Friday, October 28, 2011

One step closer to finding the middle ground

I've written a few posts about helping my baby to sleep, mostly when I was using the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Marc Weissbluth. I read several other books after that, searching for solutions and advice to suit my baby's needs. Reading all these different approaches caused a bit of an information overload in my brain, and I was frustrated that I couldn't find one book that really fit our family's personality. There are so many styles, and so many different arguments to support each one.  I decided the best, most sensible book I read was Attachment Parenting by Dr. Sears.

The basic tenets of Attachment Parenting are as follows: that our ultimate goal as parents should be to shape our children to be happy, trusting, compassionate, gentle, obedient, and independent individuals; that the foundation of this shaping comes from giving our children a secure base of trust and good communication in early infancy; that we begin to create this security by babywearing, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and always responding to their cries.

Sounds fantastic, doesn't it? I mean, that is my ultimate goal as a parent. I want my son to be kind, obedient, and communicative. I want him to be socially secure and confident. I want him to feel safe, especially when he's with those who love him. And most of all, I want him to be happy. So we tried it.

We began co-sleeping, bringing him in bed with us after his first night waking. He began waking up more often at night (which I knew would happen as a result of co-sleeping), but instead of having to sit up and rock him to sleep so I could put him back in his bassinet, I simply nursed him until he fell asleep. I loved cuddling with him, and I felt like our nights were much more peaceful. I held him and rocked him until he was fully asleep for naps and bedtimes, and learned to be ready to do it again if he awoke and cried 20 minutes later--which he very often did. I also started wearing Noah in the Moby wrap more, and you already know some of my positive experiences with wearing it. I was already breastfeeding on demand, so that was no problem. And I never let him cry if I could help it. 

However, my first blissful week of Attachment Parenting did not really carry over to the next. The main problem was with--you guessed it--naps and nighttime. I tired of spending hours at a time glued to the couch while I rocked my baby to sleep over and over again in attempts to give him a good nap. Noah got so used to me holding him as he falls asleep that Tyler had a very hard time soothing him if I happened to be gone for naps or bedtime. And the whole waking up every two hours to nurse him back to sleep at night was a problem. Co-sleeping was the greatest disappointment. Attachment Parenting does a good job of painting a beautiful, peaceful picture of co-sleeping, without addressing any of the potential problems or technical issues. Co-sleeping is no fun, for instance, when your baby eats too much from nursing all night and spits up all over you and your side of the bed. Then you have to get up, find towels, put a new pair of pajamas on (if you even have a clean pair of pajamas available), and mop up your baby's face--all of which do a great job of thoroughly waking the little stinker up. And sleeping only 90 minutes out of every two hours quickly becomes a form of slow, monotonous torture, even if all those groups of 90 minutes combine for a total of 7 hours.

***I have to interject here for a moment and say that reading and applying Attachment Parenting did one really good thing for me. It helped me to stop stressing when things don't work out my way (which I was doing a lot of before). It helped me realize that the relationship Noah and I build while he's awake is more important than the amount of sleep he gets. It helped me to relax and be happy, no matter what happens--or doesn't happen--during the day. It was worth reading Dr. Sears' book just for that purpose. I still love the philosophy behind Attachment Parenting, and I plan to use as many of their methods as I can to raise my children. ***

When I looked up solutions to these problems, most of what I found suggested that mom moves out of the bed while Dad does all the nighttime parenting (so that the baby can learn to fall asleep without snacking). Sorry, baby. This might sound selfish, but it was my bed first. Giving up sleeping in my own bed was not happening. The most discouraging suggestion was from Dr. Sears himself. The only advice he had for parents that have trouble co-sleeping is that Baby might not like to sleep so close to his parents, and that we should invest another $150 in a special co-sleeping bed that might or might not solve our problem. Really, Dr. Sears? That's all you've got for me? Gah.

I knew there had to be some middle ground--some way to teach my baby to soothe himself and get him to sleep for longer than two hours at a time (or 20 minutes for naps) while still enjoying a wonderful, perfectly attached relationship. So I brought my concern to my pediatrician, who suggested a controlled cry-it-out method. I was getting quite desperate, so we decided to try it, despite Attachment Parenting's insistence that leaving your baby alone to cry is an awful thing to do.

I spent the first night crying as much as he did. More, probably--he only cried for 45 minutes. I cried for most of the evening, convinced that I had broken his heart, that he had only stopped crying because he had abandoned hope of us ever coming back, that I was damaging our relationship forever.

I knew I couldn't do this unless I found reason to believe that I wasn't ruining my child's emotional well-being for the rest of his life. So the next day I hit the internet, in search for that middle ground. I searched for a good while before coming across two articles that put my mind at ease:

I realize that articles on the internet are on an entirely different level from well-researched, expert-written books. But these two women express something that's sat in the back of my mind from the first time I picked up a book on infant sleep: that there is no "perfect" solution or parenting style for every family. 90% of these authors have no problem assuring you that their book is the Bible of sleep. Well, they're wrong. Attachment Parenting will not work for every family. Ferberizing will not work for every family. Neither will Babywise, or The Baby Whisperer, or Dr. Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits. It's a feel-your-own-way kind of game. Books can do a great deal to help you find solutions, but really the perfect solution for your family is whatever works.

If there are any parents reading this, you're probably going, "Duh, Sarah. Lesson number one." But this really is a huge discovery--and a huge relief--for me. So with my new discovery, I decided to keep following my doctor's advice to let Noah soothe himself to sleep--even if that meant a bit of crying.

It's night five. I went through our usual bedtime routine with Noah, kissed his forehead, and laid him in his crib, drowsy but still awake. I left his bedroom as he fell peacefully, quietly, soundly asleep all by himself. I'm not anticipating an end to all of our nighttime challenges, but I have found resolution for now, and I found it--hallelujah!--with the Ferber method. I still love the philosophy behind Attachment Parenting, and I plan to use as many of their methods as I can to raise my children. But I have also come to the conclusion that Dr. Sears is hardly the end-all when it comes to sleep.

My best friend told me not long ago, "YOU write the book on YOUR baby." I have to thank her, because that is the most powerful and truest advice I've received so far. So thank you, friend. I think I will.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It's crazy, but it might just be possible

Hello all! Lately I've been needing a new project to work on so I don't go stir crazy being at home all the time (don't get me wrong, I love it, but it is very easy to go stir crazy sometimes). After tossing around a few ideas for awhile, I think I've finally found The One. It's called...

Read All The Books We Own That I Haven't Read Yet By October 2012.

Sounds crazy? Why yes, yes it is. We own quite a few books. And quite a few of them were Tyler's before we got married, not mine. And we've accumulated some since then. What's really crazy is I made this decision before actually counting how many books we own that I haven't read. I got a bit nervous while rearranging the bookshelf, but fortunately they all fit on two shelves.

Here they are!

FYI: I'm not counting these books.

Or these.

And especially not these. (Not yet, at least :)

I'm excited! I'm planning to write a little review-type post whenever I finish one. I'm starting with Laddie and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, so hopefully I'll post about those soon!

Cheers! ~Sarah

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shelter from the Storm

I love this time of year. I love the leaves turning yellow and crunchy, I love having a good reason to sip hot chocolate, and I love switching out my summer clothes for cozy sweaters, socks, and scarves. This is the time of year that I eagerly check the forecast every day, waiting for news of those 60 and 50 degree days. Although I will always prefer summer over winter, I do enjoy this brief season of light jackets and crisp, clean air.

I think I've listened to the weather about three times today, with only one thing in mind: how cool is it going to get, and how soon? I completely tuned out other details, such as "scattered thunderstorms" and "gusty winds." So I took no thought to these possibilities when I bundled Noah up in the Moby wrap and set off on a walk early this afternoon.

As you  might have guessed, it began to rain while we were walking. At first, it was just enough to make me want to get Noah out of it. I was at the park when it began, not too far from my mom's house. I turned around, thinking perhaps I might have enough time to get there without too much trouble. Then the winds picked up, and it became quite unpleasant. I decided to go instead to a little concrete overhang in the middle of the park, intending to wait it out. There were two other women there with their children. We stood under the roof while the storm peaked and began to subside. It was quite windy and chilly, and I had Noah completely covered under the Moby wrap. Before too long, the storm had calmed enough for us to walk quickly home.

Here comes the philosophizing. I believe that Heavenly Father takes care of us, even in little matters. Now, it could have been plain chance or luck that the storm hit when we were so close to a shelter--but maybe it wasn't. I had walked all over the neighborhood before the storm came, and 95% of that was rather far away from any place to stay dry. If the storm had come when I was two streets over, I don't know where I would have gone. Would I have run home? Would we have been soaked before we could get there? I don't know. But I was grateful that I happened to be at the park when the storm came.

On a similar note, I was glad that I was carrying Noah in the Moby wrap. I honestly don't carry him in it very much; since I'm mostly at home, there's not a very great need to carry him in it all the time. But I'm glad I chose to this time. Perhaps it did not provide much more shelter than a stroller and blankets would have, but it felt so good to hold Noah close during this small trouble, and know that my body heat was keeping him warm, that hearing my heartbeat would keep him calm, and that being so close to me made him feel relaxed enough to drift off to sleep.

There's a quote by John H. Groberg that comes to mind, "Sometimes the Lord calms the storm and sometimes He calms his child." I would like to add, "And sometimes He just gives us shelter, so we can wait it out."

:) Thanks for reading!