By the time by newborn baby girls was 6 weeks old my back ached from baby-carrying, to the point of tears. I was tired from being up all night to meet her elimination needs, to the point of more tears. And I was burnt out from nursing her so often throughout the day, sometimes every hour or more!
Putting my own exhaustion aside, it seemed to me like she was not happy with some of my parenting techniques. Even when I thought she was asking to nurse she still cried after she was done, and then spit up because she had nursed too much. One of my lifesavers was a book called “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”, by Marc Weissbluth, M.D. The ironic thing is that this book is the antithesis to attachment parenting. Dr. Weissbluth is a strong advocate of putting children on schedules as well as teaching them to self sooth to sleep by allowing them to cry. The number one way this book helped me was to give me a clear idea of my baby’s needs around the timing of her feedings and sleep. My daughter did not need to nurse as often as I thought she did. She also needed to sleep more often than I realised. A lot of her crying came from nursing too much when really what she wanted to do was fall asleep.
During this time my mom was studying to become a nurse. In a certain course she learned that babies my daughter’s age don’t need to nurse more often than every 2 hours. I understand that the education my mom received may have been based on formula feeding, but it was still good information to keep in mind. She also learned that sucking can help the baby’s digestive process. I was quickly convinced that a pacifier was not inherently bad and wanted to give it a try. When my daughter had nursed enough but wanted to continue sucking I gave her a pacifier. I used my mom’s education and what I learned from Dr. Weissbluth’s book as general guidelines. I was happy to have more tools to soothe my daughter. I felt immediate relief when I saw how much my daughter loved her soother. I was never rigid with my scheduling and frequency of nursing, but I successfully avoided over feeding her and thereby effectively relieved her upset stomach. Additionally, I learned to better read her signs of tiredness and put her to sleep before she became overtired and fussy.
Sometimes my daughter was honestly hungry, even if less than two hours had passed since her last feeing. But, rather than just nursing her at the first sign of distress I assessed each situation to the best of my ability, trying to shift her body, rocking her, giving her a pacifier, diaper changing, etc. Sometimes she was just tired, just wanted comfort, or had gas or a burp that I could help move along with positioning her body various ways. After this point I rarely nursed my babies to sleep. I know almost every mother does nurse her babies to sleep, and occasionally I have with each child. However, I’ve found that my kids sleep better if they’ve had some time to digest their milk before falling asleep. All three of my children had a soother from their first or second month. They all stopped the soother by the time they learned to fall asleep on their own. My first child was about 7 months old, my second child was about 11 months old, and my third child about 4 months old. Each seemed to be ready to sleep on his/her own at a different age.
I found that the pacifier really helped me with the newborn stage and the first 6 months to a year, when the baby is often co-sleeping or sleeping right next to me, as well as when the baby sleeps more frequently during the day. Remember that you should only introduce a pacifier once nursing is well established in order to avoid nipple confusion. Newborn babies need to nurse every time they are hungry, so in a sense I do always practice nursing-on-demand with by babies. The main difference is that I don’t use nursing as the only soothing method and I don’t assume my baby is hungry every time s/he fusses. There is always a place and a time for comfort nursing, but I found it very helpful in my parenting to learn that I had other tools and options, and that I was not going to ruin my child’s future or compromise our emotional bond if I used a pacifier, didn’t practice baby-wearing all the time, or rarely used elimination communication.
P.S. keep your eyes out for future articles on elimination communication and baby wearing.
Blessings on your parenting journey!
Much love and respect to all of you hard-working parents out there!!!