Tuesday, 22 March 2011

A Guilty Secret

"How do you settle him when he wakes?" asks the friend whose new baby has complied very placidly to the Gina Ford routine, and who is horrified to learn that my one-year-old is still waking through the night.

"I still feed him to get him to sleep" I say, tentatively, sensing as I say it that the admission is a mistake.

"Oh no!" she says, her voice high with surprise and squeaky with dismay. "Every time he wakes?"

"Yes," I answer, guiltily, feeling her judgement crackle like static down the phone line.

"Oh," she exclaims flatly, waiting for me to stumble and mumble my way through my excuses so that she can tell me how her baby settles himself quite happily whenever he's left in his crib.

Much later, after I've hung up the phone, the exchange is still making me feel like a failure.

I can still hear my friend's dismay ringing in my ears and I still find myself cringing and cursing for the honesty of my admission.

Because whilst I don't quite know when it happened, it seems that the simple act of nursing my baby to sleep has gone from being the most beautifully natural thing in the world to being a guilty secret.

It's something that makes people hum and tut before giving me unsolicited advice, and its something that makes them look at me with a superior sort of judgement, as they class me a lazy and over-indulgent mother.

And so the next time that somebody asks about my baby's nocturnal practices I'll be deliberately vague.

I won't tell them of the way that my baby snuffles miserably with his face against the sheet as wakefulness disturbs him, I won't tell them how he sits up and looks around in sleepy confusion with his arms spread wide for my hug, I won't explain the drowsy fondness with which I pull him close to my chest or the warm pull of love that I feel as he settles himself at my breast; I won't tell them of the blissful relief that I feel as he drifts off to sleep in my arms and I won't describe those few precious moments when I gaze upon his sleeping face and brush my lips against his warm cheek before settling him back in his cot.

Instead, Ill let them assume that I leave my baby to cry himself back to sleep. Because that's what good parenting's about.


  1. I know a family of children where they were all left to cry themselves back to sleep. And I must say they are the most insecure children I know. Now they are 5 years plus and they cry all the time over the slightest thing. It's really frustrating.

    You must do what you feel is best for your son and let you maternal instinct lead you. x

  2. I've discovered that as the children grow older, there are more and more areas where I choose to be vague rather than risk the judgement of others. They are babies for such a short while. Enjoy every second.

  3. don't feel guilty. I expect your friend has missed out on the joy of breast feeding and all it brings. This was the only way I could settle both my babies until they were about a year old. I remember it fondly as it is now over 18 years ago!! Enjoy every minute with your baby.

  4. dont feel guilty - I fed my third son if he woke up at night until he was 21 months - he is a gorgeous 35 year-old now. I went on to have two more sons and they both weaned themselves at 8 months. Seems so long ago and how little it mattered to anyone else but us. The baby wont snitch !

  5. That's the beauty of being a Mom - your baby, your rules :)
    Never care about what the others do, say, think. They don't know know your baby and what he needs.

  6. I don't think you should be vague! Your approach is the most natural thing in the world and I don't know why we're all made to feel guilty for cuddling, sleeping next to, feeding and carrying our children - it's the Gina followers who are doing something abnormal not you. (I wish I'd met someone like you before I had my little one, it would have been good not to feel bad every time I let her sleep in my bed, or every time I fed her for comfort).