Thursday, 24 March 2011

My daughter, my teacher.

It is often said that nothing can prepare you for parenthood. It didn't stop me from trying as hard as I could . My husband and I went to NCT prenatal classes, I read books and visited websites and forums gleaning knowledge wherever I could. I began to feel that I may be able to manage being a mum. I knew what was important to me: Make sure the baby doesn't come in your bed or you'll never get them to sleep on their own, establish a flexible routine early on, feed on demand (roughly every 3-4 hours), use a bouncy chair to occupy the baby while you get on around the house.

Then Alice arrived.

A peaceful birth followed by months of anything but peace. Any slight discomfort was enough to send her screaming. For weeks it seemed as if the only time she was content was if she was suckling. I struggled to put her down for more than a few seconds. I ended up wearing her often in a sling, and just sitting holding her much of the rest of the time. When reading The Continuum Concept by the late Jean Liedloff, I felt so grateful to my opinionated little girl that she had made her needs so patently obvious.

Desperation and exhaustion led us to cosleeping less than a week after the birth, and I began to research to see just how dangerous the practice was. To my delight, I discovered Three in a Bed by Deborah Jackson, and realised that bed sharing was actually preferable to having my baby in a cot.

After some poor advice from my health visitor which resulted in my attempting to only feed every 2 hours rather than every half hour, Alice became truly hysterical, struggled to latch as I had become so engorged, and promptly threw up her entire feed in spectacular fashion. I quickly learnt that feeding on demand really does mean feeding as often as the baby demands.

Even now, Alice makes her feelings known very clearly, although thankfully she's beginning to find alternatives to bellowing at the top of her lungs. At times, it is exhausting, but I'm thoroughly grateful. I believe she is demanding what is best for all babies, to be held close and understood. As my head was filled with 'parenting advice' more subtle cues would undoubtedly have passed me by. Through her high needs, I have learnt to be a better mother than I would have been with a more placid child. We are learning together.

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