This is a really long post. Don't say I didn't warn you. :)
First, a little background. I'm not a loyalist to any one style of parenting, but if I had to choose I would have to say that we fit underneath the "attachment parenting" umbrella. I nurse on demand, wear her in a Moby wrap, and pretty much keep her close at all times. She's almost 12 weeks old and still sleeps in our room. We don't co-sleep, but she sleeps right next to us in her pack and play.
A typical day for us is waking up between 7am-8am, feeding, play time, and a nap. Her morning naps range from 1-3 hours. During the day we read stories, sing songs, and play with a variety of toys [mostly educational, I suppose]. She has a good amount of "independent play" on her activity mat and other baby apparatus'. She has a bouncy seat that she sits in next to the fridge while I unload the dishes, make supper, etc. I can usually get about 20 minutes out of her "independent play" so I am quick to get done what needs doing.
We don't run on any kind of schedule. Well, I guess we do: Kathryn's. I stay home and we only have one car so except for one outing during the week and church on Sunday mornings, we don't have anything to do. My sole job is to take care of her. I still have plenty of time to do most of what I want to do, and whatever doesn't get done during the day gets done in the evenings when Justin comes home.
Lately, I've felt a lot of pressure to establish a schedule, at least for naps/bed time. For a couple weeks she did run like clockwork on her naps. She was having 2 three hour naps a day, one in the morning and one in the late afternoon. I have friends whose babies can only stay awake 2 or 3 hours before they need another nap. My child is not like that. One day last week she was awake for 22 hours except for an hour nap. Yes, you read that correctly, TWENTY-TWO HOURS! She wasn't fussy or anything, just not tired.
You may think that babies don't know what they like or don't like, but I beg to differ. Kathryn does not like skin-on-skin, she doesn't like to be swaddled, she hates riding in the car or anything to do with her car seat, and she does. not. like. naps. Period. Even in her first few days at home, she would go 12+ hours without sleeping. So, after realizing this week that she is getting too long for her bassinet [attached to the pack-and-play] and consequently, her swing [nap time solution,] I decided that this week we'd work on sleeping on the flat part of the pack-and-play. In fact, I thought, while I'm at it why don't I try laying her down before she's completely asleep? I mean, that's what all the experts say I should do. No big deal, I thought. It will be just like that time I had to house-break the dog by keeping her in her cage for 2 days.
It wasn't a complete disaster. I know the signs when Kathryn is about to go to sleep, and we did have some successful, though short, naps by putting her down before she was completely asleep. She even had a couple naps on the flat part of the pack-and-play. But I got a little cocky and decided to let her "cry it out" a little. Everyone says they'll just cry themselves to sleep, right?
Here's where the terrible part comes in. The first time I did it, I was crying about 3 minutes in. A couple of other times, Justin had to almost sit on me to keep me from going to get her. But then he'd feel bad after another minute or two and let me go get her. Today I let her cry for 10 minutes. It didn't get better and she didn't get sleepier. When I went in to get her, she was inconsolable. She didn't even want to nurse. It took me way longer to calm her down after the crying than it would have to rock/pat/nurse her to sleep. Maybe it's because I know too much about orphans and how they eventually stop crying altogether because they know no one's going to come get them, ever. Maybe I'm too sensitive. But I really feel like "crying it out" just breaks her heart. She doesn't know that I'm 5 feet away in the other room. To her, I'm just not there.
I will continue to do what we always do. And if she doesn't want to take a nap at all, I'm not going to make her. She will go to sleep when she's tired. Eventually she is going to be so big for her swing and bassinet that she absolutely cannot sleep in them anymore, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there. I think that change will be a lot easier than trying to make her sleep when she just isn't tired. I'm going to keep working on the transition and hopefully have her in her crib in a few weeks. We are blessed because she sleeps between 7-8 hours a night and I know babies that are very scheduled who never do that. She's done that since about 4 weeks.
If you're like me and feel pressured to do things a certain way, don't cave in. We have instincts for a reason. My instincts have been telling me to rock, sway, nurse, etc., since I first held her in my arms. I'm going to keep trusting them. It's what works for us. I'm going to stop reading about other peoples' wonderfully scheduled lives and feel like I'm a failure because we don't schedule anything. I'm not going to feel inadequate because I have to nurse my baby in public when she's hungry because I can't seem to pump enough milk. I will shamelessly nurse her to sleep at night because it comforts her and helps her sleep longer because her belly is full. I'm not going to apologize if I haven't done the dishes or vacuumed up the dog hair off my couch. I'm a mama first, and no one else can take care of my little angel like I can. God has given all mommies everything they need to care for their little ones. It's not easy, but why make it harder by giving ourselves unrealistic expectations?
I have several sweet friends who have just become mamas and I'm so glad we're on this journey together. It's nice to be in the club, right? I hope that you feel encouraged to embrace your gut feelings and know that you are doing a great job! I won't judge you, whether you are of the "cry it out" group, the "co-sleep" group, or the "every day is different and we just go with the flow" group. This is the hardest thing we'll ever do as women, but it's definitely the best part of our lives!