While pregnant with my twins and being bed-ridden, I took to reading to fill my days. I was gifted “The Baby Book”, written by Dr. Sears. He has many parenting books out, which all promote attachment parenting. You can find out more about attachment parenting HERE. In short, there are 7 practices to follow in order to be an attached parent which include:
- Bonding with your baby at birth
- Wearing your baby for many hours in a carrier
- Soothing your baby as soon as it cries
- absolutely NO SLEEP TRAINING
- Find balance (don’t neglect yourself)
So, being a young and inexperienced mother, this sounded perfect to me. A way of parenting that would bring out the best in both baby and parents. I knew it would be impossible to wear both babies all day long or to co-sleep with two babies in a queen sized bed without having my husband sleep on the couch, but I would do my best with the other practices I read in Dr. Sear’s book.
I tried as hard as possible to bond with my babies after birth while:
- Having my arms tied down during my c-section and not being able to hold them.
- Feeling so loopy and out of it after the operation.
- Dealing with extreme itchiness from the histamine reaction of the morphine.
- Family members rushing in as soon as I got to the recovery room, and having to delay my first breastfeeding session.
- Postpartum hemorrhaging scaring me to death; thinking to myself, “I just brought 2 tiny humans in the world and will be leaving my kids motherless”.
- Not being able to move for a few hours until the effects of the spinal and epidural wore off, and later experiencing intense abdominal pain with every shift in bed.
Despite all that, I breastfed those tiny babies, weighing only 5lbs. 10 oz. and 4lbs. 12 oz. at birth. But after the first day, when they were losing weight, the nurses had me supplementing with formula.
It was hard for me to wear my babies in a carrier for the first 6 weeks. I had a lot of back and abdominal pain. However, once I started wearing them, I realized I didn’t quite like it and I felt needed some time to myself. I figured I actually didn’t want to constantly have a baby on me all day long.
I was able to room-share with my babies for a few months. And as soon as they woke up in the morning, I brought them in our bed for cuddles.
We were very good at soothing our babies. It was kind of easy. They slept a lot. We had to wake them up every 3 hours to feed them. And around 6 weeks, when colic usually starts, we only had one baby who suffered from it.
We never had to sleep train our babies. Because they slept so much in the beginning, they got used to being put down in the crib and falling asleep by themselves from the beginning. Except for periods of teething and sleep regressions, they were excellent sleepers.
I was able to shower, cook, clean, and spend time with my hubby after bedtime, every single day. I had balance while being a mom to twins. “I rock at this!”, I thought to myself.
Four and a half years later, I got pregnant again. We found out that it was, ONLY 1 BABY. We were ecstatic. How easy would this be. “We had been successful with twin babies, one baby would be a piece of cake”, we said.
I knew before he was born, that I needed my space. I did not want to wear a baby all day. I did not want to sleep with a baby, I need room to toss and turn. But, I would try and exclusively breastfeed, since I hadn’t been able to do that with the twins. And, I would soothe this baby as soon as he cries. And, he will never be sleep trained.
Then, my precious little Avery was born! This 8 pound, 4 ounce baby was born extremely alert and extremely hungry. Yes, I got to hold him as soon as he came out. Yes, I got to breastfeed him exclusively. Yes, I soothed and fed him every single time he cried. But I was exhausted! I thought that the first night after birth, was supposed to be the easiest. That babies usually sleep well that first night in the hospital. So why, was my baby crying to be fed every 30-60 minutes ALL NIGHT LONG? Why wouldn’t he let me put him down in the bassinet after he had fallen asleep at the breast?
This behavior continued. He nursed all day long. He would drink after waking up for about 5-10 minutes, fall asleep, wake up as soon as I tried putting him down, and this would continue the entire day. He would cry while I changed his diaper or his pee-soaked pajamas, because he wasn’t being held in my arms. My husband was back at school 2 days after Avery’s birth, which meant that without a second set of arms in which Avery could find comfort, the luxuries that we often take for granted like showering, eating and yes, even peeing were a lot harder to come by. In fact, if it weren’t for my mother who would come visit every afternoon after work, I would have been a starved, dirty and depressed mom, sporting a pee soaked diaper.
SLEEPING ON MOMMY
I continued to nurse and soothe every cry away. I quickly learned, that if I didn’t want to be attached to the couch all day long, I would need to wear him in a carrier. If I wanted him to have normal nap lengths, I would need to wear him in a carrier. If I didn’t want to fall asleep and drop him while feeding him in the middle of the night, out of exhaustion, then co-sleeping would be necessary. So the two things that I absolutely convinced myself I did not want to do, I ended up doing anyway. He made me do it! He demanded attachment! I gave in.
After 3 months of 24/7 attachment (and I really mean 24/7 attachment), he finally began to nap in his crib and go down on the floor for tummy time. But, by then, he had gotten used to being helped to sleep. Things were better but, he continued to nap for 30-45 minutes, and wake up to nurse 2-3 times per night until he was 10 months old. My husband started his long shifts in the hospital and I got almost no help from him day or night. I was exhausted and had enough! So I scoured the depths of the world wide web and searched for advice on sleep training. Every day I thought would be the day I would start sleep training Avery, and every day my skepticism got the best of me. I was overwhelmed by this irrational fear that I would psychologically damage my sweet little boy and turn him into a mom-hating psychopath. But I needed to give it a try. I deserved to give it a try.
I first attacked his 30 minute naps. Like clockwork, after 30 minutes of napping, he woke up and started crying. I told myself, “just wait five minutes. What’s the worst that can happen from 5 minutes of crying?”. After those five minutes, his crying subsided to more of a whine and I decided to push those five minutes to ten minutes. After all, five minutes was harmless, I thought, and what’s ten minutes but two small five minute intervals? After the 10 minutes were finished, I went to lay him back down and gave him his pacifier. He was so tired from crying for 10 minutes, that he fell back asleep. He did this one more time before the hour I thought was ideal for babies his age was over. The next day was the same. On the 3rd glorious day, instead of waking up, crying, and having to go put him back down, he only fussed for a few minutes before falling back asleep. Sleep training for naps had been so successful, I decided to start trying the same process at night. After 2 nights of this approach, he would only fuss a bit and then go right back to sleep. Success at last! He sleeps. The baby actually sleeps. She sleeps. The mom actually sleeps.
Now, 1 week later, I have a baby that naps for 1.5 hours two times per day, and he sleeps from 7:30 PM-6:15 AM at night sans wakings. To be honest, I only found the first two days to be difficult and now I feel like a brand new person. I am so happy that I tried sleep training. I still wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it with a younger baby though. But at 10 months, I had the impression that he needed to sleep longer during the day, and that he did not need anymore nighttime feedings.
A lesson comes with this tale dear moms and dads of the fussy infant. I had spent so many years envisioning how I would parent my kids. I’ve read the books. I’ve read the mommy blogs and watched the mommy vlogs. I’ve scoured the parenting forum world, compiled all the information the infinite web had to offer and developed a mental picture of what I thought would be the “perfect mom” who employs “perfect parenting” and creates “perfect kids”. The truth? There is no one-size-fits-all approach and in the end your baby will turn you into the parent that he or she needs. The twins never needed sleep training. And that was fine. Avery needed help learning how to sleep. And that was fine too. Parenting is not a battle between parent and child. It is about guiding your children and letting them guide you.
*stands up in a crowded room* “Hi. My name is Lydia. I have a super attached and sleep-trained baby. And I love him to pieces!”