Well, 9 months; more swings and roundabouts…
Jett is standing (assisted), crawling upstairs, laughing, dancing, clapping, kissing, mimicking simple movements and noises, and very generously shares his food with others (by attempting to feed them). By day (even despite cutting his fifth and sixth tooth simultaneously), he is the most delightful, easy-going, angelic, delicious, happy, squishy, placid, confident, and independent baby I have ever encountered.
By night, the devil; a clingy, demanding, stubborn, persistent, painful thorn in my side – leaving me in a hot mess of exhaustion, confusion, and doubt.
Having my third child (in the here and now), has single handedly been the hardest experience of my parenting journey to date. As a result of lack of sleep, my patience threshold has been compromised lately, and poor parenting choices have ensued; yelling rather than listening, and punishments/threats/bribes instead of positive reinforcement, or time ins. And the mother’s guilt, self blame, and criticism is all consuming; even worse because I pride myself on parenting by connection. But in reality, this is unobtainable for any parent, unless you have effective listening partnerships in place, or the ability to have regular time out to nurture yourself (rest, relax, recharge, sleep, or to pursue passions). A special thanks to my beloved girlfriend Gina, who this week reiterated that I am not a crap mum, but at the mercy of my ridiculously high expectations of being the “perfect parent”.
As I have shared in my previous posts, I expected to have this sleep thing down pat by number three (and especially in my line of work). It’s really quite ironic, considering I have know-how to assist just about anyone else with their sleep difficulties – just not my own! It’s laughable really, or at least one day I will be able to look back and laugh (and not the hysterical, crazed, half laugh/half cry I have been doing of late!).
We have made some really positive changes in the last month of which I am proud; dummy weaning, removing the feed to sleep association, and transitioning from co-sleeping to his own room (and cot). We have stretched out his wakings to every 3-4 hours (on average), rather than 1-2, but we (or rather, I) still lack consistency. It has sent me down a rabbit hole of questioning all the variables to baby sleep, and whether the attainment of a 7-7 routine is really possible for my family, given our lifestyle and parenting philosophy. The fluid nature of babies (and life in general), means that things never stay the same. And sometimes, our empathy, and compassion (as parents) can be to our detriment. It seems almost as if the more we navigate toward a “gentle/attachment parenting style” and the more responsive we are to our kids (especially at times of teething, illness, leaps, milestones and transitions –which is just about EVERY week), the less consistent we are with our children’s routine, and our responses to them; resulting in increased sleep regression (or sleep difficulties in general). This is not to say we should be less responsive, or change what feels instinctual or”right” for us, it’s sometimes just the trade off (everything in life has one).
I can be objective when I am helping other families; it’s so much easier to offer solutions without emotions; all care no responsibility. But I second guess every decision I make with my own children, always suspecting there is something sinister behind Jett waking so often overnight – is he; too hot? too cold? overtired? hungry? teething? sick? is he devoid of special time with me during the day? irrespective of the reason, I know too well that at nine months, and 11kg, feeding him every three hours (day or night) is completely unnecessary.
The variables are endless to our capacity to be responsive, or remain consistent; emotional well-being, support network, time restraints, energy levels, personality, health and genetics (both of parent and child), and our own life experiences and upbringing. At the end of the day, it will always be up to the parents to enforce change in habits, and the responsibility of this alone for some, can be overwhelming.
I wrote an article recently on why i don’t do cry it out (aka controlled crying, responsive settling, controlled comforting, or ferberizing). Whilst I will always encourage a hand-in-hand-parenting– inspired approach, sleep training certainly has a time and place. Having experienced sleep deprivation first hand these last few months, I can appreciate how appealing a controlled crying approach may be for parents who are desperate for sleep, sanity, and structure – seeing it takes on average 1-3 days as opposed to 1-2 weeks (or more) for some gentler approaches. Keep in mind baby temperament (and age) will also determine how successful a certain sleep training strategy will be at changing sleep patterns short, or long-term; an older, more independent, or strong -willed child may respond better to more space/less parental intervention such as periodical check -ins/controlled crying (as being in the room, or constantly holding or touching them may be overstimulate them). Whereas a younger, more sensitive, high-needs, tactile child may need more intervention in the form of holding or staying with them to help them calm at sleep times.
To sleep train (or not), or how you decide to change sleep patterns/habits within your family is personal, and a decision which must be made for the highest good of all involved (mum, dad, baby, and any other children). There is no such thing as one-sized-fits-all, or black and white when it comes to a sleep solution; for babies, or for parents. I feel it’s important for us not to judge other parents for their choice in sleep training, or parenting in general; we must remain respectful of each other’s unique circumstances and personal situation, and understand that we all have varying bandwidths influencing our decisions. Whilst I advocate a more gentle solution to change, such processes often require more time, support, commitment, and patience. For parents who have limited (or no) support, are severely sleep deprived, and/or battling with borderline depression (as a result of the latter) – at what cost do we place the baby’s emotional wellbeing over mum’s, or the wellbeing of the family unit? I know many women who owe their sanity, relationships and life to having done controlled crying when in the depths of despair. Who am I (or anyone for that matter) to tell that mother that she has compromised the emotional well-being of her child, or been any less of a loving, kind, responsive parent than the rest of us? We have all lost our proverbial at times (common triggers include being run-down, tired, sick, unsupported and/or lacking self-care), and if 3 nights of CIO means you don’t have to endure weeks (or months) of sleepless nights and/or frequent less than perfect parenting moments as a result (smacking, yelling, regretful words/actions), then this needs to be a consideration.
I am so grateful that I have a wonderfully supportive family, husband, and circle of friends; because we were not built to do this on our own. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but most of us are mothering as island entities. Where’s our village? where’s our tribe? Perhaps if we had this, we wouldn’t have to resort to controlled crying approaches when the going gets tough.
Nowadays, we are expected to juggle one or more children with maintaining a household, a career, money pressures, relationships, our role of everything to everyone, and society’s fickle expectations of motherhood, success, and beauty… ALONE.
At times I feel defeated, as I know I just can’t do it all. We see each other’s highlight reel on Facebook and Instagram – but this is not reality. You know what the reality is? sleepless nights, unfavourably early mornings, bigger bags (under our eyes) than what we take on vacation, premature wrinkles and grey hair, the inability to sit on the toilet uninterrupted, being puked on and screamed at, nappy changes that make you want to hurl, a messy house, filthy car, endless washing piles, 5-second showers (every second day), what feels like early onset alzheimers (losing keys, phone and/or wallet at least once per day is a prerequisite), finding poo underneath your fingernails, and yet the most intense love, responsibility, joy, and spiritual evolution like never before…..THIS is parenting in all it’s gore and glory… Some of us just cope better than others.
For age appropriate routines, troubleshooting and recommendations for 9 months to 3 years, click here