Monday, March 25, 2013

Becoming UN-Baby Wise

Eight years ago my world was turned upside-down when we discovered that I was pregnant with our first child. I was 22.  We had been married for almost a year and had assured everyone that we intended to wait 5 years before having children.  Our 5 Year Plan lasted exactly 10 months!

Like most expecting mothers, I began to pour through baby books and websites trying to figure out how this "Mommy" thing worked.  I already loved schedules so I naturally gravitated to On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam.  According to the book, if I followed their routine, my baby would be sleeping soundly through the night at two months old.  We would eat, play, sleep and repeat.  There would be NO co-sleeping, NO pacifiers, and my baby would go to bed awake and learn to fall asleep on his own.

It sounds harsh, but to be fair, this system worked like a charm for my first son.  He was an easy baby that slept 12 hours a night by the time he was 3 months old.  He was also formula fed and I went back to work when he was 6 weeks old.  He was content.  He loved his schedules and he was thriving, but something was missing for me.  We read stories, but we didn't cuddle him to sleep.  He didn't climb in bed with us in the middle of the night and he only got out of his toddler bed twice because we walked him right back to bed, kissed his head, and tucked him in (without talking to him AT ALL).  We loved him dearly, but I think we were too focused on what the "experts" told us was best for him.  I spent so much time checking off his list of pediatrician-recommended accomplishments, that I missed savoring each and every one of them.


Two years later, his baby brother appeared on the scene.  By this time, I had convinced my husband how desperately I needed to stay home with our children.  I began an in-home daycare and I was determined that I would breastfeed this baby.  That was my first step toward attachment parenting.  I began wearing my baby when he was fussy, we nursed until he was drowsy (sometimes even asleep) and there were nights when he would just sleep with us.  I went to him at night when he cried and he fed on demand.  Yes, we still had schedules and routines, but they were much more centered around my baby boy's cues.  By our fourth child, my views had completely changed.  I stopped turning to books or websites for most information.  I had seen more, experienced more, and could rely on my own intuition and my baby's cues.  Our baby slept with us because it made feedings easier.  I wore him during the day because it made getting things done easier.  Admittedly, my other children have not been the great sleepers that Big Brother was, but that's okay.  My babies NEED me.  They need to know that I'll go to them when they're hungry, or sick, or in pain.  They will only be little for a short while and I don't want to waste anymore time worrying about what the experts say.  We still love our routines and I am still a huge proponent of schedules, but now those schedules are made after weeks of writing down my baby's natural rhythms. 

Let me assure you, putting away the parenting books has not made me a perfect parent.  Every day I pray for wisdom and patience with my children.  I get frustrated.  I get tired.  I hope that I'm not doing anything that will cause them to need therapy when they grow up!

Today, my two-year-old had trouble going down for his nap.  He began crying for me, and I'll admit that my first instinct was to lay him down, tell him that it was naptime, and walk away (Curse you Baby Wise).  I had things to do, laundry to fold, and blog posts to write.  But something stopped me - the still, small voice reminding me that this little boy desperately needed me.  I scooped him up with his blankie and rocked with him.  I rubbed his baby soft cheeks and smoothed his hair.  I whispered how much I loved him and cuddled him close.  Exactly two minutes later, he told me he was ready for his nap - TWO MINUTES!  How many times have I missed out on cuddling him and smelling his sweet baby scent because I was too afraid to lose TWO MINUTES?!  Too afraid to "spoil" him or create a "bad habit"? 

It's taken me years to find my own voice as a mom.  I've decided that it's okay to co-sleep...and it's okay to put your kids in a crib.  It's okay to use a pacifier....and it's okay to rock or nurse your kids to sleep.  I now know that while reading to your kids and playing games are important, one or two (or four or five) episodes of Dora and Diego are not going to hurt them either - especially when you're sick and they're sick and you desperately need a shower!  I've learned that teaching them to share and be kind is more important than teaching them their ABC's and that it's almost impossible to find two mothers that will agree on every single aspect of parenting.  I wish someone had shared these truths with me before.  I wish someone had written a Baby Wise book that told me that a few months would pass and my little baby would be a big first-grader playing soccer and basketball, reading to his baby brothers, and getting ready to go to camp for the first time.  I wish that they told me that there was really no way that a book could ever make me "Baby Wise".

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16 comments:

  1. I appreciate this post so much. Babywise was recommended to me with my first, and I gave it a try -- for about a day. In my heart I knew it wasn't right for me or my baby. My now 5-year-old boy is well adjusted, and a not-spoiled great sleeper. But he got there in his own time and in his own way. (Incidently, he was sleeping through the night at 10-weeks anyway...)

    I just had my third (and last) baby 3 weeks ago, and I am cherishing the nighttime snuggles when I get to have her all to myself, with no one else trying to get my attention. While the lack of sleep is hard, I am going to miss those nights as she begins to sleep through the night. I am in no big rush. I'll take the cuddling for now.

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    1. Congratulations on your new addition :) They're such precious little gifts, aren't they?!

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  2. What a great blog post! I think we all need to slow down on the research and trust our instincts more. My little guy has good and bad nights- just like me:) We expect our children to be perfect sleepers all the time, even when us parents have an off night or two.

    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I've seen the experts change their opinions on many things just since my oldest was born! No wonder my mother just smiles and shakes her head at all the things they have changed since I was little :)

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  3. thanks for this post! i am 8 months pregnant with our first and have had several struggles with my desires to be a little more on the attachment side of parenting, and hearing all of the unsolicited advice that first time parents get that run contrary to what feels right for me. thank you for helping me see that i need to find my own voice as a mother and to trust my instincts with eden when she is born!

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    1. Congratulations Mama! Motherhood is a wonderful, difficult journey. I know that I have evolved in my parenting styles and have really enjoyed just taking my favorite parts of each piece of advice and finding what really works with each child. Eden is a beautiful name! :)

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  4. Could not agree more with this post! Thank you for speaking up about this most important issue.

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    1. Thanks Sandi! I think the hardest part for me is believing that there is any ONE way to do things. I have 4 children and no two of them have been the same on anything - right down to the way they liked to be held or the types of cups they prefer :)

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  5. Thank YOU! LOVE this blog post so much. We all get so caught up in what the "experts" say that we forget to do what's right for us...whatever that may be.
    I shared your post on Facebook. It really gives every parent the confidence they need to follow their own gut.

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    1. Thanks for sharing Cindy! I think parenting was probably easier before we had so much access to information! I'm finding that my mother had it right all along :)

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  6. YES! Every mama is different, every baby is different and every family is different. Sometimes we have to trust we have what it takes to mother without reading everything about everything and feeling everyone knows better us. It's great to get information but then instead of being a slave to it, we should let it come in second to our own intuition and always savor every moment. I too cherished my babies and never followed any 'method' to a tee. Great thoughts on this!

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  7. Yes! I have also btdt with Babywise, and it took some time to de-Ezzo.

    There are thousands of wonderful, loving moms who use Babywise (moms like you and me!) But really, when it all is said and done, I find that babies and moms and families do better without Ezzo parenting.

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  8. Just a thought... Do you think maybe you needed baby more then baby needed you? Is your first less attached because of the advice you took with him? Just a question, not a put down at all. I think its great that you can do things your way and not fear what the world may or may not think!

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    1. Thanks for your comment! It is quite possible that he is less attached because of that, or because he was in daycare for almost the first two years, or because he didn't nurse, or maybe just because that's his personality. Honestly, all 4 of my boys are completely different and they all went through a period where they went screaming out of their Sunday School classrooms because Mommy wasn't there. My biggest issue with most parenting Books (in general) is that they tout ONE philosophy and ONE way to do things so, in essence, you're wrong if you do it a different way. Baby Wise was not the way for me. I have lots of Mommy friends who have used and loved it. I just didn't like feeling like a criminal smuggling my baby into bed with me ;) But, each of us has to find what works for us!

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  9. Your post was so encouraging for this first time mother! I definitely researched and took advice from many friends on there parenting habits... Baby Wise being one of them. Fortunately for me, the mother who suggested Baby Wise and a resource on Pinterest that highlighted its basic principles encourage motherly intuition. And that is what I have done (along with consulting my hubby for his preferences)... My little man is four months now and I still feel like it is a work in progress. But as a SAHM (my life long dream) and prior daycare teacher, I definitely am learning to soak up all the little moments. Cherishing every smile and coo coo makes the social sacrifice worth it at the end of the day. So thank you so much for speaking up about the issue of Black-and-White baby literature. It makes more sense that each child is different so your parenting style with each child should be a bit different, but what works for you and yours!

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    1. Thanks Christie! It sounds like you have a great handle on this Mommy stuff already! Congratulations on your little blessing. Before my first baby, my only experience with babies was the babysitting I did for a 1-year-old as a teenager. Having a newborn was definitely an eye-opening experience! I absolutely agree with you that being a SAHM is the greatest blessing of my life. It took me 2 years to financially pull it off, and there are still lots of sacrifices, but I wouldn't trade it for the world :) Blessings to you and your family!

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