Dec 30

Parenting styles…

I never considered parenting styles before we had our first baby. I was the first of my friends to get married, let alone have a baby, so it was not something that came up often. Now, 3 babies later, I think about parenting styles quite a lot. I read parenting books and magazines and blogs, and now I have lots of mom friends to share with. But I don’t think I can define my parenting philosophy. I also think it has changed over the years.

When Naomi was born 7 years ago, she cried A LOT. I remember that Tim and I would have to walk her up and down the hall in our house to get her to sleep (rocking her wouldn’t work). We took 2-hour shifts at night! Maybe it was colic; who knows? Neither of us had any real experience with babies, so we thought it was normal. After a couple of weeks of this, I read a book called “Babywise.” I don’t remember everything the book said, and I don’t have it anymore, so this is all based on my postpartum memory from seven years ago, but I do recall that it advocated getting the baby on a sleep/feed/wake time cycle, where the baby nurses when she wakes up, then is awake for awhile, then goes down for a nap (without nursing to sleep). Following this advice, and probably also due to Naomi’s own temperament, Naomi got on a very good, consistent 3-hour daytime feeding schedule and spontaneously slept through the night on her own at around 2 months, and then consistently slept through the night thereafter. We had a lot of trouble getting her to go to sleep at night, though, and we did choose to follow the “cry it out” method one night, which, although it was a difficult experience, worked and she then went to sleep on her own. And although we started out with Naomi sleeping in our room in a cradle, she was in the crib in her nursery by two weeks of age. She never slept in the bed with us at night, but sometimes, she would wake up at 6 a.m. and I would nurse her and just lie her back down in the bed and we would all go back to sleep for another couple of hours.

Rachel didn’t cry nearly as much. She and Naomi were sharing a room, but again we put the cradle in our bedroom, and she slept in the cradle for about two months. Rachel was a good sleeper from the start. After she was born and I took her home from the hospital, the doctors told me to feed her every 3 hours around the clock, so I actually set an alarm at night so I could nurse her. At her one-week checkup she was gaining good weight, and they told me I could let her sleep until she woke on her own to nurse. I think she slept through the night for the first time at 5 weeks old, but it was not consistent. She went through phases of sleeping all night, then waking up again for that first year. She had a flexible schedule, which became more fixed the older she grew.

And now Sarah. Sarah is definitely my “happiest” baby. She is very content. She spends a lot of her awake time quietly studying things, although she has recently begun cooing and vocalizing and it’s so sweet to hear. As I write this, she will be 4 months old in just a couple of hours, and she is still sleeping in the cradle in our bedroom. For the first two months, Sarah probably slept in the bed with us 85% of the time. Lately, I have begun putting her in the cradle more, but still, she sleeps in our bed frequently. She has randomly slept through the night on a handful of occasions, but most of the time she wakes up at least once. When I nurse her in the middle of the night, she is not hungry when she first wakes in the morning, so I have started trying to get her to go back to sleep without feeding her, but I probably still do a middle-of-the-night feeding about 50% of the time. She follows the same general sleep/nurse/wake-time cycle that I used for Naomi and Rachel, but not on a specific timetable. She will go four hours between nursings, then want to nurse after only two hours, etc. She’ll take long naps one day, then lots of short naps the next.

So, I realize my parenting style has changed. But what do I believe is the best way to raise a baby? I felt guilty for having Sarah sleep in the bed with us those first few months, so I worked to get her to sleep in her cradle. Then I read about all the advantages of bedsharing, and felt guilty for making her sleep alone. I used the cry-it-out method with Naomi, but couldn’t bring myself to do so with Sarah (luckily she goes to sleep pretty well after being rocked for a short time). So I feel guilty for using that technique with Naomi, even though it worked and gave everyone much better sleep at night. I don’t know if I agree more with attachment parenting or…whatever not-attachment-parenting is called. I nursed all my girls, although I weaned Naomi at 9 months and then gave her formula until her first birthday. I nursed Rachel for one year, then had her weaned within two weeks. Neither of them had any problems when I decided to stop nursing. Sarah is almost entirely exclusively breastfed, because I am not working now and am able to be with her 24/7. She has only had a few bottles of breastmilk. However, when she was only a couple of days old, and we were just home from the hospital, I did give her a bottle of formula. She was up at night, crying, inconsolable, and I had been nursing her repeatedly, but my milk wasn’t in yet. She was hungry and I knew it, and she was upset. I didn’t want to give her formula at all. But was I going to let her cry and be upset, when I had my free sample of powdered formula in the cabinets, just so I could be proud and say my daughter never had any formula? I gave her a couple of ounces of formula, and she was much happier after that. My milk came in the next morning and we were all happy then.

As I write this, Sarah is sleeping beside me on the couch. She woke up about 30 minutes after I put her to bed tonight, apparently considering what I thought was an appropriate “bedtime” as an “early evening nap.” So she got to watch TV with me and Tim and fall asleep in the living room. Something I don’t recall Naomi or Rachel doing often when they were babies.

All of my children are very healthy, and for that I am very grateful. They all understand and feel how much they are loved and valued. I hope that, as they grow up, any parenting mistakes I make will not have any ill effects on them. I hope they will understand why, maybe, I did things differently as their sisters were born and our family grew. And I hope that, maybe, I will be able to let go of my guilt, and my constant questioning about what is the RIGHT thing to do, and spend more time just enjoying my girls for who they are as individuals, and meeting those individual needs.

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