet anymore. Well, Sam has just recently accomplished those feats. If you want your infant in your room longer than four months, well dang, the co-sleeper just isn’t right for you.
Our current solution? Sam sleeps in his crib between five and eight hours a night, and then he’s in bed with me for the remaining hours. (As I said, it’s hard for me to hold strong at 4AM. Rocking him in the cold-ass nursery at that time is more than I can manage most of the time. I can make it through the first one or two wakings getting him back in the crib, and then next to me it is!) The bassinet is storage for blankets and clothes.
As I said, I have mixed feelings about this product. It’s a good place to put your kiddo when he or she isn’t in bed with you, but that’s really all it is. It’s not particularly safe once your child starts to move a bunch. I wouldn’t feel comfortable having Sam sleep in it without us in the room. And it doesn’t last that long — 23 pounds is the weight limit, but really, I wouldn’t recommend it after rolling begins. It’s also uncomfortable as it is sold — the folding mattress is flimsy and hard and made of scratchy-sounding plastic. (I would highly recommend purchasing a separate mattress.) Also, it’s a short little device. We had to purchase separate risers for it to reach our bed appropriately. It’s also kinda flimsy feeling, unless you purchase the expensive wooden version.
So what will I do when the hypothetical little brother or sister of Sam comes into the world? I’m not sure. As I said, I think about sleep too much. I think that the co-sleeper has limited usefulness, but it does have usefulness. It was great for the first three weeks or so — after that, I may move the next little mister or miss to the crib. Or perhaps I’ll simply bed share from day one (this doesn’t sound like a fun option, as much as I love the snuggles). It is likely that I’ll just use the co-sleeper in the same way — it’s a place to put the kid when he’s not demanding the spot next to mama. After that, it’s a place to put the kid before he moves to the crib. For us, crib time is now. (And yes, it’s been a wonderful thing in all of our lives.)
Would I recommend it? A big fat maybe. Overall, I feel that the co-sleeper is kind of gimmicky. It plays to the distinctly American fear of bed-sharing, but it puts the baby in such close proximity to the mother and father that it’s convenient for baby to wind up in bed.
Make your sleep plans as you will. If they include a co-sleeper or similar device, figure out how you feel about bed-sharing before your baby arrives. I tell you now — you MUST discipline yourself if baby is to end up in the actual co-sleeper. It’s dang hard at 4AM. Everything is. Room sharing has its benefits, and so does the crib.
If we had more room, I would so keep Sam’s crib in our room. In fact, I would sidecar it — see how here.
But alas. Our room is 13 X 13 and wouldn’t house such a set up.
The co-sleeper worked for a while, and soon it shall be in the attic. Be aware, future moms and dads. This is how it is — at least from my perspective!
Over the past few weeks, I have been reading all of the sleep information I can get my hands on. So far, I’ve read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, The No Cry Nap Solution, The No Cry Sleep Solution and Happiest Baby on the Block. So far, The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley has been my favorite, and I really have very little use for Happiest Baby on the Block (this book is mostly targeted towards mothers of younger babies, particularly babies with colic).
Why? Why are we interested in sleep? Well, I am interested in getting some. And indeed I am. Sam is sleeping at least five hours at a time at night, which is medically considered sleeping through the night. But, he does wake up a time or two after that, and yeah, after falling asleep in his bassinet, he still insists on staying in bed with us. (The shock! The horror! A baby in bed snuggled with mama!) My goals include: getting him to his crib by six months, getting him to learn how to fall asleep better on his own, and getting him to take at least two naps a day, lasting one hour or more each. I think this is attainable — and better yet, I truly believe this is attainable without TOO much relying on crying it out.
Well what have I learned? How does it apply to Sam?
On crying it out: Crying it out, which I wrote about before, CAN be a very useful tool for getting an infant to self soothe to sleep. I have found that, with Sam, sometimes he gets overstimulated being held or rocked or fed, and he just needs to fuss a little to himself in order to fall asleep. This doesn’t mean he needs to scream. He just needs to be left alone to say Meh, Meh, Meh, and then ZONK he is asleep. (This only works sometimes.) If he is screaming (Mehhhhhh Mehhh MWAAAAAAAAAAHHHHRRRRRRRRR), I know he is in distress, and I pick him up and comfort him. To me, this has proven to be an effective strategy for our kid. I’ve done this after having read about crying it out, and viewing both sides, and I take a balanced view. It works sometimes in some situations when Sam is in certain moods. I would highly recommend that anyone trying this method research it — it is only fair to you and your child that you are informed about what you are doing. (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems are the best books about this method.)
The best ideas from Elizabeth Pantley’s No Cry Nap Solution:
Set an early bed time! (This is also a great idea in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.) Try different times to see what works for your kiddo. I’ve tried: 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:30 and 9:00. Before this Sam was going to bed at 10:00 or 11:00 — when we went to bed. And I wondered why he was so fussy! DUH. Now I’ve found that Sam goes to bed really well around 8PM, no earlier, not much later. Yay!
Adopt a lovey for your child. I’ve recently given Sam a bunny from my friend Nicole that he likes to hold on to. It really actually replaces mama’s boob, and it comforts him when he is on the fidgety edge of sleep. It helps him self soothe! Great idea, Elizabeth Pantley!
Create a ritual for bedtime. Well, this one isn’t too necessary for Sam. Find a good bedtime for him, nurse him, give him bunny, and he’s out. BUT I love reading him a book I got from a friend — Mama Do You Love Me? I read it just about every night before his last feeding. It is so sweet and unique, and I can’t wait til he understands — yes, I will always love you, because you are my dear one. He now loves to touch the pictures and listen to me read. If he’s patient, I also read him Goodnight Moon — or Dad reads it, sometimes in Christopher Walken’s voice! This is now his signal that it’s time for sleep, along with taking a warm bath, eating, getting a fresh diaper, and a putting on his sleep sack. ZONK, he’s out.
Observe your baby’s natural sleep times for naps. During the day, Sam likes to be AWAKE (this shift occurred shortly after he turned two months old — before that he slept all the time, which is natural!). This shocked me, and I didn’t know what to do. Now, I know that he needs to take a couple of naps, and he really needs all distraction removed. He rubs his eyes when he’s sleepy, fusses, and gets a faraway look in his eyes. Cue nap time!
Nap time should happen in his crib, far from distraction. Before now, I had been used to having Sam sleep in his swing or Pack and Play right with us. I felt I needed to watch him. Now he is fine in his crib (well, he’s getting there) at least once a day. He takes two naps (ish), and we all are happier! I really wish he would sleep two hours at a time, but one hour seems to be what he does right now. We’ll see how it develops over time.
So far, so good! The best tip? From my coworker today — don’t stress over it. Patterns emerge, and your baby will fall into a more consistent nap and sleep pattern over time.
On co-sleeping and bed-sharing:
One last word — on co-sleeping. I think that co-sleeping has become sort of a dirty word in American society. It (like extended breastfeeding and babywearing) is quite common in other countries. In Japan (a country where I lived), I saw co-sleeping firsthand at houses I visited. Babies slept with Mama and Daddy — not a crib to be seen. Let me just say, I am rather ANTI bed-sharing, but I do it so that I can sleep — not so that I can meet some sort of crunchy ideal. After Sam wakes up the first time, he yells and fusses and takes a giant dump when I put him back in his bassinet. Intellectually, I want him to stay there. I really, really do. But at 4AM, I often feel rather too lovely to put effort into getting him back to sleep. What’s easiest? Here’s a boob, go back to sleep. I wake up with my back hurting from being curled up protectively and stiffly beside him (this is a weird mothering instinct that kicks in though you don’t expect it to — there is not one moment since about week 3 that I’ve ever thought I’d roll over on Sam. Have you seen my giant baby? His giant head would crush my side if I accidentally moved onto him).
Yeah, I was a co-sleeping, bed-sharing hater. I was hating on it. I thought it was dangerous, and infringing on my space, and la la la. Well, I figured it out at about week two. Baby doesn’t want to be in the cold co-sleeper. Seriously. Babies are FAR more aware than you think they are going to be. The first time I accidentally fell asleep with him next to me, he thought, “Yes, this! This is better than the stupid co-sleeper. I will yell any time she puts me there. Yell, yell, yell some more!” So we bed shared for most of the first two months, and then he decided it was okay to be in the co-sleeper bassinet for the first part of the evening. Good times. It is better on my back anyway.
My point? If you are planning to nurse in bed, you WILL fall asleep next to your baby. It will be scary the first few times. You will do internet research on the horrors of co-sleeping, and you will find that it’s probably pretty okay unless you are drunk, on drugs, a heavvvvvy sleeper, or significantly overweight. The best way to avoid bed-sharing altogether? Put your baby in a crib from day one. There are huge benefits to co-sleeping and room-sharing though — baby’s breathing is regulated when he is near mama, reducing the risk of SIDS, and nursing is far far easier with the closeness, meaning more sleep for you guys.
And last, after this rambling sleepy mess, you can have a successful sleeper with co-sleeping. Sam is! Moving to the crib … well, that’s a post for later. But we’re on our way … For now, it’s hard for me to let go …
If you haven’t been living under a log, even if you don’t have kids, you’ve probably heard of the term “crying it out.” This is the theory that babies should start learning to soothe themselves to sleep around four to six months of age. Dr. Richard Ferber is the guy who started talking about this business, and since then, a lot of people have up and skewed his whole theory. It’s really not as brutal as it sounds — it doesn’t mean that you should leave your kid crying all the time, and it doesn’t mean that he thinks holding your baby will “spoil” them. In fact, the good Dr. Ferber has gotten kind of a bad rap. Lotsa people don’t read about what he really meant, and they end up thinking that Ferber thought you should just leave your child to cry all the time. And no one wants that.
Babywise goes along with the same notion — setting your child to a schedule early on so that they start to sleep through the night. (This particular book also recommends against babywearing and co-sleeping, putting itself at complete odds with attachment parenting, which I’ll get to later.) These methods — or whatever method puts your baby on a schedule and endorses self-soothing — work for lots of moms. Some moms even start putting their children on schedules right away, and it works brilliantly.
Well, I gotta say, there are two things about the above methods that freak me out: crying, and schedules. Schedules probably more than crying. When I started reading Babywise, I felt immediately overwhelmed, and I felt like I was probably doing a whole lot wrong since we were already wearing Sam and sleeping with him. It also recommends against nursing to sleep, which was really my whole strategy since day one. Intuitively, the scheduling method didn’t feel like it fit me — I won’t bash it since I have a good friend who uses this method with her daughter and loves it — and she’s a great mom and I’ve never seen her let her child cry. But again, it’s just not the right fit for us.
So I guess I’m more of an attachment parent by default. Attachment parenting (see here for Attachment Parenting International’s principles) also gets kind of a bad rap. Remember Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character in Away We Go? She’s supposed to be an AP freak — so off course from the “normal” type of parent. She hates strollers, breastfeeds her four year old, shares a large family bed with her whole family (and doesn’t “hide her lovemaking” from them), and oddly thinks that mainstream jobs are bunk. That last bit is pretty offensive, and it clearly equates a whole system of parenting with elitism.
Dr. Sears is the dude who first really wrote a lot about attachment parenting — and he started figuring it out for the same reasons I’m doing it. It felt right for his family, and it’s convenient. I’m naturally a lovey, touchy, (overly) sensitive type of person. Wearing my baby, nursing him until he falls asleep, keeping him close, and sleeping with him have fallen in line with my personality. I’m also constantly late, thoroughly disorganized, messy, and scatterbrained. I’d rather spend a day reading a good book, going to see a movie, or contemplating the changing of the season on my porch than getting lots of things done … on a schedule. It falls in line that I would chill with my baby, enjoy his closeness, and … not get anything done. (I’m working on finding a balance with that one.) My husband says that it seems like I wish I were a hippie. I guess that’s about right.
With my sensitivities the way they are, and with Sam being a very vocal baby when he doesn’t like something, I’ve fallen in line with Dr. Sears’ philosophy on crying:
A baby’s cry is a signal designed for the survival of the baby and the development of the parents. Responding sensitively to your baby’s cries builds trust. Babies trust that their caregivers will be responsive to their needs. Parents gradually learn to trust in their ability to appropriately meet their baby’s needs. This raises the parent-child communication level up a notch. Tiny babies cry to communicate, not to manipulate.
Sam’s crying is the only way he knows to communicate — and when he’s crying, and there are tears streaming down his face, I know there is something wrong. I respond as quickly as I can, which doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes leave him for several minutes while I’m changing or going to the bathroom. (Dr. Sears also espouses balance, and I believe in balance.) I think a lot of new parents hear that they will be “spoiling” their children if they let them cry, and that that child will grow up to be overly dependent. This is NOT what Ferber says (not really), and it’s not what the Babywise method says either. They simply recommend self-soothing and a minimal response to crying after a certain age. It’s pretty clear that responding to your child when he or she cries is biologically hardwired — and it’s what everyone should do to at least some degree.
What works for me? All of the touchy-feely attachment parenting stuff has been great for us. Sam is a cuddly baby who cries when he’s put down. I try to balance that with letting him take naps in his swing or co-sleeper so that I can get things done and not be attached to him at all times. As far as a schedule goes, I’m much too discombobulated in my own mind to follow any sort of set schedule. Sam seems to be falling into a rhythm and takes a couple of long naps during the day, and has distinct awake periods. Recognizing these periods of time and responding to them is as organized as I can get about the whole thing.
And you know what? I’ve got to be okay with that. I haven’t had much time to read parenting books, and I’m glad for it. I don’t like trying to follow a regimen set out for me in a book, and it doesn’t feel right to me. Before probably 1970, were there a whole bunch of parenting books? Probably not. Were people all over the world parenting in different ways that worked for them? Yes, they were. And that’s what will continue to happen no matter what. At the end of the day people end up doing what makes sense to them and what works best for their babies. What works for one baby might not for the next — I think it’s probably best not to rigidly fall into one camp or the other (I’m relaxed about my semi-following of attachment parenting) and to keep open to changing ideas and changing needs. Too many parents get up in arms or terribly condescending about their “right” way of parenting. I’ve seen parents look down their nose at so many things — “spoiling” a child, letting a child cry at all, breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, using disposable diapers, using cloth diapers … the list goes on! I hold on to the right to wear my kid, cloth diaper, breastfeed wherever, and co-sleep without getting weird or disturbed looks — and I’ll practice the same for any parent who does differently than I do.
At the end of the day, we’re all just doing the best we can.
Welcome to the Savvy Mom Space
I’m a liberal feminist that believes that liberal, feminist ideals should gel with embracing your gender and motherhood (if that’s what you feel like doing). I support all kinds of moms and dads and parents. Oh and, although I totally love that natural vibe and not harming the environment, I supplement my organic milk and fresh fruits and veggies with the occasional Twix, the frequent Oreo, and the daily Coke Zero. I’m opinionated, not easily offended, and a loudmouth in person and on the internet. I am what I am. Welcome.
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