Many of you child-free folk may not know that along with becoming a parent, also comes the wonderful plethora of parenting advice. When my son was born I was bombarded with countless suggestions and guidelines as to what the “proper” practices of child rearing are.
Some things I took with a grain of salt, some words I repeat to myself every day as they have helped so very much, and others have just plain irked me. There’s this strange phenomenon of people of younger generations to be afraid of “spoiling” our offspring with “too much love.”
I heard things from such people like, “if you rock him to sleep he’s going to be clung on to you forever.” “Don’t let him in your bed, he’s going to become way too attached!” Or my personal favourite, “just let him cry it’ll build character.”
So at first I was certain I would never just let my little guy cry out for me for long periods of time and sit idly by. There was absolutely no chance I was going to submit him to such subconscious torture.
But then hit the age of sleep regression. That dreaded four month old age mark. Actually, heck, I can’t even say I dreaded it because when it came it hit me like a shocking ton of bricks. My naive and unprepared self had no idea that babies suddenly stop being sound sleepers and are awoken by every little thing that goes bump in the night (and day).
The physiological changes which bring this about are that of their “active sleep” now coming into
play. They fall in and out of certain sleep stages and during transitions is when they are more succeptible to being bothered by external stimulus and thus wake more frequently.
So for my son his annoyance came in the form of horrendous teething pain. My once completely blissful sleeper was now waking every 20 minutes throughout the night. He would screech loudly and was hard to get back down. It was brutal. My eyes felt like sandpaper. My body ached from exhaustion. And my mind started to feel numb from all the sleep deprivation.
So I sought help and after asking around and my husband and I doing much googling we came across a certain company which specialized in something called “sleep training.”
I had heard of this concept before but never paid it much attention as I thought I had been blessed with a magical baby who lulled himself to sleep and never needed such aggressive tactics to get him to stay asleep.
But boy oh boy was I wrong. We needed help. Bad. In any way, shape, or form. I was at my wits end and willing to try anything after about three solid months of battling with a screaming, back-arching, over tired and frustrated child throughout the day and night.
So I called them up with high hopes of catching up on some much needed rest and within about twenty minutes my stomach started to turn at what I would be required to do during this so called “training.”
I told the friendly and eager to help woman that I wouldn’t be able to apply it quite yet as I didn’t feel ready. So she just made me a schedule based on what I had told her of my sons daily routine and told me to reach out to her when I felt it was bad enough to require some intervention.
Well each night and day started to blend together as I grew more and more tired. I spent countless hours trying to find some sort of alternative.
I started to grow frustrated and even resentful of my new role as a mother. I felt trapped by my responsibilities and the feeling of incapability to give my child what he needed – rest, was crushing.
But still, my heart couldn’t let him cry it out. I just didn’t know why I couldn’t do it but it just didn’t feel right to me.
Then one day I got to talking with my mother. She explained that neither myself or my siblings were good sleepers as infants. But we eventually became kids who kissed her goodnight and went off on our merry way to bed.
So that directly contradicted the suggestion that I was somehow harming my sons long term development by not allowing him to learn to “self sooth.”
I thought okay maybe we were a one off. But the more older women I consulted the more they said allowing a baby to cry for long periods of time is preposterous and something they never did or would ever do.
So then it struck me. Our mothers broke their backs caring for us. Come hell or high water they did what needed to be done in order to give us the best upbringing possible. They made our lives cushy and complete at the sacrifice of their own needs and wants.
This was a direct contrast to my peers who were all advising me to allow my son to become independent at as early of an age as possible. No matter how loud the piercing shrieks it took to get there.
I realized my inner gut resonated with that of being nurturing and following more of an attachment form of parenting. And that’s completely okay. Each parent has the right to raise their child as they see fit.
Some things may clash due to generational gaps in parenting practice styles. Other may fall right in line as they have been tried and true.
But one things for certain. One does not ever stop being a parent once they become one. Day or night, screaming or happy child – there is no off switch.
So stop searching for an algorithm or a shortcut way to make it all easier. Because sometimes the simplest answer is the correct one. That there is no pattern. There is no formula to make your baby sleep longer, feed better, crawl or walk quicker, or cry less.
All you can do is try your best and take things one day at a time – and remember the advice which I referred to at the beginning of this article that gets me through each and every difficult day that comes my way – this too shall pass.
The good, the bad, and the ugly, it all passes – whether you let them cry through it or not is entirely up to you.