In an effort to redefine ‘Strength’ in parenting

In an effort to redefine ‘Strength’ in parenting

Be warned that this post may make you feel uncomfortable. Writing it was actually very hard for me as it’s taken a long time for me to come to realise and recognise my own experience this way. I do not share it to laden you with guilt or to cast judgement on you or your family. I have written it because I feel it is important that I share some of the deep and dark ways society can and does influence us as parents. It’s important to start thinking and reflecting and it’s important that we can recognise some of the uglier choices we may have made or had thought we may make to help guide us in the future. If you feel something as a result of this post, do something with that feeling other than put a big wall up and shutdown. It’s okay to be fallible. It’s okay to feel let down. It’s okay to be perfectly imperfect. I have to tell myself this every day. So, if you aren’t feeling up to it, maybe give this a miss today but I sincerely hope you get around to reading it at one stage or another.  

Strength, when it comes to parenting, is too often defined by society as existing only when a parent is ‘strong’ enough to withstand their urge to go to and comfort or help their baby or child. It’s as though there is a certain level of physical and mental ‘toughness’ in being able to conjure up the strength to ignore your inbuilt instincts and desire to nurture and this has become a character attribute that is not only highly desirable but also something we as parents must all strive for.

I struggled with this with my first baby. If you haven’t already read my backstory, then you can get read it here. It will help you understand more about how I came to where I am today and my questioning of modern, mainstream parenting in general.

While I tried to navigate my way through the early weeks and months of life as a first time mum of a baby who seemed to have been sleep resistant, I was told on many occasions that when I was strong enough, I would need to sleep train him. This came from all sorts of people- loving family members, well- meaning friends, strangers, Child Health Nurses, a Paediatrician, my GP (‘you know he’s not normal don’t you? You HAVE to teach him how to sleep, this is ridiculous. You’ll have to be strong but he needs to learn.’) and that’s not to mention the parenting books, the online forums, Facebook … you get the picture.

I was also assured that when it was time or whenever anyone got wind of me making an attempt at some form of sleep training, I would be surrounded by support.

And that I was.

‘Good on you! You really all need more sleep, stay strong.’
‘It’s so tough, but stay strong, it’ll be worth it.’
‘Some babies are harder or more stubborn than others, stay strong and don’t give in. The key is persistence and consistency.’
‘Who are you going to let win here? That baby needs to learn when it’s sleep time you mean it.’
‘Turn down the monitor and make yourself a cuppa. You can do this.’
‘He’s one tough nut to crack but you have to stay strong.’
‘If it get too much, go for a walk outside and try to resist the urge to run in, you’ll only prolong the process. Stay strong.’

    All this and more came before, during and after sleep school.

    I was surrounded by words of support. Words of encouragement. Messages of strength, hope and solidarity. I fed off their words, off their unwavering belief in the process and I kept at it. And at it. And at it.

    But I ‘failed’. My baby ‘failed’. My husband ‘failed’.

    Initially, this was crushing. I mistook my inability to make this work as a weakness on my part or a weakness on my baby’s. I wasn’t strong enough and I couldn’t measure up.

    The sleepy ideal.

    I actually wrote a post on my online mother’s forum saying that I felt like my baby deserved a better mother, one who was strong enough to help him the way he needed to be helped.
    That tears me up still.
    I was in the grip of PND. I had plummeted hard and fast as my sleep training efforts ramped up and grew more intense and I hit rock bottom after yet another 2 hour battle trying to get my baby to soothe out of my arms failed. I cried and rocked in a ball wondering what was so wrong with me that I couldn’t make this all work. What on earth was I doing so wrong and what on earth could I do now?

    Thankfully, I spoke up and sought help.
    I began my long road to recovery.
    I picked my broken self up and started to put me back together piece by piece.
    It’s been a long road and the realisations from what happened and the learning from that time still take me by surprise at times. It’s been more than two years since I came out of my fog and still, today was the day I fully realised that although the words ‘strong’, ‘strength’, ‘fight’ and ‘battle’ were all the rallying cries I frequently heard while sleep training, they didn’t reflect what was actually going on.

    I wasn’t strong at that time, I was in fact at my weakest and most vulnerable.

    It wasn’t a fight I needed to fight, I was a desperate first time mother desperately trying to get everything right for her baby.

    Me feeling sick to my stomach, head pounding, heart racing, desperately fighting against every nerve in my body screaming at me to pick up my baby and comfort him … that wasn’t me showing strength. I wasn’t conquering my emotions, I wasn’t cutting the apron strings, I wasn’t teaching my baby a lesson he would need for life. I was a lost and severely sleep deprived soul, clutching at what I thought HAD to be done.

    I was weak, vulnerable, desperate, scared and had placed my trust in those around me who so confidently said they knew better.

    I was not strong.

    Strength is exactly what I drew on and still draw upon today to mother my babies the way I do now- 
    To mother in a way that swims against the tide.
    To mother through instinct and to follow my baby’s lead.

    I have needed every ounce of strength I have to keep faith at times and as this is a long game not a short term fix, my strength is also my stamina.
    There is great strength in honouring a baby’s ever cry in a world that tells you not to.
    There is great strength in comforting a baby in arms or at my breast in a world that thinks these are bad habits.
    There is great strength in unquestioningly tending to a baby’s every night time need in a world that sets time limits and rules around when, why and for how long a baby should wake and need help in the night.
    There is great strength in simply trusting the natural progression of your baby’s sleep behaviour towards independence in a world who places arbitrary and unrealistic expectations on these behaviours and is quick to call them problematic.
    It has taken immense strength to make sure I am okay, too and to learn to ask for and accept the help I need to be able to keep mothering the way my babies need to be mothered.

    The overwhelming roar and battle cry issued by society as it rallies around new mothers to join the sleep training path is no less dangerous than the unchecked voices or actions of the cliquey, obnoxious groups in the school yard. The ridiculous expectations, the taunting, the encouraging to do something you are not comfortable with, the false promises, the rallying cries, the dire warnings of what to expect if you don’t do what you are told … all sound so familiar. 
    And then when you don’t meet their standards- it’s the pitying glances, the blame assigned, the ostracising and the judgement. I don’t know why, but this took me even more by surprise.

    There is not one single time I have been able to share my experience and point of view as a sleep training, sleep school failure without at least one pro sleep training advocate commenting on their own success or calling me judgemental, dangerous and asking me stop shaming mothers who needed to sleep train or other from the experience. Not once.

    When you think about it, we as a society are pretty screwed up if we can’t abide the thought that our completely dependent, voiceless and trusting babies may simply need more from us than we are taught to believe.

    How dare their needs at night ask more of us than we were prepared to give.

    A baby with intense needs by night deserves the respect and parenting they require.

    If that thought horrifies you or instantly makes you cry, ‘but what about me!?! What about my need for sleep?!?’ I ask you try and find the strength you need to take the time and effort required to work out what you need to do to get the quality rest and sleep you need while still meeting the night time needs of your baby.

    If you want to show real strength, meet your baby at their point of need while still meeting your own.

    That’s the definition of strength in parenting I wish for the future.


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    The true bad habits around baby sleep

    The true bad habits around baby sleep

    As a new mother, particularly if you are blessed with a wakeful little firecracker who is the anti sleepy ideal of a ‘good’ baby, you very quickly start hearing all about ‘bad habits’, ‘sleep crutches’ and ‘negative sleep associations’. The general gist of all of these ‘bad habits’ is that your baby is using you, you are spoiling them, you aren’t teaching them to sleep, you aren’t encouraging independence, you are creating a rod for your own back.  

    As a new mum, this has an extremely damaging effect on your confidence and belief that you can trust your instincts and your baby to tell you what you should and should not be doing to assist your baby to get the sleep they need. I know. I heard it all and more with my first and it took me down an extremely ugly path of sleep training, sleep school, sleep training ‘failure’ and PND.

    But it’s not always as hideous as it was for me, and unfortunately this is why this notion of ‘bad habits’ continues. Because sleep training ‘works’ and ‘saves’ so many, it has become the go to technique and method for our society. If you aren’t willing to sleep train, you are on the outer. If you aren’t willing to sleep train, then you better just suck it up because that wakeful child of yours is only that wakeful because you refuse to break their ‘bad habits’.

    Well I’d like to take the time today to call bullshit to this and highlight the TRUE bad habits we’ve gotten into when it comes to managing this very weary season in a mother’s life and the handling of our babies sleep.

    BAD HABIT #1 Assuming our baby should sleep in a manner that resembles our preferred way of sleeping as adults by night and in a way that allows us to be ‘productive’ by day as quickly as possible and certainly by 6 months of age. Babies are meant to sleep for short stints before rousing and nursing back to sleep by night. Sometimes, they will go through patches where they do sleep for longer stints before going through other patches of waking up even more frequently than they had previously. This cycle is normal for a normally developing human infant. Their sleep looks nothing like an adult’s sleep because an adult brain and body is not undergoing the incredibly rapid growth and change our babies experience in their first couple of years of life.

    Catnapping by day is normal even though it can seriously give you the shits. Wanting to be held or hang out on the boob for naps is also normal and is why babywearing has saved many a mother’s sanity. Short naps may impede a caregiver’s ability to get around to many of the things they need to do but they are not a sleep problem. Being inconvenient is different to being a problem. Catnapping babies may require an extra kip or two compared to a baby who enjoys long, luxurious naps of their own accord but this again, is inconvenient, not a sleep problem. I’ve now survived two babies who relished a good stint of catnapping at many points during their first year and it really helped me to recognise the important work I WAS getting done by spending so much time getting my baby’s the sleep they needed in the way that worked best for them. Integrity Calling has also written a fabulous article on all the very productive things you can do while CoNapping which may help you if you are in the thick of this right now.

    BAD HABIT #2 Failing to recognise and respect a baby’s biological need for comfort, closeness and frequent nursing throughout their first year and beyond. By insisting on a baby needing to learn to sleep away from their mother, out of her arms and most certainly not at her breast, we are effectively ripping our babies off on a huge amount of skin to skin contact and sensory stimulation. Our babies thrive both physically and emotionally through loving touch and closeness. You can literally never cuddle your baby too much or offer them too much comfort but you can absolutely offer them to little.

    BAD HABIT #3 Diagnosing and pathologising a baby’s normal sleep behaviour as a sleep problem due to lack of understanding for normal infant sleep behaviour. A baby waking and nursing frequently at night throughout the first year and beyond is normal. The actual frequency varies a huge amount as it does with all unique adult humans. What one baby needs and how they behaves has exactly bupkis to do with what their peers are doing. IF a baby is waking in an extreme fashion, then it is of high importance that any potential underlying issues that may be exacerbating their normal waking behaviour needs to be investigated. If after investigation, there is nothing at play, it perfectly acceptable to accept that this very wakeful baby has a more intense need for nighttime parenting than the majority of their peers and accept that they will become more relaxed and independent with sleep in time (as all babies and toddlers do if they are allowed to develop at their own pace).
    Upon finding acceptance, the family’s energy can then be focused on navigating their sleep needs outside of sleep training. Here’s an article to float some ideas. 

    BAD HABIT #4 Trying to force independence upon a baby with regards to sleep when they are developmentally incapable of such independence. Babies are physiologically unable to self settle from a place of distress. Sarah Ockwell Smith does as great job explaining this in her article here. Independence with sleep like independence in all other areas of life, blossoms from dependence without any force from a parent. By supporting and honouring a baby who is dependent on their caregiver for every single one of their needs, a baby is growing deep, trusting emotional roots on which they can grow and branch from as they become more capable. Babyhood and childhood are not a race and just as we cannot rush or force a baby to roll, crawl or walk, we should not rush or force them to find sleep more independently until they are actually capable of such a feat.

    BAD HABIT #5 Accepting that crying is good or necessary for our babies to learn to ‘self settle’. See article above about the myth of self soothing and also some information from Tracy Cassells PHD of Evolutionary Parenting who explains what is actually happening while a baby cries and what is also happening when the crying is extinguished. A crying baby needs comfort- EVERY SINGLE TIME. Not sometimes, not when a timer or some baby whisperer or sleep expert says. When they cry, they are using their voice. They deserve to be heard. Not just once they’ve reached emotional hysteria but while they calmly and trustingly request your presence.

    BAD HABIT #6 Through sheer ignorance and sensationalist reporting and scaremongering, our society ignores that cosleeping and bedsharing can be done safely by MOST (not all) families and are the preferred manner in which normal night waking of a breastfed baby is managed in the majority of cultures around the world. Read more on the amazing research of Prof James McKenna and the concept of Breastsleeping and check out the safe bedsharing information provided by La Leche League’s Safe Sleep 7 and the Infant Sleep Information Source. The physical getting up and going to another room, the forcing yourself to stay awake to nurse, the ridiculous, arbitrary feeding schedules and resettling … all are bad habits western society has added to this warped view of what is ‘normal’ and it is exhausting mothers more than they ever needed to be exhausted. It’s physically torture and largely where the notion of ‘sleep problem’ stems. Once a mother has hit full blown sleep deprivation delirium… of course she thinks everything is wrong and of course she thinks her baby wakes too much, of course she can’t keep it up.

    BAD HABIT #7 Placing heavy importance on a mother’s need for uninterrupted sleep and advocating for methods that will help her achieve this even if they do not respect her baby’s night time need for parenting. I’m seeing this all the time. Mothers themselves, family members, professionals treating a mother’s mental health issues … so many times sleep training is seen as 100% necessary as this mother will only be okay, only make a recovery, only be able to function if she can get her sleep back to normal. Thing is, ‘normal’ with a baby or toddler in the house is meant to look very different to the normal of prechild. A solution that only works to solve the problem of a mother’s acute sleep deprivation but does not respect her baby’s biological sleep needs, is frankly not a solution at all. We should not be asking these mothers to make a decision such as this. SHE matters but so does her baby. She needs assistance to work out what needs to happen in her world to ensure she can get the quality (not quantity) of sleep she needs in a way that still allows her to mother her baby the way they need to be mothered.

    BAD HABIT #8 Placing the weight of responsibility heavily on the mother to bear the burden of sleep deprivation particularly if she is trying to navigate paid employment while managing this season in her life. Too often, mothers sleep train as they are back at work and simply cannot function on the broken sleep they managed while on maternity leave. This one has a few branches to look at- first- are we providing adequate maternity leave and flexible work arrangements for women who are living this weary season their lives? In most cases, no. What about arrangements for the father of the child? What is his role in parenting by night and day during this season? I have far more questions than answers here but as a society I fear we have long since stopped thinking on this accepted imbalance as the majority of weight when it comes to child care is borne by the mother.

    BAD HABIT #9 Lacking empathy and advocacy for our babies. As the voiceless, helpless, dependent, trusting souls in this story, they bear the brunt of the decisions and this skewed view of what their family should expect of them. Babies are often accused of being ‘manipulative’, ‘sooky’, ‘too demanding’, ‘whiny’, ‘needy’ and worse. Their very babyish nature seems to be misconstrued as having some kind of malice or ill intention built in which is such a heartbreaking reality in today’s world. At the ripe old age of 6 months, how dare a baby cry out for comfort, how dare they protest when placed in their cot, how dare they cling to your neck when you try to put them on the ground or hand them to another person, how dare they cry until they see you’ve come back and then immediately switch to a big warm smile to show you how relieved they are that you came back … how very manipulative and needy. It breaks my heart even trying to wrap my head around why this is so accepted. 

    BAD HABIT #10 Frowning on those who choose to parent in a way that society doesn’t recognise as ‘normal’. As a breastfeeding, bedsharing, babywearing family, we have been ridiculed and frowned upon many times. It is assumed that because I mother this way, I must be some ‘stinking hippy’ or ‘backwards’. I have been called a lactivist bitch, dangerous, a judgemental cow with a superiority complex and a sanctimummy. All for expressing my differing and somewhat scathing view on the entrenched parenting practices of our modern society. 

    Closed minds and closed hearts- now that will always be a bad habit worth speaking up on.

    And so, to close this somewhat depressing summary of the true BAD habits that deserve to be beaten when it comes to our treatment of our babies and their sleep, I urge anyone in the thick of it who is hearing all these voices telling them they are creating ‘bad habits’ with their precious baby, to stop for a moment and reflect on the place that these well meaning people have forged their view- a society and culture who would rather a baby cry than have a cuddle is so seriously warped, I’d go with your instinct on this one mama.

    Cuddle all the babies.

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    Sleep needs versus sleep wants

    Our society and our infants are at odds with each other when it comes to sleep.  Society has a very fixed and adult centred view on sleep ‘needs’ and this is commonly projected onto our infants and has created a mismatch between what we as parents view as sleep ‘needs’ versus sleep ‘wants’.

    We as adults are very quick to defend our sleep ‘needs’ and often put up an almighty battle to regain a sleep pattern that we would say we ‘need’ to be normal – long, uninterrupted sleep in a bed away from our baby.

    We ‘need’ this in order to function, to avoid or overcome PPD or PPA, to be able to be a good mother, to be able to return to our paid work, to have energy for our toddlers and other children, to be able to enjoy life.

    Not coincidentally, society has become all accepting of the belief and understanding that our preferred way of sleeping at night and our preferred way to be productive during the day are what is not only best for our infants and toddlers but also what we should expect.


    The rise of extinction methods such as Cry It Out and modified techniques that fit under the Controlled Crying banner was rampant during the era most mothers today were being mothered. Since then, there has been a push to achieve the same results but by being ‘more present’ and ‘softened’ approaches have grown more popular, even if in actual reality they are only softer by name or seem softer for the adults but are still arduous and traumatic for the child. Responsive settling or comfort settling are two such examples. Sleep training can and does vary greatly and the impact it has both in the immediate, short and long term on the child is heavily dependent on that individual child but the risks, well they are becoming more and more documented.

    Despite this, many mothers feel that sleep training is something she MUST do. This is even more true if she has a baby who is far from the sleepy ideal of a ‘good’ baby. She believes her baby needs to learn to sleep and in order to do that, they need to self settle and learn to sleep away from her in chunks that will see them develop and grow the way they should.

     

    It is a common misconception that a child needs a certain quota of sleep and in big, long chunks to grow and develop. Babies and toddlers DO need sleep and overall, they need quite a lot, BUT it has been shown many times over that there is no golden rule for how much sleep any one baby needs at any one time in their life. It is also normal for a human infant to sleep in short chunks, rouse and nurse before drifting back to sleep many times at night. During the day, a baby may sometimes have short naps versus sleeps and other times a nap may be extended with help through the cycle. This is NORMAL.

    As for self settling, this is perhaps the saddest misconception of all. It is physiological fact that babies and young toddlers are incapable of being taught to self soothe. If you’d like to read more on this, I highly recommend this article and if you are shouting, ‘but my baby CAN self soothe!’ then check this one out.

    It is also untrue that a baby needs to cry and that allowing them to cry is in any way ‘good’ for a baby either physically or mentally.

    A baby or toddler NEEDS a caregiver to help them to sleep through contact, nursing and soothing when they are tired (not when some random book dictates). Some babies take a hell of a lot of energy to soothe off to sleep and may fight and struggle, but they are not alone in this if you are fully supporting them in your arms. You should never be made to feel your baby would be better off crying out of your loving arms. Pick up your baby every time. They don’t just want you, they need you and your calm.

    A baby or toddler also NEEDS you within close proximity to sleep calmly and soundly. To begin with, only your chest may do (a carrier can help with this), then it may be right next to you in bed or in their side carred cot, or little mattress next to yours.

    Your baby and toddler NEEDS your help when they wake at night. It is normal for a human infant to wake and nurse frequently at night for the first 12 months AND BEYOND.


    Their body NEEDS to wake, refuel, feel comfort and connection, make sense of new learnings and feel any discomfort or worry is soothed.

    Some baby’s NEED for night time comfort is far more intense than others just as some baby’s are more intense by day. Their needs are just as legitimate as their less intense peers.

    There will be times where you will wonder what the hell has gone wrong, as a baby who had been sleeping relatively well will begin waking more and NEEDING more help at night.

    All of this is normal infant sleep behaviour.

    No, it looks nothing like the adult sleep we prefer.

    No, it’s not how most people describe infant sleep but in a society who sleep train most babies, there is little hope that mothers will be able to garner a genuine picture of what is normal and what to expect when most babies in her world have been trained to override their biological sleep pattern.

    Sadly, a baby seeking comfort to sleep is interpreted as something they want not a need.

    A baby past a certain age who is seeking to nurse, is said to want to nurse when really they need to nurse.

    A baby who sleeps best on or very near their caregiver is interpreted as wanting this contact but they truly need it.

    A baby asking for help in the night only wants assistance because they are accustomed to it, but nope, they legitimately need it.

    While these biologically normal behaviours are so quickly dismissed as wants, it is easy to see why sleep training seems like such a viable and necessary option to families.

    Loving mothers everywhere want to meet their baby’s needs but while society believes that what a baby needs is – solitary sleep, to learn to self settle, to stop nursing at night as quickly as possible and to become as independent at night as possible then we’ll continue on this skewed path.

    These beliefs go hand in hand with the belief that adults are only well rested if their sleep is long and uninterrupted.

    This is not true.

    This is a WANT not a need.

    Yes, we need sleep.

    No, we don’t need perfect, uninterrupted sleep to be okay.

    We can and should adjust our lives and habits to be able to meet the night time parenting needs of our babies and toddlers.

    Quality sleep is what parents should strive for. Forget the quantity.

    Instead of all the energy we pour into ‘fixing’ and overanalysing the sleep behaviour of our babies, let’s pour our effort in to working out what we can do maximise the quality of our broken sleep.

    What are we doing that could be exacerbating our weariness?

    What choices are we making that fight against this time in our lives?

    Maybe it’s staying up long after babies are in bed and losing sleep. Maybe it’s forcing yourself to keep getting up and staying awake to tend to your baby. Maybe it’s looking at screens in the night and waking right up. Maybe you have trouble winding back down. Maybe you are awake longer because you are trying hard to resettle when you could all be back to sleep if you simply nursed or cuddled. Maybe you are laying awake predicting the next wake up.

    There is so much to consider and no one answer.

    What is key here is recognising the true needs versus the wants in your unique situation.

    Babies are exhausting. Being sleep deprived is no joke but as a society we have it so skewed that we have this big wall up that serves to protect the societal view of what sleep should look like and overemphasises how important it is to attain this even while we are raising our very dependent, very trusting little humans who need us intensely both day and night.

    If you sit back and think, I sincerely hope we can shift this conversation and belief a little.

    How much sleep you want is vastly different to what you need to be okay.

    How you want to get that sleep will also be different to how you need to get it with a baby or toddler in the house.

    It’s of mutual benefit to the mother and child to think on this a little.

    The only way to change an entrenched view is to keep offering up the alternative.

    Please, take some time to review your own beliefs about your own sleep needs and that of your baby or toddlers.




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    The power of reaching out to stem the tide of sleep training

    You don’t have to do this.  
    You can stop anytime.
    Your baby will be okay.
    You will be okay.
    I know how tired you are, I’ve been that tired, too.
    I know how desperate you are, I’ve been that desperate, too.
    I know you adore your baby and only want the very best for them.
    You have to do what feels right for you and your family but I’m here if you want out.
    I’m here if you need an out.
    You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to or if it hurts your heart.
    I’m here. You aren’t in this alone.
    Again, this morning, I read a thread on a fabulous group I’m in, where a mother was in deep distress after reading a relay of posts and comments on a dear friend’s page as she sleep trained her baby. The baby had cried so hard he’d lost his voice. The mother was struggling but she had many rallying voices telling her to ‘stay strong’ and indicating her baby was manipulating her.

    The mother in my group was heartbroken but didn’t know what to say.

    She didn’t want to interfere. Didn’t want to seem like she was judging. She ended up hiding the post. She could bare no more.

    Many people on the page supported her on this.

    Best to leave it.

    Then there was the usual comments of ‘I don’t know how you could ever … I could never.’

    And then … some comments appeared about perhaps reaching out to this mama. Perhaps sending a PM or if she was nearby, catching up for a cuppa.

    Suggestions that maybe she was only doing it because she thought she had to, because the only voices she could hear supported sleep training.

    Perhaps she had never been told she didn’t have to do it.

    THIS is key.

    Sure, we all make our own choices based on what we feel is right for our family but we also make our mind up about what choices we have from the models of parenting around us.

    In a world so supportive of all things baby training, of course sleep training is normal.

    In a world that has so little knowledge of normal infant sleep patterns, a world with so little understanding of how to promote and support mothers to continue breastfeeding, in a world hell bent on getting mothers to ‘bounce back’ and resume work as soon as possible and make her baby as independent as she possibly can, it is little wonder that many families see sleep training as something you just end up doing. Something everyone has to do. Something their baby needs.

    But it’s not.

    Yes, it does ‘work’ for many but at what cost?

    For those, like me, who it didn’t work for, it can be an incredibly traumatic experience and in the end, my midwife was the one who gave me the ‘out’ I desperately needed.

    She was the one who said, ‘you know, you don’t actually have to do this, don’t you?’

    In all honesty, no, I didn’t know I didn’t have to.

    I needed her clear head. Her understanding. Her bravery to speak up for me.

    She called me back.

    She helped me see an option where I felt there was no option before.

    I didn’t need more rallying cries.

    I needed someone to reach out to me and tell me we would be okay without sleep training.

    So please, if you truly wish to see change in the way we manage this weary season in mother’s lives, don’t turn inward. You don’t necessarily need to engage publicly. You may not be well received every time.

    But, my goodness, if you can reach but one mother, and help her see her true choices … you’ve done more good then you ever would from staying silent.

    Reach out.

    Reach out with empathy, love and compassion.

    Reach out with an alternative.

    Simply knowing she’s not alone in this may be all that is needed.

    Empathy, love, compassion.

    Mothers and mothering matters.

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    Mothering Matters… why can’t we just own it?

    Mothering Matters… why can’t we just own it?

    What is with the fear that something we do as a parent may actually be important?!?

    Yet another one of these posts is doing the rounds trying to give us all a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card from the very real impact we make as parents and I just can’t stomach it anymore.

    This particular one went viral and I totally understand why and I actually tried very hard to just get on board and like the shit out of it but I can’t because it’s not true.

    The choices we make and the hand life deals us and our families DO matter and do have an effect and therefore should not be downplayed as mere ‘thoughts’ in our head that do not matter.

    Mothering matters.

    Anyone who had a less than ideal childhood, anyone who has dealt with a narcissist parent, anyone who has attachment issues and relationship problems stemming from their childhood would tell you, parents and how they treat their children DOES matter!

    Loving them IS enough IF that child actually feels the love and benefits from the loving, connected relationship with their parents.

    Loving unconditionally within your own heart and mind is one thing but true love without conditions only lives when it is felt by the one that you love.

    I feel so saddened that any mother who breastfed for 2.5 years, coslept and babywore any chance she got could feel that at the very young ages of 3 and 6, that her efforts have not manifested themselves in such a way that she feels what she did to mother her babies and young toddlers was worth it or even matters.

    Don’t get me wrong, the author of this status is in no way looking for my pity. She sounds very happy with her conclusion but it is this implication that upsets me because it seriously undermines the value of the efforts of mothers currently putting their heart and soul into their babies and wondering if it is all worth it and then they read this and suddenly think, ‘F#%^ it, none of the sacrifices I am making will ultimately benefit my child so why have I worked my arse of to maintain my breastfeeding relationship despite heavy social pressure to wean, why don’t I just throw my baby in its cot to CIO, it won’t effect my baby long term and screw having a 6 year old who still wakes. While I’m at it, that baby can also learn to sit quietly in the pram, babywearing isn’t helping them long term and screw trying to introduce a wide ranging healthy diet, they’ll end up eating like shit anyway. I also want my kids to behave so maybe I better get tougher now.’

    What a freaking cop out.

    I don’t make my parenting decisions for my baby or toddler based on how they will behave at 3 or 6 years of age. This is a long term game.

    I am fully aware and in agreement that MANY things about my children and who they will ultimately become will have NOTHING to do with my parenting. Absolutely. There is so much about my boys that is already evidence of this.

    BUT this does not absolve me as a parent from my own role to play.

    All these things that are downplayed here and in many similar posts are actually central to the way I choose to mother because they (through no mistake by nature) are what my baby and toddler NEED from me at this age and stage to feel unconditionally loved and cared for.

    IF I was unable to breastfeed, or safely cosleep, or babywear, or provide a wide range of healthy nutritious foods, I would do my utmost to acknowledge where the weak spot is and look into ways to meet these needs with the best alternatives I could find. My responsibility remains.

    Why, oh why, are we so freaking obsessed with avoiding any thought process that may result in guilt? Guilt is not something to be scared of and is not something we need to allow ourselves to be consumed with and is absolutely not something we should be so desperate to disguise and avoid that we go around looking for ways to go get around it.

    WE ARE ADULTS! Adulting is tough. Parenting is even tougher. You don’t get a get of jail free card from me. You don’t need one.

    Own your decisions, own the cards you’ve been dealt and do whatever you need to do to make sure those babies of yours needs are met and they feel every bit of unconditional love you feel in your heart.

    Mothering and mothers matters.

    Never underestimate the impact you are having. Your effort, time, love and patience are not in vain.

    Keep at it mamas 💙😘

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    Status

    To converse or to shutdown … parenting and the holiday season

    I’ve had an epiphany of late that seems so ridiculously obvious and so closely aligns with the way I try to parent and the way I try to lead my life that I can’t believe it is just occurring to me but I’m so pleased it has as the holiday season looms. The good old, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ along with the basic assumption that most (definitely not all, but most) people have good intentions are at the heart of it. 

    In parenting, I and many (maybe even the majority) of others have subscribed to the notion of ‘my babies, my way’, ‘you do you and I’ll do me’ attitude that while ultimately is the way we end up making our parenting decisions, it is also forming a barrier and disconnect between current mothers and parents and also with generations who have grown children and generations yet to embark on this journey.
    I can not in all good sense, hope to advocate and educate mothers of a gentler parenting path to take if I am never willing to listen, discuss and hear them out. We on the gentler side, often express frustration and upset at the blind support and encouragement of things like CIO or Controlled Crying and hate that gentler support is shutdown (I’m guilty of this recently) and yet, when people question how long we breastfeed for or the fact we won’t leave our baby cry itself to sleep, many of us shut the conversation down with a ‘you can shove your outdated advice’ or ‘my baby, my way’ kind of line. We are not willing to discuss these things and feel attacked. We withdraw to our likeminded tribe and lament the lack of support we have from those around us, but maybe, just maybe we are part of the problem.

    Maybe, just maybe, instead of shutting the conversation down, we should ask some questions and hear them out.

    How do you feel when someone genuinely listens to you? I know I feel valued and validated. EVEN if that person does not ultimately agree with me. They listened. They hopefully empathised. They hopefully didn’t cut me off or made me feel stupid or out of date or naïve.

    Listen to their tale, even if it hurts your heart and listen for the good intentions. The love. The poor advice they were given. The lack of support. Their reasoning.

    I truly believe that there is every chance you will find yourself empathising with them. Instead of seeing their alternative view or unsolicited advice as an attack, try to assume it comes from a very good place of genuine concern for you and your baby.

    Once you have done some listening and showed the gentle respect and understanding they deserve as a human THEN it is your turn. Don’t shutdown. Don’t hold back in educating and advocating for your family and your way of mothering. Connect with their experience and allow them to connect with yours.

    Take the time to make the conversation worthwhile. You may just find that the very people you were so sure wanted to sabotage or ridicule you actually just needed to know more to be able to understand and give you the support you need to mother the way you need to mother for your unique baby/ child.

    I know that there are some very toxic people out there but they have to be the minority. Let’s try to assume the very best of people and do unto them as we would have them do unto us.


    Let’s open up space to connect and respect the reciprocal nature of conversation. Listen with an open heart and mind and share with passion and compassion.

    Happy festive season to all 💙
    🎄
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