I never let my baby “cry it out”. I was the opposite. I was the extreme opposite. I knew what it felt like to be alone and cry. I knew how harsh life could be. I knew the tears that would be inevitable later in life due to unforeseen circumstances, and I did not want my infant to cry. She slept on my chest or my husband’s chest. She often slept in bed with me. If she was in her crib and she cried, I immediately went to her. I nursed her. I changed her. I rocked her. Some nights at 4 am I would be too tired to hold her and I would lay on the floor next to her crib just so she knew she wasn’t alone. I just lay there on the floor and would sing to her. She didn’t need to cry alone. She didn’t need to feel alone. During the day when I was doing laundry or cooking, she would be in a carrier on my chest or a carrier on my back. I nursed her until she was 3 years old. She weaned when she was ready. I comforted her, loved her, and I showed her that she didn’t need to “self-soothe” at 1-month-old because it was my job to soothe her. 1-month-old babies cannot self-soothe. They can cry themselves into exhaustion. They can learn no one will come. They aren’t meant to self-soothe. As they grow and become toddlers and teenagers we teach them to calm themselves. We teach them coping and calming ways. I chose to not let my infant cry, as best as I could. I chose to nurse her. I chose not to work. We chose to live below our means in a tiny home with one income. We didn’t go to dinner or movies or buy expensive things so that I could stay home. We were blessed with the ability to do that. It was what fit for us and our family. These were our opinions and our choices but I understand not everyone feels this way.
I had friends who did not nurse, who did not co-sleep. I had friends who wanted to go back to work and their children were in childcare. I had friends that were single moms, completely sleep deprived having to stay up all night and work all day. Some of my friends pumped milk and fed with bottles. I had friends who hired nannies. I was in a breastfeeding group of moms of all ages, race, socioeconomic status. We ALL supported each other. There was no judgment on how long each nursed or if they nursed. There was no judgment on who slept where and who worked and who didn’t. My was was not their way but they respected it. Their was was not my way but I respected their choice.
Many of my family members did not agree with how I parented…
I was going to “ruin” my daughter by allowing her to sleep with me. I as going to teach her she could never be independent by nursing her until she was 3 years old. I was doing EVERYTHING wrong. I heard this endlessly, incessantly. “Why can’t you just nurse her at night,” and ” She needs to learn how to sleep alone.” ” You are are doing her a disservice.” SHE’S AN INFANT!!! My parenting became everyone else’s business. Everyone felt they could weigh in on what I was doing wrong. Relatives came down hard. I have no idea why they felt so entitled to do so. Some felt I was being paranoid about how my daughter’s health. She just did not seem ok to me. Something intuitively felt wrong. Fortunately, I did not listen to them and I pursued different doctors until it was discovered my daughter had a birth defect and needed her kidney to be removed.
I have allowed my self to be bullied in the past but I never let their opinion change how I parented. I heard the ridicule but changed nothing.
My daughter was not ruined by our love.
When she turned 15 years old, she got her driver’s license ( in Florida, they can get their learners permit and have the ability to drive with another adult in the car.) I had been unable to drive for years. When she was ready, nothing stopped her. She learned how to assemble my motorized scooter, put it together(something many adults cannot do), put it in the car, and drove us everywhere. She drove me to my appointments, drove us to dinner, drove me to get labs done. When she turned 16 and could drive alone she was so independent. She drove her friends everywhere then, drove to school, went to the movies with friends, and was home by her curfew. She was self-assured. She was reliable. She was responsible. She even drove her father to the ER in the middle of the night and stayed awake all night then drove him home. This kid is phenomenal. She was given compassion and she gave compassion. She was shown love and she gave love. She was given security and then she became independent. She is 20 now and I could not be more proud of her.
Allowing my daughter to sleep in bed with me at 3 months old did not ruin her. Not letting her cry did NOT affect her as a teenager. She is not out robbing stores because breastfeeding her turned her into a criminal. Do you think when a criminal is in the back of a police car he says, “Yep, it was all that breastfeeding that made me into the criminal I am today!” No! But I was treated as if I was doing some sort of irreparable damage by nursing my daughter until she was 3. Heaven forbid me to nurse her in public, the scrutiny! I was not and will never be ashamed I chose to nurse my daughter. I am proud that I did. Some mothers choose not to and they don’t deserve to be scrutinized either.
We all parent differently. I chose to feed my daughter organic food. My friend chose to feed her kid bologna. WE ALL PARENT DIFFERENTLY. My friend, daughter, and I still laugh about the fact that my daughter is a vegetarian and has NEVER eaten pork EXCEPT for that one time my friend gave her a bologna sandwich not knowing any different. She had bologna at 3 years old. It isn’t the end of the world.
My blog is rooted in overcoming the shame of abuse. Shame comes in many forms though. I was shamed by other parents, other mothers, strangers, family, for my choices in parenting. Isn’t parenting hard enough? We shouldn’t have to defend why we choose to parent how we parent especially if our parenting comes from a place of unconditional love.
My way is not the only way or necessarily the best way. It just happened to be what I chose. It was the way my husband and I chose to raise our daughter.
So, for all you breastfeeders, I support you. For all you mommies who chose not to, I support you. For all you mommies who have to work full time and who want to work full time, I support you. For you stay at home moms, I support you. For all of you single parents, WOW. I applaud you. We should not shame other moms for making different choices than we do. We should build each other up. We should troubleshoot, encourage, hug, and pat on the back fellow moms. We all know what it feels like to be sleep deprived. We all know what it feels like to just need more than 2 hours of uninterrupted sleep but know we aren’t going to get it. We are all fried and trying to do the best we can. We just need someone to say, “WOW, you are doing an awesome job!” We don’t need other people to beat us up. We beat OURSELVES up!!! We think, “I know I could have done more, better, somehow.” I always try to do better.
If you are a parent, mom or dad, and you are loving your child to the best of your ability, and ensuring that your child feels loved, knows that they matter, then we have far more similarities than differences.
I sat wtih my daughter at 4 months old after she had her kidney removed. I prayed. I cried. I waited for that moment I could hold her in my arms again, and when I did…it is a moment I will never forget. I saw the same moment with a friend of mine whose baby had cancer and was going through chemotherapy. We have different parenting ways. But we both sat there waiting to hold our baby with the same love and hope in our hearts. We had the same fears. We had the same moment when we held our child in our arms after we knew they were ok. Our differences did not matter. Our love for our children mattered. Lets bond over the love we share and not shame for our differences.