Friday, January 29, 2010

No, he does not sleep through the night...

Today I was reading an article about breastmilk production and cue feeding, basically the idea that you feed your baby as much and as often as the baby requests, even if that happens to be in the middle of the night at 6 months old.
This article was exactly what I needed at this moment in my life as a mom....

I have been feeling so conflicted lately. Elijah was about 2 months old when he began to sleep for longer and longer periods which around 3 months even peaked at 11 hours straight. Most would consider this a parents dream and he must have needed it at the time. But shortly after that, the periods of sleep started to lessen and my child started to become more demanding about his needs at all hours of the day and night until at about 5.5 months when he began to wake up every hour and need the breast to put him back to sleep. In this last month, the sleep has increased a bit to every 2-3 hours waking during the night. I have been so wrought with guilt. What am I doing wrong? Doesn't my baby need more uninterrupted sleep? If he didn't eat so much at night, he would sleep better and eat more during the day, right?

But what were the options to get him on this plan... let him cry and refuse to feed him was the only one I could think of. That was not happening. I believe strongly in the signal of a babies cry and was not about to ignore him. I always tried other things first, lying with him, helping him find his thumb, sending daddy in, or even giving him my fingers to suck on. These work sometimes, but ultimately nothing puts him back to sleep like a warm breast full of milk.

So many people even so called experts and my own holistic pediatrician warn against feeding a baby this old at night, fearful of the habits it creates. It is hard to ignore that pressure and the questions that come with it. As a mother, I am always questioning whether what I am doing is providing the absolute best for my child.

This article talked about prolactin, a hormone that all mothers have until about 3-4 months postpartum that in addition to the baby sucking, helps produce milk. After 3-4 months, the prolactin goes away and the only thing keeping the milk supply up for this growing baby is the babies sucking.

Maybe this is why babies wake up? Maybe it is not because we are "spoiling" him? Maybe my son knows intuitively that he needs more milk.
I know so many people who say they had to stop nursing cause their milk dried up, that suddenly didn't seem to have enough milk for their babies. I wonder if there is a correlation between this and night nursing? I wonder if there is a correlation between this and moving a baby into their own crib in a room away from mom?

I also know that every baby/mother dyad is different and that many can continue to nurse exclusively just fine while sleeping through the night. I am sure that is why the idea that all babies should be able to exists. Maybe all babies can't do this.

The AAP recommends at least one year of breastfeeding, the WHO recommends at least two years. I want to make it to at least two years for Elijah's health. I believe it is the best thing I can do for his health. I also believe babies are designed to sleep with their mothers, in most other countries they do. I believe babies cry for a reason. So why all the internal conflict around nursing him at night? Ultimately I am sleeping fine, all I have to do is roll over. He and I barely wake up.

I don't have all the answers and I don't know how I feel about this when he is one or two, and maybe I am creating a bad habit.... but I do know I love my child and listening to what he is telling me is the only way to build a relationship of trust between us.

So once again, I am led me back to the conclusion that I need to trust my child, he will teach me. Cue feeding it is.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Is he a good baby?

I am always a bit perplexed by this question. How does one judge whether a child is inherently good or bad? What information are they after?
I, of course know what they mean is, "Does he sleep through the night?" "Does he cry a lot?", but I wonder why so many ask this. Is it that they don't know what else to ask or that all the other forms of the questions seem too personal. Maybe people truly think that a baby crying is a bad thing.

I think it implies a few things when one asks this question:

1. That not all babies are inherently good. Really, what could a 2 day old, a 2 month old, or really even a 2 year old do that would be considered bad? I choose to believe that all people are born inherently good and that it takes quite a bit to turn a good person into a bad one, primarily brain chemistry. Even those who commit acts that one would consider "bad" have reasons that lead up to these eventual actions that have very little to do with the core of the person.

2. That it is an infant's job to make life easier on its parents. Something is really backwards in this thinking. Is it overwhelming to bring a new little baby into your life, believe me I know this, and it is nice when that parent can feel like they have some answers and some help.  It is so important to have a village because all the baby can do at this point is exist and its entire purpose for months is simply to learn about trust. It should be the job of the parents to simply get to know their baby, respond to his/her needs consistently and fall in love with this new little life. Other people can take care of the house, the jobs, etc...
Too many parents get exhausted at this point by doing too much, not sleeping when the baby sleeps, and I really believe this always ends badly... and usually at the babies expense by trying to get them onto our schedule as soon as possible. Wrong!

....but probably the most disturbing underlying message a parent receives is...

3. That when a baby cries, it is a bad thing. As author Jan Hunt puts it in her book, The Natural Child:
"Crying is a signal provided by nature. It is meant to disturb the parents so that the child's need will be met. It makes no sense that nature would have provided all children with a routinely used signal that serves no good purpose."
Yet new parents who are trying to adjust to this little person who cannot talk and can only cry to get their needs met, are constantly asked about how often the baby cries or hear from other parents, "oh, he is so good, he hardly ever cries."
To me that is as absurd as saying, "oh my preschooler (teenager, best friend, etc...) is so good, they hardly ever talk to me."

I trust nature so much and when I don't have the answers, I try so hard to just see what makes sense in the world, the way nature would do it. I have learned so much about little babies lately, way more than my child development knowledge could ever have given me simply by having a baby. He teaches me. So I will continue to try my hardest to look at his fussing and his crying as much as his smiling and his laughing as his attempt to build a relationship with me and to bring me into his world. What a honor!

And please don't ask a new parent this question instead try, "what can I do for you?"