Friday, March 7, 2014

Learning as we go

5 months ago we added our third child to our family.  You would think that by the third time around, I would be a pro at this whole parenting thing.  But in many ways this feels like my first time around the block.  I guess you could say that it’s because this is my third child that I’m doing things differently. I’ve learned from the first two experiences and I know what practices I liked and which ones I wanted to change.  So I’m starting a once a month series on parenting to share with you all the things I’ve learned (and am still learning) about navigating this crazy time in our lives.

*Disclaimer: This post is not meant to advocate breast over bottle. While I do believe breast is best for baby and mom, I also know that everyone’s circumstance is different. I fed two babies on formula for 9+ months and they have grown to be smart, beautiful children. This is more a comentary on how I finally learned how to achieve one of my parenting goals.

When I was pregnant with Zach, our oldest, I did everything by the book...literally.  I read baby books and articles online. It was pretty much all I had to go on.  So when he was born, I let the nurses keep him in the nursery so I could rest, I fed him on a strict schedule of every three hours.  I nursed him for 15 minutes on one side and 15 on the other. I put him in his crib in his nursery so that my husband and I could get the rest we needed and to encourage him to sleep through the night as soon as possible.  By the time Zach was three months old, my supply was all but gone, we were finished breast feeding and he was on formula.  

Apparently I didn’t learn much from that experience. When my daughter, Alice, was born I did the same thing.  I nursed her every three hours, she was sleeping through the night by 6 weeks and by three months we were done breast feeding. I was really bummed.  I felt like I had failed her.

When I found out I was pregnant with Charlotte, I was determined to breastfeed for a whole year.  I went to the books again but this time I made a point of reading everything that was the complete opposite of what I had done before.  I read about attachment parenting, co-sleeping and feeding on demand.  It all seemed to make so much sense! Why had I not heard of these things before?

From the moment Charlotte was born it’s been a completely different journey.  Even though I had a c-section (my third) we were able to have skin to skin contact right away. I held her for about 30 minutes as they finished my surgery. Never during my hospital stay did a nurse urge me to send her to the nursery so that I could get some rest or to give her a pacifier to help her stop crying. The nurses smiled when they found me nursing her almost every time they came into the room. One nurse even gave me a wink when she found me sleeping with my newborn baby in my hospital bed with me (“I’m a big supporter of co-sleeping” she told me).

Since we came home I’ve continued to nurse Charlotte on demand. She sleeps in bed with me for most of the night. At five months she still wakes me to eat 2-3 times a night but I sleep wonderfully.  I wear her around the house and anytime we are out. You would think all of this would be exhausting but it actually makes life so much easier. I have this wonderfully happy baby and she’s happy because her needs are being met to the fullest. And because she is happy, I am happy!

Sometimes I think back to my experiences with the first two and wish I knew then what I know now.  But the journey of being a parent is one of constant learning and evolving.  No doubt there will come a time down the road when I’ll have no clue what I’m doing.  But I’ll figure out a way and push on. Because that’s what we do as parents. We do our very best for our kids and rest assured that, no matter what choices we make, they are loved and that is the greatest gift we can give them.

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