AJ was always a bit of a fussy baby. He hated being left on his own and always longed to be held by either myself or his father. He never fell asleep on his own; he wanted to be nursed and preferred to fall asleep in my arms. No matter how hard I tried to break this habit, I had very few successful moments. IF I ever was successful enough to put him down as he fell asleep and not have him wake up as soon as my arms left his little body- when he did wake up, he let me have it!!
If I even left the room, he would scream bloody murder! It was challenging to say the least. The first few weeks we took him home, I didn’t eat or sleep much and showers were a privilege I seldom saw. I figured he would eventually just grow out of it as his independent skills developed however, this has yet to happen.
I found myself very frustrated and wondered what I was doing wrong. Why is he so upset? Does he have colic? Is he teething? He’s too young to be teething, isn’t he?
I went to the pediatrician’s and sought out his advice. Although I was glad to hear that I had a super healthy baby boy, I wasn’t pleased with his advice on how to handle my little one’s attachment to me. His suggestion was to let my baby “cry it out” and to place him on a strict feeding schedule. AJ did nurse every two hours or so, but at times he liked to be nursed more often. This got very difficult for me as I ended up sitting on the couch for most of the day nursing him and then holding him while he slept, as he wouldn’t have it any other way. I started feeling really guilty as others would tell me that I was spoiling my baby and getting him too used to being held. This really bothered me because I wanted to make the best decisions for my child and sometimes the best decisions are the hardest to make. So reluctantly, I made myself have him “cry out.”
It was like slow torture to my soul. Just watching him look up at me with a confused and panicked reaction as to why I had put him down and why I wouldn’t pick him back up. He would squirm around with desperation that broke my heart and sent my soul in agony. I think my hormones were just freaking out, he was so little to be going through so much pain and he would not let down. He cried and screamed, longer and louder. I wanted to pick him up so badly but my husband tried to comfort me and reminded me that it was for his best. I tried to occupy myself as I put groceries away and then started washing the dishes. All the meanwhile I was slamming dishes, boxes, cupboards, anything I got my hands on, in silent protest to let my husband know just how unhappy I was with the situation. My son cried for an hour and going on twenty some odd minutes until I could no longer take it.
As I picked his little body up and wiped away his wet face full of tears, I noticed he was wet and sweaty from all the crying; and hyperventilating. He had stopped crying as soon as I picked him up and put his head down on my shoulder. I held him close and just filled his face with kisses. He was short of breath, wheezing, and trembling. All he wanted was to be nursed. I felt beyond guilty and remorseful for what I had just put him through. I had denied my son my affections and left him hungry just so I could “show him whose boss? It felt wrong.
At our follow up appointment, I had let our pediatrician know how it went and I had let him know how I felt about letting him “cry it out.” He rolled his eyes and said that babies learn to control us and that I needed to teach him that he couldn’t do whatever he wanted to do. My baby wasn’t even 3 months old yet and was still trying to adjust being outside of the womb. Babies at this stage are still trying to adjust to their new environment. If my child is telling me he’s hungry and asking me to feed him, what sense does it make for me to deny him just because it’s outside of his feeding schedule? If I were hungry and someone told me I couldn’t eat because it wasn’t lunch time, I would tell them to go to hell! So why can’t I feed my child? I was once a child and remember my mother always being there for me. If I was sad, she would console me. If I needed someone there, she was the shoulder to lean on and always embraced me. If I didn’t have that, I don’t know how lost I would be.
Now, I am a new parent and am still learning every day. After a while you start to learn when your kid is crying because they need something or when they are crying just to fuss. If I need to cook a meal for my family and sit my baby in his swing in the kitchen with me and he’s crying because I wont pick him up – I have to let him cry a little. He does need to learn that these are the things that mom needs to get done. He still cries and has a fit, some days he is okay as long as I keep interacting with him. It varies and again, is very challenging at times. I have also put him in his baby carrier and have “worn” him with me but he absolutely hates it. But I do not want to just leave him in his crib alone in his room to let him just cry on his own and leave him to feel like he is being punished. He is still growing and developing and I don’t want him to learn that sleeping on his own is a punishment and I also don’t want him to feel like he is on his own. We are a family and we are going to work through his together.I want him to feel loved even when he knows I am not happy with his behavior.
The “cry it out” method may very well work for some parents – I just don’t believe it is right for me and my child. I believe that all people are different, so why does this exclude children? Some children require more attention than others, while other children may be more independent. I think for effective parenting however, you have to learn to adapt to each situation and give each individual child what they need. Some may need more reassurance, others may not but your have to be sensitive to each individuals needs and not just think that one method is going to work for all different types of personalities. I feel that if you have a hyper sensitive child, leaving them alone in a room in that manner will leave them feeling abandoned and punished. Now, I am not an expert of any sort, this is just my “educated” opinion that I have gathered through my experiences with a high needs child. I in no way wrote this to offend or pass judgement on others but simply wrote this post in efforts to offer support for other that may be in the same situation and just express my experiences.
Once you stop worrying about other’s opinions regarding your parenting, that’s when you really start to give your child what they need. Your child needs for you to love them with no boundaries and without a check list telling you what is appropriate for them. After all, every child is different – all their personalities differ. There is no right answer, no miracle cure for a “high needs” child. You just learn to adjust and love them for who they are, and who they are is just beautiful. I believe that God makes no mistakes and He wouldn’t have blessed me with AJ if I couldn’t handle being his mother. So for the rest of his life, I will love him unconditionally and guide him to the best of my abilities. Most importantly, I will be there when he needs me, whenever he needs me. You see, he will only need 100% of my attention for so long. I know there will be a day when my little guy outgrows wanting to fall asleep in his mommy’s arms, and even though meeting his demands can be really challenging at times – knowing that all he wants is to just be held by me makes everything worth it. The sleepless nights, the walking on egg shells, the crying. He just wants to be held by his momma, and I’m lucky enough to be his momma. One day, he won’t need me that way and my arms, although rested, will be empty and my heart will long for the time when all he wanted was his mommy’s embrace. So I will soak up all his love and snuggles and hold on, until he lets go….