Monday, September 28, 2009

Don't you love unsolicited opinions? A rant, be warned!

Today I was chatting with someone and she was asking about Ari. Sleep woes came up.

She said: You have to wean her. She won't sleep well till you wean her.

Oh my God!!! Not again!

My response: *Name*, no offense, but that is bullshit.

I said it to her, I will type it on this blog, and I will say it 100 times if necessary. THAT IS BULLSHIT.

Tell me, why the hell do people insist in telling you that your child will sleep better once you… feed them cereal, feed them solids, wean them, get them out of your bed…? What’s next? Once they are potty trained? Once they go to preschool?

She said that so-and-so's baby is on formula, is on a schedule, never wakes up in the middle of the night because that routine is all he has known. Breastfed babies, on the other hand, get used to eating every two hours, so they wake up in the middle of the night until they are weaned.

Again, I repeat: that is bullshit.

The ironic thing is that one of her kids was breastfed until age one and the other one only until six weeks. Neither one slept "well." So there goes that theory!

I night-weaned Ari and she still wakes up. My friend weaned completely for health reasons at 21 months and five months later, her son still wakes up once. My former professor/advisor's breastfed son was sleeping ten hours straight at seven months. There are plenty of formula babies out there that wake up and want their parents in the middle of the night.

So, in case you did not read it above: that is bullshit.

Children want their parents at 3am because they are used to falling asleep with something of their parents' nearby, whether it is simply the parent's presence, a little walk in the bedroom, a hug, holding the parent's hand... Yes, the boob is what they want in many cases, but that is not it. Otherwise, they would magically put themselves to sleep the minute you night-wean them. As you know, that is not the case. You saw all my posts about our experiences with weaning and sleeping night after night. Ari understood that there was no nursing until daytime, but she wanted to put her hand on my chest. I am now working on holding hands, rather than the hand on my chest.

By the way, you know what, if the fact my child breastfeeds has anything whatsoever to do with her night wakings, I still would do it again, in a heartbeat. Breastfeeding benefits both baby and mother in so many ways. So many stories have proven or found correlations between breastfeeding and positive things... In fact, I will endeavor to find a few and post them on here.

Why the night wakings, you wonder? Children have shorter sleep cycles than we do. If I remember correctly, the length of a young child's sleep cycle ranges from 60 to 90 minutes. So all children wake up in the middle of the night, just like we do. The trick is whether or not the child can put her/himself back to sleep without any assistance from a parent.

I would sleep a lot better if Ari put herself to sleep independently. I would be more rested. That is true. But, you know what? Parenting is a 24/7 job. My job does not end at 5pm. Does this mean that I am happy with the current set up, that I do not want her to be able to put herself back to sleep independently? Of course not. I can't wait, in fact! I am freakin' tired, if you had not heard!

Here is the difference: we are willing to gently transition her because my #1 priority is that my child is securely attached to her parents. For those of you unfamiliar with psychobabble, attachment has to do with the relationship that a child has with her/his parents. Is there a sense of trust? Does the child know that the parents will protect her/him? Does the child know that the parents will always return, that he/she will not be abandoned? A securely attached child knows this. This, in turn, helps the child develop her/his independence. A securely attached child will be a better partner in her/his relationships as a grownup. That child will grow up to be confident, not clingy. Again, there are plenty of studies that prove this. An insecurely attached child, one whose parents did not respond to her/his needs during the early years, either cries inconsolably when a parent leaves or does not give a damn if mom walks away. These are the people who grow up to be non-trusting people or people who cannot have a close, fulfilling relationship due to their own, personal issues.

I know a two-year-old who is an excellent example of ambivalent attachment. He will be around strangers. His mother walks away and he could care less. He is so used to her walking away, to her ignoring his calls for help. Very sad. That is not what I want for my kid. That is why when people told me to let her scream it out at three months, I said no, not now, not ever. At three months, babies do not have object permanence. In other words, if you leave, you do not exist. They do not comprehend that you are simply in another room of the house, that you will return if they really need you.

Let me clarify... I don't mean that Ari never cries. There is always some crying. That is unavoidable. But we are there, visible, in her room, holding her hand if that is what she needs. What we need to work on is to make it so that we can slowly get farther and farther away until she does not need us in the room at all. I am confident that will happen. She will know that she can put herself to sleep but that mom and dad will be there if she is afraid, is not feeling well, is hurt, etc.

Woe, long rant. rant over! I feel better now. Time for bed...


  1. Well said Mama. I do think that it is important to realize that there comes a time that our kids, no matter how they are fed, are not hungry at night. I did feel that it was important to help my DD come to the realization that night time was for sleeping, and not eating. But that doesn't mean that I don't expect her to wake sometimes, or that she doesn't for that matter. And she is 17 months old. I think that the reason she sleeps through the night most nights is because she knows with absolute certainty that I will come if and when she does need me. And I do. I would much rather know that my child is a good sleeper becuase of security, rather than the fact that she has given up on me.

    Does she wake sometimes, yes. Sometimes she just needs her binky or blanket back, adn sometimes she just needs a snuggle. I am 34 years old, and sometimes I wake during the night. Sometimes I need a glass of water, or to see my DD, or to snuggle my DH. Why would I expect different from my 17 MONTH old?

    But, at this point, if she has eaten well during the day, I don't usually expect to have to feed her at night, and I don't feed her to sleep either. I just don't believe that is good for her, and I really don't want her to associate food with comfort. I'd rather she learn healthy eating habits, and that food is for sustinance (sp? sorry) and mommy love is for comfort.

  2. Doesn't it drive you batty? I sometimes wonder who was responsible for spinning the myriad of lies regarding breastfeeding in order to make people choose formula instead.

    In our situation, unfortunately, it seems as though going in to comfort him only makes it worse when he wakes in the night. Sometimes we still do, but generally, if we wait it out for a few minutes, he goes back to sleep.

    He is in a mattress on the floor, so we put up the gate so he can't go wandering. When it is morning (defined as 5AM or later) he can come in bed with us.

    But to me, leaving him in his room and letting him yell at us when he is 2 and understands that we do love him and will come back is a lot different than letting a little baby cry in the middle of the night instead of feeding him.

    Of course that brings me to my younger son who causes me to go against my fundamental attachment parenting beliefs--he frequently prefers to scream himself to sleep alone and won't be comforted by being held. Sometimes it even happens by accident, but most of the time, if he won't nurse, and he doesn't need to burp, and he has been changed, and he is still yelling, I either put him down in his bassinet or take him out for a walk, and in very little time, he is asleep.

    Way to monopolize your blog...sorry, J.

  3. zomg, if I hear one more person make stupid comments about baby sleep habits... it really drives me crazy as well, J., particularly since I'm a moderately-obsessed family bed kind of guy who likes nothing more than gathering the family in a big pile of people and napping as a group!

    It's just like the old "Is the baby good?" question that I get when I take the two boys out for a walk. My response is, "No, he isn't - he stabbed his brother in the stomach, see the scars? And, he stays up all night chasing after loose women and smoking cigarettes." What a stupid question. He's a baby, the other one's a toddler. Yes, they're sweet and wonderful boys, but they're also BOYS. That means they scream a lot, and the older one throws toys, throws tantrums, and tries to play the same bedtime and mealtime games that kids have tried for millenia. The younger one will, as well.