When did we start trusting “experts” over our own eyeballs?

by renegademama

A few weeks ago, in an uncharacteristic move because I hate pain, I engaged in a conversation on Facebook about sleep training. It was in response to an article basically saying how sleep training does not harm baby brains, or whatever, which I believe. Great cool whatever.

But the thread degenerated (AS THREADS DO) into a discussion about “data” and “science” and this and that the other thing, referencing and quoting and linking, everybody attempting to “prove” their position as “right” and good and valid and BACKED BY SCIENCE.

There is one reason I’ve never sleep trained my kids: Because it’s never felt right.

Period.

That’s it. That’s the extent of my insight on the topic.

And that is enough.

 

 I don’t care what you do. Do what feels right in your gut. We don’t all have the same guts, so it makes sense that what feels right to us would vary.

we don't know what the fuck we're doing but somehow we're doing alright

we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing but somehow we’re doing alright

This is enough for me, and ultimately it always has been, but I wonder sometimes when we as parents learned to trust 3rd party “experts” more than our own observations, feelings and experiences. I have heard of mothers crying outside their baby’s door grasping a timer, waiting for the 1-hour mark to be up so they can go in and get their baby. They read it in a book. It’s supposed to work.

I have seen mothers killing themselves to adhere to “attachment parenting” rules, terrified they’ll obliterate their child’s chances at happiness if they put them in a crib.

 

I have an idea: If it doesn’t work, how about we stop doing it?

If you feel every compulsion to not let your baby cry, don’t let her cry. If you need your baby out of your bed, get him out of your bed. If nursing isn’t working any more for either party, stop. Or keep going. Keep going until it doesn’t work any more.

Fuck the books. Fuck the experts. Fuck em all.

There are hard things in parenting: Keeping boundaries. Watching your kids suffer the natural consequences of their mistakes. But these things are right. They feel right. They are hard, but necessary.

Neither sleep training nor co-sleeping is fucking “necessary.” Those are matters of preference. Learn the damn difference, world.

Hey moms: You are enough. You know enough. It all passes eventually. I don’t mean this is some kumbaya bullshit way. I mean it seriously. We all have the capacity to assess what’s working in our lives and not. That’s kind of what being an adult is, right?

Except with parenthood. With parenthood you need to believe strangers. THEY KNOW BETTER FOR YOU. (They’ve convinced us of this because $$, people. MONEY. The more desperate parents become for “answers” the more stripped of their own confidence to make decisions for their families – the more they’ll pay for guidance.)

 

I tried to “sleep train” Arlo once. He was 10 months old and nursing all night and driving me batshit. I was determined to do something new.

After 20 or 30 minutes of crying I went over to the crib and put my hand through the bars onto my baby’s cheek. I felt the wet of his face, the frantic gasps and tiny shakes. The heat of his body. He calmed a little. I removed my hand and he wailed again.

I put my hand back on his cheek. His chubby little hand shot up and pressed mine against his face as hard as his little baby arm could push. His dimpled palm against my hand, holding me there almost desperately, or so it seemed.

I said “FUCK THIS” out loud, scooped my baby up and took him back to bed with me, said “Mac we’re not doing this, just come to bed.”

And as I laid there and nursed him and felt his quick little post-crying breaths smooth out back to the peace we both knew, I knew I would just hang out here in messed-up sleep land until a new reality surfaced.

Because a new reality always, eventually, surfaces. That’s what I’ve learned in 14 years of motherhood. It’s all temporary, though it doesn’t seem so at the time.

The co-sleeping thing wasn’t really working, but it worked better than whatever the fuck that was.

So yep, I didn’t sleep train my baby because he pressed his hand against mine.

And that’s enough.

 

Mac said “You know Janelle we’ll never regret them being in our bed. We may regret kicking them out.”

And he was right, for us. For our family. For the way we do family. That’s how we roll. And it’s cool. We get by. We get through.

Shockingly, despite this rampant co-sleeping, we have kids who sleep without issue and don’t burn puppies.

Sometimes they all sleep together on the floor, and often two are crammed together on a twin bed, and even more often all three kids are in the same room in bunk beds, but I’m unsure where the problem is there. Humans who enjoy human closeness? OH THE HORRORS.

Clearly, kids learn to “self soothe” even if you don’t teach them shit about “self soothing” (at least not on purpose).

THE BOOKS LIED. Turns out you don’t have to “train” kids to sleep well. Or maybe cosleeping is good “training” too.

Whatever.

About a month after our experiment, Arlo suddenly started nursing once a night instead of 14,897 times. The problem resolved itself. Can you imagine?

It was temporary.

It’s all temporary.

Four kids who sleep and don’t burn puppies. Winning, motherfuckers.

 

Yesterday I was fidgeting with my houseplants and started thinking about how we treat plants. When we bring a new one home, we read the label to learn what sort of light it likes, how much water, etc. And we make all kinds of choices the best we can, given what we know. But if the leaves change color or fall off or it isn’t growing well, we change things up.

We move it to a new spot. More light. Less light. More water, less. Maybe we repot it.

We may try 4 or 5 spots in the house, a couple different watering patterns. Maybe we read about the plant, Google it to see what other people suggest.

But ultimately, we trust the leaves. We trust our eyeballs. The plant is thriving or it’s not. It’s healthy or it’s not. Our efforts are working or they’re not.

We never think to ourselves “This plant is defective because it isn’t thriving in the spot Google SAID IT SHOULD THRIVE.” We don’t just keep forcing a certain arrangement because it “SHOULD” work. We can see plainly that it isn’t working. Who cares what the plant book says?

Maybe this is a freak plant. An anarchist plant. Maybe this plant has zero fucks to give. But it’s ours. We committed to it. We do what we can.

Ultimately we don’t really care why it isn’t happy, right? We just respond. We see our job as an arranger of externalities, of things we have control over, to create an environment in which the plant can thrive. We know it can. We never doubt that. We know it has within it everything it needs to become its best self. A healthy vibrant thing.

 

I wonder why we don’t do this with kids. I wonder why we don’t just trust our eyeballs. Is it working? Are the leaves falling off? Is it droopy?

Are we droopy? Are we not thriving?

And if the answer is “yes,” why don’t we try something new? Change it up? Give it a shot and see what happens.

Trust that within us we too know what we need, what our kids need, or at least realize we are the “experts” on our own damn families, and we don’t need data or facts or books or articles to back our game. And trust that our kids have everything THEY need to thrive, if given the right environment. We have everything we need to provide that environment.

We’ve got giant green leaves, deep hungry roots, a yearning for sunshine and each other.

And that’s enough.

So hey there mama. For what it’s worth, I’m here to tell you that your no reason is enough. A tiny baby hand rested on yours is enough. The simple realization of “this isn’t working” is enough.

You don’t need my validation. I don’t need yours.

But it feels right to give it anyway.

Just like this morning, when Arlo woke up, crawled over, and did this.

If it works, I ain’t fixin’ it, no matter how many books insist it’s broken.

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  • Mary

    Beautiful. As always.

  • Andi

    Nailed it!! This is the best parenting advice that I ever received- “do what works until it doesn’t anymore and don’t tell anyone what you are doing”!

    • Emily

      Especially not telling people! That’s awesome advice.

  • Sara

    I love this: “The plant is thriving or it’s not. It’s healthy or it’s not. Our efforts are working or they’re not.”

    It’s funny because everything anti-sleep-training I read when I was going through it w/ my daughter was, “sleep training goes against every mother’s instincts.” (Shame, shame, shame). Maybe I’m a sociopath but that wasn’t true for me. My instinct told me that she needed her space to sleep well. That she could do this. And I gave it to her, and she did. That didn’t mean it was easy, but it was what I chose to do when I listened to my heart. She slept and she thrived, and so did I.

    I’ve only had the experience of 1 kid so far, maybe the next will need something else. But so far I agree that listening to one’s own gut – even if your gut isn’t saying the same thing as the next person’s – is the way to go. Nice post.

    • Emily

      *uncomfortable teary eye contact* *hand on your shoulder a little too hard* I’ve been there. I was reluctant to say it when my daughter was a baby, but now that she’s older and my son isn’t a baby anymore either, I’ve got the confidence to say… My daughter hated being a baby. I want to skip down the halls of a psych ward, singing, “I had a baby who hated nursing; THAT CAN’T EVEN BE A THING”. My daughter couldn’t co-sleep; she’d kick and punch me all night and sleep very restlessly. She didn’t like nursing because she doesn’t like people in her personal space when she’s eating and she doesn’t like eye contact. I had to sit still in a chair and not look at her and nobody could talk to me or else she’d pull off my breast and fuss at me. She insisted on being held upright in our laps and nearly refused to crawl because it was horizontal. Now, sleep training wasn’t going to happen with her, but that’s her. I’m just saying, I know what you mean when you talk about how people love to talk about “mother’s instincts-as-long-as-your-instincts-tell-you-to-do-exactly-this-and-nothing-else”, and the shame that goes along with that. It’s just another way to be an “expert” that undermines your confidence, except this time with the benefit of also undermining your trust in your doctor and denying your need to ever set your baby down. Woo!

    • Cait B

      THIS! I wanted to cosleep, but little man can not sleep well next to me or his dad (except on rare occasions) but this post actually is a good way for me to phrase it. Co-sleeping was not working, so I changed despite all the guilt and BS that I got and now my baby finally gets the sleep he needs. That’s all that matters.

    • Exis007

      So. much. this.

      So, I don’t have biological kids yet but I raised foster kids for a decade. You want to talk about the plant test? Kids get dropped off with garbage bags full of clothes, a sketchy history, and you have no idea what you’re in for. It is guess and check. It’s all guess and check. I think it is one of the best primers to biological parenting because anyone’s ‘advice’ immediately triggers this mental incongruity. For any given suggestion, I can come up with a past kid for whom that would be a very helpful idea. I can also come up with three who would have lost their shit. Yes, earlier bedtimes would work for James (totally bullshit names) but Sarah would have been a screaming mess for three hours. And it doesn’t make it good advice or bad, it just makes us all fucking insane trying to judge ourselves and any kid against it.

      I also think we forget that whatever you are doing has to work with both people. I don’t care if I end up with clingiest, cluster-feeding baby in the UNIVERSE, I know full well I cannot have a baby in my bed. I thrash like a maniac, I sleepwalk, I lucid dream, I have been known to do entire flips (as in, raise myself up, spring into the air, and land on my other side) while sleeping. Probably not safe for an infant. And my future husband, while he sleeps like a living corpse, is woken by the most minute distrubance and cannot fall back to sleep. Ever. If you’re wondering how we haven’t killed each other yet, the answer is that we have a guest bed for backup. So….probably not going to be a co-sleeping parents. You know, not because we hate our (future) kid, but mostly because we don’t want to kill it. Or ourselves. So, I guess that makes us horrible people or some other bullshit.

  • Elaine

    Hi Janelle,
    1. If you ever need data I can find it and crunch it for you 🙂
    2. Sleep training, what a hoot. We all figure out how to sleep, and I don’t see many grown people in diapers so we tend to figure that out too…
    3. And hey, a blow torch is dry heat but that doesn’t mean I want to stand in front of one!
    Have a great holiday.
    E.

    • Jo

      Hey
      Most of us were trained to hold it in till we got to the potty. Maybe you missed that part? Potty training being necessary doesn’t automatically make sleep training necessary, but that doesn’t mean your comparison isn’t senseless.

  • Shay

    “Because a new reality always, eventually, surfaces. That’s what I’ve learned in 14 years of motherhood. It’s all temporary, though it doesn’t seem so at the time.”

    LOVE THIS! Thanks again for a thought provoking, honest and real post!

  • Brigid

    Thank you.
    I really needed to read this today.

  • Nieves Rathbun

    Thank you. I needed this. Advice is great and I seek it sometimes but it has to pass the mama gut test, fer sure. Then there are the days that I wonder if I’m doing it all wrong (which might be true some days). This reminder is good stuff. Thank you.

  • Lorna

    YES as always so wonderfully written and what so many people are thinking. We co-sleep and have been known to not confess in certain groups due to the responses from people. When my son, now 6 and happily, soundly sleeping in his own room, was co-sleeping we were getting input and criticism from all corners. We began questioning what we were doing so we asked a child behaviourist friend of ours (yes, really) about it and what should we do to manage it and get him in his own bed… her response – “Are you all getting sleep” – Us – “erm, well, yes” and her wise reply “well, why change it, that is the healthy end result you want right”. As you say, its what works for you and your family… sod the rest.

  • Marie

    Truth. Truth. Truth. The only parenting advice I ever give is “do what is best for YOUR family”

    Love this. As always. Thanks.

  • Phillipa

    We’re co-sleepers……mainly because at least if they are sleeping in my bed, we’re actually sleeping. I am too damn tired to get up at 2:00 AM to walk the back to bed. Sometimes they aren’t there, and that’s great. Sometimes they are, and I’m okay with that too. The other night, I had three in with me, and my husband was in a twin bed with the fourth….oh well.

  • Danielle

    Your blogs are always spot on!!! Everyone without kids or that has always had a damn nanny… Write books and then the pressure is on!!! You are a mom living in the trenches of motherhood, you are real and I fuckin love it. It is so refreshing to read your blogs and know my crazy is the norm!!

  • Tracy

    Yes, yes- “I knew I would just hang out here in messed-up sleep land until a new reality surfaced” thank you. My comments are never original- but thank you!! Love your writing!

  • Lisa

    I am actually an expert and a mother of three children who have never burned puppies. Janelle,you are an expert. You just happen to give your expertise in rather non-traditional yet highly entertaining ways.

  • Wendy Kelly

    Just discovered you & am madly in love. I have been parenting now for nearly 18 years, and my four boys (three teenagers) are happy, well adjusted people. I’d love to mention one “expert” though, if I may: Mary Sheedy Kurcinka who wrote “Raising Your Spirited Child” It was that book that helped me get in touch with my core mothering and stop listening to all the f***** experts.

    Honestly, the less I care what other people think of how I “parent” the happier I am.

    Thank you!

    • Emily

      Ooh, I’m going to check that book out. Thanks!

      • Wendy Kelly

        Seriously – Let me know what you think — I have given that book so so many mom friends over the years & it’s always well received.

        Okay if it’s not for you 🙂 but I’d love to hear what you think!

        Weird to think that that book must be “old” now, since my eldest son is nearly 18!!!

  • Tanya

    Well done:)! Thank you!!

  • Melissa

    Yes yes yes! A wise mother once told me, when my son was really young, “who knows what is right and what works, I think that you just raise your kid by letting them only get away with what you can put up with.” I don’t know if she will ever know, how much I appreciated those words then, and still use as my mantra today.

  • Jo Eberhardt

    I think experts are important. Not because they’re always right (they’re not), but because they provide an idea, a method of implementation, and a sense of security around trying something new. But adhering to anything one group of experts says when that thing is clearly not working is a one way ticket to crazy-town. I know, because I’ve ridden that train. (Spoiler alert: In the end, it crashes. Spectacularly.)

    When I had my first child, I read a lot about sleep training — prompted, largely, by my mother’s opinion that babies and children should never, under any circumstances, be allowed in their parents’ bed. So I sleep-trained my son. And it was easy. He never once came into my bed, and, by the time he was six weeks old, he was sleeping 10 hours overnight in his cot. Boom. Done.

    When my second son was born, I did exactly the same thing — secure in my own sleep-training superiority. Well, that didn’t last long. Every time I wasn’t holding my baby, he screamed. He cried. He worked himself up into an hysterical lather. I read more about sleep-training — because clearly the problem was ME, not him or the system, but ME — and I rode that train all the way into the ground, until, sleep-deprived from spending all night alternating between sitting next to his cot, hand on his chest, and standing outside his room, sobbing and watching the minutes tick by on the clock, I had a car accident.

    It wasn’t bad. Really just a fender bender. But I had two children in the car, and I was so tired, I’d put the car into reverse instead of drive, and smashed into the car behind me. And it was terrifying. My 4yo sobbed that I’d scared him. My baby wailed in terror. And I sat in the front seat, with the car turned off, and cried and cried and cried, and determined that I would do anything — ANYTHING — if only I would be allowed to get some sleep. Because if I didn’t…. the thought was too much to think about.

    And so that night, for the first time, I took my baby into my bed. He curled his little body up next to mine, pressed his feet against my stomach, held on to my fingers with his little hands, and slept.

    All night.

    No nursing, no crying, no waking up. He just slept.

    And so did I.

    And that’s when I threw out all the shoulds and musts and needs, and learned that it’s not about me, and it’s not about systems — it’s about what my individual children need. And that’s okay.

    So I agree with you, except on one point. I don’t think people cling to a system because they think there’s something wrong with the baby if it’s not working. I think they cling to it because they think there’s something wrong with THEM if it’s not working. I think all of this parenting zealotry comes from a place of deep insecurity. “But the epxerts say this works, and it’s not working for me, so I must be doing something wrong. If I can’t make it work it means I’m a bad mother.”

    But it’s not about our mothering, and it’s not about the system, it’s about our children and what they need. And once we figure that out (aided, perhaps, by having multiple children and realising how individual they all are), it makes the journey a hell of a lot less stressful.

    • Jo Eberhardt

      Sorry for the essay length response! Clearly this touched a nerve.

      • Erin johnson

        That was beautifully written.

      • Faye

        I was transfixed by your story! Illustrated the point wonderfully.

    • C

      such a beautiful, honest story. Made me cry! xxx

    • Emily

      This is wonderful, and if you’re not a blogger, you should be! Also, if my son were six months younger, I would have cried reading this, but he’s just old enough now that I’m not chronically sleep-deprived, so my tears don’t quite fall at the drop of a hat anymore. :.) I really feel for you, and I’ve been there! Felt myself falling asleep at the wheel, been at the absolute end of my rope, desperate for anything. I think you’re right that people do think it’s something wrong with them, although I did have a couple moments of thinking, “Did I actually do a bad job of making a kid? Did I make a defective kid?” Ha ha, even there, you can see I’m thinking it’s something I did wrong.

  • Miki

    Yes! Follow your gut! I’m happily a member of an open minded baby sleep group on facebook. About 90% of the members sleep train or something along those lines, the rest of us cosleep and NO ONE CARES. The woman who started the group has a sleep training blog, is about to publish a book on baby sleep, and always says sleep training is the last choice – if no one is getting sleep and it’s affecting everyone then please try it for your sanity’s sake. But if everyone is happy and well rested then why go through with it?

    Fuck judgey people. (^_^)

    • Emily

      That sounds magical.

  • Jessica Camarena

    You rock, mama! Thank you!

  • Meg

    There is something to be said for raising kids who are born a decade (or more) apart. You really get just how temporary every little (or big) thing is! Thanks for sharing and doing what you do!

  • Elizabeth

    I love this! Seriously!

    We have twins, a boy and a girl, who just turned 9 years old. When I was pregnant with them, everyone – EVERYONE – gave me advice on how to sleep train them. “Get them on a sleep schedule IMMEDIATELY!”, “You HAVE TO be able to breast feed them!” (which, as it turns out, I wasn’t able to do, due to having to be put on heart medication), etc. I cried for months because everything that was “supposed to work” wasn’t working for me and for my kids. The only thing that worked, and frankly, they did it on their own, was the sleeping. My kids are champion sleepers, and have been since birth. Thank the gods!

    Anyway, thank you! For your insight. For your blog. For being awesome and honest.

  • Maygen

    YES! THANK YOU!

  • Annick

    I’ve never followed expert advice. I read a few articles after I had my first and decided fuck it, I’ll follow my gut, and it worked.
    I’m doing the same with this one who is totally different from his brother, but it works.
    Both my boys are thriving and I love that I can focus my energy raising them instead of on reading articles and freaking out when things don’t work the way they say they should. ?

  • Joelle

    Thanks for the reminder, Janelle! After 3 kids, the only advice I give new mothers is to do what feels right for them and their kids. It’s the hardest advice to follow and the hardest to feel good about when people question your decisions. But, oh, it is so totally worth it.

  • Joy

    I sleep trained my daughter when she was 11 months because by then it had become clear that it was the only thing that WOULD work. I think she was actually relieved when it finally clicked that she didn’t have to keep waking up during the night just in case everybody was drinking milk without her (we weren’t).

    Then again I don’t have a great track record with keeping plants alive, google or not, so I’m probably doing it all wrong…

  • Sarah

    I love this! My daughter is two and just started sleeping in her bed again. I followed my instincts and had her sleeping with us after we moved. She also still nurses. People scared me when she was one telling me that she’d sleep with us forever. No. She slept with us when she needed (needs) to and is perfectly happy and healthy. She’s not scared and she’s not forced. Instincts, people! Instincts!

  • Jen

    Just read this, and cried. You’re right, we don’t need each other’s validation, but it feels so great to know that I’m not alone.
    8.5month old son still waking every 3 hours to nurse throughout the night, & I work 12 hour shifts. Everyone telling me to put him in a different room, let him cry it out, that “you must put a stop to this!”. And I keep telling them that I feel him changing, that it won’t be this way for much longer. It’s all temporary.
    I’m exhausted, but it feels right to let him find his way.
    Nothing else feels right.
    Thank you so much for writing this.

  • Wendy Yosefian

    I never read any of the books until it came to sleep training. Then, I read them all. And got tons of advice. All pointing in opposite directions. It was awful. I tried them all on my little experiment that I call my first-born. Poor kid. He managed to cry thru every single training we tried and didn’t sleep thru the night until he was three!! In the meantime, I had my second and she slept thru the night at three weeks…
    So, when it came time to training her to stop-sucking her thumb, well, we tried them all. And, at age 7, she’s still sucking her thumb and I’m looking for a good orthodontist…

  • Liz

    THANK YOU! I cried reading this – I am a new mum and I am getting the influx of advice of what I SHOULD be doing. I am losing the day time sleep battle but he sleeps so well when I wear him but not in his crib. I sat there this morning sssshhhhing and patting whilst he was screaming and looking at me like MUM WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING… HOLD ME. When I picked him up he was drenched with sweat from working himself into such a state.
    I felt worse at that moment than I do wearing him… worrying I am setting myself up for a bad habit to break later on.
    Thanks for giving me the confidence to go with the flow 🙂

    • Emily

      I went to college with a lot of very weird people, and not even any of them needed to be rocked to sleep! ;.D

      It is hard, and you get pulled in so many directions by your own brain, not to mention everybody else. Really, it’s about surviving, because they’re going to do what they’re going to do. I think the whole child-rearing self-help industry would crumble if kids were born with a natural “control” twin so you could see what kind of difference you were making when you try different techniques. I think the answer would be, “Pretty much none. Just love your kid and get through this.”

  • Amy DuBois

    YES! I keep joking that I have NO idea why I keep a 3 bedroom house – my 14-year-old and 10-year-old are either on the couch together, in the 14-year-old’s room together, one on the couch, one on the loveseat, OR (more likely than not) BOTH piled into my bed. People say, “Your kids are 14 & 10 and you still let them sleep with you? Isn’t that creepy?” Creepy??? We’re all fully clothed for cripe’s sake! Haven’t you ever been camping and shared a tent with others? Haven’t you gone on a trip and shared a hotel bed with a person other than your partner? Was THAT creepy? This is family – these are my KIDS. Let’s face it, they aren’t going to be kids forever. They aren’t going to want to be in my bed, snuggling, sharing stories about their days, their dreams and aspirations. I complain, because having my son in bed is like sleeping with a ninja with Tourette’s Syndrome, and sometimes I wake up with black and blue marks on my legs, or an arm across my throat – but I love that! It’s worth the trade off. Thank you again for a fabulous, validating, post! <3

  • Michelle King

    I was just having a conversation with someone yesterday about the whole breastfeeding vs bottle feeding idea. We were both in agreement that too many people judge each other on their choices. Every mother is different, every child is different and every situation is different. I think that having options is a good way to go, but we shouldn’t point fingers at those who choose a different option than we did. I breastfed both of my children because I wanted to and was fortunate that I could. I was a bottle fed baby and I am in no way sickly or stunted (I am a healthy 5’10”). Whichever works best for you – great! Same thing with the whole sleep training, co-sleeping debate. Whatever allows for everyone to feel happy and secure is the way to go. We all just need to trust our own instincts because only we know what is best for ourselves and our families.

    Loved this post!!! 🙂

  • Erin

    Amen. I gave up on parenting books with my second (and last), except for medical reference now and then. Two things wrong with the vast majority of them: (1) they do not take the parents’ personalities and needs into account (I get it, it’s about the baby, but you also have to do what is capable within your own system), and (2) they act as if there’s just one right way to nurture, love, feed a baby (regardless of their particular stance). I could not sleep if I had a baby next to me, so I didn’t co-sleep b/c I decided that my baby needed a sane mother more than she needed to sleep next to me. But during the day, when she nursed and wanted to KEEP nursing while asleep…I let her. I would sit for 2 or more hours if she needed that (usually with a book in hand after a while). I struggled so much more with my son (regret I’ll always have) and think my PPD had much to do with listening to the books too much…but, know what? at 10 and 14, they both turned out just fine. Normal, loved and loving, flawed, human.

    So again I say: amen to all you said.

    • Emily

      Your first item is so important! The parents’ and family’s needs are just brushed aside, so that even the most affirming books seem to be saying, “What, you’re saying there’s something you’re too selfish to change/do without for your baby’s sake?” I think this became even more clear for me after the second kid, because of course, you can pretend that you would change absolutely everything for your baby, but you can’t pretend that your toddler can. Like, are you going to try cry-it-out in a small apartment or house, so your toddler can be up all night too and cranky all day tomorrow? For months? If you can’t buy a bigger house or go back in time to not have the second kid, guess the baby’s just going to grow up to be a narcissistic deadbeat because you couldn’t sleep train.

  • Andrea Mae

    Thank you. Follow your gut… Words we live by. Reading this one teared me up along with such a sweet picture, says it all! Sniff, sniff.

  • MissT

    Youre right, of course. However the whole co sleeping thing makes me nervous just because of more practical reasons. Ive got a friend who is a paramedic and theyve never co slept because he had just seen too much tragedy. I’ve been told by people who arent paramedics that this is baloney and it never happens. But trust me, it does. Too much.

  • Rebecca

    Great post. There’s nothing like having more than one kid to illuminate how little one knows about parenting. As I like to tell my friends who are expecting: the only piece of parenting advice I have is to sign up for Amazon prime.

  • Julie

    Nursing my almost 4 year old is not working for me anymore, and I am stopping cold turkey, or going to try to anyway. Wish me luck! And thank you for another great post.

  • Mary Ann

    Everything about THIS. Everything. Thank you. WINNING.

  • Natalie artuner

    I dig your style. Not often enough do I find motherhood articles/blogs/advice of this ilk and I couldn’t agree with you more.

  • Mary

    Like what you have to say but the plant analogy was not for me, I kill plants, I’d rather not do that with my children 🙂

  • Beth

    Is there a particular reason this message could not have been delivered free of foul language?

    I had to stop reading because of the language…so I really don’t even know what the rest of the article said.

    Just sign me

    Offended

    • renegademama

      I wish you would have commented sooner. I mean if I had known my language OFFENDED PEOPLE I would have stopped a long time ago!

      Thanks so much for helping bring me into the light.

      Signed

      Sarcastic as fuck

      • Bizzie

        What foul language??

  • Tom

    I must disagree with the co-sleeping however. A newborns chest and lungs are very fragile and just a little pressure from a wrong roll can stop them from breathing. Back in the day they would call these deaths SIDS, but those who investigated these and the medical examiners knew what really happened. I am not judging, just warning.

  • Lilli

    Brilliant. Truth. This piece speaks to me so clearly– what’s interesting is that I sleep trained my son. And I did it because it felt right. At 12 weeks, we put him in his crib because I couldn’t sleep a wink with him near me. And me on no sleep is an ugly thing!

    That first morning, after he slept through the night, he was SO DAMN HAPPY. And so was I. Now at 15 months, the only surefire way to calm him down from a tantrum is to put him in his crib. He is just so comforted there. My husband says that sleep training is, “The best fucking thing you’ve ever done.”

    I had no agenda to sleep train or not or whatever. I waited to see what worked best for my son, for me, for our family.

    Thank you for your beautiful words!

  • Bizzie

    Yep! The best advice I’ve been given about mommyhood is to trust my instincts. When you described your sleep training experience with Arlo, man, that got me right in the gut. I feel you and I’ve felt that same baby hand speaking to me.

  • jaana

    YES YES and MORE YES.

  • Kim

    Thank you!! This is THE parenting advice that I hope every new mom would hear and take to heart. It took me 3 kids to figure it out and I never could have put it so well. So when moms ask my advice, I’m just going to give them this link. Love your writing!

  • Anya

    I am a doula and a childbirth educator and I am officially referring all mums I know to this post. My whole heart is madly insanely grateful to God that you wrote this glorious piece. Why don’t mums say this more. THANK YOU

  • Evadne McLachlan

    I LOVE THIS!!! It is sooooo true… it is exactly to the point! I know of some mothers who sleep train thinking that their kids will be able to sleep in their own beds as they grow… Few years later those kids are still crawling into their bed because there was a monster in the cupboard or they just want cuddles… There goes your precious hours of sleep training. I have always let my children sleep with me and will always continue to do so. Like the author said, it is only temporary and I would rather have my children comforted and feeling loved than scared and alone.

  • Emily

    Omg, seriously. I was aided in this because I basically took one look at my daughter (firstborn) and said, “None of that other shit is going to work for you, is it?” She needed what she needed, that’s all. Nothing else was what she needed, so it wasn’t going to help. (With her, it’s sort of all or nothing.) I have some dear friends who talk about how sleep training basically saved their lives, though. I don’t know if that’s what their kids needed or if it worked well enough for them, or even if it was just coincidental. It’s just that it can be hard to give your kid what they need, sometimes because what they need is to cry a bit and it’s hard to let them, sometimes because what they need is not what you wanted them to need, sometimes because what they need is in direct opposition to what you need. I get it, moms are only human and humans will actually die without sleep (eventually, but it sure feels like you get close with a newborn), and then you don’t know if they need to cry the day’s last energy out before they can sleep or not, so you try it and they’re crying and you’re crying. And then either you pick them up or they go to sleep, depending on the kid. You’re just so torn that you latch on to any argument that you can use to lean on when, given your hormonal and sleepless state, you’d spend all night picking them up and setting them down because you couldn’t make up your mind. And you latch on because you’re desperate. I’d like to see a sleep training book called “Do Whatever The Fuck You Want: You’re just passing time anyway, because you’re still going to be tired as fuck in 12 months and you’ll be okay in 18 months”. Because you’re right; it’s really just about what your kid needs and what compromises you need to establish for your family. That’s all you can do.

  • Hayley

    I have only just discovered your blog and I am loving it. I am not a Mom yet, but if/when (hopefully) the time comes, I will come back to your blog for reassurance! I loved your story about childless people, it is true, when I want to leave the house, I put on my shoes and walk out the door singing a merry tune to myself 😉 (actually I have a partner who procrastinates and a dog with OCD who needs to be distracted or somehow led into a bizarre leaving routine – but all in all, it is a jolly affair!) There is a British Comedian called MIchael McIntyre who explains this very well! I have quite a few friends who are parents, some even very brand new this year. I hope and try to be a good understanding childless friend to them. One is fully into attachment parenting, the other lives by the ‘controlled crying’ route. Some breast feed, some don’t, some do both. Some have put baby into their own room at 5 weeks, others have baby still with them at 18 months. I sit, listen,ask questions, nod, (if the two friends with the very different parenting styles are in the same room at the same time, I’m going to leave them to it – putting on my shoes and walking out the door in a flash of a second! 😉 ) My own mother seems to have a good take on this, three children of her own, she told me, listen to your child, follow your instinct, what was right for baby 1 might not be right for the others. And what might be right for one Mom might not be right for another. But from reading your blog, it has opened my eyes a little, and reassured me that it is okay to ‘wing it’ some days and not follow one strict guideline.
    As for your other post on a friends contract, I feel the childless friend should write a contract which they should agree to – such as 1) I will ask you if you want company at yours on a Friday/Saturday night while your hubby is out giggling/working/on a stag do, I will provide the wine, but not drink any myself as I am driving 20 miles to come and see you and wil leave when you ask. We will talk about what you want, whether it be kids, schools, movies, moaning about the men in our lives etc…. But will talk about me if you ask, but will never go on and on, or sound to be bragging. 2) I will arrange a lunch date at a cafe of your choice, at the time you want, in the town you want, based on yours/your babe’s routine and will never judge you on your reasons for this. I can no way comment or have an opinion, as I have never been in that situation. 3) When you cancel whilst I am already at the table at the cafe, I won’t judge you. If you are late I won’t judge you. Instead, I will ask when’s good for me to come to you, shall I bring pizza/wine/make the cups of tea/watch your kids while you shower (though I don’t do nappies/diapers. I’m your friend, but not that good a friend..yet.) 4) I will be consistent with your kids, and will always bring them chocolate buttons. One pack each, never share. As I don’t want to cause tears as much as you don’t want your kids in tears. 5) We used to buy each other gifts. We decide to not buy each other gifts as money is needed elsewhere. But I will buy your kids gifts, never expect anything back. (Until I have kids – then it’s a two way thing again 😉 ) ……… Hope I haven’t waffled on too much. But I think you have very valid points. And as a spokesperson for childless women who is a friend of many Moms – we don’t need to meet you halfway. We need to come and pick you up, bring things to you, wash your dishes while you change a diaper, listen, laugh and be there 6 months after you didn’t reply to my last text message to catch up again, and we know that when it really matters, when something significant kicks off for us, you will be there too. And lastly. I hope when/if we become Mom’s, and your kids are that little bit bigger, you’ll come and watch our babies too while we use the bathroom in peace. 🙂 (p.s I am British, so apologies for any sayings that don’t make sense!)

  • Rain

    I look forward to reading your posts. You are insightful and witty!

  • Jessica

    I can’t remember where, but I read something once where someone was talking about how the baby books said blah, blah, blah, and their mom or grandma or whoever said, “Babies don’t read books.” I thought it was brilliant, and that has become my motto. Babies don’t know what they should (or shouldn’t) be doing because babies don’t read books.

    I so much agree with this whole post. Listen to yourself. Listen to the voice inside you. Weigh suggestions from others, sure, read some books, Google some things if you need to. But ultimately, listen to yourself and what you know your family needs.

  • Abigail Stein

    Wow, this is still going on. The oldest of my nine is 40 and the youngest is 20. The oldest was from the Dr. Spock era. My Mom told me.” You can raise any child by the book, but you need a different book for each child, and sometimes two or three.”

    When I was already teaching and my husband was finishing his last semester of college in another city, I’d take my newborn son into bed to nurse and keep him until morning.Didn’t know I was “co-sleeping”. Just doing what worked to survive. Some kids slept with us. Others didn’t. Some were actually spanked, but I wasn’t comfortable with it (it really hurts your hand, too). They managed to come out of it OK. Just did whatever worked. Now they are all grown with their own kids and they all turned out fine.

    The best parenting technique I ever did was pray. Pray that I’d get some sleep; pray that we would get through the no stage; pray that I wouldn’t kill each girl when she turned fourteen and grew a mouth and attitude similar to mine at that age (I’m sorry Mom, I’m really, really sorry); pray they were just stupidly late and not in an accident; pray they wouldn’t end up in jail for something really dumb; pray that they married the right one; and finally pray they would have a lot of children so I could secretly laugh when their pre-child proclamations of “How To Raise A Child Correctly Unlike what Grandma did” went flying right out the window.

  • sonja

    feeling this SO HARD right now… we’ve been sleeping with our 3 month old since he was born and i have a few “infant development experts” on my in-law side of the family. they are all very concerned about when baby is *finally* going to sleep on his own and through the night. is that even a thing?! we’re all getting wayyyy more sleep this way. plus my baby loves to be held and cuddled and i love it too. not getting up in the night to nurse or settle a crying baby is amazing. he’ll only be little for so long! and we’ll change when he’s ready or it’s not working anymore.

  • Sarah

    Follow your own awareness and your own knowing…yes! Do what works for you and your family…yes! Fuck the naysayers who’d gladly tell you how wrong you are…YES! A mother’s intuition is real and valid. Listen to it. My intuition tells me something different about my kids than your intuition tells you about your kids. Cuz guess what? They are different!! Crazy, huh?

  • Aimee

    As a mother of three who co-sleeps, I love it. I love snuggling baby all night. My older two sleep well alone, in their own beds now so apparently I didn’t ruin them…well, sleep wise anyway. Also, I have always been super sensitive there is a baby next to me and have never rolled on one. I agree with what you’ve said about trusting our instincts. Parenting books of any kind give me anxiety.

  • Rachel @ The Mama Files

    “And as I laid there and nursed him and felt his quick little post-crying breaths smooth out back to the peace we both knew, I knew I would just hang out here in messed-up sleep land until a new reality surfaced.”

    I love all of it but THAT, just that bit… spoke to me.

    Because it’s so true. We think we’re stuck there in that limbo of sleeplessness and nothing working, and then it shifts. Inexplicably. Suddenly they’re doing something differently. Sleeping more or in their cot or not feeding at 3am like they used to or whatever.

    I tie myself in KNOTS over the cot / co-sleeping / cot / co-sleeping thing. We’ve been through a leap and teething for what seems like months and just stopped trying the cot. He wanted to be cuddled, he wanted to sleep in between us, he wanted a pillow, he wanted someone to stick his dummy back in and pat his hair 4785 times a night. So we said okay.

    When he’s ready it’ll shift back. He’s not even a year old. It’s going to be cool.

    But god, reading this makes me and I’m sure thousands upon thousands of other mums NOT DOUBT THEMSELVES like we’re prone to do ALL THE TIME.

    PS. I was so adamantly against co-sleeping but on a good night when he’s not wriggling to high heaven omg, there is nothing sweeter than curling myself around my fat, beautiful, warm little bubba. It’s not forever and I know there’ll come a time when I’ll mourn not being able to cuddle him through the night 🙂

  • Kelly

    I lay with My 6 year old daughter every single night until she’s asleep. I will do this until she doesn’t want me to anymore. There was a time when I told her she needed to sleep in her own bed and she told me “she just likes to be with someone at night”. I can’t fight that, I don’t like to be alone either. So I bought a bigger bed, she lays with me until she’s asleep and I move her to her own bed if I need to. My 1.5 her old daughter is completly different, I co slept until at 2 months old I realized she hated it and wanted to sleep alone, she sleeps in her crib alone every night. It’s what works for us. No book is going to ever tell you exactly what works for your child. Thanks for writing this, it feels good to know other people out there don’t follow one certain way to parent.

  • Kasey

    I’m a first time pregnant soon to be mom…. And of all the mommy blogs I’ve found and the books I’ve read…. this is seriously the greatest, realest of them all. Thank you.

    -Your newest loyal reader.

  • Audrey

    First of all, I found your site today and my face is all wet with tears. You are such an incredible writer. Your honesty is fucking a breath of fresh air.

    This makes so much sense to me.

    I wrote a piece recently about co-sleeping as someone who was adopted at 2.5 and had attachment issues from all that, which really sucked for me.

    It’s called “What Happens in Your Bedroom Can Stay there, i Say! http://motherofjack.com/2015/08/28/three-people-one-bed-nothing-sexy-about-it/
    Anyway, I totally agree that people should do whatever the fuck they want when it comes to their parenting choices or sleeping arrangements.

    I also think that if a child is adopted during those sensitive years, like 6 mos – 4 years, or experienced any kind of serious trauma or prolonged separation from a parent, they should probably co-sleep or be allowed to, if that’s what they need.

    But, that’s my opinion and I’m really no expert. Just lived experience, like everyone else.

    Amazing, amazing, amazing blog. Thank you for your honesty and perspective.
    I needed this today.

  • Allytude

    Thank you. I hold my now 6 month old through his naps, while I do my school work. and semi-co sleep.It works. Thats all that matters.

  • Jodie

    I stumbled across your blog after listening to old episodes of One Bad Mother, and I have to say, I love this. I am a first time mom, I have a beautiful son, and I have been doubting myself ever since he was born in January 2016. I doubt if I am a good mom, I doubt if I am doing anything right, I worry that co-sleeping will somehow damage him or never allow him to self-soothe, I worry that I am spoiling him.

    But he may be my only baby. And he’s so happy and smiley and loves everyone and is so content with life.

    This post is fantastic. I love it, I love your honesty, and I feel so much more at peace with what we decide to do as a family. Fuck the books. I am tired of worrying.