Before I became a parent, I was pretty set on doing things a certain way. I had plans to breastfeed for at least a year, wear my baby and cloth diaper (to name a few.) But in the back of my mind, I knew those “policies” were subject to change based on what seemed to work best for us and our family. Every baby is different, and for that reason, I have preached and will continue to preach that every mama should do what works best for her.
(In case you’re wondering, breastfeeding is still going strong, and I’d like it to continue for 2 years. But we gave up on cloth diapers a couple months ago, when Indie developed a yeast rash that just wouldn’t go away.)
I read all the blogs on attachment parenting and quickly learned that self-proclaimed “attachment parents” seem to follow the same set of “rules,” and those rules include holding your baby all the time, picking her up as soon as she cries, co-sleeping and never letting her cry. I was determined to be that type of parent, even if it killed me.
But then I actually became a parent. And I quickly learned that not letting your child cry, ever, is nigh impossible if you want to do normal things like eat, brush your teeth or use the toilet — all of which, if not done, could bring serious harm to mama. And if baby expects to have a good life, mama needs to take care of herself. As I say quite frequently to Indie, “if I don’t eat, you don’t eat. Without the proper nutrients, my body will discontinue breast milk production.”
I cried a few times, thinking I must either be a terrible mother, or attachment parenting is bullshit. After a few weeks, I began professing the latter out loud. In Season 2, Episode 2 of Orange is the New Black, Piper’s friend Polly makes the same declaration. When I saw that episode, I was hugely comforted.
I’ve since learned that attachment parenting is less about following a set of absolutes and more about being in tune with your baby’s needs. It also means listening to the Spirit to guide you when you’re unsure. I’ve had lots of unsure moments. Those times when she’s screaming at the top of her lungs — seemingly inconsolable — and I’ve had to calmly set her down and walk out of the room to avoid shaking her. (C’mon mamas…I know I’m not alone here…)
I’ve learned that sometimes, it is okay to let your baby cry it out. In fact, it could be the best thing for her. Such was the case with Indie a few weeks ago when I was washing dishes and she was lying on her back in her Pack ‘n’ Play. She cried and fussed for about 10 minutes, and then all of a sudden, she became silent. So silent that I walked over to check on her for fear that she had stopped breathing.
And there she was, on her tummy, content and somewhat surprised that she had finally figured out how to roll from back to front, all on her own. She’s mastered the maneuver; ever since that evening, she has rolled over many times.
Had I gone to pick her up before she had accomplished the feat, who knows when she would have learned it? She was frustrated over trying for weeks to learn a new skill. That’s why she was crying. Not because she needed me to pick her up, and God forbid, hinder her ability to learn. But because she was eager to learn it herself.
God reminded me in that moment, that sometimes, it’s okay to let your baby cry it out. In fact, sometimes, he lets us — his children — “cry it out” in order to teach us something new. (Tweet that!) There have been many occasions where I’ve grown impatient with the Lord, only to find that His timing was perfect and that making me wait, and letting me cry a little longer, was just what I needed.
Since learning to roll over, our baby is definitely happier than before, but she still gets fussy over the newest skill she is trying to learn: crawling. Even though it hurts to hear her cry, Jereme and I will let her fuss sometimes while she’s on her tummy, because we know that if we pick her up right away, it will only delay her further. Although I’m in no hurry, I want her to learn at the pace that’s right for her. At 5 months, she’s very strong and extremely active. It’s only a matter of months before she’s into my kitchen cabinets removing all the pots and pans and using them as musical instruments.
Lord help me… I may need to cry it out when that happens…