what chase has taught me

I can't tell you the number of times I've seen this desperate plea from a new mommy: "My baby won't sleep. He wants to nurse all the time. He wakes up several times at night. He won't let me put him down. What am I doing wrong?"

I knew River couldn't fall asleep without nursing. I knew he didn't sleep well without me. I knew, deep down, that there wasn't anything I could do that would change that. It wasn't a problem when I was a mommy to one, but it was exhausting nevertheless. He was a horrible sleeper, taking 20 minute naps during the day and waking every hour to nurse during the night. Austen was better, and I thought that was great, because she nursed every three hours all day long and she could fall asleep in her bouncer, not just at the breast.

Even though I knew that my babies came out with their own unique little personalities, their likes and dislikes, their ways of feeling comfort and security, but I still thought the way I parented influenced how easy or difficult they were. I choose attachment parenting (AP), gentle parenting, which means I breastfeed on demand, bed-share, and don't let my babies cry. Yes, it is tough sometimes, but I can't imagine doing it differently.

I've read many articles and opinions about parents who AP. I know people think I don't get sleep because that's the choice I made when I let my baby sleep in my bed, and that I jump up and immediately to tend to my whimpering child, a servant to their delicate emotions no matter what I am doing. (I venture to say most people who practice attachment parenting would agree that that is quite inaccurate.) AP can be demanding when you have a demanding child (River) or a fussy baby (Austen). But some babies are just more needy than others, no matter how you approach parenting.

I never thought I'd get a baby like Chase. She falls asleep on her own. She doesn't nurse constantly during the day, and I know if she is it's because she's going through a growth spurt. She can entertain herself on the floor on her play mat or in her swing for the longest time. She is content and naturally has a sweet spirit. There's nothing I could have done with my first two babies to make them happily lie on their playmats swatting at hanging toys for an hour.

You know what's funny about River is he is exactly the same as he was when he was an infant. He is demanding, under-stimulated, easily distracted, energetic, happy, smiley, and sociable! He is still not a great sleeper. He was born my little River, and I couldn't sleep-train that lively spirit out of him if I tried. I love my boy and the unique person he is. (I'm just glad he was my first baby and not my third!)

All that is to say -- you are doing nothing wrong. Don't let anyone make you think you are doing something wrong because your baby needs to fall asleep at the breast, or only sleeps for twenty minutes at a time during the day, or nurses constantly, or absolutely needs to be held. Every parenting book should say follow your instinct. You know your child best. You can't change who they are. And they are all so different.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this. I have a 6 month old and am getting a lot of guilt from family because I still nurse her once (yes, only once!) during the night. I tried weaning her but after a few rough nights I decided it wasn't worth it and both her and I feel better when she has one good meal around 3 am :) I love that your kids are all very different and how their personalities show so early on!



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