I am 100% convinced that (most of) the things that we're doing to raise our son are the best we can do and what he needs. Depending on what things I'm talking about, some of the people in our lives are not as convinced. I suppose I'm referring more to peripheral people (acquaintances and coworkers mostly) rather than close friends and family who are all in general very supportive. The other day at the office I got looks of horror when I said that yes, my son is still sleeping our bed, and yes he is still waking to nurse every few hours (sometimes more frequently). Eyebrows went up, heads were shaken back and forth, "how old is he now???" was asked incredulously... and instead of doing what I know I'm supposed to do when people ask "is he sleeping any better now?" I got defensive and snippy with them and of course felt guilty immediately afterwards. I'm supposed to answer "Yes he sleeps just fine, thank you for asking." But I have always had a hard time lying to people (or simply omitting details for that matter). Here is how it actually went down:
Coworker comes in for evening shift: "You look tired! Is baby not sleeping better yet?"
Me: "I've got a cold so I'm really tired."
Coworker: "Oh so he's sleeping better now?"
Me: "Yes, he sleeps fine." Maybe I would have been able to leave it at that if this hadn't happened:
Another coworker who is also an at-work friend comes over and joins the conversation: "So he's sleeping through the night now?" she asks optimistically.
Me: "Well, no."
At-work friend: "So he doesn't sleep fine, if he's still waking up..."
Me: "Um..." not sure what to say, getting defensive and frustrated "He still sleeps in our bed, it's because he's still nursing!!" I almost yell, then walk away quickly and weirdly. I have NEVER in my life been good at navigating these kinds of situations. I am terrible with unexpected conflict (whether it be "healthy debate" or out and out fighting) and I'm not good at defending myself calmly and intelligently. I pretty much always feel stupid after an encounter like this because I know how I came across and it's not even REMOTELY the whole story.
I have come to a few conclusions recently about the whole extended breastfeeding, cosleeping (which isn't really the right term, technically we're "bedsharing" with our 20mo old), and nursing to sleep THING that we do. None of these are particularly new discoveries for many of you experienced parents out there, but it has been a long road of denial and finally acceptance for me.
1. When you do all 3 of these things with a child like mine, he is going to wake up a lot at night looking to nurse. Why not? Wouldn't you if you napped and cuddled within inches of the best restaurant in town and knew it was open 24 hours a day? My son wakes up for the optimal interaction with me, as Dr. Gordon says (whose ideas I like very much for the most part). For me it's a million times easier to roll over and nurse and go back to sleep, than it would be to get up, go to a different room, nurse him, put him back down into his bed, go back to my bed and try to fall asleep.
2. I am not at all comfortable with cry it out methodology, or any methodology at all that recommends very specific tasks like pick-up, put-down (what the dingy heck is that?); go in and say "Time for bed honey" and leave for X amount of time, come back and say something else, pat-pat, etc. etc. These things don't feel natural to me at all. I would have to print out the instructions and use a fricken timer!!! People have been parenting for millenia. Did they use stopwatches to "sleep-train" their children? And don't get me started on the whole concept of "sleep training." What a bunch of hooey. I've felt guilty about my aversion to this stuff for too long. I'm finally outgrowing the feeling that I have to do what everyone else says I should (no longer a new mom, now I'm a mom to a toddler!!! WOOHOO!) I like askmoxie's advice, either read ALL of the sleep training books or none at all.
3. People tell me I'm neurotic (or at least they say it behind my back) and yet... to me these methodologies and concerns about children sleeping in your bed forever and nursing until they're 10 are pretty neurotic. Isn't it a little paranoid to imply that a baby (he is still a baby even though he's walking) who is sleeping with his mommy and daddy in the family bed is still going to be doing that when he's 10??? That is over 8 years from now!!!! Or that he'll still be nursing at that point? They change soooo quickly, no one hesitates to point that out. Isn't it possible that my son will change those habits on his own when he's ready? And that it may happen before our "deadline" of his 3rd birthday? We are endlessly amazed by children when they seem to just do something on their own (like potty training for example). I've read and heard many parents say that "one day she just peed and pooped in the potty on her own and never had a problem after that. I didn't have to do anything really!!" I believe that most healthy, normal children have this "ability" to decide and act on a change when they are emotionally and physically ready to do so, not according to some arbitrary deadline, IF we allow them to do so and teach them to trust their instincts and bodies. In no way shape or form am I advocating for allowing our children to do dangerous things so they can learn on their own. That is not at all what I mean. I'm saying that we are allowing our son to develop and grow up according to his own inner timetable. BUT as he gets older, we are slowly setting more limits and boundaries on things like nursing because he is ready for that and it's time for mommy and daddy to start having lives again :)
I don't know if me writing this could actually help some parents out there but it might. Basically what it comes down to is trusting your instincts (with or without external advice). Even if this is your first child, you've never babysat, had any siblings, anything related to parenting, you are still the parent and you have inborn instincts that have been there since the beginning of humanity to help you. The other part is to trust your child's instincts. They are more in tune with them, they know what they need. They don't always know what they want, but somewhere inside them they do know what they need. And the more you can help them keep in touch with that, the better off you will all be.