Too often, parents who follow a gentler path when it comes to infant sleep are accused of being martyrs. Their experience with sleep deprivation and exhaustion is also often minimised as something they’ve brought on themselves and part and parcel of that good old rod they have created for their own back. Well I’d like to set the record straight.
I am not a martyr for being unwilling to sleep train my child.
I am also not the perfect mother who’s life is as glossy as a magazine.
I am not holier than thou or seamlessly floating through these days with two babies born just 20 months apart.
I am messy. I am real and all too often, I am pretty freaking knackered.
I don’t need to be held to any higher level of account than any other mother and excuse me for sharing my experience regardless of how different it may appear to the mainstream idea of how this time in life should be managed.
There is no ‘fine line’ between being there for my baby and sacrificing it all for the sake of attachment. This is bullshit.
My baby is a completely dependent, completely trusting human being who has ZERO capability to meet their own needs and relies 100% on me to make sure either I, or someone else who loves them responds to them.
I hold the power here.
I am not a slave to a tiny dictator. I have the power. I can choose to respond or not respond. I can answer my baby’s cries each and every time or no. I decide the whens, wheres, whys and hows. I hold the power.
All my baby has is their cry and their sweet precious smell and looks to fall back on. They are so incredibly powerless and vulnerable that it makes my heart ache.
My baby has also been born incredibly prematurely by animal standards and the need for closeness to their ‘safe place’ on my chest or their daddy’s is so raw and real.
Human babies grow an enormous amount in the first 1-2 years of life. Not just physically in length and girth but also in terms of movement, communication, brain connections, emotions and so much more. They also sprout a huge number of sharp teeth that cut through their soft gums causing great discomfort. The world is new. Every experience is mind blowing and through it all, their busy little minds are whirring away and at times making sleep incredibly hard to achieve and then maintain.
Sleep for our babies is nothing like sleep is for us as grown, mature adults and it’s not meant to be.
A baby waking and nursing frequently at night throughout the first year and beyond is behaving like a normal human infant. A baby needing help to find and maintain sleep is also behaving normally. Sleep is not something that can or should be taught to our babies. They know how to sleep even if they need a lot of help. They will find more independence with sleep naturally as they grow.
My belief in this process is strong though naturally at times, while I ride the waves of intensity with my growing and developing baby, I do doubt myself, my baby and the process. I believe that a large part of this doubt stems from lack of being able to get a good handle on what is normal by looking around me in society. Our society is so far removed from normal infant sleep that the ridiculous expectations and beliefs that follow make it extremely hard for mothers who follow their baby’s lead.
Being accused of being a martyr for being unwilling to train my baby who is behaving exactly as they should for a normally developing human is so incredibly unfair.
I will not train my baby because despite my exhaustion and despite the incredible pressure to conform, I am unwilling to compromise my baby’s legitimate needs for the sleepy ideal.
I would pick my weariness for the last 3 years always.
I am not a martyr though and instead, I have been forced to recognise my own needs in ways that do not compromise my baby’s need for night time parenting.
I make decisions that are not all about me but they definitely include me.
I matter but so does my completely dependent human.
So please, don’t think of me as a martyr.
I choose to mother this way because it feels right deep down in my core. I don’t do it for looks and I don’t do it as some kind of sick self flagellation. I believe my baby needs me and that my night time nurturing is worthwhile.
To the gentle mamas facing heavy questioning right now, hold strong. Your work right now matters. You haven’t brought this on yourself, you are simply following the needs of your unique human and there is beauty to be found through the weariness. Keep on nurturing mamas x
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