It seems lately, I am hearing the ‘so we just have to suck it up?!?’ Or ‘so it’s just a matter of ‘wait it out’, there’s nothing I can do?’ queries more frequently and I think that maybe it’s because there is a misconception about the idea that ‘surrendering’ to your baby’s needs somehow means throwing your hands in the air and all is lost as you dig down deeper into the trenches of sleep deprivation and you just have to suck it up while you wait until your baby is 5, maybe 10 or at least before they head off to University.
It seems to be attached to a feeling of helplessness.
My own experience of surrender did involve a momentary stop and take stock element where I worked out what the hell my baby actually did need from me and it did at times feel like I was up to my nostrils in mud trying to keep my head down in the trenches as I pulled my weary body through yet another shitty patch of 20-40min sleep hell.
But as I’ve made it much further through my journey, I can now see that surrender is far from static.
Surrender is malleable and responsive, although it is a particularly slow moving beast who moves in an unpredictable pattern governed by your unique baby and your unique family.
Surrender is all about not fighting or swimming against the tide. It’s about finding comfort and a higher level of trust in the natural current and going with the flow, even when you hit some heavy rapids and you feel completely washed out.
If you have just found your surrender and have just accepted that this is where your baby is at right now and they need you every bit as intensely as they do right now. You are accepting the here and now. This is not forever.
As you follow your baby’s lead, you will find gradual changes will naturally occur or windows of opportunity will open up where you can gently encourage minor adjustments to keep things ticking along for you all.
- The baby who only sleeps on your chest, will one day allow you to put them down or lay next to you instead of on you.
- The baby who never sleeps more than 20 minutes in their cot but then has 2 hours on your chest after being picked up, will one day bust out a 1.5hour sleep in their cot or on your bed as you roll away like a stealth ninja.
- The baby who has only ever slept while there is a boob in their mouth may be gently night weaned once they reach an age where they understand what is going on.
- The baby who has needed to be rocked to sleep, may one day accept rocking in the rocking chair, then simply sitting and cuddling and then one day, they may be happy just to hold your hand as they drift off to sleep.
- The baby who only sleeps during the day while snuggled up tight in a carrier, will one day transfer.
These are but a few examples of what I mean. There is nothing to fear in surrendering to the here and now. Nothing in surrender will be set in stone.
It is also a perfectly normal part of the mother-baby relationship that at times, you will feel at odds. Your baby will need more from you in a way you wish they didn’t. Sometimes, it is all we can do to accept this mismatch, but at other times, we CAN make changes to regain the balance in both the mother and baby’s favour.
I have two examples of this-
1. I chose to night wean my 15 month old as I was 5 months pregnant and had severe breastfeeding aversion and he was wanting to nurse hourly around the clock. The nursing was making me feel physically ill and my skin crawled. My toes would curl, my teeth clench and my hands bunched into fists. I had to fight against the urge to throw him off me, each and every time he nursed. It was KILLING my relationship with him. He needed my comfort. I respected that. I did not deny he needed me. I simply could not keep meeting those needs through nursing anymore. It was an undeniably hard time for him but he was cuddled, sung to, reassured and continued to sleep with us in our bed. He was not alone through this change. I still met his needs for comfort and reassurance as he continued to wake at least every couple of hours, but no longer through breastfeeding. Our relationship was restored and was as strong as ever.
2. By the time my guy was 2, he was horrible to have in our bed. He was restless and extremely rough in his sleep. Hitting, kicking, thumping. Things really came to a head when my husband copped a heel to the privates more than once in the night and he told me he couldn’t do it anymore and went to the spare room. When we talked it over, we both agreed that he wasn’t yet ready to spend a full night in his room (he starts the night there but always migrates sometime around midnight), but we needed him out of the bed. We decided to buy him a lovely comfy single mattress and add it to our King size floor mattress. I made a bit of a fuss with him about picking a new quilt set for it and he and I practiced laying on it so he knew exactly where I was and how he could still reach out and touch me and hold my hand but he could also roll and thump and kick around with hurting anyone. It worked a treat.
My major tip with these kinds of changes is to be wary of making them unnecessarily if your child does not seem ready. Your baby is the best gauge of whether what you imagined should be the plan is in fact a good match or not. If they are ready, changes should be pretty uneventful- more a natural step forward than some momentous jump.
Never be afraid to take a step back if your baby seems stressed or you feel stressed. Both are reactions that deserve recognition.
Not being ready now, does not mean they won’t be ready ever.
Keep things in perspective. Our babies are biologically designed to grow more independent with sleep over the first few years of life … This process is not one where you look for development and growth every other day or even weeks. Look over months and years and you will see a beautiful progression.
Surrender to now, knowing that it is just for now. There is no long term with babies. You have not entered the twilight zone.
Surrender is a great way to allow you to take sleep out of sharp focus. When you stop zoning in on all the unhelpful details of your baby’s sleep, you open and free your mind to take in everything else that is going on in your baby’s world and indeed your own life.
So yes, surrender but don’t stagnate. Embrace the flow and trust the ride. You will make it out the other end. You really will.
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