I Can't Be The Only Parent Who's Torn By The Mommy Wars

by Julie Stoian

Yesterday was William’s two month checkup.

During the appointment, the physician casually asked me how many times a day I nurse him.

That one simple question sent me into a crisis instantly.

Am I the mother who schedules her baby’s feedings or am I the mother who lets her baby have access to the boob whenever he wants?

I can easily recite the pros on either side of the demand/schedule feed argument.

Scheduled feeds means:

  • More digestive regularity
  • Less likelihood of snacking
  • Better milk supply regulation
  • Easier time with scheduling appointments and outings without the baby

On demand feeds means:

  • Less crying
  • Plenty of milk
  • More restful lifestyle (since I’m nursing more)
  • Lots of mom/baby bonding

I didn’t know how to answer the doctor because I’m both. I’m both a scheduled, ambitious, go-get-em mom who needs her baby to adapt to her lifestyle, and I’m also the mom who wants to demand feed, wear her baby, and have naked time together. The question seemed to evoke in me a larger philosophy of mothering.

I want to be both, but that’s not possible is it?

There doesn’t seem to be a camp for the moms who are both. The two sides are often at war with each other, pictured in this lovely meme from a Facebook post this morning.

I wish I could adequately explain just how conflicted I am when presented with both sides of the parenting spectrum.

On an average Tuesday morning, I’m trying to get lunch for the three older kids. William is crying in his bouncer. So I pick him up, put him in the Baby Bjorn against my chest, and continue about my day. He settles into happy, contented observation mode and eventually falls asleep.

I feel empowered. I feel successful. I feel like I’m doing exactly what he needs of me.

©Julie Stoian

And then, 15 minutes later, I need to pee—badly. And my older daughter wants help with a project. All of a sudden, I need him out of the Bjorn and away from me. A sense of strong claustrophobia sets in and I begin the complex task of transferring him to the bed so I can do other things.

Unfortunately, he wakes 10 minutes later and I’m now stuck with a baby who only slept for 20 minutes.

The next morning, I try a different tactic. Remembering the frustration of the day before, I put William in his crib for his nap so I can get the kids lunch. I hear him crying in the other room and my blood pressure rises. I feel sweat forming under my arms and behind my neck. I go in, every five minutes or so, and pat his back and replace the pacifier. Eventually, he falls asleep.

I feel empowered. I feel successful. I feel like I’m doing exactly what he needs of me.

Fifteen minutes later, I hear him cry. Another “fake sleeping” episode. This time, he’s screaming a tired, scared scream. I try the patting/pacifier technique for a few minutes hoping he’ll fall back asleep, but nothing works. He gets more and more upset.

Unable to take it anymore, I pick him up and press him against my body while shushing quietly in his ear. Every hormone in my body is telling me to hold him and never let him go. I grab the Baby Bjorn and stick him in it against my chest.

I feel empowered. I feel successful. I feel like I’m doing exactly what he needs of me.

©Julie Stoian

About 30 minutes later, I get a call from the pharmacy telling me my prescription medication is ready. Now I have to go to the store and pick it up. I look at the carseat in the corner, wishing that I’d tried putting him to sleep in that rather than the Bjorn. I can’t do anything in this damn Bjorn! Frustration sets in, and so I take him out and put him in the carseat.

He wakes up.

This same story happens with feeding too.

There are days when I like to know the last time that he nursed. I watch the clock so I can better gauge, “Is that a tired cry or a hungry one?”

I am less stressed when I run errands because I know what time I have to be home (or at least sitting somewhere) to feed him. When he’s on a schedule, I know he’s not just getting a bit of milk and falling asleep. I can leave him with Alex for a time and try to get things done. I have some freedom and I know William is growing well.

I feel empowered. I feel successful. I feel like I’m doing exactly what he needs of me.

©Julie Stoian

Until I accidentally bump his little head on the handle of the carseat when we’re out and about. I know the best way to calm him is to bring him to the breast, and besides, the pacifier in my purse is probably just as bad as a petri dish in biology class.

So I sit down in the car and nurse him even though I just did back at home. He takes a bit of milk, then pops off and smiles at me. He’s so sweet.

It’s getting toasty in the car so we continue to do our errands and come home 45 minutes later. I notice he’s starting to fuss. Not sure if he had enough milk to last him through a nap, I sit down again to nurse. We lie on the couch together, all the bags from the store still in the trunk, but I don’t care. He’s happily feeding and in that moment . . .

I feel empowered. I feel successful. I feel like I’m doing exactly what he needs of me.

©Julie Stoian

But an hour later, in the middle of the dinnertime rush, William is acting awfully hungry in Alex’s arms. My hands are deep in chicken juice and I really just want to finish what I’m doing. I look at the clock and realize it’ll give me no help in determining whether William really needs to eat right now or if he can hold off a while.

Over and over and over again, with all sorts of parenting decisions, I feel the pull of both sides.

I love feeling his breath near my face in bed—until I want to have sex with Alex and can’t figure out how to transfer William to the crib.

I love knowing he’s safe and cozy in his crib—until I have to get up 15 times to fix the pacifier and wish he’d just be in bed with me.

I love walking around the block with him cooing in the stroller—until he starts to cry and I’m trying to hold him with one hand and push an empty stroller with the other; if only I had the Bjorn.

I love walking with him in the Bjorn, knowing for sure he’ll be soundly asleep in no time—until I have to help Eden who just took a fall on her bicycle; if only I had the stroller.

I love leaving the house without worrying about William because there’s a bottle on the table for Alex to give him—until I feel a let-down of milk at the restaurant I’m at and notice my breast pads haven’t protected my shirt.

I love never having to wash bottles or carry formula or worry that I don’t have food with me; my boobs are always there and ready for him whenever he needs—until I’m at a summer picnic and the last thing I want to do is put a baby to a very sweaty breast.

I’m both—and I can’t be the only one.

There must be other mothers out there who feel both sides of the war-torn mothering ideals spouted off online, right?

Why can’t we be both?

Why can’t baby wearing and cry it out both be in the mother’s arsenal?

Is it possible to have the baby demand feed one day and schedule feed the next?

Can we store our Baby Bjorns in the storage basket of the stroller?

How bout we experiment with a bottle of formula once a day so Mom can go out and not need to spend her away time pumping?

Can we let our children sleep in our bed and in their cribs too?

Staring at the doctor, I paused a moment before answering.

“Sometimes it’s 50, sometimes it’s the prescribed 8. Sometimes, it’s somewhere in between. I don’t really know,” I replied.

She smiled. “That’s okay. He’s growing well based on our assessment. My biggest concern is always … you. The mom. How are you with it all?”

There’s the bottom line. What good does this parenting war do for moms except make us defensive and confused?

Let’s all just be both, okay?

Moms who are smart enough to make decisions for their babies on any given day, whether it’s baby wearing or scheduled feeds or a walk in the sling or stroller.

I’m both, and you know what?

I feel empowered. I feel successful. I feel like I’m doing exactly what he needs of me.