Cosleeping has been a big part of our lives since the Grasshopper was a baby, and it seems especially relevant to me now that Cricket has declared her intent to sleep on her own like a big girl. So let’s rewind time a bit and I will show you how we sidecarred a crib so that Cricket could sleep safely with us.
I’m sharing what worked for our family, but you may find something else works better for yours and that is okay. There are so many roads to wonderful parenting. If you do decide that cosleeping is right for you, please research carefully to ensure you are following the guidelines for safe cosleeping. This post is not a recommendation for one type of sleeping over the other and it is your responsibility to make sure that the choice you make is made with safety at the top of your mind.
After doing our research on the risks/benefits of cosleeping, we decided that sidecarring a crib was the right choice for our family. Sidecarring a crib simply means attaching a crib to the side of the bed. For us, this allowed me to sleep with Cricket without having her on the same sleeping surface as myself, which felt safer than having her on the bed with me.
We explored commercial cosleepers, and they all looked really nice, but they all seemed pretty small, and it felt like she would outgrow them quickly. In the end, we created our own cosleeper out of a cheap convertible crib that we purchased at a big box store, and it worked beautifully for us!
We assembled the crib as you would a toddler bed with one side off, but instead of placing the mattress on the lowest position as you would for a toddler, we placed it at the highest position.
The trouble is, we have a tall bed with a tall mattress, so it still wasn’t quite high enough.
Lucky me, a young person I know had recently gone to college and I remembered that she had purchased risers to help lift her bed up so she could store things underneath. With a set of risers and a thick layer of high density foam underthe crib mattress, we were able to get it to the right level.
To keep things from wobbling or falling over, we used industrial strength bungee cords to attach her crib to our bed. These had to be tight (and I mean TIGHT) so that the crib would be stable.
Still, we needed to bridge the gap between our mattress and hers. Because it was only a space of a few inches, I shifted her mattress over the gap and placed a second piece of high density foam behind her mattress to tightly fill the space left between her mattress and the crib frame.
It’s important to note that we made sure any gaps were either securely covered or tightly filled. Babies are wiley and it’s easy for them to wiggle and get their heads stuck in things. There’s a reason why crib slats are required to be no more than a certain distance apart, and it’s important to always keep an eye out for gaps.
This method of cosleeping was really helpful for us. Having Cricket in bed with us without actually being in the bed helped me sleep more and helped ease those frequent nighttime breastfeeding sessions.
Cricket and I have co-slept from the beginning, and I’ve heard it all.
“You’ll never get her out of your bed.”
“You have to teach her to self-soothe.”
“She’s never going to sleep on her own.”
Yes, Cricket is four. She sleeps in a double bed in her room, and I sleep with her. I’ve heard all of the co-sleeping criticisms multiple times. I’ve been told over and over that I’ve ruined her ability to sleep.
But here’s the thing. I didn’t. And I can say that, not with a defensive glare, but with a serene smile, because here’s the truth, the honest truth:
Sleep is a developmental milestone. When a child is ready to fall asleep on their own, they will.
Sure, the AP books all say this, but it’s hard to believe when what seems like the entire world tries to convince you that sleep training is a necessity.
But it’s not just the books that say they will sleep on their own when they are ready. I’ve seen it with my own eyes with both children.
I nursed both of my babies to sleep every single night from the time they were born. Then, one day, at around 18 months, nursing stopped helping them fall asleep. They still nursed before bed, but it didn’t put them to sleep. After a strange and confusing week, both of my girls learned to nurse, lay down beside Mama, and fall asleep. On their own. There was never a need to teach self-soothing, whatever that is supposed to mean. No need to “train” them to sleep. They were ready. They knew sleep time was a time of comfort and peace, so they were able to lay down knowing they were safe and comforted.
But wait, some folks might say. You’re still sleeping in bed with them! How’s that going to work out?
With the Grasshopper, I got Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I never got the chance to find out whether she would be able to learn to sleep on her own because the sickness took away my night time parenting abilities. With Cricket, though, we’ve been able to go at her pace, and while I sometimes doubted, my trust in her ability to know when she was ready has paid off.
A few weeks ago, we were in the car coming home from the grocery store (because all big conversations seem to happen in the car), and Cricket announced that she wanted to fall asleep like a big girl. It was completely out of the blue. We were listening to the Frozen soundtrack and she just piped up with, “Mama, I’m ready to go to sleep like a big girl now.”
And she was. She likes patterns, so we do a pattern. Every other night, I tuck her in, kiss her head, and say goodnight. And that’s it. No training. No tears. She just closes her eyes and goes to sleep. She knows that if she needs me, I will come to her immediately, so she feels safe trusting that Mama will be right there.
To all the tired mamas out there, keep the faith. Trust your kids. They will get there. It’s hard sometimes, I know. Cricket used to wake hourly in the night some times. But it’s not a forever thing. It will pass. Cuddle those babies. It’s what they need.
Way back in November 2011, I wrote a post called In Defense of Nail Biters. At the end of the article, I gave the following advice to parents whose kids bite their nails:
If you have a kid who bites his or her nails, please just leave them alone and let them grow out of it on their own. The more you push, the more they’ll bite. Please don’t feed the cycle.
I’m sorry to say that I have not been taking my own advice. Oh sure, I leave the Grasshopper alone about biting her nails, but there’s this other habit that she’s developed that I bug her about constantly. She has the habit of twisting and twisting her hair until it is tied in knots. We call this “making dreadlocks , and we constantly pester her to stop. When I brush her hair and I can tell it’s really tangled, I always ask, “Have you been making dreadlocks?” And she always hangs her head and says yes.
Thinking about it, though, how is “making dreadlocks” fundamentally different from nail biting?
Hard truth? It isn’t, and I’ve been shaming my kid about it, and that is not okay.
Man, that is so hard to write. Acknowledging that I have a problem, though, is an important step in making positive changes.
I need to get honest with myself. Why does the dreadlock making bother me so much?
It makes tangles that are hard to comb. She combs her own hair for the most part, and isn’t what what conditioner and detangler is for? It is her hair. If she is not bothered by it, I need to not be either.
It breaks her hair. I originally wrote that sentence as, “It breaks the hair.” I had to go back and rewrite it. It’s not the hair, it’s her hair. It belongs to her. Like fingernails, hair grows. I need to let this go.
It leaves her hair looking perpetually messy. She’s a little girl full of energy, bounciness, and excitement. Her hair will never be perfectly coiffed. Mine sure never was. I need to let her get on with more important things like swinging on swings and following ants.
And for some reason, and I have no idea why, it’s almost like I take the dredlock making as a personal attack. Like she’s doing it just to bug me especially. And that is completely irrational. There is some baggage deep inside that I can’t pinpoint that I am asking my five-year-old to carry. And that is not fair to her.
As an adult, it is up to me to set the tone of the relationship. I can make our relationship about pestering and nagging, or one of peace and attachment.
Right here, right now, I am choosing peace and attachment.
This is me, sitting down, taking stock of where we are in our family, and making the decision to take my own advice. I’m not going to bother the Grasshopper about her hair anymore. We’ve got better things to do.
It is amazing how completely different my two girls are. Their personalities, their likes and dislikes, and their habits.
Right now those differences are most apparent in the realm of sleep. The Grasshopper was such an easy sleeper. She had her moments. Like with all babies, sleep comes and goes. In retrospect, it was predictably cyclical, though.
We (and if you’re a new parent take notes) expect to see sleep regressions around the time of growth spurts and milestones. Four months and eight months are a very big deal. Milestones and growth spurts all converge during those times and sleep takes a hit. A big hit.
But it passes. I remember with the Grasshopper wondering if I was doing something wrong. I remember thinking, “Gosh, do I have to sleep train her?” I wondered if she just wasn’t able to sleep because I never taught her to do those things that my coworkers were talking about. I remember words like “self soothe,” “bad habits,” and others whirling around my brain.
Thank heavens for the Kellymom.com forums. They stay absolutely on message and make it very clear that you can no more “train” a baby to sleep than you can “train” a baby to walk and talk. Sleep, Kelly says, is a milestone that many kids don’t reach for several years.
Your baby will begin to comfort herself and to sleep for longer stretches at her own developmental pace. If your baby wants to nurse at night, it is because she DOES need this, whether it’s because she is hungry or because she wants to be close to mom. Sleeping through the night is a developmental milestone (like walking or toilet training) that your baby will reach when she is ready to. Trying to force baby to reach this before her time may result in other problems later on.
So I just plugged along through those mercifully short sleep regressions with the Grasshopper, and, just like Kelly promised, the constant waking passed.
Thank goodness I know that now. Cricket is really giving me a run for my money. Her 4 month sleep regression merged into a 6 month sleep regression and when we hit 8 months last week, all bets were off. We are deep into the 8 month sleep regression with no end in sight.
She’ll take an hour to nurse herself to sleep at night. She wakes hourly to nurse. This week we’ve added a new element to the mix. She’ll nurse to sleep starting around 8:30 PM, but then when she’s finally asleep and letting go and I’m thinking I can drop off to sleep too, those little eyes pop open, and now YAY! It’s happy baby fun time! She crawls all around, practices pulling up on the side of the crib we have Macgyvered to our bed, climbs over me to try to get to the exciting looking alarm clock, chews on my shoulders, sticks her fingers up my nose and in my ears, and just generally has a cheerful and noisy time.
This went on from 9:45 last night to 11. Finally, she went to sleep. And then woke up every hour afterwards to sit up and crawl in a circle and then nurse again. At 5:30 AM, she decided it was time to greet the morning. So up she got.
No point in going back to bed. I had work to get ready for. So up I got, too.
I fantasize about a 4 hour stretch of sleep. I can’t remember what that’s like.
Thank goodness for the Grasshopper. Thank goodness she taught me that this will pass and things will get easier. Thank goodness for cosleeping! Right now I can nurse her and then just roll over and fall back asleep. Imagine if I had to get my tired self up, haul my carcass down the hall, try unsuccessfully multiple times to put her down in the crib without waking her, haul my carcass back down the hall to my bedroom, and then try to fall asleep? Good lord! That sounds like a nightmare!
I didn’t talk much about it when the Grasshopper went through her wakeful cycles. I didn’t have the same kind of supportive community, and I wanted to avoid the inevitable, “Well, maybe it’s just time to let her cry. I let my kids cry and they turned out just fine.”
I’m more confident now, and I know from experience that this isn’t a forever thing. So now, when people ask, I’m open about it. I say, “We’re smack in the middle of the 8 month wakeful period. It’s really hard, but I know it will pass, and I know that she needs me right now.” Sometimes I follow with an, “I’m so glad we’re cosleeping. It makes things so much easier for all of us.”
At any rate, I am seriously sleep deprived now. I think I’m handling things pretty gracefully, but wow. I’m tired.
Which is probably why this post is so disjointed. Maybe tonight will be the night that she sleeps.
Last night, at the dinner table, my daughter and I had a conversation that left me feeling so sad inside. We were talking about expectations for the new baby, and, as I often do, I asked her, “What do babies eat again?”
The Grasshopper said, “Milk!”
“Milk from where?”
A bottle? This from the kid who, up until a few months ago was nursing herself? So I dug a little deeper. I said, “Honey, babies drink milk from their mommies’ nipples.” (This echoed the language she used to use when she would nurse.)
Her response broke my heart: “EEEEEEEEWWWWWWW!!!!!!! Are you crazy?”
What on earth is going on here? Did she forget our own nursing relationship so quickly? Doesn’t she remember cuddling with me on the couch and in bed? That was just a few months ago. What happened? Where on earth did she learn that nursing is something to go “EEW!” about? Where did I go wrong?
We talk a lot about nursing in our house. The Grasshopper loves animals, and we have a book called Animals Born Alive and Well that talks about mammals. Whenever we see different animals we take the time to talk about them:
Look! There’s a bunny! What kind of animal is that bunny? A mammal. That’s right! What makes mammals special? They have fur and they breathe air. That’s right. What do baby mammals eat? They drink their mommy’s milk.
And so forth.
Every day is a science lesson with her. When she plays with her toys, we talk about it:
What does the baby horse eat? I don’t know. Is it a mammal? Mommy’s milk!
I’ve worked hard to make sure that nursing is something that we talk about as being biologically normal. It’s what mammals do.
We also have a book about new babies called What Baby Needs to help prepare her for what to expect after the baby is born. It’s a Dr. Sears book, and it talks about new babies from an attachment parenting perspective. Many of the images in the book (babywearing, nursing, sidecar cosleeping, etc.) are ones that she will see when the baby is born. I particularly like that the book talks about nursing and shows the mom nursing the new baby while she cuddles the older child. She chooses this book every few weeks at bedtime, so the concepts are ones that she’s become pretty familiar with.
One sticking point with the communicating about nursing is with her dolls. She has a couple of dolls that came with bottles (don’t get me started on that!) and I haven’t gotten around to sneaking the bottles into the recycling bin. She always insists on feeding the dolls with a bottle instead of nursing them. I asked her why the other night and she said it was because she didn’t have any milk in her nipples. I suggested she use her imagination but didn’t push the issue. I’d rather nudge things along then push them. I did point out to her that I’ve never fed her or any other baby with a bottle (truth), though.
I suspect a lot of this is what she sees at school. There are a few babies at her daycare, but since the moms are away at work, she sees them eating from bottles. She’s never really been exposed to breastfeeding outside of her own experience with it.
Could this simply be a case of her not making the connection between her nursing only a few months ago and a newborn baby (or horse or pig or manatee) nursing? Could these be compartmentalized in her mind?
I certainly have plans and intentions for helping her to feel included in the care and feeding of the new baby:
I plan to get her a very nice baby doll as a “present from the baby” – one without a bottle
If she asks to try nursing again after the baby is born, I’m more than willing to let her try
Will this help build within her mind the concept of breastfeeding as normal? I certainly hope so. I also hope that giving her some options on different activities to encourage her to mimic what we do with the baby will help her to view breastfeeding as a natural part of life.
Are there other ways that I can talk to her about breastfeeding? How do you talk about breastfeeding with your children?
I am feeling like a horrible mother right now. I have no patience with the Grasshopper and it seems like all we do is butt heads. Over everything.
Let me start by stating unequivocally that we are a no-spank household. We try to be a no shouting household, too, but I’m pretty much failing at that.
Last night was awful. It was right before bath time. She’d spent the entire evening dragging her feet and not listening and just generally being difficult. Mr. Grasshopper was using the restroom which meant that the next 30 minutes were going to involve me trying to get her in and out of the tub and reaching across my enormous belly to try to get her clean while she danced in the middle of the shower instead of standing where I could actually reach her.
Right after I undressed her, she grabbed her comb and acted like she was going to put it in her butt. Her naked, sweaty, running around all day, filthy butt. I say, “Do NOT put the comb in your bootie.” And you know what she did? She grinned at me and scrubbed it really quickly a few times right in her butt crack. And you know what I did? I reached around and spanked her. And then I felt horrible. Like I said before, we are a no-spank household. And I was spanking out of anger, which isn’t spanking at all. That’s just hitting. I didn’t do it very hard, certainly not hard enough to actually hurt, but her look of utter betrayal just killed me.
I ended up apologizing and explaining that I was just so frustrated because she did something on purpose just because I told her not to, but that it wasn’t okay to hit. And we hugged. And we both cried. I explained to her that she has poopoo germs in her bootie and that when she put her comb in her bootie she got poopoo germs on her comb. I told her that poopoo germs can make her very sick and it’s important not to put her hands and things in her bootie and that when Mama tells her something it’s to keep her safe and that she must listen to Mama.
Then when it was time to comb her hair after her shower (which was spent dancing mostly out of reach just like I thought it would), I reminded her about the poopoo germs on her comb and asked her why they were there. “Umm… I don’t know.” “Think really hard.” “Because I put my comb in my bootie?” “Yep. And you know what? I’m about to comb your hair with those poopoo germs.” Cue the dramatics: “I don’t want poopoo germs in my hair! No Mama! I don’t want poopoo germs in my hair!” “Well, you should’ve listened when Mama told you not to put the comb in your bootie.” And I combed her hair.
Then my husband came out of the bathroom and told me I was being mean so I left.
Right now she is really drawing out the worst in me. It seems like all I do is yell at her all the time. I hate it. She’s just so darn contrary right now and my patience is so short from feeling crappy all day that I just snap at her constantly. The pregnancy hormones and just the pregnancy in general are making me cranky to a pretty strong degree. And then last night I smacked her bottom. I feel like a horrible mother.
I just feel so overwhelmed with everything right now. Thankfully I’m not nauseated 24/7, but there are some times that I just can’t get up off the couch. It’s like she can sense those times. She’s like a shark smelling blood in the water. This weekend I was feeling very ill and I asked her to wash her hands in the bathroom as the kitchen sink had dirty dishes and a knife or two in it. She grinned at me and washed her hands in the kitchen sink anyway.
Later, I asked her to pick up her toys and she crawled under the table and kicked the chairs for half an hour. Now, she knows I can’t pick her up and carry her. She knows I can’t bend over without getting sick. She knows this. Which is why she deliberately crawled under the table where I couldn’t pull her out. And it’s not like she was at much of a risk for me taking the toys away because I couldn’t bend over and get them anyway.
Here’s the thing: She’s normally a really easy-going kid. I mean, this is the kid who, aside from a brief run-around on the grass and a few potty breaks, sat through an entire UCLA graduation ceremony. She was better behaved than the very large group of adults that were sitting around us chatting at full volume the whole time. For a kid, that’s pretty impressive. For a 3-year-old, that’s just jaw-dropping.
But lately, she’s pushing her boundaries and I’m feeling really lost as to how to show her where the boundaries are. My temper is incredibly short, I’m not physically able to chase her or move her or put her somewhere, and I just feel like I’m failing at the whole motherhood thing.
A friend commented recently that while parenthood shows you these deep wells of love that you never knew you had, it also shows you these deep wells of anger. This is really ringing true for me right now.
I think recognizing that she’s testing her boundaries right now will really help me handle things better. So will finding a way to be more consistent with discipline. Right now she gets so many warnings to stop doing something that the whole thing becomes meaningless.
I think I need to find a way to reconnect with her. It seems like the days turn into wake-up, shower, help Mr. Grasshopper get her ready, work all day, come home, crash on the couch, watch Mr. Grasshopper shower her, read her a story, go to sleep. I really need to find some time in there for us to just connect together. Heck, I’m even getting cranky during story time!
Something’s got to give.
I know adding a second child into the mix will just fuel the chaos, but I can’t help thinking it will be so much better because at least I won’t be pregnant anymore.
Meantime, I need to go cuddle with my firstborn and try to reach some middle ground with her.
I’ve mostly been writing about myself and how I am dealing with this hyperemesis gravidarum pregnancy and all the joys that have gone along with it. I’d like to take a moment to talk some about how my daughter has been dealing with things.
The Grasshopper was one of the first people we told about the new baby. We wanted to let her know early what was going on so that we could help her deal with the hyperemesis gravidarum. Not knowing when it would hit, we wanted to give her a foundation of age appropriate knowledge so that she wouldn’t be blindsided by the brutal reality of the situation.
This story really seemed to help prepare her for what was happening. I was able to tell her that “Mommy is sick.” And she would immediately make the connection and say, “Like Mama Bunny?” Yeah, baby. Like Mama Bunny. Hyperemesis gravidarum was a term that she quickly learned to say, and because the book used to accurate medical term for the disease (as opposed to whitewashing over it), she was able to immediately grasp what was going on.
We experienced a lot of things that the Bunny family went through. The Grasshopper came to see me in the hospital which was very similar to the hospital illustration in the story. Grandma came to help out and spend time with her just like Grandma Bunny. And Mama had a black bag with a tube that gave her medicine just like Mama Bunny had. This really, really helped her process what she was experiencing.
Now, I won’t say it was all sunshine and roses for the Grasshopper. It was hard on her. She and I are very, very deeply bonded. We sleep together (at least for the first part of the evening), and up until very recently we still nursed. That is to say, our relationship is one of both physical and emotional closeness. I knew the hyperemesis gravidarum would render that kind of physical closeness difficult, but I didn’t realize how fast it would hit. One day I wasn’t feeling quite right and the next I was in the hospital. Having Mommy taken out completely like that was really hard for her.
For the most part, she seemed to handle things pretty well, but at daycare she became clingy with her teachers and sensitive with her friends. Things that normally wouldn’t make her cry resulted in full melt-downs. Thankfully, her loving teachers did not try to push her to “toughen up” or anything like that. They knew from talking to us what was going on, and they compensated for what she wasn’t getting at home, but giving her extra hugs and affection. Of course, they did not change their expectations for her behavior in the sense that they let her get away with acting out, but knowing what she was having to deal with allowed them to help nurture her through the toughest parts of the HG.
One thing that we never, ever did was tell her that the pregnancy or the baby was causing the hyperemesis gravidarum. She knew about the baby in my tummy. She knew I was sick. We were careful to avoid connecting the two.
Once the hyperemesis gravidarum eased, things became much easier for her. Just like in the story, the HG was “only for a while.” She’s back to her usual bubbly self, which is great. She’s helping us think of names for the baby. Right now, the baby’s name is Muggle-Wump after the monkey from Roald Dahl’s Enormous Crocodile.
We’re doing all we can to help her feel a sense of bonding and ownership with the baby now. We refer to the baby as Her Baby, and the Grasshopper has definitely internalized that. She’s quick to remind us just whose baby this is!
She seems pretty excited about the baby. She has a few friends at school who have new babies, one in particular is a baby girl who comes to visit often to pick up her older brother. I love that she is getting that exposure early on with J and his baby sister.
She does seem to worry a bit about not being “little” anymore. She reminds me a lot these days that she is little, and I always agree with her and re-assure her that she will be a kid for a long, long time and even when she’s a grown up lady she will always be Mommy’s little girl. No pushing responsibility that she’s not ready for.
We’ve started talking about her being an “older sister” instead of a “big sister,” an idea from the Dr. Sears book What Baby Needs, a book I like because it depicts attachment parenting (breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing, etc) in a simple way for older siblings to see ahead of time. She seems to prefer this terminology I suppose because it doesn’t seem to force any expectations on her.
At this point, she seems pretty enthused about Her new baby. We plan to continue to reinforce the idea of participation and ownership from her so that she doesn’t feel shunted to one side after the birth. The baby will be bringing the Grasshopper her very own baby doll so that she can do the things that she can do the same things that Mommy does if she wishes. I’ve got a child-sized Ergo baby carrier put away for her, and at some point in the next few months, I’ll take her to pick out fabric for a Grasshopper-sized wrap so that she can carry her doll in a wrap like Mommy does if she wants to. We’ll also have a step-stool in the baby’s room so that she can help with things like diaper changes if she wishes to.
I want to give her the opportunity to participate as much as possible. If she prefers to step back, that’s okay, too, but I want her to know that she is and always will be one of the four primary members of the family.
So just to sum up, here are some of the tips in brief for helping older siblings with HG and pregnancy (the last few are still a little hypothetical to us):
Prepare them early to know what to expect – Seriously, do get a copy of Mama has Hyperemesis Gravidarum. It’s wonderful.
Avoid letting on to them that the pregnancy (baby) is making Mama sick. You don’t want them to blame or feel angry at the baby.
Let alternate care providers know early on about HG so that they can help nurture your child through it as well. We lent her teachers copies of the Mama has HG book so that they could talk about the HG in a way that was consistent to how we were talking about it at home.
Give them age-appropriate ways to participate in helping Mommy out (making a cool wash-cloth, carrying over a glass of baking soda water to rinse the mouth after Mommy pukes, etc)
Help foster a sense of ownership for the new baby by calling the baby Her Baby or His Baby.
Give them a mental picture of what to expect once the baby is born through books, play, art, whatever speaks to your child the most.
Don’t push more responsibility onto the child than he or she is ready for: try calling them the “older” sibling instead of the “big” sibling.
Once the baby is born, help the older sibling feel included by finding ways for them to participate in the care of the child whether that be through diaper changes, imitation play, or other activities.
Have any of you had to help nurture a child through hyperemesis gravidarum or other very serious parental illness? How did you help them cope? What about dealing with becoming an older sibling? Any tips you can share on that front? Any favorite children’s books that helped with the adjustment? My mom and I are only both only children. All this sibling stuff in completely and totally hypothetical for me!
Welcome to the February Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Essentials
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared the parenting essentials that they could not live without. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I can’t imagine parenting without listening.
I’ll start with a confession: I’ve never been a very good listener. It’s something I struggle with. I’m very much a waiting-for-my-turn-to-talk kind of person.
When my daughter was first born, we struggled a lot. Nursing did not come easily to us. I didn’t listen to her signals. I don’t think I knew how. Instead I listened to well-meaning nurses and pamphlets. I fell into a lot of booby traps. Eventually, we managed to get through the worst of it, and nursing became easier. Time had solved many of our problems.
It was right around that time that I found out about Attachment Parenting. It seemed to fit with my instincts so I went with it. Intellectually, I understood the hallmarks of it. You know, that checklist that you see sometimes: breastfeeding, babywearing, cosleeping, etc. I got the laundry-list down, but I still hadn’t internalized the mindset. I still hadn’t learned to really listen. Attachment parenting was something I did. It wasn’t something the Grasshopper and I did together. She was an easy baby. We managed to coast along for a while.
All that was about to change.
When she turned 8 months old, the Grasshopper hit an intense wakeful period. Suddenly, instead of cruising and just going with the easy flow, I felt like I had a problem. I went out and bought all the books on sleep that I could find that would (supposedly) mesh with our attachment parenting ideals. I won’t list them here. They didn’t help.
Instead of helping, those books placed me at odds with my daughter. I found myself mentally gearing up for battle each night. I was determined to make this work. And every night, despite all the “gentle” techniques that the books recommended, it just didn’t work. I wanted very much for her to be like the fantasy babies in the books, and every night that it didn’t quite work out, I felt bad about myself.
One night I gave up. I just gave in. I quit. I couldn’t hack it. I couldn’t do the stupid pull-off without her crying. I couldn’t set her down in her crib while she was still slightly awake without her getting upset. I couldn’t gently settle her by rubbing her tummy. I couldn’t do it.
I felt so bad. I felt like a failure.
It was a few nights later that I noticed a difference: Since I had “given up”, I didn’t feel upset and stressed anymore. Nights had become easier. That’s when I started looking back and trying to understand what had happened.
Our mainstream society teaches up that babies should fit into neat models. We see it all the time in the questions people ask us: “Is she sleeping through the night yet?” “How much does she eat?” And the one that really curls my toes: “Is she a good baby?”
Intellectually, I knew the traditional notions of how babies should be are false. Deep inside, I had still been struggling with it. I realized that I had been looking for control over the situation. I was trying to find a way to fit our daughter into our lives. I hadn’t been listening to what she had been telling me from the beginning.
Instead of control and sleep, what I ended up with were endless battles, stress, and the feeling that I must be doing something really wrong. Ultimately, it wasn’t until I just gave up, that things started changing.
I thought that in giving up I had lost. What had actually happened was that I let go of the need to shape her into our lives. More importantly, I stopped thinking about my relationship with my daughter as a battle to be won or lost. Most importantly, I started listening.
When I stopped focusing on getting her to sleep, I found myself focusing instead on her needs, listening to what she was trying to tell me in her tiny way. The mental conversation used to go a little something like this: “Oh, no, she woke up again! I have to get up to get ready for work at 5! I’m going to be so tired! I just want her to sleep! PLEASE STOP CRYING!” Now it was going a little more like this: “Wow, she’s really hungry. Let’s get you fed little one.”
In really listening to her needs instead of my own frustration, I found a deep sense of peace. The Grasshopper, I am sure, sensed that peace, too. Nights became easier. Our relationship became one based on love and respect instead of conflict.
Looking back, I’m not sure how I made it through those first few months without listening to her. How did we manage to figure out nursing when I was listening to someone telling me to dump the transitional milk I pumped because it wasn’t “real milk” yet? How did we survive that? I wonder what kind of a difference listening would have made in the beginning when we were struggling so much to nurse. Would I have been able to notice her hunger cues better? Would I have been able to help her latch more easily? I wonder what kind of a difference it will make with this new baby.
Now that she’s a very verbal three, I can’t imagine being able to parent without stopping first to listen to her. She’s still a pretty laid back kid, but even the most relaxed children have their moments. Stopping, taking a deep breath, listening to what she is trying to say, instead of that voice in my head telling me that she shouldn’t be acting a certain way, seems to head off a lot of conflict before it even starts. What kind of frustration would we be feeling with each other if I wasn’t listening to her?
With being pregnant now, listening to the Grasshopper is more important than ever. I want her to be able to welcome our new baby warmly, so I’m doing my best to listen to her and validate her feelings. Even ones that might be negative. Especially with the illness I am facing, how will I nurture her through it if I’m not listening to her? I think, with out relationship of trust and respect that we will get through it. It will be hard, but we can do it if I take the time to listen.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
Not Without Him — The love Starr at Taking Time shares with her husband is the foundation of her parenting.
I Cannot Imagine Parenting Without B(.)(.)bs — From an uneducated dreamer to a breastfeeding mother of a toddler, nursing has forever changed Kristy at Strings to Things’s relationship with her daughter and her outlook on life.
I just wanted to pop in quickly to share the article I found from the New York Times. The author details her experience travelling to Southeast Asia (lucky!) with their baby. She really nails it on describing how a baby draws you into a culture. While our experiences haven’t been quite as extreme as there’s, the similarity is there.
Since we have recently returned from a trip to Ecuador, I thought it would be fun to do a series on travelling with a baby. The Grasshopper has been travelling with us since she was six months old, and she’s an old pro at this point. I’m going to break this up into a 3 part series. Part 1 deals with how attachment parenting practices make travel easy. Part 2 (this one) deals with how we deal with the daily challenges of life away from home with a little one. Part 3 will be more of a me centered post on how emetophobia impacts my ability to travel.
Travel can really does throw your life into an uproar. It’s a pleasant uproar, but it’s still an uproar. Unfortunately, while uproar can make life interesting for adults, it can make it miserable for children. In this post, I’ll go through some of the ways we make it through the day when we’re travelling.
Days start early when we’re travelling. We try to get up and get breakfast and get out as quickly as possible. Mornings really are the prime time with a little one for sight-seeing. So out we go.
Getting Around. Except in the case of Japan, where we walked and used trains and buses, we always take our own carseat. We learned our lesson on that in Nicaragua. We had arranged to rent a carseat along with the car, but the carseat they presented us with was positively ancient. It had a bar across it instead of a lap-belt, and the padding had long ago gone flat. It was horrible. Since then, we always bring our own carseat if cars will be involved.
Seeing the Sights. Sightseeing with children can be really fun. Explaining things to children can help you see things in such a different light. Visiting the temples in Kyoto was so magical. We couldn’t just walk through and look passively. We stopped and explained more, explored more, and this brought a whole new dimension to the experience for us. It’s one thing to look at a statue of Buddha and something else entirely to explain it to a 2-year-old.
Sights were richer, more interesting, and definitely more interactive with a child along. A child doesn’t want to stand and look. A child wants to do, and the Grasshopper, in her desire to participate in the goings on, brings us along with her.
Mealtimes. When we travel, we really try to keep mealtimes at their normal time or as close as possible. We tend to follow the same pattern everywhere we go: breakfast, light snack, lunch, snack, dinner. Foods won’t be exactly like they are at home, but for us it works out. It’s pretty easy, wherever we are, to find something that resembles the food we eat at home. Chicken, meat, a soup, noodles, etc are all pretty universal foods. The meals aren’t as balanced as they are at home, but for a few days we’re willing to be flexible. Luckily she isn’t afraid of stronger flavors, but even if she was, simple foods can usually be found anywhere.
Trying new ways of eating can be fun, too. Sitting on the floor to eat at a low table is a blast for a child.
You know what else is fun? Learning to eat in weird ways with funny stick things.
She now insists on eating with “choppy-chops” whenever they are available, and she’s become quite adroit at managing them. Most of the food winds up in her mouth. Go her!
A Word on Snacks. Bring your own from home. There is nothing like raisins and a few whole wheat goldfish to help settle a cranky toddler in an unfamiliar environment. Sometimes local snacks really won’t do. They’re just not quite the same. In Japan, we experimented with my cousin who lives there to see what all she would eat, but she just didn’t like the same “kid food” that Japanese kids eat.
Potty Time. This can be a real challenge. If your child is still in diapers, bring enough to cover the entire trip. Although you will likely be able to find diapers locally, don’t count on local sources unless you’re travelling in the US. We got lucky in Nicaragua and found the right brand/size of diapers, but that was made easier because we were there visiting family. If your kiddo has a sensitive bottom, just bring your own.
When the Japan trip rolled around, the Grasshopper was already potty trained, so the challenge became finding a toilet that she could use when she had to go. Japan is an incredibly child-friendly country, and it is also full of clean public toilets. Almost everywhere we went we were able to find a toilet for her to use. Just ask. In our experience people are pretty willing to let a child use the toilet.
Naptime. After lunch, we usually try to do something a little quieter so she can relax and fall asleep. Take it from us, temple districts are not quiet. Gardens are a much better naptime sightseeing choice. We pop her into the carrier (now the stroller since she’s so big) and just stroll quietly. She’s usually tired enough from the activity of the morning that she drops off.
After nap, it’s business as usual. Time to find the next sight to see.
Bedtime. We try to maintain the same bedtime routine that we have at home. We’re a little more flexible on the timing depending on how tired she is from the day, but the routine stays the same. It’s safe. It’s familiar. Even if the sleeping arrangements are a little exotic. I bring some of our favorite books from home to read to her at bedtime, then we nurse, and struggle up together to go to sleep.
Yes, I know, this means we don’t get to go out and experience local nightlife. Meh. We’ve never really been much into that anyway. We’d rather visit cathedrals, temples, gardens, and other historical sights than go to bars. We can go to a bar in the US. So, when we’re travelling with the Grasshopper, we just adjust our sleep to her sleep. That way we’re all refreshed together.
Jet Lag. This can be a challenge for all of us. Mostly, we head south to Latin America where my husband family is from. This means the jet lag isn’t as big of a deal. In Ecuador, for example, they’re on Eastern Time. This just means we stay up a little later and sleep in a little longer. The only time it really was a problem was in Japan. When we visited Japan, we essentially had to reverse our sleep cycles, which honestly is easier than getting over the jet lag you get going to Europe. Don’t ask me why. It just is.
I will be honest and say that when we went to Japan, all three of us used Benadryl to help up reverse our sleep cycles. Drugging a child to sleep is never something I recommend, and we did so under her pediatricians advice and care. We explored with him several possibilities, and based on her own medical history and risks associated with other potential choices, this is what we opted for. If you ever do decide to go this route when travelling, please do consult your child’s physician. Benadryl, in some children, can have the opposite effect and cause them to become completely wired. I wouldn’t think that’s something you’d want to find out about in a foreign hotel at 3 AM local time.
Really, we’ve found that getting through the day can be pretty easy. A little planning ahead to coordinate active sights for morning and quiet sights for afternoon helps immensely, as does tweaking our adult sight-seeing habits slightly to fit in with the basic routine that she is accustomed to. I hope this information helps you to feel more confident that you can travel with a very young child. It’s wonderful.