Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tough Times Parenting

Those of you who know me well know that I am a firm believer in attachment parenting. I wear my babes in a sling or mei tai (as long as my back will cooperate), I breastfeed on demand, hopefully until they wean themselves (Eliza had to wean early as I lost my milk in pregnancy), we co-sleep, and my entire being cringes at the thought of the "cry-it-out" method. I have always made it a point with my children to respond to them as quickly as possible in any time of their distress because I believe in their cries. Crying is the only way babies have to communicate with us, and by responding to them quickly I am telling them that I am concerned about their well-being. I want them to trust that if they cry to me, I will answer. I firmly believe that by building this kind of a foundation early on, my children will have a solid trust in me as they grow up.

So, that being said, this is what has been going on around our home lately. First, some background. Eliza was a "bad" sleeper. For the first year of her life, she woke up every hour and a half to two hours all night long, and she wasn't easy to get back to sleep. When she was around 10 months old or so, we realized that she was taking in an inordinate amount of calories during the night, and her body was legitimately hungry during all of those wakings. So we began weaning her off the night feedings and increasing her caloric intake during the day. It was a hard road, especially combined with the unplanned forced weaning from breastfeeding that occurred when I became pregnant with Judah and lost my milk. She also was a bad napper, which made it even more difficult. I was a frazzled, frustrated mess until she started sleeping for a few straight hours at night, which happened around a year old.

So back to now: Judah is a much better sleeper than Eliza was. When he was 3 months old he started sleeping for 4-5 and sometimes even 6 hour chunks during the night. I was so happy - this was how babies were supposed to sleep so that their parents didn't lose their sanity! But a few weeks ago, this dream began fading and he started waking more and more frequently. He's been getting up every hour or two all night and unlike Eliza who would nurse and then be rocked or walked back to sleep, he wakes up and will sometimes nurse and other times will just cry until I pick him up, take him out of the [warm] bedroom, and pace around with him. I am having flashbacks to my frazzled self with Eliza, crying out of despair and losing my temper for no good reason. Not willing to return to that sleep-deprived state, I decided that something has to change. So, last night after we were all tucked in for bed (we 4 all sleep in the same room), Judah woke up wailing, just an hour after he last nursed. I knew he wasn't hungry. I took him out of our room, into the living room and made us a makeshift bed on the floor. We proceeded to spend the night on the hard floor. He cried on and off for an hour that first waking, as I lay next to him and lovingly rubbed his back, patted him, sang to him, and reassured him. The next time he woke up, a few hours later, he nursed thoroughly and went back to sleep with hardly any fuss. Then he awoke again an hour later and cried for 20 min or so, again with me trying to comfort him.

I know this might sound mean to those of you who are strictly against letting a baby cry. And it probably sounds ridiculous to any of you who's baby cried it out at 2 months old. But I refuse to leave my baby alone to cry - I do want him to know that I am there with him and that I'm not going to abandon him in his time of need. At the same time though, I also know my child enough to know that he doesn't need anything - he just wants to be held and rocked and walked around every time he wakes up. I also know that however a baby falls asleep, that is what they will expect when they wake up. So unless I want to be rocking him every hour, I need to find a new solution. So it looks like we'll be spending a few nights on the living room floor. Hopefully this will fix a few things, and then we can return to our family bedroom with daddy & big sis!

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