This is going to be a more emotional and vulnerable post for me, but I really feel like I need to get this out there. So here goes...
Last week when I wrote, I mentioned how baby C had been having a hard time with sleeping lately. He has been going through a serious growth spurt and sleep regression, causing him to be nursing every 2 hours around the clock... Literally. All.Day.Long. So I would be up at night at least 4 or 5 times, sometimes more, and bedtimes were going horrifically! I started to feel like I was doing something wrong, or like this just couldn't possibly be normal. So I reached out. I went to several sources that I had found to be helpful in the past and I even reached out to our very own Shannon as well as some family. Most of those I reached out to, responded postitively with a lot of encouragement and reassurance that this too would pass. I even remembered months ago, talking to Kailly about how the 9 month growth spurt and regression had been the hardest on them up to that point. So I tried to find solace in that. However, I was also - unfortunately - met with a lot of criticism and comparisons. Allow me to explain. I believe that there is big difference between making comparisons flat out, and making comparisons in order to relate. In this instance, I felt like comparisons were being made flat out. Growing up, my mom always taught us not to "compare yourselves among yourselves". This is something that I continue to strive to live towards. I see no point in comparing myself to others, as it almost always tends to lead to feelings of dissatisfaction in life.
This has become even more crucial to my way of life as a stay at home mom. As Shannon posted previously, there is enough mom on mom bullying out there, without me doling it out to myself by comparing my successes as a mother to those of others. Besides, there's no point. The "job" is always different from mom to mom. And this is because every baby is different. For this reason, I refuse to compare baby C to others, and honestly I expect the same from others. Again... There's a difference between relating to a story I'm telling about baby C learning to pull himself up, and comparing the accomplishments of another baby at the same age, as though this will show that C is either "behind" or "ahead" of another baby. It's hurtful in both directions. So as I started to do research and read a lot about sleep habits and babies and their needs, in hopes that we could be a little less exhausted from day to day, I was met with criticism and comparisons being made. I became more and more frustrated. I found myself having to seriously defend our choices in raising C, especially when it came to the topic of feeding him. Even on The Leaky B@@b - a usually excellent resource for breastfeeding mothers on Facebook - I was shocked when I was met by mothers telling me to nurse baby C less! On a pro-breastfeeding site! This only fueled the flame of frustration. I tried to remain understanding, knowing that the suggestions of how to feed and introduce solids constantly changes from generation to generation. Plus, there are so many more resources available to moms now, than perhaps ever before. Now, the consensus is that "food before one is just for fun" when it comes to baby eating solids, so baby C only really needs mommy's milk; but we do give him solids via Baby-led Weaning, which I have previously discussed with you all. Anyway, I felt like I could do nothing right for my son and came into what MH describes as a "career crisis", where I feel as though people might find out that I have no idea what I'm doing, even though I atually do have a clue.
My frustration and feelings of failure were elevated when I heard from a few people that at 9 months, this didn't seem normal for baby C to be waking up to nurse to often, or even at all! I was stunned. If C needs me at night, I want to, and WILL be there for him. However, MH and I have been learning that it's a matter of changing habits; not just baby C's habits, but ours as well. The best advice I was given by a family member, was to read The No-Cry Sleep Solution. It has been a fantastic resource and I do suggest it to any other moms out there who are having a difficult time with baby sleeping or dealing with growth spurts/sleep regressions. We have tried both ends of the spectrum when it comes to sleeping. We had gone to him every time he cried, never letting him self soothe and rocking or nursing him back to sleep; and we had most recently employed the cry-it-out method. Really, we agreed upon CIO out of desperation. I didn't have the physical ability to pick C up every 10 seconds, 5 minutes, you name it, all because he was fussing. I felt like if he even fussed even the slightest, I needed to be there. I felt like this was grooming him to be unable to self-soothe at all; and it was wearing me out and I was growing to resent him, since I felt like we had constant contact. (This might be good for someone involved in attachment parenting, but that's just not for me.) But by allowing C to cry-it-out, we found that he seemed less confident that his needs would be met, or that we really would come back to him in his crib. The No-Cry Sleep Solution has helped us find a happy medium!
For any moms out there who might be in the same situation and are feeling desperate for sleep, or as thought your baby is waking up too much, let me put your mind at ease. IT IS NORMAL. All babies are different. Just because you know someone who has a baby that slept throught the night right out of the uterus, that doesn't mean that your baby needs to as well. And you don't need to push for your baby to be the same way, either. Sure, that would be wonderful. Who wouldn't love to have a baby who sleeps 10-12 hours a night without waking up!? But it still isn't all that common. Allow me to explain why. All of us, even as adults, go through the same sleep cycles, which include what are called "brief wakings". During those brief wakings, you or I might just turn over, adjust ourselves, and not ever really remember waking up. But babies don't know what to do during a brief waking, so they think that they must need us to help them through it, and sometimes the legitimately do. That's okay. Nothing is wrong with your baby if he or she does need you to help soothe or fall back to sleep. But the goal is training or encouraging baby into realising that he really doesn't need mommy or daddy. In order to accomplish this goal, MH and I have found that it's crucial (as I said) to instil confidence in baby C that we will meet his needs and that we always will come back.
Throughout this sleep regression and growth spurt with C, the concept of using rice cereal has come up time and time again. First, not only would this be inappropriate at C's age (he is on table foods, so rice cereal would be taking several steps back), the use of rice cereal has actually been found to be not necessarily the best thing to do. This is something I never knew since I had always been told to put cereal in baby's bottle growing up. But in my research after having C, I found that putting cereal in a bottle is actually the most dangerous thing a parent could do. This can cause baby to aspirate. The use of cereal at all, can work sometimes, sure. But the reason that it works, is because the high caloric content causes baby's body to need to essentially shut down in order to digest all the way, increasing the risk of childhood obesity. Yes, this can lead to more sleep. And that's great, but this can throw off a baby's ability to tell whether or not he truly is full. It is also said that the benefits of rice cereal can actually be coincidental. I spoke about this in my post on baby-led weaning, but I will share again: doctors and nutritionists have found that by the time parents become desperate enough for that extra 10 minutes of sleep, baby has nearly finished that cycle of sleep regression/growth spurt, and is beginning to go back go his normal cycle of sleep anyway. So, we chose to skip rice cereal, with the full support of our doctor, who agreed with the findings of my research on rice cereal.
Now, please don't misunderstand me... If you do or have used rice cereal with your child, I don't have anything against you, I don't think you're a bad parent and I won't pass any judgment. It's none of my business. But please do me the same courtesy. Don't judge me. Don't tell me I'm making a mistake. Don't tell me that I should have used it, because C would be sleeping through the night by now. You have no way of knowing that and neither do I, just as you have no way of knowing whether or not your baby would have slept through the night anyway, had you not used rice cereal. Also, all that this does, is make me paste a smile on my face until you leave and I can be by myself and cry. Dealing with a sleep regression and growth spurt is exhausting. Sleep deprivation leaves you emotional, irrational, fatigued beyond belief and (in my case) ready to cry at the drop of a hat. This exhaustion has not only impacted my energy level, but my health level. Being so exhausted aggravates my POTS, which causes me to black out several times a day. So telling me what I should have done is not helpful in the least bit... It only leaves me wanting to slam a car door on my face, thinking that I have failed and am failing my child. You will also leave me waiting to slam a car door on your face, so just don't.
In the end, mommies, I have learned a lot from this unfortunate experience. I have learned that I need to pick and choose who I ask advice from, as opening up as a mother is an emotionally vulnerable thing, because you have to admit that you have no idea what you're doing and risk feeling like a bad mom; I have learned that no matter who offers advice, wanted or unwanted, it doesn't matter what anyone says. I have learned that first time mom or not, I really do know my child better than anyone in this world and I only fail him when I stop trying. I have learned to trust my instincts and my spouse; and to open up to MH more for support and advice, because he is the only person on earth who knows baby C as well as I do.
Well, that's all for this week, fellow mommies and daddies! But I wanted to share that C turned 9 months old!
He is getting so big!
Anyway, I hope you all have a beautiful week and thank you for entertaining my gentle rant and slight rave. ;)
Zebra love and hugs,