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Monday, November 26, 2012

rolling over, and just when I needed it

Guess who decided to roll over today?

Yes, even though she's been sitting unsupported for almost a month already, Nell hadn't rolled over until this morning

In a strange way, it came at a perfect time.  It's not that I wanted or needed Nell to roll over by a certain age, but as it happened, over the past few days I had been questioning my ability to be a good mom, second-guessing my parenting intuitions, and wondering if I was making all the wrong choices.

There was her pediatrician telling me last week that I ought to have introduced solid foods by now.

{I haven't.}

There were the friends and acquaintances whose six-month-old is being 'sleep trained,' whose five-month-old is being left to 'cry it out,' whose two-month-old sleeps through the night in her crib already.

{Nell sleeps with us, we don't leave her to cry herself to sleep, and she most certainly does not sleep through the night.}

And don't even get me started on all the moms who seem to manage to keep perfectly tidy and well-decorated homes, all while their babies nap on predictable schedules and, of course, you guessed it -- sleep through the night.

I have a happy baby, and Nathan and I are happy, and we generally feel that what we're doing seems to be working for us.

Lest you think that I'm writing any of this from some perfect ivory tower, while I did say that I have a happy baby, I do not have a baby I plunk into a crib who yawns and promptly falls asleep.  I have a baby who is sometimes content, when swaddled, to fall asleep by herself for daytime naps.  A baby who sometimes needs to be nursed to sleep.  A baby who wakes anywhere from 2-5 times a night to nurse (usually twice) or just needing to be re-settled.  (To be honest, I don't keep track, and I usually can't remember in the morning how many times she woke up.  And I don't want to.  It's probably better for my sanity that I don't know.)  Today this baby has not napped all day unless I was with her.  She has a stuffy nose and has been crying all day, the poor little girl, and is currently refusing to sleep at 10:00 pm, after attempted bedtime at 7:00, fussing and crying, finally a brief success at 9:00, and oh...  just kidding, Mom!  Awake again by 9:45.

But like I said, happy baby and happy parents.  Things are overall good.

Still, there are those moments of self-doubt, you know?

And while I knew all along that Nell's 'delayed' rolling over was probably due to her general contentedness, or maybe even her being such a chubby baby, or maybe, as my sister pointed out, due to her big cloth-diapered bottom, I was glad she decided to start rolling today.  There was something about her rolling over that just made me feel like it's all going to be okay.  She rolled over on her own timetable, just as I knew she would.  Perhaps I am not the world's worst mother, after all.

I was glad it happened this morning, and that she and I were just hanging out at home, and that I was there to see her roll over for the first time.  I cheered, and flipped her back to her stomach, and she did it again.  And again.  And a fourth time!  

She was oh-so-pleased with herself about it each time.

Aside from the fact that Nell's rolling abilities have (quite irrationally, I know) helped me stop feeling like the most incompetent parent in the world, I've also been doing some reading when I could lately.  I'm all for intuitive-type parenting, but it's nice to have some facts to back up what you feel right about doing for your family.

Here are a few things I've read recently that I more or less liked.  I like some of these more than others, but all of them have something to say that I think is worth reading.

"Our babies believe that we will be there for them unconditionally, so when we refuse to parent them in the same way at night as we do in the daytime – answering their cries, cuddling when they are sad, feeding them when they are hungry – they become confused. I refuse to risk breaking that sacred bond of trust that is formed at birth."

This whole post is just great.  If parenting is of interest to you, and you're not necessarily doing the mainstream thing, you will appreciate this post.

2) Harvard study decries the 'Cry It Out' method: Children Need Touching and Attention, Harvard Researchers Say

"[Commons and Miller] say that American childrearing practices are influenced by fears that children will grow up dependent. But they say that parents are on the wrong track: physical contact and reassurance will make children more secure and better able to form adult relationships when they finally head out on their own."

"You can teach good sleep habits and associations, but you can't force your baby (or yourself) to sleep. You can train your baby not to call for you in the middle of the night, and that might mean you get more sleep, but that does not necessarily mean that your baby will be getting more sleep. He or she might just not bother trying to get your help."

4) A friend posted this on facebook: The Key to Whole Baby Nourishment, and this bit jumped out at me:

"For one thing, don’t we want to teach our children to associate close physical contact with emotional intimacy?"
I've been ruminating on that one lately.  Quite the impetus to put down whatever else I'm doing while I'm nursing and just connect with my baby.  Even something good, like a book, can wait for later sometimes.  And certainly checking my email on my iPhone can wait.  I'll give those chubby legs a gentle squeeze, or offer a finger to that little grasping hand instead.

I'm aware that this blog has been woefully neglected of late.

The blog isn't the only thing, either.  The house is a mess, for example, and I'm behind on my bookkeeping for my work.

You know that little 'Babies Don't Keep' poem?



  1. WoW! Would you believe I have been trying to put our four-month old down for over two hours and my husband got him down in under five minutes? I dont get more than an hour and a half of sleep at a time at night (i just have a ridiculous mind)and i also have a daughter that is nearly two who still wakes at least once a night. We co-sleep with the baby but our toddler is in a crib, within sight of our bed. Works for us. Some women have to cry-it-out for their babies to save their sanity. Really. But that doesnt work for us, but it's all about what is best for mom's mental health (or dad) and the baby's well-being. *sigh* Sorry you are down. So glad Nell is rolling!!

  2. Ok, I had a huge reply typed up on my phone and it wouldn't let me post and I lost it. Grrr But I wanted to reply to this so badly that here I am in front of the computer downstairs at 1:30 am.

    One piece of wisdom from my grandmother was how much she emphasized to me to ignore the charts and timetables and milestone markers. All babies are different and have their own unique timelines. Nell will roll over when she's ready. She'll let you know when she's ready to try solid foods, and that may not be anywhere near when my Edith is or when your next baby is ready. They're all so unique!

    That being said, when it comes to "sleep training," I was very very against it with Jefferson and I will be honest and say I was inwardly mentally judgmental of those who did do it. The Lord has humbled me with Edith and shown me that babies are indeed unique and different approaches are required. First, let me say that sleep training doesn't have to involve crying it out. Secondly, I've learned with Edith that crying is a necessary part of healthy emotional development. It isn't always a bad thing, but it makes us feel grossly uncomfortable as parents and it's easy to view it as all bad. Edith and Jefferson are like night and day. He has always been so calm and hardly ever cried. Our first few weeks with Edith I was just SURE I was doing something wrong because she was *always* crying. I cannot begin to tell you how convinced I was that I was messing up. It was taking us upwards of 5 hours to get her to sleep for even 45 minutes. Yes, 5 hours. Jon kept telling me that I needed to just lay her down and let her go for a few minutes and see what happened. After reading Weissbluth's book Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child I realized that for her what we thought was going to soothe her was probably stimulating her. She's very sensitive to stimulation of any kind so when I went in to nurse her or rock her or whatever in my attempt to quiet her down, I was really just prolonging things, making her overtired, and getting us trapped in a vicious cycle. One very late, tear-filled, exhausted 3 am moment I stumbled across Magda Gerber's concept of RIE parenting. One of her key points is that there's a difference between struggle and suffering. Struggle is a necessary and healthy part of development! If your child is playing and stuck in something, do you rescue her the minute she starts crying or do you give her a moment (and the respect for her intelligence) to let her figure it out herself? The key, she says, is to recognize the difference between struggle and suffering. If she's hurt and suffering, you intervene. If she's struggling, you let her know you are there and are cheering her on as she tries to figure out and learn. Struggle is a part of life - a valuable part of life.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Ruth Ann!

      God is teaching me not to be inwardly judgmental of other moms, and sometimes through painful means... so I definitely am not judging moms for finding whatever works for their babies! I've been thinking of writing a post about it, actually... maybe I will get to that soon! In any case, I hope this post didn't sound judgmental of moms who do use CIO or Controlled Crying, or any other similar methods. And certainly I don't have a problem with moms whose babies happily sleep in their own cribs! Our house is weirdly structured with the master bedroom on the ground floor and all the other bedrooms upstairs, so we knew from the beginning of my pregnancy that there was no way I'd traipse up and down the stairs multiple times a night for feedings, soothing baby, etc. without becoming utterly exhausted! So, having Nell in our room beside me works very well for us. And I have never heard of a parent using the cry it out method without truly meaning to do what is best for their family.

      I love that you mentioned crying as an important part of emotional development. I have come across this idea a lot lately and I think it's true. If I, as a 29-year-old woman, sometimes just need 'a good cry' (rarely, but sometimes!) why shouldn't I expect the same of my 6-month-old?

      I can relate to the over-stimulation you experienced with Edie, too. Sometimes rocking Nell, I can get her eyes to roll back in her head and her lids to close within minutes. But other times it does just seem to make things worse!

      And finally, I love that you mentioned Magda Gerber and RIE. Do you read Janet Lansbury's RIE blog? I too have found the difference between cries of struggling and cries of suffering a helpful thing to keep in mind and to listen for.

    2. Not judgmental at all! I just had to reply because this sleep thing has been such a topic in our house these days. We don't have anywhere else for Edith other than in our room and it's working for us this go round! I wasn't able to nurse Jefferson so it wasn't as much of an issue for him to be in his own room. I wouldn't want to traipse up and down the stairs either and Edith would have to be sleeping in the family room if she weren't in our room.

      Tonight was definitely a nursing/rocking makes it worse night so I kissed her and prayed with her and laid her down. I have to continually remind myself that it's selfish sometimes for me to rock her.

      YES! I have been enjoying Janet Lansbury's blog and some other sites on RIE. I need to head over to the library and see what I can find there.

  3. Grr lost part of my comment again when I had to split it and I'm too tired to recreate it all. I agreed to try Jon's approach of laying her down and giving her a few minutes of struggle before intervening. Amazingly, it's made a huge difference for us. Instead of 5 hours, it takes at most 10 minutes and 85% of nights it doesn't involve any crying. Yes, we still struggle some nights/naps but now I have a happy and well rested baby. It's shocking to me how much happier she is during the day. With Jefferson we never fussed over nap and sleep schedules because they just magically happened. With Edith, we watch her like a hawk for the most minute of drowsy signs and pop her into bed ASAP or she melts down. She sleeps next to my half of the bed (again different from Jefferson) and now when she wakes up in the middle of the night to nurse, I can lay her back down and she goes back to sleep without a PEEP. Before, Jon and I had to take shifts rocking and bouncing and "soothing" her to no avail.

    She doesn't sleep 12 hours straight like her brother did, and I don't expect that of her. She's doing just great in her own way! A certain lovely mother you know by the name of Mrs. Wells told me that she reminds herself she is giving her children the *gift* of rest. Sometimes that involves struggle. I see the fruits of that gift when she spends her days smiling instead of crying. I just said to my mom yesterday that I have struggled with this so much because it's not what we did with Jefferson. She looked at me and said, "You didn't have a second Jefferson. You had an Edith. She needs what she needs, not what he needed." I know that may sound simple and silly to you, but it was such a lightbulb moment for me.

    Anyway, I didn't mean to leave such a long comment. I just wanted to let you know, from a mother who has also been struggling with self-doubt, that you are doing GREAT! Keep trying and praying and listening to your mommy gut.

    "If there were only one way to raise godly children, God would have told us what it is. Since he hasn’t, Christian parents must work out this area of life, like all others, with prayer and trembling (cf. Phil. 2:12)." - Dr. Philip Ryken, Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia

    1. We watch Nell for the first yawn or eye rub, and try to act on it immediately before she gets over-tired. Of course then sometimes that leaves me confused if she's yawning ten minutes after waking - is she yawning as she's just recently been asleep, or yawning because she didn't sleep long enough and I should have tried to re-settle her instead of getting her up? This parenting thing can be confusing. :-/

      I love your mom's comment... sounds exactly like something my mom would say! And it's so true.

      We are fortunate that Nell is, in general, a great sleeper and a happy, contented baby. I just hope that I can facilitate her happiness and create an environment for her to be well-rested and feeling her best.

      Thanks for your great comments, Ruth Ann!

    2. LOL!! Edith did the yawn thing today only 40 minutes after her nap and I found myself standing in the kitchen wondering if I should put her back down or not. :-P

  4. Sarah, you're such a good mom. I am enjoying watching you parent Nell. Kiss her for me!

  5. My sister-in-law were just talking about this - the expectation people have that a baby will sleep through the night at a young age is often unrealistic. But it's taken me a long time to give up on hoping for that. :) Fortunately my pediatrician feels the same and said for her size and my fairly limited milk supply, she needs to eat more still. It's always nice to have affirmation...but at the same time, sometimes you have to do what you know your baby needs and you feel is right even if others think you're kind of foolish for it. (Btw, i did find Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Children very helpful, but that doesn't mean we follow it without taking into consideration our daughter's needs. I have no problem with letting her cry, because she goes to sleep after a decently short interval and isn't usually screaming, and I know when she's ready to sleep. But i also spend a lot of time putting her pacifier back in, because it soothes her to sleep, and after all I AM home to take care of her. But there are plenty of times I've wrongly second-guessed myself because other people are doing things differently. I think what it comes down to is that I shouldn't judge other parents - except for any kind of actual abuse, of course! - and if they judge me, I need to ignore them. Even if easier said than done.) Anyway, sorry, I'm getting kind of rambly - what I really want to say is, this post was very encouraging to me as an often-self-doubting-mom, as so many of yours are. :) There ARE times I make mistakes as a mom and feel terrible about it, but really things are going well and not only does God give me grace, so does my husband and my daughter. So there's a lot to be thankful for!

    1. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Children and The No-Cry Sleep Solution are both on my want-to-read list! I should really get on that...

      Thanks for your comment, and thanks for reading.

  6. It sounds like you're doing a great job! =)

    I think things like sleep-training and solids-before-teeth can be really helpful in a lot of situations. And if those things are helpful to keep the whole family functioning well, then as long as you're careful about it, that's great.

    But those are solutions for specific situations, not ends in themselves.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. I agree, those things can certainly be helpful.

      I'm delaying solids for Nell primarily because I've read that in cases with a family history of food allergies, it can be helpful to delay them a bit so baby's digestive system gets a little more time to mature. But she also hasn't displayed signs of interest in food (unlike water ... she loves trying to drink water whenever I'm having some!)

      Those I know that have done 'sleep-training' have done it so that Mom could be present, cheerful, well-rested, and a good mother to her children during the day. Seems like a good motive to me!

    2. That seems wise. Just from a natural law perspective, I'm hesitant about giving a baby any food before God has equipped her to eat it on her own. Plus, it makes my life a whole lot easier just to wait until they're ready for finger foods!

      On the other hand, if I had a ravenous baby who just wasn't satisfied with milk alone, of course I'd introduce solids.

      Somehow the timetable for when which it's typically safe to introduce solids has turned into a timetable for when it's obligatory... and that's silly and unfortunate.

    3. Totally agree. We're watching for signs like teeth, and developing a pincer grasp, etc.

      The timetable you mention has also been moved up significantly in recent years, it seems. From six to seven months as a good time to think about introducing solids, to it's ok to start as early as four months, to it's normal to start at four months. Thus Nell's doctor being surprised I hadn't started her months ago at her six month appointment. Sigh.

  7. I say every baby is different. As far as eating goes, Emma didn't have solids until 9 months, and then it was just frozen peas, she didn't really eat much of anything until 15 months, and she seems to be happy and healthy now at 4 1/2. On the other hand, Jack was happy to start eating anything and everything at 9 months. We also co-sleep, and I say to each his own. I am pretty sure (although I think some people question this) that when my kids are teenagers they will neither a. still be nursing, or b. still be co-sleeping :-) Follow your instincts, you are the mama after all!

    1. I find that co-sleeping is working very well for us; I am so much better rested than I would be if I had to get up and go into Nell's room (which is just for diaper changes and play time, and tummy time in her crib, and looking at her mobile, etc at this point) throughout the night.

      But I'm already starting to wonder about how we'll manage transitioning from co-sleeping to having Nell in her own crib. I know there are families that don't make that transition until the baby/toddler/child is ready and wants to, and there are also families who facilitate that transition in a parent-guided fashion. I'm just hoping whatever we do works out smoothly for us when the time comes.

    2. For what it's worth, when it comes time to make that transition, Andrew sleeps in the new room with the little one for a while. That way baby gets used to sleeping through the night without any snacks before she has to sleep alone.

      It's a bit lonely for me, but otherwise painless.

      Your mileage may vary. =)

  8. Sleepless in America is another great book - I wish I had read it earlier in my parenting journey. And, just for some perspective, I highly recommend Bringing Up Bebe, first because it is hysterical, and second because I think we American moms are so obsessed with our kids these days (and I am one of them) that is helpful and healthy to see how perfectly fine kids can turn out under different parenting methods. I'd add my two cents on "sleep training" but I think it's all already been said. My kids are 5 and 2 now and fantastic sleepers, but they weren't always. I never really set out to "sleep train" them but a little gentle, loving guidance can go along way - as it does in all areas of parenting! But, no matter what you do, she'll get there eventually, just like with the rolling over :) There, see, I couldn't help myself and gave my two cents anyway! Love your post!

  9. In some recent reading about the whole sleeping thing I found a statistic that said that 70% of families with children under the age of 5 have sleep disturbances from one issue or another - either night waking, bed wetting, bad dreams/night terrors, etc. My take away was that no matter what the approach a family takes, it still isn't going to guarantee that the parents get to sleep through the night! I currently have a 14 month old who still wakes at midnight, 3 and 5ish. Am I tired of it? YES!!! But still, I hesitate to try to do baby boot camp with the poor kid - in part because I don't want to wake the rest of the household, and in part because I just can't bring myself to do it. As it is, he nurses a bit, I put him back in the crib, and we both fall back asleep. I find if I have him in bed with me, he wakes more often - I guess because I am so convenient!

    As for transitioning to a separate bed, I found that at about 7 or 8 months I could nurse him a bit, then put him in the crib and he would generally either fall right asleep or fuss just a little and then sleep. This time frame also worked well for my 2nd, but we didn't do it until about 14 months or so with our 3rd (we were still living with Gary and Susan before then and didn't have a place to put a crib!) We never tried with our first, but perhaps it would have worked... that's the thing with all this sleep stuff. It isn't like you can really do a controlled experiment!

    Right now my 14 month old is transitioning to an afternoon nap, which makes him not so interested in going to bed. Right now he'd really like to nurse at about 8, then flop on the bed, cuddling and blowing raspberries on my stomach for about 30 to 45 minutes when he finally falls asleep. It is so cute and charming and he is so happy during this period... but yet I struggle with it at times because by the time he's asleep, I'm ready for bed too... which means there's a lot of stuff (like posting pictures, answering emails, making sure I'm set for tomorrow, knitting/crocheting, spending time with my husband without kiddos around) that just isn't happening.

    As far as the food stuff goes - I think delaying is a great idea. I see absolutely no reason to rush it. It isn't like Nell is going to starve to death or you're going to miss some special window and she'll only want to nurse for the rest of her life!! I don't start until the baby starts getting interested, which has been anywhere from 7 months to 13 months. I don't feed all that much until they start wanting to feed themselves around 10 months or so.

    And I am not a fan of pediatricians and their recommendations. I find doctors are very useful in acute situations but generally an expensive nuisance (and busybodies too!) otherwise. They seem to get far too set in one particular way to do things and aren't willing to consider or allow for anything else. And they can be so patronizing if you don't kowtow and follow everything they have to say.

    You found some great quotes! I'm really enjoying reading what you have to say as you learn and try to be the best mother you possibly can to your darling little girl. And from my keyboard vantage point, I think you are doing wonderfully!