Tuesday, September 17, 2013

confessions of a bush mama part 2

(I’m really enjoying this confession thing. Writers therapy at its best.)

So here's my other confession. I don’t let my baby cry it out.

My blood pressure rises when I even type this because this confession is even more touchy than the co-sleeping thing. I’ve googled this one too. And read books. And talked to mothers in person and read their exchanges on the internet. I don’t even need to explain the cry it out debate – its uglier than the co-sleeping one and again, everyone under the sun has an opinion.

My biggest regret from my early(er) parenting days was insisting that Bronwyn learn to go to sleep at a certain time, in a certain way. Well intentioned friends had led me to believe that the cry it out theory was a universal best practice, and yet, at six weeks old, we were driving everyone in the house crazy by letting Bronwyn “cry it out” at night, all because that’s what THE BOOK said to do. “But she needs to get on a schedule!” I told my sleep deprived father one morning. And in his wisdom, all he said was, “Why?” I had no answer. And that was the end of that. Nursing her back to sleep without consideration of time of day or time since last feeding was the best decision we ever made. She’s fat and happy, and we’re happy that she’s fat and happy. AND - icing on the cake - our neighbors are more than happy that she’s fat and happy.

"girl, I don't even know what to do with your happiness right now."
I’m also glad that we chose a culturally relevant method of sleeping and feeding because Zambians don’t let their babies cry either. Once, I was gone on an errand that took longer than I expected and Bronwyn was struggling to go down for a nap without me and was letting the world know of her unhappiness. Our neighbor girl Gertrude came banging on the door, pleading with Jeremy to let her do something, anything, to help the wailing babe. 

thanks for the offer Gertrude, but I think she wants more than the pen

On another occasion, we experimented with trying to see if Bronwyn could last a night without nursing at all – there were expected tears and, I kid you not, within two minutes Ba Ben’s flashlight was shining through our window trying to figure out where the fire or leopard or robber was that was preventing this mother from meeting her baby’s legitimate need.  

Bronwyn's message: this is not hard, people

The Zambian thought, with which I agree is – if mommy can prevent baby’s tears with a simple drink of milk, then why on earth would she withhold it? So serious is this philosophy that I have been given the death stare more than once by nearby moms who feel like I am clearly not moving fast enough to get my boob into my child’s mouth. I’ve developed lighting fast reflexes, bounding out of chairs and hurdling over bushes and goats to reach the crying babe. (I kid. But only sort of.) And the fascinating thing is this – I’ve never met a spoiled Zambian child. I’ve never encountered a child-run household or a mother who feels manipulated by her child’s “demands” to nurse. On the contrary, Zambian kids cherish, honor and respect their mothers all the more as they see her as the giver of milk and of comfort. I see it written on the pages of their life book, “She gives me that which I need and therefore I shall rise and call her blessed.” What more could a Proverbs 31 woman ask for? 

some of the sweetest boys you'll ever meet. happily
breastfed during those crucial development years,
and now clearly possessing extra confidence (and swagger) because of it.

Now, that said, when it comes to things other than nursing/feeding/sleeping with the wee ones, the “I won’t let you cry” card is off the table. A kid who is pitching a fit because of a scuffle with an older sibling or because she didn't get her way gets a look that says, “Now I can nurse you or you can sit there and scream but I am not fighting this battle for you.” Because the moms know the difference between need and want. When to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em. When to let the tears fall, and when not to. Thank you Kenny Rogers for your invaluable parenting advice.

But insofar as eating and sleeping are concerned, prompt, consistent, caring response is seen as nothing more than meeting a legitimate need in a legitimate way. Zambian mamas, and this hybrid known as Bana Winnie, will unabashedly choose to meet that need every time.

What about you? What has worked in your household?


  1. No CIO here either. Even if I thought it was a good thing to do (which I don't), there is no way I could withstand the actual process. When she's crying while I hold her (teething, etc) I can barely stand it. It hurts too much to see/hear her in pain. (There's lots of evidence that it's harmful, if that makes you feel better. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/denene-millner/cry-it-out_b_1163864.html)

    Zambian parenting is certainly very attached parenting, which is how we've chosen to parent as well, mostly. Things that are a big discussion in American households, that I've studied & read about, are just a big DUH for Joshua when I tell him what I learned.

    1. haha. Its awesome that Joshua is such a perfect partner =)

  2. It is my opinion :) that a mother builds trust with her baby by meeting her needs ie. cuddling, rocking reading, singing and nursing. Through this contact They will be confident that not only are you capable to meet their need, but that you can discern a need as well.

    These simple things build relationship, letting them "cry it out" sends the message " figure it out on your own, I am too busy to spend time and work through this with you." yet we as Americans keep on reading and applying these silly principles to our parenting and then later wonder "why won't my teen communicate or spend time with me?" I prefer to treasure each moment, even the difficult ones and cradle, cuddle and nurse as often as necessary the child I have been entrusted to care for, knowing that my Heavenly Father does the same for me. When I cry out, he answers, and meets my need. :) He holds me in the palm of His hand

    1. Thanks Karen, I love the spiritual side of it too. It was always hard for me that it was only fellow Christians who were telling me to let her cry... I never understood why I would do something that didn't connect with my understanding of how God cares for us. Your beautiful kiddos are so fortunate to have such a thoughtful mother!

  3. We did CIO, but I FIRMLY believe that each mother knows what is best for her and her child - together! And passing judgement should be something a mother never does to another mother, but it sure does seem to happen - a lot! I think it's great that you found what worked best for your family and your situation - that's the best thing!

    1. Yes yes yes - gotta do what's best for each situation! It can be so hard to share opinions without coming across as judgmental - such a challenge, especially in written word when something tongue in cheek can be taken so literally.

  4. Awww...can we say "told you so"? *ducks lol ;)

    1. hahaha. yes, you can say it. we deserve it. ;)