Category Archives: Baby Girl

Still nursing

I’m now, officially, an extended breastfeeder.

Baby Love is several weeks past one, and our nursing relationship is going strong. She still nurses around 4 times a day and 4 times a night (even though she eats crazy amounts of solids as well!).

When I started breastfeeding I didn’t have strong feelings about it. It seemed like less work than bottles, and I tend to prefer natural to artificial whenever practical, so I figured I’d try. If it didn’t work, no big deal. And I was definitely stopping when she got her first teeth!

Being 2 weeks late, she took to it like a champ. I was in awe at her skill at just minutes old.

Then I grew to resent her. If I was around, she wanted to nurse. ALWAYS. I felt like I didn’t even know what she looked like because I only ever saw the side of her face not blocked by my boob. I felt unloved, like she didn’t care about me, just my services. This continued for weeks. My mom told me to just give her a bottle and take a break, but breastfeeding was working and I didn’t want to mess up my supply if I could feed her. And after a few weeks it got better.

For months breastfeeding was no big deal. No longer a source of resentment, but not the big, bonding experience I’d been led to believe it would be, either. Functional and fine.

Slowly, though, I grew to love it. Being able to feed my child. To nourish her, body and soul, with my body. To be able to give her what no one else could. To feel the closeness. To know I was showing her love in the way she could best receive.

She got her first teeth at 5 1/2 months. I never even considered stopping. I didn’t even remember that had been the plan until months later, looking back. After all, by then breastfeeding was easy! We were both skilled and she needed it less frequently. Why would I stop and switch to bottles at that point? And that’s ignoring the love I was developing for it.

She began solids, following Baby Led Weaning. I never worried about how much she was eating. I’d been trusting her to feed herself appropriately for 6 months, and I continued to do so. I knew that no matter what she ate, almost all of her nutrition was coming from breastmilk, and so there was no need to worry about her solids intake. As more of her nutrition came from food, she ate more well balanced food of her own accord. No need for my intervention. And definitely no need to stop or reduce breastfeeding to force her to figure out what she was doing fine on her own.

And then she turned a year. Our nursing relationship is different now. She eats a RIDICULOUS amount of solid food for her size. But if she’s teething, or sick, and doesn’t feel like it, she can still get her nutrition from my milk. And even when she’s getting much of her nutrition from food, she’s still getting a perfectly balanced supplement from me. She nurses for comfort. When she’s sad or scared or needy, nursing makes her feel secure in my love. And she nurses for fun! She loves nursing! It makes her happy. And it makes me happy to make her happy.

No more is she the floppy little baby in my arms, being held to the breast. When we’re at home sometimes I’ll take my breast out and she’ll walk or crawl over, beaming, and crouch down or climb up to align herself and latch on. Once there she looks up into my eyes, hers filled with joy. She nurses laying down, but also sitting, standing, kneeling, crouching, and bending. Mornings when my husband is home he’ll often go get her when she’s up and bring her to me in bed and she’ll gleefully crawl across the bed, squealing, climb onto me, and plop herself down for snuggles. I take out my breast and she adjusts her snuggles to latch on, sighing contentedly.

Breastfeeding is such a huge part of our lives in so many ways. We both love it. I can’t imagine stopping, just because she hit an arbitrary age. And I can’t imagine her naturally stopping now. I imagine that as she grows she’ll nurse less and less until she no longer wants to. But until that time, I look forward to our nursing relationship continuing.

If you’d told me a year ago I’d still be nursing past one I’d have nodded, smiled, and then rolled my eyes behind your back. But here’s the thing: babies don’t turn one overnight. It’s a slow, gradual process. And while a one year old seemed huge and old a year ago, now she’s still just my baby, and neither of us is ready to be done.

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Out of Step

I no longer feel like a good mom.

Before I did my student teaching, I loved being a stay at home mom. I found complete and utter fulfillment spending my days with my baby, meeting her needs, watching her grow, and moving through life together.

Then the end of my master’s degree approached, and though I no longer wanted to, I went back to work to complete my student teaching.

For 9 weeks I left her in the care of a nanny full time. I was afraid it would make me feel unfulfilled when I came back to being just her mom after being in the working world. But after 9 weeks was spring break. And I settled back into being her mom full time without a hitch. It felt right. It felt natural. It felt good.

Then I went back for my last 5 weeks.

And now I’m home. Permanently. This is day 7.

And this time there have been hitches.

Those last 5 weeks killed our relationship.

She still loves me and I still love her. I don’t mean our relationship in that sense.

But our rhythm. Our way of getting through the days. How we knew each other. How I knew her.

It’s gone.

She has always been a problem sleeper. I have gotten all of the advice that exists on how to deal with this. I took some and left some, and while it could make me doubt myself a little, overall I knew that I knew my child and I knew her needs and I was doing right. If I tried advice that felt wrong it inevitably wasn’t successful and I trusted myself to go back to doing what was. If I predicted something wouldn’t work but tried it, it inevitably didn’t work in the way I predicted. I knew my child.

But in those last 5 weeks, my child went from being a baby to be a toddler, in so many more ways than just mobility.

Her communication took off. Her problem solving skills took off. Her interactions took off.

She learned to interact with her nanny in a different way than I interact with her.

And now I’m left with no good sense of my daughter.

When she cries, I no longer am confident if she is truly upset or if she is trying to force a response. To some extent it doesn’t matter; I don’t want to let her cry it out. But to some extent it does. I frame my responses based on the reasons behind things. When I knew her cries were because she felt abandoned or alone I worked to remedy that instantly. No lesson would come from that kind of crying. If her cries were simple preference I wasn’t as quick.

Now we are having a sleep regression. A major one. She had been teething for weeks, but the teeth are through and now the sleep regression is only worse. At night I still have somewhat of a handle on things.

But she will. not. nap.

And I am left without a clue as what to do.

I no longer feel in tune with her. I no longer feel as if we are in step. When she refuses to sleep I am left floundering, unsure of where to go next.

Of course, you never know what to do in mothering. These are entirely other, utterly complex, little people we are caring for. I never knew before. But I was confident in my relative understanding, and I used that to move forward feeling informed.

Now that is all gone. Out the window. The rug has been pulled out from under me. And I am lurching forward unbalanced. Feeling unsure where to step.

And so feeling like I am constantly failing.

My child won’t nap. And I don’t know what to do. Do I leave her to scream, even though in the past these kinds of screams have been legitimate and she is making herself spit up again from how hard she is crying? But now when I walk in the screams stop instantly and she smiles. Does that mean they’re not legitimate? Or does it just mean she loves me?

Is she ready for one nap? Is her resistance towards taking her first nap on time and her second nap at all due to her outgrowing the need for both? Or is it that she is adjusting back to having me home every day instead of her beloved nanny? Or is it that she has figured out she can manipulate me into letting her play more? Or is it that she is over tired from not napping enough and thus not sleeping enough and so she is in extra need of both naps?

I felt out of touch with her while I was working. Many moms can be good moms while working. I was not. I was disconnected from her, just trying to get through my days.

So now, when I’m back to being with her full time, I feel as if I lost the last 15 weeks of gradual growth and change, as if my child and my understandings are 15 weeks out of date. I feel as if my child has changed, suddenly, into one who is 15 weeks older than the one I knew.

I know the changes have been gradual. But I feel like I missed them.

So I don’t know what to do.

And I hate myself for missing them.

I hate that I missed the last 1/3 of her babyhood.

I hate that there is nothing I can do to get those weeks back.

I hate that I am not the one who primarily shaped who she is now as her communication took off and those formative weeks happened.

I know that in the grand scheme of things it was not much time. I know that living in regret only makes me miss what I have now. And I fight it.

But I still hate it.

And it’s harder to fight it when I feel like that time is impacting my ability to be a good mom now.

I want the rhythm I had with my daughter back. I want our easy, beautiful, in-step life back. Maybe I would have lost it even if I was home. But I don’t think so. Not like this. And I’ll never know.

I want to learn how to be a good mother to my daughter again. And I will. I’m sure.

But for now I’m just left feeling like a failure more and more with each lurching step.

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Thank you, Baby Love

I have moved! I am now blogging at The Energizer Mommy. Please come join me there!

One year ago I was 39.5 weeks pregnant, waiting to see if I would go into labor and become a mother of an outside-baby for Mother’s Day.

2.5 weeks later, Baby Love was born after a long, hard labor.

Being her mother has been the most joyful, fulfilling job I have ever had.

After 7 months of being her full-time stay-at-home-mom, I returned to work to complete my student teaching, taking on a full-time job outside the home and leaving her in the care of a nanny. It was very hard.

Friday, after 14 weeks away, my student teaching ended.

I am officially a full-time stay-at-home-mom again.

And I’m loving it.

Thank you, Baby Love, for giving me the best job I have ever, ever had. Thank you for making me a mother. Thank you for helping me find complete fulfillment in being “just” a mom.

Happy Mother’s Day, sweetheart!

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Learning without training

Baby Love’s sleep seems to be FINALLY (*knock wood…knock all the wood*) turning a corner (*frantic knocking*). With our new nanny, E, she is more happy and relaxed and that is translating to better sleep.

I never sleep trained Baby Love. I tried a variation of cry-it-out once, and half-tried it a second time, and both times decided it was not for us. I am a big believer in the philosophy that babies’ wants ARE needs, which does not go well with CIO. Even if Baby Love just wanted the comfort of my presence or my boob in the middle of the night, to her that was a need. She had no life experience or tools in her tool box to draw on to deal with discomfort or fear or loneliness in other ways. How could I deny her the one thing she knew she could draw on to calm down, me, and leave her with nothing? It was just not my parenting style. Even if she didn’t “need” to eat in the night after 6 or 8 months, she “needed” my comfort. And that need was just as valid.

I nursed her to sleep for almost every bed time. Whenever she awoke in the night, I nursed her back to sleep.

Within this framework, I set her up to succeed.

I made sure she was rested so she wasn’t so over tired she couldn’t sleep.

I didn’t respond to every little sound, a classic reason I hear people give that babies still wake 4-6 times a night after 6 months like Baby Love did. I understood this idea in theory, but it was pretty clear if Baby Love was going to need me or not: when she needed me she woke up screaming. When she cried for me, I went to her, even if it was for the 8th time that night. I might have been exhausted, but I went, and quickly. No leaving her to cry for minutes on end to try to “teach” her to self-soothe by leaving her without soothing.

I helped her learn to put herself to sleep by giving her the opportunity to do so, but I’d still go back if she needed me and was crying. One day I left her to play in her crib at nap time, something she would often do for as much as an hour before crying for me to help her come fall asleep, and when I checked on her on the video monitor she had fallen asleep on her own. From that day on she fell asleep on her own at nap time regularly. This falling asleep on her own, however, in no way affected her nighttime awakenings. For Baby Love, falling asleep and falling BACK asleep are two very different things.

Then, finally, all on her own, Baby Love was ready to sleep more soundly. She very suddenly started waking up in the night, crying out once or twice or for 30 seconds, shifting to a new position, and going right back to sleep.

I was astounded.

By this point, at about 9.5 months old, I had resigned myself to the idea that we were in for the long haul and her sleep would likely be bad until she was around 2 years old, when children’s sleep habits are supposed to become more adult-like. I had tried all of the gentle methods to get her to sleep better, none of which made a difference, and that was as far as I was willing to take it. I had given up on the techniques weeks or months before and settled in to our apparent normal. I continued to set her up to succeed and nurture her so she knew she could count on me, but I refused to do any overt “training”.

And yet, she taught herself.

When she was ready, she did it.

Since this epiphany on her part a few weeks ago, her sleep has been improving markedly. Even though she has been the sickest she has ever been in her life with an icky head cold over the past week, she is sleeping better than she ever has. She only needs me twice a night much of the time. Any more, four wake-ups is a bad night, instead of a great one. I am getting more, continuous sleep. She is getting more, continuous sleep. It is a beautiful thing.

As her sleep has improved I better understand all of the sleep tips I received. I now don’t go to her as soon as she wakes, because even with an initial loud cry she’ll often put herself right back to sleep. In the past this wasn’t the case, and waiting 5 minutes just led to 5 minutes of continuous screaming (I tried it once for 3 days, not once did she “not really need me” or would I have been responding too fast). I can even understand cry-it-out at this stage, though I still wouldn’t choose it, because now she has the tools she would need to be able to put herself to sleep even when she doesn’t want to. Before this point in her life she did not have these tools, and leaving her to cry and cry would only have taught her that she was utterly alone and could not count on me. Now it might force her to access these skills. (Again, I’d rather let her learn to access them herself, but at least now I see that it could work even if it’s not my preferred path.)

Watching her develop on her own has been a great lesson to me:

I do know my child best.

I was given all of the sleep advice under the sun. I got judged left and right by parents with every age of child. I got told I was doing it wrong, I was coddling her, I was harming her, I just needed to try x and our sleep problems would disappear.

I listened to the advice and the judgement, and then continued to do what felt right for Baby Love.

Looking at where she was from birth to 9 months, and looking at where she is now at 10 months, it is night and day. That sleep advice would NOT have worked before now on her (which is probably why it didn’t). Now it could. Other babies may be ready for it at 6 months, or even 4 months, but mine wasn’t until 9.5.

Just like with every other development that our children go through, variation is normal. I would never strap her into a walker and force her to try to walk for hours a day so she would learn that on my schedule. Trying to force her to conform to sleep training techniques, even gentle ones, before she was ready for them would have been similarly pointless and detrimental.

I’m glad I decided to trust my baby and follow her lead. For us, it worked. Now not only am I sleeping better, I am trusting my mommy superpowers more. I know my child.

We will have sleep regressions. I know that. But we are progressing. And there is light at the end of the tunnel.

And if I do end up needing to do some gentle training down the line, I know, now, that she is ready for it.

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What a difference a nanny makes

When I began student teaching we hired a nanny to take care of Baby Love. I sifted through almost 30 applications to the position, phone interviewed close to a dozen applicants, and interviewed two in-person. We thought we had found the perfect person to take care of our sweet daughter while I was unable to.

We were wrong.

It soon became apparent that the nanny, Z, and us were on different pages. I would request she do something one way, I would learn later she did it a different way (after agreeing to do it mine). For example, she was a big believer in schedules. We keep Baby Love on a loose schedule, but she’s such a tough sleeper we stay flexible to meet her daily needs. We told Z to let Baby Love sleep in as long as she would and to just adjust naps a little later if she slept late. Sleeping in usually meant a bad night, and she needed the sleep so she didn’t get a sleep deficit and then have a harder time sleeping the next night, get a bigger deficit, etc. I learned after many weeks that Z had been waking Baby Love at exactly 8AM every morning if she wasn’t already awake, despite these instructions. I told her to not let Baby Love cry herself to sleep. She didn’t seem to mind if she screamed herself out (for short periods, if it got too long she’d go in there…I think). I just didn’t trust that my daughter was being taken care of the way I asked.

On top of that we had habits that annoyed each other. She brought her 14 month old with her (which we were fine with in theory), and he ended up being a whirlwind force who got into everything. We babyproofed, but the amount of stuff we had around annoyed her. I’d regularly come home to find something thrown out of the room she watched the kids in primarily…like my Roomba, which had charged in that room…or a single pair of shoes I forgot to move after taking them off the night before and she threw in front of a heater and ruined. I was annoyed by her uncleanliness. I have berry stains in my carpet from where her child threw berries and she didn’t pick them up or clean the stain. And so on.

Worst of all, Baby Love was stressed by the transition away from being with mom. She wasn’t eating very much at all. We almost completely lost her EC. Her sleep was backslid and flatlined at about the worst it had ever been. She’d cry and fuss at least once a day, and would fuss herself to sleep for every nap. She was unhappy.

After being with us for about a month (out of the 14 weeks she committed to) she told us she may have gotten another job for after her time with us ended, but that it started about 2 weeks before ours ended. She said since that job was permanent she’d do whatever she had to to get it, including leaving us early, despite previously committing repeatedly. Then she told me the date. It was actually 4.5 weeks before she was supposed to stop with us. She was leaving us with 1/3 of the job still to go.

I was upset. I had been trying to let the annoyances go, thinking that it was just part of having a nanny and I was being a control freak. Baby Love was stressed, but I thought it was just that Z was not-me, not that she was bad in any way. She was another person “living” in our house for much of the day, and we all had to adjust. I wasn’t sure how I could find someone else we could trust, since we had had to weed out so many people with what we could afford to pay. As much as Z annoyed me, we were at least settling into each other. I didn’t want to start the process over. Nevertheless, we began the search again.

Z told us she got the job on Friday.

That evening I put up a position.

Over the week several people applied, including E. I phone interviewed many. On the following Sunday we arranged to meet with E. And fell in love.

She was fantastic. A calm but competent presence. She had no formal experience, but we still trusted her to take care of our daughter. She was pregnant with her first child, who she had just learned was a girl, and doted on Baby Love.

We hired her an hour later. She started on Tuesday (since the hubby was home on Monday).

I came home that Tuesday and was amazed. Baby Love was so calmly happy to see me. With Z she had always been borderline frantic, borderline melting down, happy to see me in a “OH MY GOSH MOMMY HI PLEASE PICK ME UP HOW ARE YOU!?” kind of way. With E she was just…content. Happy. Peaceful. She beamed at me. It was the same kind of reaction the hubby gets when he comes home and Baby Love has been with me. A, “Oh, hi mom! I’m glad you’re here! Want to play with us?” kind of reaction.

I talked with E about the day. It went fabulously. Baby Love didn’t cry. At all. Zero fussing. Zero crying. She let E rock her to sleep in her arms on the first day she stayed with her! She peed on the potty for her. She ate a generous amount of bottle and solids. She was happy.

I was happy. E was nice and calm and assured but willing to do whatever I wanted. She felt like this was a wonderful job with a wonderful child, rather than something beneath her for not enough pay, and that attitude showed. I felt comfortable inquiring about things, requesting things, letting her know how we did things, and felt I’d be listened to rather than be an annoyance.

As time has gone on the change has been INCREDIBLE. Baby Love has never been as stressed as she was during her weeks with Z. Her nighttime sleep is steadily, sharply increasing as E stays with us. I cannot stress enough how amazing this is for this sleep-deprived mama! She still naps for E relatively easily, getting much longer and better naps on a flexible schedule. She eats an appropriate amount of bottles and solids. Her EC is back.

I had no idea how stressed we all were with Z until she was gone. E is like a breath of fresh air. I am so happy. SO happy.

You better believe E will be getting one well-thought-out baby gift from us!

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Updates

I haven’t been a good blogger, so why don’t I try to catch you up. Each of these things could be a blog post in and of themselves, but since we all know THAT’S not going to happen, let’s go with a bulleted list:

-I started student teaching four weeks ago. It’s been going well. I love teaching and being in a school, and I find it very fulfilling. Baby Love is doing well with her nanny and slowly adjusting.

-I started student teaching four weeks ago. It’s been going horribly. I hate being away from my baby all day. I am counting the weeks (ten plus one off in the middle!) until I can go back to being a stay at home mom. I feel even more lucky than before that I have a husband who is willing and able to support us financially himself and is fully behind me staying home. So much for this new degree.

-One of the things I hate most about being gone is how it affected Baby Love’s nursing. She dislikes the bottle, so is taking much less milk and nursing much less since I’ve been gone. I realize partially this is natural, since she’s taking in more solids, but it feels like this has really accelerated that process. It makes me sad that we’ll never get back the stellar nursing relationship we had before I started working, simply because she’ll be almost a year when I stop, since it feels like this process was rushed to me. I hope she still is nursing regularly when I stop so I can try to rebuild some relationship around it, but right now she’s not too interested. Hopefully this dropping off of interest plateaus or reverses soon.

-Baby Led Weaning is going fabulously. I love it and Baby Love loves it. Every time I watch her explore new foods curiously and openly at her own pace I wonder how I could deny her the opportunity to enjoy and experience her food like this! The other night we went out, and she had an appetizer of cheerios, followed by chicken, carrot, water chestnut, rice, cheese, broccoli, and raw onion (which she ate hand over fist), topped off by half a French fry which she stole off my plate and got in her mouth before I could retrieve it. Half of those foods were new, but she jumped in and tried them eagerly with no fear. She had quite the spread in front of her, and it was adorable watching her evaluate and select her next bite each time. I don’t know many toddlers who are that adventuresome in their eating, let alone 8 month old babies, and I love it! With all my own food issues,I love seeing my daughter growing up without any.

-Another sad thing about being gone is that ec is going out the window. The nanny does potty her some, but it just doesn’t work as well. We’ve gone from never pooping outside the potty to not pooping in it in weeks (which extra sucks as breast milk poop is replaced by solid poop) and barely even tolerating being held on it anymore. It is very frustrating to see all that hard work go out the window, and I hope I can get some of it back when I’m back to being with her full time.

-Sleep is the one thing I have kept you updated on, more or less. It’s..going. Three steps forward, three steps back and I just hope the steps forward were slightly bigger. We were making fantastic progress until we went on a week long cross country trip followed by four teeth cutting in two weeks followed by me going back to work followed by the eight month wonder week/sleep regression. Yeah. I’m not sure how I functioned my first month at work waking up with her 5+ times every night. We’re finally starting to see some progress again towards the positive (*knock wood*). Unfortunately, her longest sleep stretch tends to be the last of the morning…and I get up for work 2-3 hours before her. So I miss it. But with forward progress I can hold on through anything!

-Baby Love has learned a ridiculously cute behavior from her puppy brother. When she wants to move with something rather than trying to hold it in a hand and crawl or cruise she now puts it in her mouth and holds it in her teeth while heading to her destination. It’s ADORABLE. And hilarious.

In summary: I have the cutest, bestest baby ever. The end.

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Sleep myths debunked!

As any good mathematician knows, it takes a solid proof to prove that something is true, but only one counter-example to prove it is false. Allow my baby, who STILL wakes five times night at 8 1/2 months, to be the counter-example to these amazingly prevalent sleep myths.

1) “You should introduce solids, that will help her sleep through the night!”

Scientific studies have proved this one false, but if that’s not enough for you (as it doesn’t seem to be for the large majority of people), it sure as heck did nothing for my baby. Not a darn, blessed change. And I log sleep every night then graph trends, so I can say that authoritatively there was no difference when Baby Love started solids, nor when she started eating a respectable amount of them.

To be fair, this could be because I didn’t start Baby Love on the hard-to-digest sludge known as rice cereal (the hard-to-digest piece is actually why some argue it helps sleep since it sits in the belly) and instead gave her whole fruits and veggies. However, I have a friend who did start with rice cereal and she also saw no difference in her non-sleeping child.

2) “You need to teach her to fall asleep on her own, then she’ll sleep through the night better.”

aka “You need to do CIO,” aka “You should always put her down sleepy but awake,” aka “You need to stop nursing her to sleep.”

This one comes in many forms, all of which are a dirty, disappointing lie. I put so much stock in this one. After all, it makes sense: if Baby Love can’t put herself to sleep how can she put herself back to sleep during her light awakenings? But my sweet daughter has taught me that falling asleep and falling BACK asleep are two very, very different skills. She has been putting herself to sleep in her crib for weeks now consistently, and her sleep is, quite possibly, the worst it’s ever been. I doubt the going to sleep on her own CAUSED the worse sleep, but it certainly didn’t do anything to help it.

3) “CIO’s only drawback is that it’s hard for the mom. If you can be strong enough to do what’s best for your child it will work.”

Actually, no. Studies have shown CIO can cause what extremists call brain damage, and while I certainly wouldn’t look down on anyone who tried it it is not without risk. It also certainly doesn’t always work.

Allow me to give an example. Say you are afraid of spiders. Now say someone locked you in a closet full of spiders for an arbitrary period of time and did not relent no matter what you did; you would stay in the closet until the time was up. This was repeated several times a day for weeks. Eventually you may stop screaming and pounding on the door, you may find your happy place, or you may even decide spiders aren’t so scary after awhile. Alternately, you may reinforce your belief that spiders are the most terrifying thing in the world and start to dread all closets, feeling your stress and anxiety rise any time you approach the area where the closet of your experience is.

Out of desperation I tried CIO one night. After over an hour and a half of desperate, panicked screaming Baby Love finally collapsed into sleep. When she woke it had been awhile so I fed her, and then she started panicking when I approached the crib. I said screw it and we’d call it a night. The next day she got tense if we went upstairs, the tension increasing as we approached and enter her room. She’d cry if we went near her crib. If I kept it up might her anxiety have peaked and broken? Possibly. But it’s also very possible she would have strengthened her negative association with her crib, which we then would have had to work through. As it was we had to build her trust in her crib back up, and months later it’s still not fully back. The problem wasn’t I couldn’t listen to her cry, it was that it made things worse for her.

So there you have it: proof by counter-example!

Now does anyone have some advice that actually works? Because I’ve tried it all.

I’m off to bed. May your night be more restful than mine will be!

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