Brendan has put Nahlo to sleep in the evening for as long as I can remember, and whilst I knew I would be able to do it, the real thing going on was that I really wanted to be able to do it without using my boob. I wanted to be able to be a part of being able to watch Nahlo go to sleep on his own with no stress involved (AKA crying it out on his own).
I made a decision, knowing the hardest part was going to be to stick with it. No matter how long it took, I was not going to use my boob to put Nahlo to sleep. I might also add that I gave up jiggling him to sleep months ago, because it was too hard on my body.
Here’s the thing – which I happen to believe whole heartedly – all humans need to cry to be completely healthy. It’s how we release the stress hormone and allows the body to relax and release tension. It’s healthy for babies to cry – but it’s stressful for them to do it alone. We as their parents need to help them control their stress levels by being there with them as they release these big emotions. It scares them to be left alone with such big feelings. It also doesn’t do them any justice to accumulate unreleased tension. By us being right there with them we are showing them that it’s ok to have big feelings and that we will be there with them no matter what. We start our communication channels with our babies from the get go.
Now, I know that as parents, life gets pretty chaotic and stressful. Not everyone has the support that I have and it is far more important to keep yourself sane, so you can look after your little one. We don’t have the village that is needed to raise a child and to do so much alone can be quite the task. You do what you need to do to keep your baby safe. Do what you need to cultivate the village which makes raising a child so much easier for you, and nicer for them.
For me, I have absolutely resonated with all of Aletha Solter’s work. I got my first book when I was pregnant as a gift from Mama Manon, a lovely GC mum who offers support in this beautiful method. I have read so many books about sleep and parenting and I fully recommend the work of both of these incredible ladies.
I knew Nahlo had a bit of a build up of tension. There are so many frustrations which take place daily for our fast developing babes, and this tension needs to be released. Whether it’s the frustration that comes with learning to walk, or learning how to grasp something, bumping their head, having a wet nappy on for longer than they would like, not being able to see at our eye level or even not having a choice in most of their daily living…
On the first night without Brendan, it came to bedtime. I gave him his regular nurse which normally happens just before Brendan reads him several books. Nahlo, as usual, came off the boob, and reached towards the books which I had lying by my side. So far, so good! He went through the whole routine of flicking through pages before throwing them on the floor, ready for the next one.
Once all books were read, we turned the light off and I lay on the bed. I had asked Brendan exactly what he did so I could emulate it as best as possible to keep the routine flowing the same. Of course, the big difference is that I am not Brendan and most of all, the obvious which sets us apart is that I have a set of breasts! Tiny ones, but still milk making breasts!!!
Nahlo grizzled as he head-butt my chest over and over whilst I spoke softly and calmly “Darling, I know you want the boob right now and I know how hard it must be. I love you very much and I can cuddle you and hold you if you need to cry.” Of course, he started crying quite heavily, and I continued to actively listen and softly and lovingly talk to him confirming his emotions. He cried for about 20 minutes before he started to really relax on top of me. I breathed deeply and after a few more sniffles, he relaxed deeply and went to sleep. I stayed with him until his breath became deep and heavy. A couple of times, he stirred, forraging for the breast, and I almost gave in a few times, knowing he would go straight to sleep with it (then the challenge is getting out from underneath him…) but I knew he could do it, I knew he felt safe, and I knew he was releasing whatever he needed to release to help him sleep soundly, which of course, he did!
It took a few goes to get him into the cot, but I would just take him back to the bed and rest him on top of me and he would cry a little bit, before relaxing and dozing off again. All up, it took about 30-40 minutes for him to get to sleep.
On the second night, a similar scene played out, however the crying wasn’t as heavy, or as long, and the most beautiful part was that in those peaceful moments before he fell asleep as we were looking at each other. It was such a beautiful moment. He squirmed, forraged for the breast again, wriggled and fell asleep across my neck. (I’d let him crawl all over me in search for the comfy spot) When I was starting to struggle to breathe, I moved him, which woke him up and we had to go through a bit of the process again but transferring him into the cot was much easier this time.
Since Brendan has been home, I have only put him to sleep once. There were a few tears as I didn’t give him the breast but he slept the best he ever has that night.
It’s a beautiful thing when your child feels safe enough to release all of his emotions with you. As his mumma, he is much more likely to cry with me than with Brendan. They feel safest around their mothers when they’re tiny (and respected of course!).
Mumma Manon, a local GC mother and Aware Parenting Instructor has such amazing information accessible to everyone. You can follow on her FB page and has some brilliant online programs. I haven’t done any of them however Manon is the one who gave me the book ‘Aware Parenting’ when I was pregnant and I know her and her beautiful family well. I highly recommend her and everything she does.
I invite you to take a moment, to reflect.
I know, for me, it was uncomfortable to hear Nahlo cry and my instinct was to stop the tears and make it ‘better’, by giving him the boob, or distracting him with a toy or a snack – mainly the boob. I realised that that discomfort was all mine, and I was not only getting in the way of him releasing his emotions, but I was possibly getting in the way of creating that open channel of communication between us both.
I was also getting in the way of him sleeping longer and deeper, by getting the boob out every time he went for it, especially during the night. He was waking so very often, and since these nights I have put him to sleep, which has also meant creating the space for those big tears (whilst in my arms), he has been sleeping much longer stretches!
It’s so important to me, that Nahlo feels like he can talk to me about anything, and that I will never be scared of his big feelings.