When my son was born I was a nervous wreck. I had many years of experience working with babies but they always started with me after 6 months. I had no idea newborns cried so much. I was lost. So I searched the internet. I found so many opinion articles and blog posts telling me how it was NOT okay for a baby to cry as much as my son was; how it was damaging his brain. I even had a woman leading an infant group tell me that babies experienced pain when they cry. Nonsense! These things are the worst things you can tell a new mom, especially one prone to anxiety. What I needed to hear during this time was that some babies just cry a lot (my son now talks constantly) and that my anxiety was making it worse. I needed to hear that babies fuss in their sleep. I needed to hear about purple crying.
So in an (often failed) attempt to have a silent and peaceful newborn as I imagined should be, we made a lot of mistakes.
I nursed him to sleep and then let him stay latched on for hours. Often holding in pee or literally starving myself as I sat there unable to move lest I wake him.
My husband bounced him on the ball so that he would stay asleep. This meant an hour or so of just movement to keep him in a state of half sleep.
We followed the 5 S’s, also known as The Happiest Baby on the Block.
Even when he was asleep and made fuss sounds I would get nervous and nurse him. I was literally waking my child every 45-minutes to an hour to nurse him when all he needed was sleep.
Why were these bad habits? Because my son got used to this way of sleeping, which was not his way, but our anxiety-filled minds solution to a problem that was possibly never there. Every single time he fussed we didn’t listen; we just jumped in and tried to solve the problem based on what outside sources were saying. At 4 months, when things were really bad and we were all frustrated, we changed. I had a good talk with my pediatrician about purple crying and I found Janet Lansbury’s post on why I could calm down about the crying. So we slowed down. When he cried, I paused and listened to him. I calmed down enough to pay attention to what he was really saying to me. We had to face the fact that we had gotten him used to certain habits that did not actually allow him to get proper sleep. We realized that what he needed to get his sleep was to fall asleep on his own, in his own quiet and dark space. Not because someone told us that this is what babies need, but because we payed attention to him and followed our intuition. We went through a 3-day process where we explained the changes to him and supported him as he struggles through these. After a few days he had recovered from sleep deprivation and finally became a happy baby.
This was a hard process for me because at that time I was surrounded by parenting advice that said the only way to be a gentle and compassionate parent was to sleep with your baby and wear them and hold them all the time. This was terrible advice because it just didn’t fit our temperaments. My son is now 2 and very independent. He likes to do everything on his own and will often go into his room to play quietly by himself. We do have lots of quality time together, but it’s crystal clear now that he just wants his own space from time to time. Even when he is sick we try to sleep with him and he pushes us away. I mean, I prefer to have my own space when I sleep and also love time to myself to decompress so it would make sense that my son is like this as well.
We have another baby on the way and I plan on doing things differently. It’s not that I plan on NOT doing any or all of these techniques to help my new baby. Maybe they will work for this next child or maybe they won’t. The change I will make will be a mental one; this time it won’t be a parenting method that I listen to. I will allow myself to calm down about the crying, pause and actually listen to what my new baby has to say.