I’m not a childcare expert. I didn’t even really master the ability to change a diaper until eight weeks ago. Cody and I have no idea what we’re doing in raising Anna and we are just making it up as we go along.
Because I was a baby blank slate, I didn’t realize how much time I’d spend feeding Anna. Since I’m breastfeeding her exclusively, we spend a lot of time on the couch. I’ll pass this time with my iPhone in hand, sometimes Googling different information like: “Is ______ normal for a _____ week old baby?”
(I love the Internet when it’s 3am and I’m being reassured that it’s completely normal to feel like you’re losing your mind during the ten-day-old growth spurt. Moms of newborns unite!)
One of the things I’ve spent a lot of time reading about is the “right” way to respond to Anna’s demands. Cody and I definitely do not want to raise a spoiled child and I’ve learned that there are two distinct camps when it comes to getting your baby to sleep through the night: the cry-it-out/Ferber method and the no-tears/Sears method.
Cody and I really haven’t done either of these so-called methods, but our own way that seems to be working out best for our family. And the more I read, the more confidence I have that what we’re doing makes sense for us.
I nurse Anna on-demand.
In most non-developed countries babies are carried and nursed constantly. They are with their mom 24/7, even at night. Proponents of this style point to these cultures as “how it was meant to be” and recommend co-sleeping with your baby and carrying him/her in a sling during the day, nursing whenever the baby wants to.
(I do carry Anna in a Moby Wrap whenever we go to church, to the grocery store, etc. She loves it and it's a good way to keep her calm!)
Honestly, this sounds great in theory to me, but I don’t follow this approach all the time. I can’t hold Anna all day—I need a mental and a physical break sometimes. I also don’t think I’m comfortable popping a boob out in the middle of Wal-Mart just because she starts to whine (although when I do nurse in public, I cover up with a swaddling blanket). But, with that said, I do nurse on-demand. Right now (8 weeks old) she is still eating every 2-2.5 hours during the day (she’ll have a 3-3.5 hour stretch in the afternoons). I don’t prevent her from eating if she’s hungry just because it’s not time yet. Some days she'll end up eating literally every hour for a few hours, and I've become okay with that.
Last night I was feeding her and stopped her to switch sides. She was still hungry so she automatically started sucking on my exposed shoulder. I LOVE when she does this because I think it’s adorable, but I also think it shows that she has absolutely no idea where milk comes from. I'm still just some "thing" that smells and feels comfortable. She cries when she's hungry and will suck on anything and expects milk start flowing. If she doesn’t know where it’s coming from, how can she “manipulate” me into feeding her? It just doesn’t make any sense to me.
She’s hungry. I feed her.
Anna sleeps in her crib in her own bedroom.
We do no co-sleep. Cody is a really light sleeper and Anna is well, really noisy! We tried having her sleep in her pack-and-play in our room the first two nights we were home and it was probably the worst two nights of sleep we’ve gotten. The third night my Mom stayed up with Anna, only waking me up to feed her, and she had her sleep in her crib in her bedroom. That night we realized how much better sleep we got with her upstairs in her own room, and from that night forward, she’s always slept in her crib.
(We have a video monitor that I L-O-V-E. I highly recommend one and they are worth the extra money. The first month we had the video portion on all night long but we've graduated to having the video off by default, although I usually check on her a few times a night. The sound is on the lowest setting and I have it upside down to muffle it even more. It's right next to my pillow, so I can hear as soon she wakes up and starts to get fussy.)
She started sleeping four hours straight since she was two weeks old (we started swaddling her then) and has continued with a four hour sleep, eat, two to three hour sleep, eat pattern since. (She has bad nights, where she'll cry an hour after being put down and good nights, where she’ll sleep up to six hours at a time.)
It does make me cringe when I read parents post questions such as, “Little Sally has slept with us for the past nine months and now she won’t sleep in her crib. What do I do?” I just feel fortunate that Anna only knows sleep in her crib so we don’t have to deal with that problem!
Sometimes, I rock or nurse Anna to sleep; sometimes, I don’t.
As Anna gets older I’ll get up, feed her, and either let her fall asleep in my arms or put her down awake. If she’s completely awake I know she’ll probably start crying in 10 minutes or so, need a little bit more to eat, and then finally go back to sleep. If she’s half-asleep sometimes she’ll whine before falling asleep and sometimes she’ll need to be picked up again. Really, every time is different.
This is the one area where I’m gaining the most confidence. I’ve learned to ignore “advice” by other people and just respond to my baby in a way that works best for her, Cody and me. I do know that as she gets older she will become more and more aware of us and our response, so we’ll need to constantly modify our approach to fit her maturity.
I have no idea how this will go when I’m back to work.
We’ve been fortunate enough to find a home-based baby sitter for Anna. Although I am not looking forward to not having her with me when I go back to work, it’s also reality and something that is always in the back of my mind. I know her caregiver will have her own way of dealing with Anna’s needs and I don’t know at this point how Anna will respond. But, that is okay. We’ll deal with it as it comes and continue to modify what we do as we need to.
Spoiling is different from being affectionate.
Cody said this yesterday to me, after the shoulder-sucking during her evening feeding, and I think it sums up how I want to be towards Anna. She needs to know she is loved and that Mommy and Daddy will do whatever it takes to make sure her needs are taken care of. That does not mean that she gets to eat chocolate cake an hour before dinner, or that she can run around like a crazy person and throw a temper-tantrum because she doesn't get what she wants. She needs to know she is loved and cuddling, hugs and kisses are a huge part of that--especially until she understands the concept of love, which is years away.
Right now, she needs affection. She needs to feel safe and that she can trust us to feed her, change her and be there for her when she needs us.
If another parents see that as carrying around their baby 24/7 or by letting them cry for 45 minutes until they fall asleep, I'll give them a big high-five as I'm happy they found something that works for them and their family. But, this is where we are right now and what works for us and our little family. And I'm loving every minute of it.
Well, except getting out of bed in the middle of the night. :)