I did all the research about raising a newborn that you could possibly do. If I was going to have a miracle baby, I was going to make informed decisions, follow all AAP/WHO recommendations, and I was going to do it right. I read study, after study, after study about safe sleep practices. I scoffed at all the stories about mom’s bed sharing, and rolled my eyes at the parents who let their babies decide their own sleep schedules. Clearly none of them had done the research. Their poor children.
And then I pushed a human out of me.
I didn’t just have a baby, I had a human. She is a human with her own wants and needs. So, while experts say that by two months babies should have a set sleep schedule, and that by four months they should be able to put themselves to sleep, and that under no circumstances should you bed share, my daughter says “LOL yeah okay, no”.
Don’t get me wrong, boundaries are good, structure is good. We still do everything we can do to help her follow these guidelines. Experts are experts for a reason, and their recommendations are backed by years of research and studies. But I’ve found that parenting isn’t one size fits all, no matter what the experts say.
Screw it: Nursing to Sleep / Bed Sharing
Temen is about five months old (in a week) and I still nurse her to sleep. In writing this sounds fine. I notice she’s tired, I try to put her down to sleep, she won’t sleep, so I just nurse her to sleep and put her back down. Right? Wrong. So wrong. So, so, so, so, sooooo wrong. In practice, nursing her to sleep means that in the middle of my dinner or favorite TV show when I realize she’s tired, I pretty much have to stop everything to help her get to sleep. (She’s only fussy when she’s tired or hungry, and when she’s fussy SHE. IS. FUSSY.) So I’ll bring her upstairs into our bedroom where she sleeps, per expert recommendations. I’ll lay her in her own crib, per recommendation, to see if she can fall asleep by herself, per recommendation. She fusses and cries, and I let her while gently patting her for a few minutes, hoping that she will soothe herself to sleep. But she won’t. She never does, and I don’t have the heart/mind to sleep train with the “cry it out” method. So I bring her in bed with me and we nurse until she falls asleep. She’ll fall asleep quickly, but as soon as I try to put her back in her crib… mayhem. So we do it again. And again. And again.
We do it until I realize that right now she just needs me. She needs me right next to her. She needs to feel my skin against hers, know that I’m there with her, and know that she is safe. So I will lay in bed with her for as long as I need to. Sometimes it’s only a half hour. Sometimes it’s an hour, or hours. And sometimes it’s all night, with me going to bed at 7:00PM on a Friday night.
Nursing to sleep is what people call a “sleep association”. They recommend you cut out sleep associations at about four months old because, as time goes on, when they wake up they won’t know how to go back to sleep without that association. (Think about it like this: She falls asleep nursing, wakes up a few hours later, alone, and is like “I need to go back to sleep” but then freaks out because “where is the boob that puts me to sleep I can’t do sleep without it?!”) But, I’ve never met anyone my age that needs to nurse to sleep, so I’m not overly concerned that this is a habit that she will just never get over. Right now she needs me to stay with her for a while. She won’t always need me this way, so I’m
more than happy to be here when she needs me, how she needs me, whatever that means. Because when she’s this little it’s not about what I need all the time. The shows can wait, my dinner can be reheated, my friends and family understand.
I used to be so annoyed that I had to do this for her. I was annoyed she couldn’t just take a pacifier and soothe herself to sleep, annoyed that she wasn’t eating to go to sleep, but just nursing for comfort. But now that we’re five months in, I feel more blessed than anything. I’m so happy she never took a pacifier. I’m so happy she needs me and can find comfort and peace in being next to me. When I was growing up, I always would want to cuddle my mom while watching tv. It did because it was so comfortable, my whole body would relax, and I felt at home. Now that I have a daughter of my own, I’m going to give that to her whenever she needs it. I don’t have to do this for her, I get to do this for her.
Basically the point of this post is this:
Do what you gotta do – Do your research, know the facts, but do what works best for you and your family.
Be grateful – It took me all of two seconds to realize that before she was here, I would have given my left arm to be used as a human pacifier.