North, my first child, barely cried at all. As long as he was fed, loved and on his very stable and comforting sleep rhythm he was a jolly little bub from morning to night. Indigo on the otherhand was much more of a challenge. We played musical beds, I carried her everywhere, she had a very serious addiction to sucking to the point that she would often bring her milk up because her stomach was too full, I struggled with the idea of the dummy... I ended up weaning her around 20 months and to my relief and hers at 24 months she began sucking her thumb. To this day she still sucks both thumbs to the point that they're raw with eczema... we're still working through her strong desire to suck.
From the beginning I was very hopeful Juniper could find a way to self-settle without relying on constant sucking. Although she isn't completely reliant on a breast to fall asleep, past experience has taught me that the habits that I am a part of now will carry through and get stronger in the future.
The raw truth is I don't physically, emotionally or mentally have the strength, patience and time to breastfeed every 1-2 hours each day. I have other children to love and care for, school pick-ups and drop-ffs, meals to make, messes to clean, stories to read and many, many other things to do on a daily basis. I carry her her as much as I can, I still feed on demand but I cannot sit in a dark room for hours a day rocking, feeding, bouncing and patting.
A while back I posted a question on my Facebook page to all of you about 'crying in arms'. Had you heard of it? What was your opinion? I had just happened upon it in the blogosphere. 'Crying in arms' is a phrase coined by the movement Aware Parenting.
From Parenting with Presence-
"Aware Parenting is based on attachment-style parenting, non-punitive discipline, and acceptance of emotional release.
Like other attachment parenting methods, Aware Parenting advocates:natural childbirth and early bonding, plenty of physical contact, breast-feeding, prompt responsiveness to crying, and sensitive attunement.
Solter also recommends non-punitive discipline, including no punishments of any kind (including "time-out" and artificial "consequences"), no rewards or bribes, the search for underlying needs and feelings, Nonviolent Communication, and peaceful conflict-resolution (family meetings, etc.)
However, Aware Parenting is different to some other attachment parenting styles in its approach to crying and emotional release.
Solter’s approach advocates healing of babies’ and children’s stress and trauma through crying and raging in the context of a loving parent/child relationship. Respectful, empathic listening and acceptance of babies’ and children's emotions is central to this way of parenting."
So much of this 'style' of parenting is in-tune with our current family values.
But with my previous two children I had done everything in my power to prevent them from crying- I jiggled, I patted, I rocked, I sang, I fed and fed and fed some more. I was successful in my attempts to comfort North but not so much with Indigo and after reading about 'crying in arms' the biggest question I had for myself was, did I really every listen to Indigo's cries or was I too busy trying to distract and comfort her that I forgot to just be there for her?
I decided to see what would happen if I did what Joan Salter's book recommends- be still and listen with your fussing child in arms. Juniper immediately began to scream, wriggle and cry. This continued for about 10 minutes and then she looked me in the eyes and fell into a peaceful sleep. After a day or so I wasn't as anxious when she cried and expressed herself just as long as I was holding her and listening attentively. Now at 3 months old she is learning to self-settle more and more each day. She only cries once every few days and during that time I hold her and tell her it's OK and that I'm listening and that I understand she's had a big day. She can feel my warmth, support and presence and hear my voice. She knows that's OK to have and then to release these big emotions.
Very recently I also introduced the dummy - something I never thought I'd do. Juni was getting so very frustrated about wanting to find her thumb to help her self-soothe (in light of my past experience I am trying t not to feed to sleep). Indigo's skin, teeth and pallet are visibly being affected by her thumb-sucking and I wonder perhaps if a dummy would have been a better alternative for her. What I love about the thumb is that the desire comes directly from the child and that she is able to comfort herself in times of need, whereas at least in the first 6 months with a dummy the desire to suck is being pre-empted by the parent. However, from what I've heard the dummy habit can be kicked much easier. Only time will tell. At the moment there is only one dummy that is used solely as a sleep-aid.
When I look back at my older post regarding dummies and breastfeeding I can feel how strong my emotions and opinions were. There was some really valuable advice from my readers in the comments- Jill I wish I'd looked into your insightful comment more! My current change of tune reminds me of this sobering post and the rippling after effects.
More than ever I realise that we are all trying to offer the best for our children and to make decisions not only for them as individuals but on behalf of the happiness of the entire family unit. Every family is different and every parental decision is based on that family's unique needs, values and desires. The journey is long and lessons with many different answers to choose from are being learned.
Blessings to all of you Mamas working daily to provide on every level for your children. This is earthy, sacred, hard and infinite work. You are an inspiration.