In Defense of Mothers Everywhere

It's been awhile since I've posted, though it's not for lack of topics, I assure you. This was composed weeks ago, but I was shy to share as it is sure to elicit some less-than-enthusiastic comments. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I have to admit we have had a difficult seven months. Because of this, friends, family and strangers alike have felt obligated to share their "advice" about how to solve Juna's issues. Often in the same day, I am given conflicting advice about infant care. Apparently, Juna sleeps too much and too little, eats too often and not often enough, is too big and too small. My decisions have been questioned on vaccinating, breast feeding, exploring formula, sleep training, attachment parenting, baby wearing, schedules, cloth diapering, t.v. exposure, and solid feeding. It seems that people have very specific ideas about the "right" way to do this whole mothering thing, and they are anxious to share it with you!

One of my favorite articles reminding me that I'm an awful mother was the post circulating on Facebook last month regarding the "cry it out" approach to sleep training. In it, the psychologist author insinuates that her "poor vagal tone" and "poor memory" are the result of parents who let her "cry it out". She categorizes her parents as "harsh," "depressed" and "emotionally unsupportive," which I'm guessing has more to do with her issues than anything else. Because if you do your research (and I am nothing if not overly researched), you will find that just as many doctors recommend "cry it out" as an effective sleep training method as those who don't. This method is not a cold-hearted, maniacal scheme to get your kid to sleep all night. Most parents do not toss their children in the crib, say "see ya later, sucker" and spend the rest of their evening drinking martinis and eating bon bons while their helpless infants scream into the night. Usually, parents are so sleep deprived and overwrought with worry over the lack of sleep their infant is getting that they use this approach as a last resort. What these anti-cry-it-outers always fail to recognize is sleep is one of the most important aspects of raising a healthy infant. It is during sleep that the baby's brain grows and reinforces lessons learned during the day. We are so quick to judge these parents, and label them as uncaring, without considering that these families might need our understanding. 

We are one such family. Are you making a judgment right now? Well, don't! After months of trying the "no cry" methods, which for us meant holding a screaming baby for hours until she fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion, we were advised by our pediatrician to use the Ferber method of progressive waiting. Or what some others call "cry it out". We were so hesitant to try this, as I have read the latest research about how crying raises cortisol levels and negatively impacts brain and emotional development. You can imagine how great that makes me feel as the mom of a formerly colicky baby. We finally decided that Juna was spending hours crying anyway, so we might as well try it! Thirty minutes of on-and-off crying (including two checks during which we console her) and we had a peacefully sleeping baby! She's been putting herself to sleep with little-to-no crying ever since. Make no mistake: this was not a cure-all for her sleep problems. She still wakes during the night to eat (or sometimes to talk or play), which I happily accommodate knowing she will be able to fall back asleep on her own once satiated. I've been feeling guilty and ashamed about this for months. It clearly worked well for our family (Juna has always been independent for such a tiny lady), but with the Mommy Mafia breathing down my neck about "abandonment issues," I have a hard time justifying our choice. 

Another hot-button topic in the Mommy community is breast feeding verses formula feeding. I am a very proud breast feeding mom, especially since it was incredibly challenging for us at first. But being a nursing momma is not always convenient, as there are very few places that provide comfortable areas to feed your baby. I have stood in stinky bathroom stalls so as to not offend anyone who is uncomfortable around breast feeding. Strangely, it's more acceptable to show off your breasts in a revealing outfit than while nursing your child. To preserve my modesty, it is recommended I cover up with a blanket while we feed. Next time you're out in public enjoying a meal, try eating with a blanket over your head. Juna doesn't appreciate this, and I'm guessing you wouldn't, either. 

So, here I am, up on my breast feeding soap box. Enter allergic colitis. 

Remember Juna, of the colic that wouldn't go away? We noticed a significant improvement when I quit eating dairy, but at the end of December, she was still exhibiting some mysterious symptoms. After a few visits with a pediatric gastroenterologist, it was concluded that Juna has allergic colitis. Which means, she's allergic to something and we're not sure what. I went on a crazy diet eliminating all dairy, soy, nuts and eggs, which for a vegetarian is no small feat. We weren't seeing all her symptoms improve, and frankly I was starving, so we decided to try a hypoallergenic formula for a week to see how Juna would do. 

Juna wasn't super excited about this change, and there were many tears (mostly mine) as we attempted to get her to take a bottle of formula. The physical struggle of getting her to accept the formula was nothing compared to my emotional struggle at having failed my daughter. It has been drilled into our heads that "breast is best," but how does that make women who formula feed feel? Terrible, I tell you! That simple phrase implies that women who use formula, whether by choice or necessity, do not want the best for their baby, which is ridiculous. I have a few friends who have to, or choose to, formula feed, for various reasons, and feel ashamed about it. 

Why are we making mothers feel guilty and embarrassed about the way they feed their child? In hindsight, I am so happy we had that experience with formula, though it ultimately didn't work out for us (turns out, Juna was way more allergic to the "hypoallergenic" formulas than she was to me). I am much more understanding of mommies who struggle with their formula feeding, and see that those moms face just as much, if not more, criticism than breast feeding moms! I was a formula fed baby. My mom had to go back to work only two weeks after I was born to provide for our family while my dad was finishing dental school. She couldn't pump bottles for me while teaching fourth grade. I have always been healthy as a horse. I also have an amazing relationship with both my parents, despite the fact they let me "cry it out" once or twice. I have never once questioned their intentions as parents: they have always done their absolute best, and have raised three healthy, well-adjusted and happy adults. Guess what? I don't even remember my infant years, and I'm certainly not going to blame any of my "problems" on that time in my life. I do remember two loving, committed parents who would do anything for the good of their children.

This is only the beginning of our journey, and I'm guessing that as Juna ages, we will be faced with more useless judgment and criticism. In case you think I am perfect, let me dispel that myth. I am guilty of getting caught up in parenting "shoulds" and "I'll nevers". It is hard to ignore all the amazing information available to us on the subject of childhood development. However, sometimes too much knowledge holds us back from being open to other perspectives. Instead of vilifying parents for making choices that are right for their individual family, let's provide compassion and support! I would wager a guess that most parents are ultimately caring and loving, and trying their best to raise happy people. I am doing my best. Mistakes will be made, but my intentions are good.

This week, maybe seek out a new mom you know and tell them they're doing a good job. They will appreciate that more than you know.



  1. I love you. I respect you. I want to be you. That is all.

  2. Good for you Kiera! Stand by what you believe is best for your baby. For all of the info out there, even new moms know their baby better than anyone else. Sometimes you have to try many things until you find what works for you but in the long run raising a happy baby is what's important.

  3. You are doing a FANTASTIC job. Unless you are asking for advice people shouldn’t be judging you and your techniques. Of course that is easier said than done and probably still will happen to you, even when Juna is 50. It’s a trial and error thing. Every single person is different, babies are people too. What works for one baby may not and probably will not work for another.

    How you chose to feed your child is no one’s business. I have seen many babies of both. And many decisions of why they chose the method they chose. Some couldn’t some didn’t want to and others the baby preferred one way over the other (yes the baby preferred formula) Some say nursed babies don’t get sick as often as formula babies. I have seen this to be inaccurate. I know a nursed baby who (now a toddler) has been sick way more than a formula fed baby (now toddler as well). People shouldn’t judge nor is it any of their business how nutrition gets into the child’s stomach. All these children I mentioned above are well behaved and a delight and pure joy to be around.

    I have no issues with letting the baby ‘cry it out’. It does not mean the child doesn’t love me or I don’t love them. They need their nap. They learn. The child can sense when you are tense, cranky, etc. So if that child is not napping and is yet overly tired, they will learn that mommy, daddy, or whoever will still be there to see their bright smiling face to play with, laugh with, and get tons of hugs & kisses from when they wake. I also, think it’s good for them to be able to comfort and soothe themselves.

    Keep doing what you are doing. May not seem like it at times, but it is working. Her food & sleep patterns will continue to change in the next several months.

  4. Great Blog. Welcome to Mommy-hood; I'd say parenthood, but staying at home with kids has left me more in the line of fire I guess you could say. Grips like these are the things they don't tell you about at baby showers. It is not an easy journey, but it gets easier to pick out the judgmental people. Keep your head up and be strong. I think you are doing an amazing job and you continue to impress me.

  5. Kiera

    I have followed your blog off and on when I have time to read it and I see you have posted it to facebook. Its a great blog by the way! I just wanted to quickly let you know I think what you have written here is beautiful. I too am guilty, as a child development major, of thinking I knew everything that was right and perfect for my son. What I have learned is raising children is a beautiful game of trial and error! ;) I'm doing my best and continue to try and be the best stay at home mom I can be. There are days when I succeed and days when I fail!:) For me, there has been no greater gift than to get to experience all of it - the good the bad the ugly! From the sounds of it you are doing everything in your power to be there for Juna in every way possible! Keep up the good work momma! :) Thanks for posting some great thoughts and good reminders about how easy it is to pass judgement on others until you have walked in their shoes! :)

    Tamara Raney

  6. Dearest Kiera,
    I loved your blog!! I am mommy of five as you know. I will share this with you...I would never want to go back to being a first time mom again. First time mommying is the most challenging. You second guess every move you make. I am here to tell you that good parenting is what works for your beautiful family not what society thinks it should be. I ferberized all five of my boys and my 2 oldest sons age 8 and soon to be 7 are in gifted and talented programs so I guess it didn't harm them in anyway that I know. Having my kids cry it out was the best gift my husband and I gave to one another because now they all have great sleep routines. I also sympathize with your food allergy problem. My oldest suffered from food allergies but out grew them. My number 3 still is suffering. He is so allergic to peanuts and tree nuts that I can't have them in the house because his reactions are so severe. I needed to use hypoallergenic formula with all my boys because of allergies and reflux issues. They beginning was always difficult but with each baby I became more confident and less doubtful of my choices. Believe it or not things will get better and what may work one day may not work the next. I only wish God sent instruction manuals with each one for all the challenges we face. Keep doing what you are doing because you are amazing. That precious smile on Juna's beautiful face can tell us what a fabulous mom you are. God bless you and direct you always!

    Beth Ann Harrington

  7. Good read Kiera! I think a child's brain is one of the most adaptable living things on the planet. Not too much we can do to screw it up short of dropping it from high places! (which I've done accidentally on occasion) There just doesn't seem to be any predicting or controlling the future either. In fact, when you think about it, it seems awful arrogant and narcissistic to suggest that we the parent wield almighty power over the development of a human mind. It's only one of the most complex, misunderstood, mystifying, magical things in existence! I got this ;)

  8. What a wonderful blog! My husband and I welcomed our first daughter on August 19th and we went through a lot of issues with sleep and colic and acid reflux. Just like you describe, everyone has their own opinion and feels that they have to share it with you even when you do not ask for it. These opinions are confusing and conflicting and make you feel more guilty than you already do about how all of these new mommy choices are going to affect your brand new bundle of joy! I strongly believe that it is so important to tune out the opinion of everyone else and listen to your own mommy intuition and seek advice from those you trust most! Good luck!!!!

  9. GO YOU!

    I tried to never let things bother me when something was said to me (didn't happen too often, thankfully) with both my daughter and my son.

    Usually what was said to me is "Wow, they are so well behaved!" or "Wow! I've never seen such a beautiful/handsome child before!" I strive to have my children behave well...sometimes that means I give in and let them have something they want, yet don't need, to keep a tantrum at bay. No, it's not something I'd like to admit to, but sometimes...I just need that peace for myself.

    I've had one older gentleman in a store think my daughter wouldn't come to me. He said something to her, my daughter didn't move a muscle. I explained to him she was in a time out for whatever reason (I think a tantrum/hitting me), he said "Thank you for disciplining your child" and walked off.

    I've had dirty looks given to me and some things said to me that, because of the day I had been having, I went off on the person who made the snide comment, when most times, I just keep walking.

    There will be negative people no matter what you do or don't do. Keep focused on the positive and you'll get through it much better! Make sure you and your husband discuss what is right for you two and your beautiful family and that you're on the same page so nothing can crumble what you have worked so hard on, no matter who or what comments you get.

    Keep up the great work! You are doing awesome!

  10. It makes me sad to read about things like this, you said it at the end of your post, instead of judging momma's, tell them they are doing a good job! For as much as we claim to have for our children we sure know how to "hate" on there's. :0(
    I think new parents need to do what is best for them. Listen to those closest to you whom you trust, and decide from there how to move forward. (parents, doctors, close friends who have gone through what you are...)
    Enjoy reading your blog. Keep up the excellent work!
    I'm a mother of 2. My son was a nightmare of a baby the first 2 months...wouldn't eat, wouldn't sleep, cried all.the.time. Until we figured out with the help of our pediatrician, what he needed. He took antacid meds before eating, had to be tightly swaddled and placed in his swing on HIGH speed in order to sleep during the day, if he got plenty of sleep during the day, he could sleep at night. he could be a crying mess, but as soon as he felt that "straight jacket" getting put on, he'd settle right down. It was like he couldn't stop his body from flailing, so this was a comfort to him. He was swaddled until he was 6 months old and heout grew his swaddling blankets. To this day he loves being tucked into his blankets! :0)

  11. I just got to read blog..... very good blog.. I am not a mothe yet, but I can say that most of my friends who are mothers listen to there own motherly advice. My own mother tried everything until she came up with right combination. I would cry all the time unless taking in car ride at night, until one night she let my Great Aunt hold me for hour and i would go to sleep. it was the way she held me that made the diffence. I use to throw up in my crib. Until one day doctor stated let her sleep in it then she will not make herself throw -up . It work next day according to my mother I sop throwing up. tere are many tricks but you have fine right one that works for your child and only a mother knows that combination. Thanks for blog I enjoyed it.. Have great mother's day!

  12. This makes me so sad because this phenomenon is so unnecessary but so typical when it comes to new mommies. Whenever you become a parent it seems like all the "experts" have to weigh in on any topic, when honestly they don't know any more than you do. As much research as we do ultimately there is no one-size-fits-all parenting advice because each family is different and each child is different. In the end you have to do what you feel is right for *you* - which is what you're doing and have hard won confidence doing so. And that is the lesson to take away from all of this, which will make you a stronger parent overall.

    One key thing to remember is that those most judgmental about how someone else is doing something are generally the most insecure about their own performances. It is really a reflection more on them than on you. I'm sure if you ask Juna she'd tell you that you are her idea of a perfect Mommy, and that's all the validation one really needs anyway.

    My sons are 22 and 19, both learned to self-soothe (cry it out) and were bottle fed in addition to being breastfed. And I may be biased but... I think they're phenomenal. ;)

    Parenting, especially in the beginning, is all trial and error. It sounds to me like you're doing just fine. **hugs**

  13. Just remember: YOU are the expert on YOUR baby. Period. People may give advice and counsel, including doctors, but you are the ones that know your child the absolute best. I have two boys, have slogged thru mounds of unsolicited advice and I have come out the other side.Mine are 16 and 18, and believe me, they sleep in their own beds and sleep well. Parenting continously morphs into something different. Right now it's sleeping and eating, later it'll be sleepovers and cell phones. Just keep telling yourself who the go to expert on your child is. Same holds true with medical professionals. Yes, they are an integral part of your child's wellness. Use them for medical advice, not necessarily parenting advice. In the case of the Ferber recommendation, it was parenting advice and in this case this worked for you. Great! If it hadn't worked, you'd have moved on to another plan.

    You're doing great!