It seems so obvious now. Why didn’t I trust myself? What was I thinking?
I beat myself up a little bit more over this because she is not my first baby, she’s the second. Shouldn’t I know what I’m doing by now? (These are not especially supportive thoughts I’m having…)
Night-time parenting is not my strong suit. I’m a bit stingy when it comes to losing sleep. I really enjoy resting, feel better physically & I parent better with enough sleep. So the first year of a new baby’s life, I drink a LOT of coffee.
My husband and I chose to share sleep with our kids. We had a co-sleeper (side car) for a while and then shared our king-size bed and used a safety rail. This meant I didn’t have to get out of bed, walk down a long hallway to the other side of the house and sit in a chair half the night to feed my baby. And that helped a lot when it came to sleeping. It also gave great cuddle time and closeness that I enjoyed.
Sometime after her first birthday, I got tired of the constant night feedings and we reduced, reduced, and finally night-weaned. It was difficult having her in the bed, wanting to nurse, when I wanted to sleep. We talked it over, borrowed a crib and moved her to her own room. This made for much better sleep for me generally, but not so much for dh. Now that I wasn’t offering the goods, she just got mad when she saw me at night. Basically, it worked out that I did nighttime parenting the first year and then it was his turn.
Side-note: I try very hard (with limited success) to NOT tell him how to do things. He should have the opportunity to figure out what works for him and go with what feels right. I don’t want less for myself, so I worked within this guideline, unless/until crying drove me crazy. I can’t stand to listen to my kids cry. I just think I should always be able to help.
And THAT is what makes this whole mess such an insane experiment.
At about 18 months, night-waking became more frequent (or just more noticeable because we were now walking down the hallway each time) and we had tried so many things that weren’t working. Somewhere I confessed how badly things were going to friends and was offered ideas and advice that I really needed at the time. I wanted external validation, assurance, comfort, relief. I wanted my baby to feel better, to be better, to sleep better. I wanted me to sleep better too.
I borrowed a book, followed the technique, even though it felt horrible at the time. I was assured by the book and the friends who had tried it that it was temporary and everything would work great, if I did my part.
I forgot to listen to my heart. I forgot that each baby is a person, unique and different from any other. I forgot to allow for her food sensitivities, only superficially considering their place in sleep problems. Simply put, I made a mistake.
The nights of crying stopped for a while, only to return with a vengeance. Now she didn’t trust me to comfort her and would cry and scream in my arms, on the floor, in her bed. She wanted comfort, but didn’t trust me to give it. And she was right. I had left her to cry. And even when I was there using the other technique, I didn’t provide what she asked for. I forgot that babies need their mama’s and that there’s no special age at which that isn’t true.
So dh and I have made a decision to actively remedy our mistake. We’re taking turns spending each night at bedtime with her, staying until she is asleep. Holding her through the crying and telling her it’s ok to cry, we’ll be there, that I’ll hold her until she’s ready to lay down, that I’m not leaving her for anything. I will show her I am trustworthy. Last night she slept in our bed most of the night. And you know what? It was really wonderful having her cuddled close.
The changes we are making are already showing results with her behavior during the day, and more cuddle time too. I’m feeling more connected and enjoying both girls more. It’s a difficult bedtime, and takes about an hour each night. But my relationship with my daughter is worth an extra hour.
I don’t know when I forgot that it’s ok for babies to need their parents-even at night. But I’m glad I remembered. I’m glad that I trust myself enough to make choices that are a good fit for us.
ALL parents deserve to embrace their confidence in making choices that work for their family, whether the ideas come from a book or not.