Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Making Room for Change

When we had Zuzu, I was pretty firmly in the 'crunchy' mom camp. I don't know how it happened - I'm really not a hippy. But since I knew I wanted to have a natural birth outside of a hospital, everything else came rushing in - like it was a package deal.

Natural birth -> breastfeeding -> bedsharing -> attachment parenting -> cloth diapering -> amber teething necklaces -> baby wearing

Happily, it really worked for us. That first year of Zuzu's life was great! Breastfeeding went well, she was a happy baby in adorable cloth diapers, and I loved wearing her. Great. Good.

But...after a year, some things started to wear on me. On our family. Overnight, she'd always leak out of her cloth diapers, so I was changing the sheets a lot. I had a ton of women telling me how to fix the diapers so it would work better, but...we just switched to disposables for overnight. Then, she was having some issues with diaper rash. When I went into my local crunchy mama store to ask for diaper creams that were ok to use with cloth diapers, the store's clerk first response was "oh wow, we really don't carry anything because babies who wear cloth diapers don't get diaper rash."

Oh wow, really - want to see my baby's bum?

It went on from there. We weren't getting a lot of sleep at night because my daughter liked to nurse all. night. long. I didn't get out a whole lot without her because I was the one who nursed her down for naps and bedtime, and she woke frequently to nurse. Sometimes it felt like she was a little TOO attached - it was hard leaving her with Tom, or my mom, or anyone. It was hard to parent her without using nursing as the main parenting tool. To be fair, I didn't want to get out much - I loved being with her all of the time. But I'm not sure it was really good for me - I wasn't taking care of my health,  cultivating a spiritual life, or investing in my friendships. My world was Zuzu and you know what the Bible says about idols.

All of this information about nursing, but I had no idea how to go about weaning, what age was okay to do so, or how to do without just doing it cold turkey.

It started to feel like attachment parenting or crunchy-ness or whatever - was this train that once you got on, you couldn't get off. It worked great when she was a tiny squish, but as she was getting to be an older toddler, I wasn't happy. The advice I got from that community was, try harder, override your gut feeling, ignore your own needs, don't be selfish.

I felt lost about how to run my family or my household sometimes, like I couldn't make certain decisions because it would hurt my child. I was so worried about hurting her by: weaning too soon, not letting her bedshare anymore, spanking, setting nursing limits, doing pretty much anything that made her cry (because letting/making your children cry makes you a monster, in some communities). I felt powerless.

And that's bollocks.

Parenting shouldn't feel like that. And if there's a parenting philosophy that is making you feel that way, it's probably not a good fit for you right now. If something worked when your child was young, but doesn't work now - you can stop. Right now! I'm giving you permission. If it worked for number one, but not number two? Cool, change it. Worked for numbers 1-4, but not 5? Change that too. I realized that I had put all these rules in place in my parenting, but hadn't made room for me to change my mind with experience. That's crazy! Experience will be the best teacher, always. I couldn't ignore the lessons I was learning and more frighteningly, if I stayed rigid, I realized I'd break.

I have another baby now. He hasn't ever slept a night in my bed. Sometimes I let him fuss in his pack and play, when I know he's really tired and not really hungry. He's 5 months old and we just started cloth diapering. I weaned Zuzu from night-nursing nine months ago and it's been GREAT. We've started talking about weaning after her third birthday and she seems cool with it, but even if she's not...I'm ready. And that can be a good reason to make a parenting choice too.

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  1. I love the new blog design!

    I tried to comment before, but it didn't show up, so here we go again.

    I have never been one to parent by the rules. I always just do what feels right. I have no problems switching between cloth and disposibles or babywearing and strollers, etc. My biggest problem is with co-sleeping and nursing. When my kids are young (less than 1.5) I enjoy co-sleeping and nursing frequently and I don't mind nursing to sleep. Starting around age 1, I don't feel the need to take them with me everywhere, they will fall asleep find with daddy, but they still need SOMEONE to fall asleep.

    However, around 1.5 or so, I start to wish they WOULD fall asleep on their own and wouldn't nurse QUITE so frequently. However, it's not a simple thing to teach that at that age. I feel like you either need to start with sleeping alone and teach a child to fall asleep on their own starting when they are young babies, or wait until they are old enough to understand/outgrow it but it's hard to switch parenting methods half-way.. At least in my experience...it would involve tons of crying (and not just fussing/whining, but full on screaming/wailing). Of course, for some babies, it is easy, but not for others.

    I struggle, because I like the co-sleeping and nursing to sleep when they are babies, but it IS harder when they are older, until they get old enough to outgrow it or at least understand more. Elsa has slept in her own bed for a few months now, but she still frequently joins me in the middle of the night. And she still is so attached to nursing. I've been slowly working on weaning and cutting back and teaching her "not now."

    1. YES! You are so right! It is so so hard to have David sleeping in his little pack n' play, while the rest of us are (crammed) into our bed. I feel like he must be so lonely! But...he's not. He's happily sleeping and rolling around, enjoying aaaall that room. :)

      I totally agree that it's difficult because there really isn't a middle ground. It's either do it before they know anything different, or wait until it's basically a negotiation. It's such a relief to hear you express some frustration too :)

      Which is so funny, because I wrote this and thought "hm I hope Amelia doesn't think I'm hating on her lifestyle..."!!


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