Saturday, February 6, 2010

Parenting by Heart

"We know in our hears what our babies need; we feel what they want. Blessed by, and mindful of, advances in medicine, and wary of philosophies developed in the interest of convenience, we are determined to heed our strong instincts. We are even willing to suffer ourselves, if it means the best for our babies. We are mother lions, mother bears, and father tigers, too. We parent by heart."

~Elizabeth Pantly

This week went by in a blur. I've been working on posts (all still in drafts), re-reading an Ishiguro novel in preparation for my first visit to next month's (Oh-my-God-I'm-out-with-other-adult-women-being-all-intellectual!) book club, brainstorming about cooking and housekeeping (because, clearly, spending another three hours sweeping and vacuuming and steam mopping the downstairs only for there to still be animal fur everywhere [how is that even possible?!] is not the way I want to spend each Wednesday, home with my daughter), and trying to remember that I'm a wife as well as a mother and a housekeeper/dog-wrangler.


Last week I read Pantly's The No-Cry Sleep Solution looking for a way to make our sleeping arrangements happier for all. Basically, I'm searching for a way to appease my husband (who'd like me to stop getting up in the middle of the night or at least be in our room by morning) but still attend to my daughter's nighttime parenting needs (versus letting her scream alone in the dark when she wakes).

I've been part time bedsharing with Uli since she was born. I usually nurse her to sleep in her room, I leave her sleeping and spend time with Justin for a few hours before we go to bed, fall asleep in my/our bed, then I wake up to Uli's cries and go into her room and spend the rest of the night (usually from around midnight on) in her bed. She sleeps on a full size mattress set on the floor (we skipped the entire crib deal in an attempt to provide her with a Montessori-like bedroom environment) so it's easy for me to crawl right in next to her. It's genuinely pleasant, being able to have a place for Mommy and Baby to snuggle up, nurse, and get some sleep (all at the same time!).

Pantly has suggestions to help end the request for night nursing, and I've been starting to try them. And it's not that they're difficult, but I've been struggling to remember that I'm supposed to be working on them. Thing is, it's so easy to nurse her in my sleep that I forget I'm supposed to be trying to night-wean. I'm well rested by morning and she's had a belly full of good milk and overall it's a happy situation. Except for poor Justin, all alone. So I'm trying. But it's easier said than done: sticking to a specific bedtime routine, staying awake while she's nursing, un-latching her before she's deeply asleep so she stops associating sucking with sleep, and then making sure she eats more calories during the day to make up for the fewer she'll be getting overnight.

Basically, it's more work and less sleep for me, this trying to wean her from her nighttime nursing, and less sleep makes me cranky. It's just kind of funny, getting less sleep now, with Uli at 15 months, than I'd been getting when she was younger.  I haven't been sleep deprived since she was a tiny little new thing, even though she has regularly woken 1 to 5 times each night in the past year to nurse. 

But, since I do want to work toward waking in the morning in my own bed, I figure that Pantly's suggestions are the route I want to go. I'm uncomfortable making Uli cry it out at this age (she is too young to be made to understand why her trusted parents wouldn't come to her when she's calling, alone and in the dark). Pantly's ideas (with worksheets to help mark your progress) are simple, seem to be effective (if the buzz in the blogosphere means anything) and, perhaps most of all, they are compassionate. You're working slowly and with your child to gently redirect and retrain their expectations about sleep rather than forcing them to scream until they don't have the ability to reach out to you any more.

So I'll be working off of less sleep for the next few weeks. Hopefully by the end, Uli will be sleeping through the night (or at least for 8 hours straight of the 10-12 she should be in bed) and I'll be spending more quality snooze time with the hubby. 

I've heard several times that I'm going about this the hard way, but so far it feels right. And what can I do but follow my heart?

Bedsharing with Uli, winter of 2008


Carmen February 7, 2010 at 6:50 AM  

Oh Thomasin! I love your perspectives on parenting, being a wife and trying to combine the two! It is really hard at times, but always immensely rewarding. And the whole "going about it the hard way"....why not? If that is what is giving you peace and helping create a safe secure environment for Uli...then do it. We would do anything for our children in theory...why not have a few tired, cranky weeks in reality. And in a year...those tired cranky weeks will be a very distant memory! :-) But the snuggles, cuddles, giggles, etc...will still very much be a reality. Yay!

Malliga February 8, 2010 at 10:28 AM  

Thomasin- Way to go! Please let me know if this method works out for you and how did you make it work . I'm also sailing in the same boat. Sajin nursing one or two times during night time. He sleeps in his crib until midnight and jumps into our bed. He wakes up between 3 -4am every night to nurse. He nurse for few minutes and go back to sleep and wake up again around 5 and I nurse him to sleep. I really want both of us to sleep thru the night.

Robyn Newell February 13, 2010 at 5:00 PM  

When I was night weaning, seems it was always some where after one year old, I offered water instead of nursing. My babies thought that water was not worth waking up for and started sleeping more.

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