All content of this blog is my own opinion only. It does not represent the views of any organisation or association I may work for, or be associated with. Nothing within this blog should be considered as medical advice and you should always consult your Doctor.

Why I Ditched Detached Parenting - A Mother's Story

When I read this letter to Dr Sears entitled "Why I choose detached parenting" - I actually said a silent thank you to my first born.  Believe it or not I started out parenting with ideas not a million miles away from those voiced by ex nanny turned author Nicola Kraus; perhaps not quite as hardcore, but then I was never a nanny!

I've learned so much in 9 years, but yet I can remember the difficulty I originally had letting go of what society had deeply ingrained; it's a massive paradigm shift for some.  You see unlike Nicola's child, my first baby had other ideas, and they definitely didn't fit the mainstream model (despite my endless attempts at trying).  Instead my daughter dragged me down an entirely different path - albeit at that point kicking and screaming.

Years of reading, learning and growing later, I'm now grateful to her  - because it's from that I've learnt so much about the emotional, psychological and physical impact of how we care for our infants. The downside?  You want to share it!

And therein lies the problem.  How do we effectively convey the importance of responsive parenting to those who have been suckered by the mainstream baby industry in to believing it doesn't matter?  It's like that part of the matrix where he can choose the red or blue pill
"You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."
The trouble is whilst your eyes are wide open in Wonderland, the majority of society are still wired up - and a lot want the blue pill.  I can remember how resistant I was to what I perceived as permissive parenting, toddlers that never slept and parents shattered, controlled by the child with a stroppy toddler wedged between them at night (the reality by the way is nothing like how articles such as the above describe!) so what can we say that actually makes a difference?

This week on Facebook during a chat about infant sleep, one mum shared her heartfelt story about why she changed the way she parented.  It felt like a polar opposite to the article above, which is what prompted the title of the blog.  The mum wasn't a detached parent - but she did make the massive mental shift that has turned her parenting style on its head.  Perhaps this will at least provoke thought...

Name removed as mum wants to remain anonymous on the blog:
For various reasons my eldest child was a "Gina Ford baby", who I fed to a strict schedule (breastfed until she was 1) and who I kept very separate from me to 'foster her sense of independence'. We also used controlled crying. She was a fabulous sleeper, doing 12 hours a night without making a peep from 16 weeks old. I thought I had the perfect Contented Little Baby and recommended Gina to all my friends and anyone else who'd listen. I was horrified by all these parents making a rod for their own backs by co-sleeping, feeding to sleep and carrying their babies everywhere. How horrible it must be to never have any adult time, and as for their poor children! They're going to grow up to be clingy and insecure and not understand that there are rules that we, as a civilised society, need to abide by. Fast forward 2.5 years and whilst Gina is now a distant memory...
I have an extremely insecure, jealous, aggressive toddler who suffers the most horrendous separation anxiety and WILL NOT SLEEP. And do you know what breaks my heart the most?
A few months ago I put her up for her daytime nap and for the whole two hours she refused to sleep, she just kept playing with her toys and running around her room. She wasn't upset or crying, she just wouldn't sleep! I was annoyed - she had to have her lunchtime nap; I had stuff to do! So I decided that she could stay there for the full time and eventually she'd fall asleep, I was sure of it! After two hours all went quiet. She was finally asleep - I knew I was right all along, she needed that sleep! After all, mummy knows best, right?! A further two hours passed and I thought I'd better check on her as it'd been four hours since she'd gone up to her room...
So up I went and there I found my little girl, just sat on her bed, wide awake, staring at her door. Not making a sound. I asked her if she'd had a lovely sleep and she said "No mummy, I didn't sleep. I'm sorry mummy. That was not good 'haviour".
In that instant my world came crashing down. I'd left my poor girl alone in her room for FOUR HOURS, thinking I'd won the battle. I thought that, because she wasn't making a sound, she was happily asleep. When I was faced with reality; that she'd been wide awake for that entire time but hadn't made a peep because she knew mummy wasn't coming, and she was apologising to ME, I broke down. I questioned all those months where I'd thought I had a wonderfully content baby, who slept perfectly.
Was she really asleep? Or did she just give up all hope of her mummy coming for her? Of course I'll never know, but I have my suspicions, and I'm sure that the way I raised her until that point was in no small way responsible for her crippling separation anxiety and her challenging behaviour.
In that instant I set about changing how I parent and it has resulted in a fundamental shift in who I am.
I immediately dropped any sort of routine for my then 12 week old (who yep, had been sleeping through the night 12 hours from 9 weeks). I read up on Attachment Parenting; I read Sears, I read ‘The Continuum Concept’. I bought a sling, made my youngest's cot into a co-sleeper and adjusted everything about how I parent my eldest: no more ‘naughty step’ and she's welcome in our bed whenever she gets scared of elephants at night.
It's a long old road, but we're slowly seeing an improvement in my eldest's behaviour - and in my youngest (now nearly 6 months) because guess what? She does feed off and on all night now. But I barely register it because I'm not fully awake and I don't believe that she's using me as a dummy, I believe that other babies use dummies as breasts. I know which is more natural and normal and I know which I prefer."

Deny The Super Power Of Your Breasts!

Breasts have super powers.  Honest, many who have breastfed for any length of time can vouch for it.  Tired baby? Got that covered - relaxing sleepy hormones are delivered.  Baby bumps or just feeling full of cold and grotty?  Yep got that too, breastfeeding is recognised as an analgesic by the British Medical Association.  Really under the weather and sick - the vast majority of the time an infant will continue to breastfeed little and often, reducing risks of dehydration and hospital admittance.  Teatime meltdowns from an over stimulated tot - no match for mama's milk.

Why is it then society seems so scared of this fix all, mothers are frequently warned against using this magic tool?
"I spoke to the health visitor today who said I need to not let him use me as a dummy or he will never learn to sleep alone!"
Er hello a nipple is baby's natural pacifier, a dummy is a replica - therefore baby is actually using the dummy as a breast.

Boots have released a "Napping dos & don’ts":
"It’s natural for babies to fall asleep after a feed. Nursing or bottle-feeding newborns to sleep is a great bonding experience, but over time it can become the only way they can fall asleep. Try to separate nursing from naps even by just a few minutes; read a story or change baby’s nappy in between."
That's right Boots it is natural and bonding - would it therefore make any sense then that if we partake in this natural bonding process, our infants will never be able to sleep without it?  Lordy I wonder what happened before there were such warning leaflets and people followed their instincts?  Did we have a nation full of non-sleepers who couldn't settle without a breast?  Thank goodness Boots can save this generation!

But forgive me for finding their information a little confusing, another slide reads:
"Don’t wake baby:
What if baby falls asleep in her car seat? Just carry her in the seat inside. She can finish the nap there. You don’t need to wake her or move her to a cot. If she starts to snooze in her baby swing, just keep an eye on her and don’t let her sleep there overnight."
Right so just to clarify - don't wake baby unless breasts are involved.  Car seats or swings are fine, just keep an eye on the baby; but breasts are a big no no, I mean good heavens we don't want these babies expecting human contact right?

Since Boots, the Health Visitor above and the vast majority of "experts" work from anecdotal data  - here's mine.  I must be raising a blooming child prodigy.

Whilst I bought the above with my first (for the record, it didn't work her sleep was awful despite following all the "rules"), I knew better by the second  - I had a fix all built in and I was going to use it; no way was I picking up and putting down at all hours when I knew the boob would work in minutes. I would deal with whatever panned out as we got there, because realistically it couldn't get any harder than the first time around.

I carried and cuddled him lots, nursed him to sleep, offered him the breast if he was grumpy, hurt, unwell or just because he wanted it.  We co-slept with a side car cot and he helped himself during the night, was that a Godsend sanity wise compared to the hours spent trailing room to room with my first.

Yet - he dropped his night feeds of his own accord, slept well following being fed to sleep, transitioned through sleep cycles just fine and dandy i.e. didn't need to rouse for breast every 40 minutes as some suggest! (Some babies do, but there are in my opinion other underlying reasons for this that get ignored in favour of the breastfeeding scapegoat and sleep training).  Dropped his day feeds gradually and finally self weaned; recognises when he's tired, asks to go to bed, sleeps 11 hours straight.

How?  I mean according to many he should be a walking recipe for sleep problems and inability to function without contact from a parent.

I wonder if these same people also expect to see an adult ape carrying and nursing their fully grown offspring, after all they're a carrying species (like humans) all - and they don't get a manual on how to train their young!

The reality is that ALL babies, just like other mammals will transition to independence without being pushed or forced - it's a developmental step like sitting, standing, walking or talking.

We can even accept that in these other areas babies can vary hugely.  Both walking and talking typically occur somewhere between 9-18 months, and other parents support each other with "(s)he will walk/talk when he's ready".  But when it comes to sleeping alone for long periods, it's totally different - they apparently must all develop this skill ASAP after birth, with lists galore of how to achieve this adult driven desire.

Imagine if a "gross motor skills Guru" (self proclaimed, no qualifications) decided all babies should stand by 8 months.  This wasn't an evidence based guideline (anymore than any of the sleep advice is) someone just decided it was so and put this in a book that sold well.  Furthermore they then recommended if baby wasn't standing by this designated age, the parents should teach their baby, in fact it was their responsibility as parents to ensure their child developed this skill ASAP.  Really they should have been introducing stretching and toning techniques from birth, and practicing standing frequently to prevent such reliance on parents having to reach things above infant height; if some can do it at 8 months they all can with the right training.  So the Guru introduced leaflets about how best to do this and even became an advisor for high street shops who agreed to disseminate this information to parents on their databases.

If baby had reached 8 months or was getting close and still hadn't shown signs they were meeting the  expectations, action was called for.  Parents were advised they should put something the infant really wanted and needed at a height that meant they had to stand for it, and to not give in even if the baby cried and cried (this was considered manipulation from baby who would surely quickly learn you would pass him stuff every time and never learn to stand if you gave in) instead the parents had to hold fast.  They could comfort their baby without eye contact for brief intervals at set times as decided by said Guru, but nothing more.  Who wants a baby dependent on things being passed for heavens sake?  As the trend really took hold people would ask each other, "is your baby good?" which was actually code for can they stand alone yet?  After all with books saying all babies should do it with training, how early your baby mastered it became seen as a mark of how good your parenting skills actually were.

This is the reality of mainstream sleep support.

Humans strive to learn, develop and grow and whilst some need more support in some areas than others, they all get there, in their own time.