When my twins had been home for a few weeks I asked my mom, “When did I start sleeping throught the night?” Three and a half months. Oh good. That seemed reasonable. Ferber thinks it is.
Fast forward. Here we are at 7.5 months and my babies both wake to nurse 3 times a night (on a good night). Cormac sometimes sleeps through the first feeding, so he only wakes up twice. We do not cry it out. I assume that they will night wean at some point and have done a little bit of research into gentle night weaning methods. My husband works an extra job in the fall, so I will essentially be on my own for three months then. I hope that they wean themselves before then, but if not, he will help me and we will try to gently push them in that direction.
Here’s what my point is though.
We think that it’s completely reasonable for babies to sleep all night long at 3 or 4 or 6 months old. Everyone tells us that. Oh, breastfed babies don’t? Then give them formula. Oh, they still don’t? Then give them rice cereal before bedtime. They still don’t sleep? Then they must be spoiled.
If that’s the case, then my infants are spoiled rotten, because I feed them when they are hungry. I’m not convinced that these nighttime feedings are “comfort nursing.” Some nights, sure. I can tell, because my back hurts, my head hurts, and my nipples want to fall off after nursing for essentially 12 hours straight.
Some pediatricians say that babies can sleep through a 12-hour period without eating by 6 months old. My son was a mere 12.25 lbs at 7 months old and I will not do anything to jeopardize his weight gain until I feel that he is ready. I have no doubt that a lot or even most babies can sleep most of the night at 6 months old, but I don’t raise most babies. I raise mine. And mine are still hungry. There has been a lot of debate recently among our mommy tribe on Instagram about sleep training. I think that like most things, when taken to an extreme, can have negative, unintended consequences. I don’t know of any mother who wants “detachment, behavioral disorders, dehydration, failure to thrive, irritability, infant anorexia, and even infant death,” but those are potential consequences of using the “Baby Wise” method of scheduling and sleep training (source).
If we view parenting styles as a continuum with Baby Wise on one end and Attachment Parenting on the other, we can see that most of us fall somewhere in between. I think that a lot of the Attachment Parenting ideals are great, and a lot of them work for me, but not all of them. I would love for my darling babies to sleep in their own cribs all night long, but I know we will get there and that it will be a mixed blessing when we do. I don’t plan on “extended breastfeeding” and would like to wean my babies sometime around 14 months. The reason why I’m not wholly on board with AP, besides the physical constraints of only having two arms and a set of twins, is because I am still selfish to some extent. I do want some independence from these beautiful people that I baked for 7.5 months and have now fed for another 7.5.
I think that we should all set “Mommy Goals” for ourselves. Basically, we need a list of things that we are aiming for that will help us get our priorities straight. My goals are:
Have healthy babies.
Have well-behaved children.
Have children who feel my love for them. Daily.
This list is why the argument of “crying doesn’t kill them” doesn’t work for me. My goals are a little broader than not killing them. I do want them to be happy, but I realize that they won’t always be happy. No child is always happy. I’m not, you aren’t, so throw that idea out right now. Instead, I’d like to focus on the love part. As a baby, this means that I answer when they call. When they need me, I’m there. My children know what no means. Cormac learned when he tried to chomp my nipple off and Clara learned when she started shrieking at the table. Well-behaved children don’t chomp nipples and they don’t shriek at the table in my house, so I used my scary mom voice and started that looming thing called discipline.
The point is, I don’t expect them to be happy all the time. However, I do want them to feel loved, so I feed them when they are hungry – according to their schedules. Yes, I feed on demand. It doesn’t kill me, and since I am a stay at home mom, I don’t have to adhere to a schedule. If you do, then you do, but I’m lucky enough that I don’t. So I feed them when they are hungry.
In my opinion, parenting is not parent-centered. Baby Wise teaches you to mold your child’s needs around when it’s convenient for you as a parent, sometimes to the detriment of the child. My life revolves around my family, including my children. They are the center of my universe. I do not neglect my husband (although he might disagree from time to time), but I recognize that my life will never be the same now that I am a mother.
I have been called supermom, called insensitive, told that I’m torturing myself, and a variety of other things. All I really do is listen to my mommy voice. My mommy voice tells me to breastfeed to keep my babies healthy, to answer their cries, to soothe them back to sleep when they wake up, and to not throw them out the window if they chomp down on my nipple. I used to feel like their cries would kill me if I couldn’t stop them, but we are moving toward a more independent place. I no longer jump out of my chair when Clara whines on the floor. I’ll answer her, but it’s like something inside me knows that she doesn’t need me quite as badly as she used to. I don’t think that I’m becoming desensitized to their cries, I think that we are progressing to a new place in our relationship. I still don’t plan on crying it out, but this feels like a natural progression as we march on toward toddlerhood at an ever more rapid pace.
An interesting story – I did (inadvertently) let Cormac cry himself to sleep once. He was nursing, and chomped, and I shrieked and didn’t throw him out the window. However, I did say no in my scary mom voice and put him in his crib, where he cried for 5 minutes and I examined my poor breast and calmed the angry red haze that had enveloped me. He went to sleep. I got over my anger. I think that letting him “cry it out” in the crib was the best thing for us in that situation. My blood was boiling, and the worst place for him at the time would have been in my arms. I put him in a safe place and cooled down. Meanwhile, he was exhausted and cried himself to sleep. And honestly, I don’t feel bad. He stopped biting once he realized that it meant the end of the nursing session (combined with scary demon mama) and I started to trust him again when we nursed.
So, in my opinion, letting a hungry baby cry because it’s inconvenient to feed them is pretty damn heartless. Letting a baby cry because the alternative is throwing him out the window is not ideal, but is better. (I’d never actually toss my handsome son out of a window. It’s a figure of speech – plus, there are screens on our windows.) We all do what we have to do to survive, but just step back and look at the big picture. They really aren’t babies for long. It’s flying by.