Doubt. It creeps up from nowhere and then bam! it consumes your mind. I find that even the tiniest seed of self doubt, often planted by someone's well-meaning (or self-justifying) comment, grows like lantana when my sleep suffers as a result of unsettled nights with BabyB-B. It takes over every bit of confidence I felt about a decision and is bloody hard to kill.
BabyB-B has just turned six months old. It seems around this time the whole playing field changes again. Before six months I was confidently feeding BabyB-B to sleep at night and offered her the breast whenever she woke during the night. It comforted her, it was what she wanted, it worked and it was acceptable. Then one morning some mothers and I were discussing our babies' sleep habits. Apparently, at this age babies don't need to be fed overnight and, if they are, they really only need one feed. The rest is "just for comfort" and they should be able to sleep without it and, of course, you should never feed them to sleep during the day. Cue self doubt about my sleep time habits with BabyB-B. Was I creating a needy monster who will never learn to sleep away from the comfort of my breast?
Then there is the solids issue. Before six months I quite confidently responded to questions about this that we were not starting solids before six months because we planned on doing baby led weaning. I was happy with this decision. I had read about the benefits of BLW. I'd read articles on infant gut closure and the potential damage of introducing solids too early. I waited until six months with the backing of BabyB-B's paediatrician, GP and our family support unit nurse who all recommended waiting until six months and, of course, WHO and NHRMC with each of these organisations recommending exclusive breastfeeding until six months of age.
I felt quite confident about the introduction of solid foods until a discussion with a former BLW mummy at a BBQ. My proclamation that we had started BLW was met with a sharp intake of breath and the comment that, "Oooh, that's really not for all babies. They actually need to be eating at this age. I'm sure you've heard that food is for fun under one, but they really need it." I was then asked whether BabyB-B was sleeping through the night. I'd thought nothing of the two to three (or more) feeds she had been waking for of late. Particularly having regard to the barrage of developmental milestones that a baby around six months old is met with. Cue doubt trigger, "No", I was told, "She is waking because she is hungry. You should be making her eat solid food now so she will sleep and grow." Was I starving my baby and therefore preventing her from getting the sleep she needed to grow and develop?
Sleep deprivation is a form of torture and when I'm suffering from it I seem to take the opportunity to torture myself some more and focus on those comments that leave me filled with doubt. I obsess about them. Is it my fault we are not sleeping? I run them over and over in my mind which, ironically, causes me to lose sleep thus in turn perpetuating the problem. Then we have a "good" night, BabyB-B may only wake once or twice, I sleep for a few hours in a row, I wake refreshed and I am able to sit back and put my doubts into perspective.
Last night was a good night so today I find myself putting my most recent doubts into perspective. I'm considering them while watching BabyB-B laying on the floor telling her pink dragon what seems to be a most important and serious tale. She is the image of happiness and health. Could I really be doing the wrong thing?
It occurs to me that the mothers who planted these seeds of doubt have been exactly where I am now: sleep deprived and wanting to do what is best for their baby and for themselves. They have put themselves out there and they have sought help, support and advice. And this is where we part ways.
I seek help, support and advice from other mothers who I know advocate gentle parenting, I jump online and read my favourite blogs, websites and articles, like Evolutionary Parenting's "Educating the Experts" series.
They seek help, support and advice from baby trainers and mothercraft nurses. People who tell them that babies of a certain age should be sleeping for x hours and need to eat y amount of food in order to achieve this. Of course they will tell me emphatically that what they do is "right" and works. Why are they so dismissive and skeptical when I tell them what we do? It is because I'm planting the seed of doubt for them? I'll probably never know, because I do not think they would admit it. After all, they have, quite often, suffered through days and nights of their babies' "protest" cries in order to make it work for them (with or without the aid of earplugs!!).
What I do know is this: I have a happy and healthy little girl. She is thriving and engaging. Apart from a slight physical delay with her legs, the legacy of spending 10 weeks of her young life in a restrictive harness, she is doing all things that babies of around six months old seem to do. This includes waking during the night for food, comfort, or just a little hug. I turn my mind to the future and think that one day I will be wishing for a return to the days when my baby peacefully slept in my arms, happily received my cuddles and kisses and delighted in the wonder that is a floret of broccoli!! There is no doubt in my mind. Nothing could make me wish or train these precious moments away.