(Unhappy Baby Benjamin. This is seriously what he did most of his first year of life, poor child.)
This post could also be titled: Why We Chose Mama and Baby Togetherness the Second Time Around. I’ve been wanting to tell you about our amazing experience with Ecological Breastfeeding, but I feel like I need to describe our experience with our firstborn’s babyhood and why we so desperately wanted it to be different with Baby Lucy.
After my first pregnancy, I had to go back to work full-time 5 weeks after my son was born. I wasn’t familiar with the principles of Ecological Breastfeeding (which I’ll tell you about tomorrow) at the time, but they would have been impossible for me to implement because of my work situation. We are positive that we would have faced many of our firstborn’s challenges (reflux, colic, extreme fussiness, inability to sleep longer than 15-45 minutes, and extended periods of inconsolable crying) regardless of what parenting methods we used. He simply came out of the womb with a difficult temperament. But after implementing Ecological Breastfeeding and Mama and Baby Togetherness with my second baby, I’m convinced that the same methods might have alleviated some of his issues at the very least.
To explain why I was dead set on doing things differently the second time around, let me paint a picture of what we faced with our first baby when I had to be away from home 9-10 hours a day:
A horrible breastfeeding relationship: Although he didn’t have any trouble with the initial latch, he would unlatch a thousand times a feeding to arch his little back and scream. He also spit up 50-60 times a day (no lie). And we’re talking projectile vomiting. Because he grew accustomed to having breastmilk in a bottle during the daytime, he would refuse the breast when I was with him in favor of the bottle. This forced me to exclusively pump, taking up 3-4 hours each day. Nursing was never, not once, a tranquil, special, bonding time. Nursing to us meant tears, stress, and a sense of failure. All these problems made it impossible for me to keep up all the pumping and we switched to formula after 4 months. It’s notable that he continues to have issues with food, including a severe gluten allergy.
Extreme sleep deprivation: Benjamin would only sleep in 15-45 minute increments between 10pm and 4:30am for the first several months of his life. That translates to about 4-5 hours of sleep for me each night (in 15-30 minute segments). Although Benjamin would fitfully nap during the day, I was, of course, at work during those naps. I really can’t express the frustration and exhaustion of not getting a full sleep cycle for several months. I really thought I was losing my mind. And his inability to sleep well made him a constantly exhausted baby and intensified his extreme fussiness. After 6 months without sleep we made him CIO and a month later he was sleeping through the night consistently. However, the CIO method was very traumatizing for both me and for my baby and I don’t think I would ever have chosen to do sleep training that way if I wasn’t out of my mind with exhaustion.
Difficulty with bonding and attachment: Although I deeply loved my baby, the mental anguish of sleep deprivation and the psychological torture of hearing constant crying seriously hurt my ability to bond with him. I would occasionally have to set him down, go outside the house and put my hands over my ears to block out the screaming and take a deep breath because several hours of crying on top of the already excruciating lack of sleep would cause me to feel angry with my baby and I knew that was very unhealthy. Although I missed him when I was at work, when I was at home, caring for him was so stressful that I longed to go somewhere else to be all my myself. It wasn’t until I quit working full-time when he was one year old that our bonding issues improved.
Now, I know that all working moms don’t have as difficult a time as we did. And at the time, like many other moms, I did not have the option to stay home or work from home. However after my experience, barring financial disaster, I would not ever choose to be away from one of my babies full-time ever again. Thanks for letting me share a little bit about our struggles during our firstborn’s infancy. And tune in tomorrow to hear about the way we have embraced Ecological Breastfeeding and Mama and Baby Togetherness with Baby Lucy and what a blessing it’s been!