Mom Guilt

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I was SUCH a better mom before my son was born. I had it all planned out. My son was never going to cry. I was going to carry him around just like the African tribal women I saw on “Babies.” I would breastfeed anytime he started getting fussy. No binkies, no formula, no artificial fabrics. We wouldn’t need them. My birth plan was beautiful. It would be all natural and unmedicated. I would embrace each contraction and labor would be quick and miraculous.

Labor was not quick or beautiful. I got an epidural, and that was beautiful! I swaddled my baby in cozy, warm, artificial fabrics to keep him snug and warm through the winter. I supplemented breastfeeding with bottles of formula to make sure he stayed at a healthy weight. I begged him to take a binkie after hours of inconsolable crying. I flip-flopped between my baby sleeping in bed with me and sleeping in his crib. It felt like I couldn’t get anything right. Compromise became my middle name.

I really wanted my boy to sleep in his own bed, but I didn’t want him to cry. I would rock him to sleep and ever so gently lay him down in his crib. Sometimes it would work, but more often than not he would wake back up as soon as I laid him down. I ended up nursing him to sleep in my bed, then sneeking away once he was in deep sleep. This worked pretty well until he started rolling over and rolled himself right off the bed. It was a terrible feeling knowing that the pain my son was in could have been entirely avoided if he was in his crib.

My husband and I decided that it was time to transition our son to his crib for all naps and bedtime. I didn’t want bedtime to be a big, stressful ordeal. We decided on a bedtime routine. Dinner, a bath, a baby massage , pj’s, teeth brushing, book reading, rocking and nursing, then going to bed with a binkie and a stuffed animal. The routine went great.

Our sweet boy loved all the personalized attention of his bedtime routine. I tucked him in bed and he gave me a little giggle. This was new, and maybe fun. I walked out of the room and he started crying. He cried for 5 minutes and I went back in to try and comfort him. This went on for many more tries. I was attempting the Ferber Method. The intervals between checks got gradually longer and longer. The hope is that baby will fall asleep without feeling abandoned. We found that the frequent checks were making it hard for him to settle down. He seemed irritated and increasingly more tired. 

There was no going back. We went for full extinction. Some people call this method Cry it Out. Some people say this method causes emotional damage. Some people say that children don’t learn to self soothe, they simply learn that nobody will respond to their needs and give up. There are as many articles for sleep training as there are against it. I found this article especially helpful and read it over and over: Helping Babies Cope With Stress and Learn to Sleep.

My son cried for 40 minutes, then he fell asleep. The guilt was overwhelming. I was sure the next morning my son would hate me. That night my son slept for 13 hours straight. The next morning, he woke up happy and well rested. He greeted me with coos and smiles. He still loved me! That night we did bedtime routine again, and I laid my son down with his binkie and stuffed animal. This time he cried for 20 minutes. He woke up at 2am, nursed, and fell right back to sleep in his crib. Soon when I laid him down after bedtime routine he smiled at me, rolled over and fell asleep. Some nights he sleeps through the night. Some nights he wakes up for a bottle and a snuggle.

Mom guilt is a very real thing. We have all the best intentions for our children. Life happens and plans change. I want my son to be happy, feel loved, be safe, healthy, and well rested. I’m sure all moms want that for their children. The was we achieve that looks different from family to family. My son sleeps in his own bed, he doesn’t get carried around in a pappoos very often, and he wears synthetic fabrics. My son is SO loved.

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