This is my first go at this parenting thing, and over the past few months I've been feeling a bit of pressure to change the way we parent our daughter at night. You see, until about a month ago our little girl had spent every night in bed with us, and she has yet to "sleep through the night". I have nursed her to sleep almost every night, and she still nurses all through the night. This normally isn't a problem... I feel like I get plenty of sleep and my husband and I love cuddling with our daughter all night. But my midwife had mentioned that I may need to night-wean her in order to get pregnant again, and my sweet husband was feeling like we needed to have a romantic getaway.
While the thought of having a romantic getaway sounded wonderful, I couldn't help but worry about how my toddler would handle it. I seriously couldn't fathom spending even 24 hours apart, since we had rarely been separated for more than a couple of hours. However, I figured if I was going to have to night wean in order to get pregnant anyway, I had better make some changes to our bedtime routine.
So we started having daddy try to rock her to bed, but that made everyone miserable... all she wanted was her mommy, and it broke our hearts to hear her scream and cry herself to sleep. One night we even left her with grandma, thinking it would be a good trial run for a weekend away. My mom was so sweet and agreed to let our little girl sleep with her all night. She said it went ok... our little munchkin fell asleep watching a movie and only woke up once during the night... but the 12 hours I was away from her was SO HARD!
I noticed that she seemed more clingy and anxious after these "trial runs" with daddy and grandma... she got to the point where she didn't want to cuddle with daddy at night, because she was afraid that meant mommy was leaving. We finally decided she's not ready and it's just not worth it to try and leave her overnight.
But this past weekend, when my hubby went to Vegas alone, for what was supposed to be a couples retreat with friends, I couldn't help but feel a little guilty and wonder if I was really doing what was best. Then I stumbled upon these two articles: "Mother-Toddler Separation," by Dr. George Wootan, M.D. and "When (& how) to leave children at night" by Hobo Mama (another mommy blogger). I'm pretty sure those were messages sent from above, because the wisdom and advice in those two articles were exactly what I needed at that time!
I found it very interesting that Dr. Wootan wrote "the need for mother is as strong in a toddler as the need for food, and that there is no substitute for mother. When he’s tired, hurt, or upset, he needs his mother for comfort and security." He also recommended, "A mother shouldn’t leave her child until about the age of three, when he has developed some concept of time. You’ll know this has begun to happen when he understands what “yesterday,” “tomorrow,” and “this afternoon” mean, and when your child voluntarily begins to spend more time away from you on his own accord." Now, I realize that is a BOLD statement, and a recommendation that not everyone can possibly follow. But it is a recommendation I can follow, and I'm happy to follow these doctor's orders!
So no, I'm probably not normal, and the way we've chosen to parent our child probably isn't considered normal by most people. But I take comfort in knowing that I'm not alone. There are other parents who believe that co-sleeping and nursing a toddler all night is perfectly ok and even GOOD for the child... who recognize that it can be traumatic for a toddler to be separated from her mother and that it's good for mother and child to be together as much as possible. I also recognize that every parent and child is different, and has their different personal space needs. But I think I'm finally comfortable with the fact that my little girl and I are VERY attached to each other and I'm not afraid to admit that I LOVE IT that way! :)
P.S. As a side note... this week, after two and a half years, I finally got a visit from "Aunt Flow" so it looks like we're not going to have to night wean after all :)