Disclaimer: I have given birth to a beautiful healthy little who happens to love her sleep (except when daddy’s around ’cause who wants to miss out of fun with daddy?).
Since having my daughter 5 months ago, I find I’m constantly learning. Sometimes it’s something as small as, what does this type of cry mean – or, as taught by my 5 month old herself, something more spiritual – right now there is only this moment, stop thinking about the last or the next. This past week I’ve been battling with whether I should stop helping my little girl settle to sleep. Today I learnt that no, I should not stop.
As I said in my disclaimer, I am extremely lucky. My daughter is healthy and sleeps well. She may not follow a schedule day-to-day but she eats, she plays, she sleeps, she smiles and laughs and, as I write this, she fills her nappies. Whilst we are generally all fun and games, we have also had our battles. But for every battle we face, it further solidifies my belief that you need to trust your instincts as a parent.
My beautiful girl was breech, we contemplated an ECV (where they inject my uterus with a drug to force the baby to turn, in my opinion, against its will. We did not follow through – we had a feeling that doing what she wants on her own terms was part of her personality and boy! were we right. As we refused an ECV, we had a c-section. A blessing in disguise, the extended hospital stay meant we had midwives available for every feed no matter what the time was. A new mother and a newborn getting used to each other and learning together how to feed and how to be fed. If we hadn’t trusted our instincts and said ‘no’ to the ECV, we may have had a natural birth and been booted out of the hospital within 24 hours of giving birth. This would have meant being left alone at home to battle with breastfeeding and who knows what the outcome would have been.
Once we had prevailed over that obstacle, we were then bombarded with unsolicited or necessary advice – “don’t keep your house too quiet or she won’t be able to sleep when you’re out”, “don’t let her sleep on you or she’ll get used to it”, “you should be thinking about transitioning to formula so it’s easier when you go to work”, “she really shouldn’t still be sleeping in bed with you” it goes on and on. All this advice and yet no one knows what the best way to parent is. A baby is not a robot. It’s cliche to say but every baby is different – and you know what else – every baby is different on different days.
After battling today with my little girl who try as I (and she) might, she could not stay asleep for more than 30 minutes. I could tell that she was struggling but I had convinced myself that she was just being difficult. So I thought I’d give in and try controlled crying. I cannot think of anything more unnatural than letting my daughter cry hysterically and just sitting and listening. It goes against every instinct you have as a mother. After 10 minutes of crying even after I had gone through the routine of going in to settle her and walk out, I gave in and went in to soothe my crying baby girl. She had become so distressed that it took me 10 minutes to calm her down before she would even think of sleep again. Once I had settled her and she started to fall asleep in my arms, when I went to put her down again, she would start to cry immediately. After the fourth try, she stayed down and fell asleep. As she lay there, I could see that even in her sleep, she was still tense. Her shoulders were up to her ears and her hands were in fists. I stayed there stroking and humming to her until her body relaxed.
When I Googled ‘controlled crying’ this is the first link that showed up. It is definitely worth a read. Obviously, there are arguments for and against controlled crying but this one seemed to say what I had already been thinking.
I will admit there are times when being a mother is slightly inconvenient. There are days when she wants to cuddle when I want to get things done but can I blame her for it? Even as an adult there are days when Mr Fiance and I just want to snuggle on the couch. When it comes down to controlled crying I asked myself – would you like to fall asleep crying hysterically because you feel abandoned and alone? No. So why do it to someone who cannot help herself?
When I picked her up and I saw how distraught she was, it cemented in me that I had done the wrong thing. I should have trusted my instincts and stopped it from happening the second I knew it wasn’t right for us.
I am not saying that there will be mothers will feel unemotional about leaving their baby to cry or that if you believe in controlled crying, you are wrong. I just knew that for us, it was an unnecessary torture and that’s what I want to leave with you today. Think about whether your baby really needs this or whether you’re doing it because you feel it’s part of the process of being a parent.