Co-sleeping, cloth diapers, organic baby food and breastfeeding. All topics up for discussion for most people with babies. Or even people without babies. When I was pregnant, I had this idea in my head that I would never co-sleep (because it was so crazy-sounding, I mean, what if you roll over onto your baby?!), that I would cook and grind up my own baby food, with all organic fruits and vegetables and grass fed natural meats, that I would only use cloth diapers (because it was worth the extra few minutes each day to wash and help the environment), and that I would breastfeed for at least one year.
I only followed one of those.
Breastfeeding got easier after a few months and is now second nature. I don’t even use the pump, bottles or have formula in the house for ‘just in case’ emergencies. I guess I got lucky. No heating up bottles, no mixing formula, no spending money. Most of the time, I don’t enjoy it nor dislike it, I just don’t think about it. The baby’s hungry, I feed her. I will miss the bonding when she weans though. But there will be other ways to bond.
Of course, some are asking when I’m going to stop. My mother told me to continue breastfeeding up to a year then to switch her to cow’s milk, and to do so, I’d have to feed her less solids. My husband told me once the baby starts walking that I should stop, because it’d be ‘too weird’ if she walked up to me to get milk. After going to the pediatrician last week for a check-up, I noticed that my baby went from the 95th percentile in weight, down to the 65th, down to the 31st, and now down to the 18th percentile. Why? Because I was trying to feed her more milk than solid food. That was wrong. Breastfeeding does not mean feeding the baby more milk than solids. It meant I would continue breastfeeding as she eats more solids as she grows. And eventually they wean themselves. Eventually, I would nurse her from 6 times a day, to 4 times, to 2 times, 1 time, every other day, etc. It still means I’m breastfeeding when I will do this, no matter how much milk she gets. I really, really wish I had known that. For the past week I felt such guilt for being, well, stupid. I felt like I starved her for months. At least the pediatrician didn’t judge me. She told me the baby’s weight was fine and is probably going down because she’s crawling now. Still….
Also, I’m not going to abruptly stop nursing after one year because it’s ‘weird’ to nurse when they’re that old. Like I care what everyone thinks of me. But I would like to stop after she’s able to digest cow’s milk. So when she’s good and ready to wean herself, she will. And the more food and cow’s milk she gets, the less she’ll want to nurse. And that’s how it will end.
Cloth diapers. The solution to all our garbage problems. Unfortunately I’m not trying to save the planet anymore. I use cloth every now and then. But they are too bulky. My baby girl can barely sit down in them. They cut into her tummy and she doesn’t want to eat when she’s wearing one. Maybe when she’s older we’ll try to save the planet again. Or she can sit on the toilet like the rest of us.
Organic baby food. I tried making baby food early on. She hated it. Mashed bananas, carrots, alphabet noodles in meat sauce, hummus, etc. You’d think someone with a food blog could make decent baby food. Well, I can’t. So we tried organic jarred baby food. She hated that less. Reluctantly, I bought a few Gerber jarred foods. She ate those no problem. I didn’t know why I was so adamantly against Gerber before (in my mind they were the antithesis of organic) but my baby needed to eat. And if she preferred Gerber then that’s what I gave her. Now that’ she’s older, I’m learning how to make the kinds of foods she likes. I made rice porridge (jook) with chicken and bits of veggies and she ate 5 bowls of it yesterday. Success.
Co-sleeping. So many say it’s wrong. I used to think it was wrong. Before we moved to Georgia, I had sleep trained my baby. She’d sleep for 10-12 hours straight in her crib, in her own room, without waking up to feed. When she did wake up in the middle of the night, she coo’ed to herself and fall back asleep. When she woke in the morning, she’d coo and I’d hear her on the monitor and get her. It was perfect.
Then, we travelled. For over a month. Sleeping in our relatives’ houses, apartments, then two different hotels for a couple weeks. Sleeping soundly in a crib turned into co-sleeping pretty fast. We desperately needed sleep. We didn’t want her screaming and crying and waking everyone up who graciously put up with us as house guests. On top of that, it’s hard on a little baby, being taken from her home, moved from place to place, not used to her surroundings. I mean, if it’s hard for me to sleep in a hotel room, imagine a baby. The only comforting thing for her is her mommy. Or daddy.
So, we eventually moved into our new home. We set up the nursery. We put her in the crib again. Crying, screaming, puking. Night after night. It got to the point that she made herself gag and puke after a couple minutes. In the crib, in the car, in the playard, on the floor, her high chair. I know some people do the ‘cry it out’ method, and maybe it works for them. But it doesn’t work for us. Maybe it’s the wrong time to try it, maybe it’s separation anxiety making her so upset, maybe it’s because we’ve moved so many times. What killed me was, I got it to work before we moved. I knew I could do it. So why is it so impossible now? Who knows. We’ll try again later.
And there was also something else I wondered – was one of my reasons to get the baby to sleep in the crib because everyone on the planet told us it wasn’t right to co-sleep? And I wanted to shut everyone up? Yes. And after I realized that, I felt some weight being lifted off my shoulders. Sure, I want my baby to sleep in her crib, but I won’t do it because everyone says it’s wrong to co-sleep. First of all, it’s nobody’s business. You do what you have to do for your baby. Every baby and every parent and every situation is different. What was the benefit of her sleeping in the bed with us? Well, nursing is a hell of a lot easier. I don’t have to walk across the house to do it. Which means the baby and I fall back asleep easier. Easier. That’s my motto nowadays.
Sometimes, parenting feels like you’re barely keeping your head above the water. You wait for the moment you can stop treading water and feel the bottom with your feet. But there is no bottom. Any minute you can drown. And there’s all these flotation devices around you but you feel too proud to grasp onto one to keep from drowning. You want to show everyone you can tread longer and harder than every other person without any help. They tell you that you can, and some of them aren’t even in the water with you, let alone ever treaded water before. Some treaded water in the past but forgot what it felt like. Eventually, you realize only you know your own limits. You grab onto a lifesaver every now and then. You let go and tread again, but only if you have the energy to.