Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On Babies...

I'm always amazed by how critical, unloving, and downright unreasonable we mothers can become.  Particularly when it comes to babies.  Yes, "we."  I've been just as guilty as the next woman.

We have opinions about diapers, immunizations, laundry soap, sleeping.  Ah, sleeping.  That one becomes a big issue.  And, like everyone else, I do have my opinions.  We are not an attachment parenting family.  Yes, we sleep train.

We also love our babies.  More than life itself.  We try our hardest to model Christ to them.

I know families who do follow more an attachment parenting style who also love their babies and try to be Christ to them.

And yet we fling whatever we can find at one another to prove that our position is right.  More holy.  

Both sleep training and attachment parenting can become extreme, and in those cases, unloving.  However, most in both camps, don't lie in the extremes.  This is an important point.  Co-sleeping and waking to feed my baby during the night for 6 months, or a year, or longer, doesn't work well for our family.  Our marriage bed remains that.  My husband's and mine--not the entire family's.

With Mercy, sleep training was the natural thing to do.  She would have hated attachment style parenting.  She despised every carrier I tried, didn't love to be held, and slept best in her own bed.  She was my first, and honestly, I wanted to snuggle her more.  But she'd pull away, and as soon as you put her down, she'd laugh and coo and bat her adorable little arms at me.  Later in her first year, when she entered physical therapy for some severe gross motor delays, her therapist would dub her "the happiest baby ever."

With Gilead, it was harder.  He would have loved co-sleeping.  He nursed every 2 hours all night, every night, for his first eight weeks.  I was exhausted. I logged countless hours on my knees, by his bassinet patting him, comforting him, so that he'd learn to sleep in his bed.  It didn't come naturally to him.  It was initially harder than co-sleeping would have been, but we loved him through learning to sleep in his bed. Then, he suddenly started to sleep 6 hours at night.

Abel spent his first 10 days in NICU.  Here's the ironic thing.  Most lactation consultants have told us to nurse on demand--even if that means every 40 minutes.  I've always focused on giving my babies a full feeding.  Then, if they start to fuss 10 minutes later, I know that hunger isn't the issue.  I start exploring others potential causes.  In the NICU, babies were fed every three hours.  We were sent home with paperwork saying to try to give full feedings and not to feed more often than every two hours.  It could lead to bad eating and sleeping patterns.

These are the people who rather successfully care for critically ill infants.

It was nice, in the midst of criticism we've received for using flexible routines with our babies to get some affirmation.  Not only was this not hurting our babies, but it was actually good for Abel, our little one who'd had a rough start in life.  And his inclinations fall somewhere between Mercy and Gilead.  He's more of a snuggler than Mercy was, but not so much as Gilead.  He didn't sleep well until 10.5 weeks, but when it happened, it happened naturally.  As it did with all of them.  There wasn't any forcing about it.  The routine lent itself to eventually sleeping.

Yes, I do feed my babies in the night when they wake hungry.  And, on some occasions, it has been in the midst of tears of exhaustion.  I won't lie.  I'm thankful when they sleep through the night.  I'm thankful that the eat, sleep, play routine facilitates that.  If you want to know more about it, I'm happy to share.  But it doesn't mean that I love Mercy, Gilead, and Abel any more or less than the next woman loves her littles.

Our babies eat, they play, they sleep.  We're not rigid about times.  If the baby wakes up at 6am, the routine starts then.  If at 8am, that's when we start that day.  At 6 months, Abel eats every 3-4 hours.  We all know what to expect in a given day.  

He's happy, as am I.

But I know people who get stressed out just thinking about using a routine with their babies.

I guess my point is this.  Let's not forget that a mother is capable of modeling Christ and His love to her children using both models.  View your fellow mothers with the grace you'd like to be extended to yourself.  The baby who's been taught to sleep through the night is likely just as loved as the one who's still feeding at 3am.  As is the reverse.  

God uses all varieties of women to raise up the next generation of fruit.  And He knows each of our weaknesses.  This article was particularly helpful for me today.  And I think it applies to this conversation beautifully.

1 comment:

  1. I want to know why, "Here's what works for us," is so easily read, "My way is best." Just as it's helpful to read and hear hundreds of birth stories (which by default will be different than our own) it is helpful to hear how people do this thing called parenting. Yes, there are guidelines for health reasons, but there's a lot of flexibility and not only is each family different, each child is different! Mothers need to give each other a lot more grace! Which is all just to say, "Amen, sister!"

    I love that about the NICU recommendations!