Today we have a guest post from Joanna of Plus Other Good Stuff! She will tell us her story of how she learned to lose the guilt for her child’s temperament.
My two-and-a-half-year-old son, Caedmon, amazes me every day. He has an impressive attention span, superb motor skills, an extensive vocabulary (for a two-year-old, that is), and an off-the-wall sense of humor that cracks us up.
But he is not a good sleeper.
He never has been. Before he was born, we bought a co-sleeper to go next to our bed and set up a crib with some super cute gender-neutral bedding.
But after he was born we quickly fell into a pattern of co-sleeping, nap-time baby-wearing, and lots of comfort nursing. As weeks continued into months, these practices became a bit draining. He began to nurse all night. He couldn’t sleep anywhere but next to me. He would wake up if I tried to put him down, even if he was in a deep sleep. If in his own bed, he never slept even for five minutes. We were all sleep-deprived, and I couldn’t get anything done during the day.
And then the guilt began. I thought it was all my fault.
Thoughts like these ran through my head: What have we been doing wrong? Could we have tried harder to get him to sleep on his own? Should we let him cry it out, after all? One week I’d think, It’s ok, we can just keep doing what we’re doing.
And the next week I’d think, We’ve made a huge mistake! I checked out all the books the library had on baby sleep, inviting a roller coaster of differing opinions. I didn’t know who to believe.
Friendly faces at church would ask “How’s he sleeping?” (Because what else do you ask a new mother? It’s like “How’s married life treating you?” to a newly married couple.) I never quite knew how to respond. In truth, I can’t remember how I responded, perhaps because of the sleep-deprived haze I was living in.
I had read Dr. Sears’ definition of a “high-need baby,” but having no other babies with which to compare our son, I didn’t really think he was one. I just thought I had done something wrong.
Every Child is Different
Three weeks ago, we welcomed our precious daughter Esther into the world. Like Caedmon, she was born at home in the water, attended by a skilled midwife. Unlike Caedmon, she barely cried after she was born. She made just enough noise to let us know that her lungs were working perfectly, and then she was very quiet and alert, staring at us with her big, smoky blue eyes. She latched on like a champ from the start, and remained quietly content through her newborn exam. Her older brother? He barely nursed for the first three days of his life, and was sure to let us know that he did NOT enjoy his newborn exam.
While I was pregnant with Esther I kept wondering who this person would be, and how he or she would be different than Caedmon. It goes back to the old nature vs. nurture thing: I wanted to know how much of Caedmon’s higher-need personality was a result of our parenting choices, and how much was just the way he is wired.
Little Esther cleared things up pretty quickly for us. I can lay her down in her bassinet sleepy but awake and she will go to sleep. She’s only waking up once or twice in the night, and she has nursed perfectly since day one.
As I write this, she is sleeping peacefully in her bassinet, while my husband is lying down with Caedmon to put him to sleep. Are we parenting Esther differently than we parented Caedmon as a baby? Not really. I still consider myself an “attachment” parent. I nurse on demand, pulling Esther into bed with me to nurse her when I’m too tired to get up. I’m all for co-sleeping if it works for your family, and I think baby wearing is a wonderful way to bond with your child.
But Esther is different than Caedmon, and she needs different things. For example, she needs to be burped during and after every feeding, whereas Caedmon rarely needed to be burped. Every baby is different, and what matters is that you get to know your baby and do your best to fulfill their needs.
It’s Not My Fault
I’m sure we’ve made mistakes with Caedmon’s sleep. Perhaps we could have tried to put him down to sleep sooner or more often. Perhaps we could have had a better routine from the start…we really didn’t know what we were doing, like any new parents. But now I know that I did not make him this way.
Though I am an imperfect parent, the challenges we have faced with Caedmon are not solely our fault. I’m not saying that as a cop-out. I think it’s important to realize how we can and do affect our children. But I have spent way too many tears over the idea that I messed Caedmon up. That I failed as a parent and someone else could have done a way better job. I need to let it go.
Our children are a gift from God, and we are just crazy about Caedmon, sleep difficulties and all. As a result of his intense need for physical contact, we have been blessed with a very close relationship with him. I’m convinced that he is the cuddliest two-year-old on the planet, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything, not even a full night’s sleep.
So I’m letting go of the guilt. And I suggest you do the same. 🙂
Are you carrying around guilt for your child’s temperament?
Joanna Rodriguez is a wife, mother, homemaker, and dancer. She loves yellow butter from cows that eat grass. So much so that her husband often remarks that the butter on her toast looks like a slab of cheese. In between changing diapers and conquering the dishes, she takes time to craft delicious and nourishing meals for her friends and family. For her, real food is about taking care of the gifts we’ve been given, and sharing what we have with those around us.
She writes about real food and shares her recipes at Plus Other Good Stuff.
Confused about vaccines?
Get our FREE no-nonsense vaccine guide. Answer your questions with rational, fact-based information instead of fear.