I first have to tell you that I hear you. I hear you on the confusion over different pieces of conflicting advice. I hear you on how difficult it is to face family and friends telling you that you “must” sleep train or wean or supplement. I hear you on how disturbing it can be when you are asked, “Your baby isn’t sleeping through the night yet???” when she or he is only 3 months old. I hear all of that.
I get how hard that is and how much it can feel that you just want people to support what you do because you are simply trying so freaking hard. More often than not, you feel like you’ve done all this research: You’ve read the books by “experts”, you’ve talked to your doctor, and you’ve even talked to other moms or your own parents and they all tell you to sleep train, to wean, to supplement, whatever. Some of you may have even read science and decided it supports your choices.
How are you going to react when suddenly you come across a site online or a group on facebook that doesn’t agree with the methods you’ve chosen? I can see why you’d feel angry and defensive even when no one is targeting you directly in their generalized thoughts or sharing of information. These people might as well be speaking directly to you and telling you that your choices are “wrong”. And what if they start pulling out studies and science and history and evolution as means to support their view? Well, they’re just trying to make you feel bad, yes?
Do they agree with all of your choices? Nope. Do they condemn you as a parent? No (truly!). Do they condemn those who promote methods that go against the evolution of humans as babies and parents? Yep. Would they listen to your specific story and work with you if you asked? You bet. Do they support you, the person? As much as it may not feel like it, they do.
But they still won’t support all choices as equal. And here’s why:
It’s not just about you.
Yes, you are stressed, you are alone, you are without support, you are isolated, you are bombarded with too many conflicting views, and you are desperately trying to do your best as a parent. But it’s still not just about you.
As stressed as you are, there is another life, a tiny creature who looks to you for survival, but hopes for more than just that. You have a child who will grow up to be, well, what you are willing to allow him or her to be. And this child expects certain things from his or her parents because of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution which has primed him or her for a certain type of parenting. This child knows nothing of what you face as a parent in a modern day world. This child only knows how to call for you and hope that you will respond with warmth, with food, with love, with touch, and with compassion. This child expects these things as you expect to breathe air or eat food.
Will this child survive if you take some of these away? Of course, though the degree will depend greatly on your individual child and his or her temperament. This child may even grow to be successful and smart and a child you are insanely proud of. No one is saying otherwise. But what if you could give your child more than that?
That more is why some of us speak against certain practices and promote others. We don’t promote practices that pit parents versus their children and we don’t promote practices that support only the parent at the expense of the child.
We do promote practices that may require compromise from both sides in order for families to live in harmony in this crazy, isolated society we have created for parents today. We understand you may need sleep and so we offer gentle sleep advice that may take a bit longer, may not get you a solid 12 hours (but will get you more sleep), but will respect your child and his or her needs while getting you more rest. We understand you may not be able to breastfeed, but we will push for you to have access to resources to help you if you want to, to find donor milk for your child, and to help you maximize the feeding relationship you will have with your child. We will continue to talk about what is biologically normal for children so parents can realize what they actually should be expecting from their child (even if it’s not what you want from your child) and we will discuss common problems that may lead to things like more night wakings or excessive crying so parents can not only do all they can to discover if there’s a physical reason for their child’s behaviour, but also to help them empathize with their child.
At the end of the day, we’re not trying to tell you that you have to sacrifice your sanity. We are, however, being honest about our views on certain practices that not only ignore your child in the equation, but ignore your relationship with your child. You can choose whatever practices you want because at the end of the day, it is your child and your relationship. And we can support you by fighting for things that make your job as parent easier, whether it’s parental leave or access to resources and help.
What we can’t do, and what you need to come to terms with, is tell you that we agree with all of your choices. Hopefully, though, if you’re comfortable with them, you won’t care what we think.
P.S. No matter how much we may disagree with your choices, none of us has the right to call you names or to suggest you don’t love your child. No one is condoning that type of behaviour. But similarly, if you come to a place that is open about its views and demand people agree with you, well, good luck with that.