My confidence as a mother has wavered and the amount of guilt I feel has increased ever since Rowan’s sleep habits changed. As I know now, I had it easy the first four months. Or in the words of my dear friend Laura, I had a “unique situation.” What I’ve been contending with since is completely within the realms of normal, but because it’s in stark contrast to what was his normal, I’ve felt like I must have done something to disrupt my baby’s sleep cycles.
Which of course means it’s up to me to fix it. Except when I try to seek answers and implement remedies, the “solutions” conflict with each other.
Those in support of sleep training say it’s necessary; without the sleep he needs, my child is at risk for ADHD, obesity, laziness, and becoming a brat. The lack of sleep will bathe my baby’s brain in elevated levels of cortisol, which is bad. Letting him cry for short (or long) increments of time is fine.
Then there are those strongly opposed to sleep training; letting him cry it out (even for 10 minutes) will bathe my child’s brain in cortisol and put him at risk for becoming a domestic abuser, alcoholic, drug user, and destroy my future relationship with him. I’d be better off just having a dog, as would my child, according to some.
It sounds like the cortisol will rot his brain both ways, so I need to choose which will be the lesser of two evils and most beneficial for Rowan. This is where my lack of confidence makes me feel like I’m in way over my head and will never be the mother my son deserves.
But then my loving and supportive friends and family step in, reminding me of a lesson I’ve learned before and will probably relearn regularly over the course of parenting—who cares what other people think is best for my son? I know him better than anybody else, and I need to trust my instincts. The choices I make for him will always be in his best interests. If I happen to choose wrongly (which is inevitable at some point), there’s no rule that prohibits me from reevaluating and changing course.
So I’m throwing out the books and deleting the links to the studies and blogs. I’m letting the “Mommy Wars” women raise their own children while I raise mine according to how I see fit. And I’m listening to those who know my baby and me best when they say Rowan’s a well-loved little boy who will still love me, whether I help him learn to sleep on his own or cuddle him after every cry.
And you know what? His smile tells me that they’re right.