Last week, yet another media outlet tried to re-ignite the M-word Wars. (And grossed out a lot of people in the process.)
Here’s a unique idea, American media: instead of attempting to set women at each other’s throats, how about you get down and dirty with some real issues that challenge families? We parents, for the most part, are more concerned with the economy, jobs, family leave policies, and other options to help us raise our children and pay our bills. How about some provocative stories on that, huh?
I have the urge to go on the record here about what I did with my own children. And, ya know, it’s my space, so I’m going with it. As to why we did it that way: because it was right for our family at the time.
I breast fed both girls exclusively the first four or five months, and I pumped. I also supplemented with formula from about five months on. Both girls weaned themselves at 10 months.
Now when I talk about them weaning at 10 months, I am being told (by certain people) that the girls weren’t weaning themselves, they were going on a “nursing strike”. I first heard this term last year. My pediatricians never used this term; my midwives never used this term. So when the girls seemed to find my nipples more amusing (seriously, Kate used to play with them) than appetizing, I buttoned up, gave them formula a couple times a day for a couple of months, and then transitioned them onto soy drink or cow’s milk once they were a year old.
Michael is a different story. I breast fed and pumped for a little over two months. He had a terrible latch — not painful, but lazy. I used to have to squeeze my breast while he was feeding. So after struggling with his latch and pumping several times a day, I made the switch to formula.
We slept with Flora in our bed for two months. We slept with Kate in our bed for four months. We slept with Michael in our bed for about five months.
Flora got the shortest time because Flora was a noisy baby. Honestly: she squeaked and chirped and mewed, and kept me up all hours. (I am a notoriously light sleeper.) Our nickname for her was uccellina, Italian for “little bird.” With her in the crib, I actually got consecutive hours of sleep in between bf’ing sessions.
Kate and Michael were both quiet infants, so they got to hang out with us longer. Plus, as M went on formula early, he actually slept the most consecutive hours as an infant. But, ultimately, Dan and I went for marriage bed over family bed.
Although, make no mistake, we “co-slept” again when the girls were about 3 years old. They each went through a phase where they had bad dreams, and came into our room. It was far easier to let them come into bed than get up and escort them back to theirs. At this point, they are both sleeping in their own beds *knock on wood*. I expect that Michael will go through a similar phase when he is 3. Maybe we’ll have a king-size bed by then!
CIO, also known as sleep training, is nothing that Dan and I needed to do with our kids. Between 8 and 10 months, I started putting our babies down at night when they were drowsy, but still awake. Flora “protested” the most, with a few minutes of crying. But it wasn’t screaming, sobbing, heart-break crying. It was more of an inquisitive “wah? wah?” And then she fell asleep. Neither Kate nor Michael cried much, if at all.
Same thing when (if) my babies woke up at night. If they escalated their cries, I went into them to see what, if anything, I could do (nursing, medicine, a bottle). Through teething and ear infections, I learned what real distress sounded like as opposed to, “Hey, I’m kind of awake, and I’m not really happy about it, and I’m going to fuss a bit, but if no one comes to get me, I’m going back to sleep”.
I never dealt with screaming, red-faced infants who clung to my hair as I was putting them to sleep on their own. We were really blessed to not *have had* to sleep train, IMO.
I have been a work-at-home mom; I freelanced when Flora was a baby. I have been a stay-at-home mom (for about a year after Kate was born). And I have been a full-time work-outside-the-home mom.
It was easier to be a WOHM when Flora was my only baby, and right before I was pregnant with and had Kate. With three children, it’s really hard. Evenings are killing me slowly. If Dan’s work situation were different, and we were both home in the evenings, I think it would be better. But it’s not, and we’re not.
I don’t like it, but we haven’t figured out a way around it yet. If I were making my own life up, I would work part-time out of the home. Dan and I are working hard to help me do that.
Dan and I did put our children on a less aggressive schedule of vaccinations when they were infants. Yes, it meant more doctors visits, but it gave my husband peace of mind. At the time Flora was born (and Kate, too) he saw so many autistic and developmentally delayed kids, and at the time, vaccinations were still suspect. We know differently now, and he’s had some looong conversations with our kids’ pediatricians that helped. Ultimately, unless your child has a rare, RARE condition that makes him or her ineligible to receive vaccinations, you should vaccinate. If it helps YOU to put the child on a less aggressive schedule, your pediatrician should work with you. But not vaccinating at all just isn’t right. (Okay, totally judging here. Not sorry. This is a parenting decision that impacts people outside of the family.)
I don’t spank; I use timeouts and bribes (let’s face it, “taking away privileges” is just another way of saying “bribing”). Dan spanks — not often, because in general our kids are good, but he does. It’s about the only place we are not on the same page as far as discipline and parenting.
I think what makes telling others about our parenting choices so difficult is our own insecurity. I fought the urge to justify to you, dear reader, *why* I switched to formula with Michael instead of struggling on. Not because I don’t respect other people’s opinion, but because I won’t tolerate judgement.
I am doing what I need to do for our family. Dan and I are facing the fact that something needs to change about my work situation, but we don’t have a comfortable enough financial situation that I could just up and leave my full-time job. Plus, I *like* working outside the home. The months I was a SAHM with Flora and Kate were not good for me, mentally or emotionally. And if mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy.
Short of outright abuse or aggressive neglect, and smoking around one’s children (I will tell you I cannot stand seeing that, e.g. a parent with a baby in a stroller and a lit cigarette), I really think parents are doing their best. Let’s just cut each other some slack, and maybe focus on a different picture, one that will work to benefit everyone (and not just parents!).