I made the decision to breastfeed Lucy when she was born, but I didn't know how long I would be able to do so. I've been on a maintenance medication for a medical issue I have that I wasn't able to take while nursing. After discussing my options in detail with my doctors, we decided that I would go off of the medication and breastfeed my baby for as long as I was able to do so. At almost eight months in, my symptoms flared up and I had to wean. I'm truly thankful for the time that I was able to feed my baby and have that special bonding experience with her, but it was never easy.
I thought after breastfeeding Violet for almost eight months (I had to wean her because of her medical issues) that it would be easier this time around. In some ways it was, but in other ways it was a completely different experiences. At the beginning her latch felt like razors were grinding back and forth against me. It was incredibly painful - something I never experienced with Violet. Luckily I sought out the help of a lactation specialist and we were able to do a few simple exercises that dramatically improved Lucy's latch. I'm so glad I talked to her because otherwise I don't know how long I would have kept at it. Another big difference was that Lucy almost never fell asleep while nursing, where that was one of the only ways I could get Violet to sleep. Even at night, Lucy would wake up, nurse, and then I would put her back in her bassinet and she'd fall asleep. I think I had a really strong let down, so that may have prevented her from really relaxing while she nursed. I'm very thankful that I never had to deal with supply issues or mastitis or any of the other many more serious issues that many women have to face. It's amazing that something so natural and at one time essential as breastfeeding can be so complicated and difficult.
This time around I weaned much more gradually (with Violet I went cold-turkey) - starting out with replacing one feeding a day with a bottle and slowly working our way up. Although I would have kept breastfeeding if I would have been able to, I was looking forward (or so I thought) to sleeping through the night. My experience with Violet was that she slept much better after switching to formula, but again, it was completely different this time around. If anything I'd say Lucy got worse. She was extremely gassy and started to wake up four times a night. We tried a few different formulas, eventually resorting to Nutramigen, which is hypoallergenic. Even that didn't help.
I finally decided to talk to my pediatrician. I have a lot of trouble asking the advice of pediatricians after what we went through with Violet. I went from completely trusting doctors to feeling like I had to completely ignore their advice and follow my instincts as a mother. It was like they weren't really hearing me, or at least not believing what I told them, and they kept suggesting ridiculous things like putting Violet on acid reflux medication, switching her back onto regular formula, and to continue feeding her solids even though it caused major and very very scary allergic reactions. If I had done any of those things she would have become much much sicker and could potentially have had a life-threatening reaction. We've since switched pediatricians and although I really love our new group, it's been difficult for me to put my trust into the opinions of doctors when it comes to my children.
Nevertheless, I talked to our nurse-practitioner (my favorite member of our practice - she actually recognizes us when we go in, remembers Violet's issues, and seems to genuinely care about my kids and about me), and she suggested that I try a different formula (and gave me samples), as Nutramigen is very expensive and didn't seem to be helping. She also recommended that I push solids more and cut back on the formula a bit. And lastly she suggested that I try some sleep training, as Lucy is old enough to sleep through the night, has no known medical issues, and is the right age for it. I've always felt that sleep training wasn't for me and endured Violet's night waking until well after she turned one (heck, she still comes over to our bed in the middle of the night a lot of nights), and with one child it was doable, but with two kids it's a completely different ball game. I can't nap when Lucy naps during the day because I have Violet, and Violet wants my attention all of the time. I felt like she was getting the short end of the stick with a zombie mom and I was starting to feel mentally and physically not well, so in spite of completely disliking the idea I decided to give it a try.
After looking at a lot of options we've started a modified cry-it-out, where we go in every five to ten minutes to give Lucy back her pacifier and settle her back down. It's been really hard. It feels very unnatural and goes against all of my motherly instincts. I've wondered why it should have to be so unnatural to get your child to sleep at night, but then I realized that a baby sleeping in a crib is not natural at all either, so I guess in a way it makes sense. Co-sleeping is not for us for many reasons - I'm a very light sleeper, Lucy will not go to sleep in our bed (even if I rock her to sleep and lay her down next to me - she always wakes up and gets really really upset), and my children are both very thrashy sleepers. (Plus, of course, it's not recommended due to the fact that it's not as safe, although I would never judge anyone who does co-sleep. It seems like the most natural thing to me, and I'm sure it can be same when done correctly)
When she cries it's really difficult for me not to give up on the idea and go in - the mom hormones start raging and I become a complete basket case, so I decided to put on some white noise for myself (she's always had white noise while she sleeps too), and I often Skype chat with my sister who gives me support. We're currently on night three, and it's been going well. The first night I'm honestly not sure how long it took because I was so tired I was almost falling asleep standing up, but the second night it took 20-25 minutes (with me going in to check on her twice), and she slept through the night until 8:30AM! Tonight it took about 30 minutes (with Kev going in to check on her a few times - we take turns every other night putting the girls to bed - I put Violet to bed one night and he puts Lucy down, and the next night we switch kids). We'll see if the same magic works again.
It's probably the hardest thing I've ever done - I've got extreme mom guilt issues with everything from whether or not I feed my kids organic strawberries to do I play with them enough during the day or if I play with them too much to the point that they live in squalor, to whether I should stay home with them or work to support our family, and I know all of the arguments against cry it out, but I'll just say I'm doing what I feel is best for my family - for all of us to get sleep, and for my girls to have a present, loving, and happy parent during the day. For those who choose not to sleep train I applaud you, for those that have sleep-trained, now I understand.
One important lesson that motherhood has taught me is that every family is different and that I should not judge the choices of other mothers and fathers - they're probably doing the best they can for their family. Breastfeeding or bottle feeding, co-sleeping or crib sleeping, sleep training or not, working outside of the home or staying at home, we're all just doing the best we can.