I’m putting my ranty-pants on today. *Please note this post contains references to child harm, self-harm and suicidality*
I’ve recently seen some very rigid and judgmental memes about infant sleep which equated mothers walking away from a crying baby with “neglect” and “abuse”. I find these type of memes SO unhelpful and frankly downright dangerous.
I am a huge believer in ‘responsive parenting’, ‘cued care’, ‘gentle parenting’, and any other name you’d like to give it. It’s great to have a set of values about the kind of parent you want to be. And from these values we create rules to frame our responses. But when these rules become rigid, frames become prisons.
Caring for a distressed baby is distressing! When we are overwhelmed, our brain flips into flight or fight mode. The danger is that if you don’t give yourself permission to ‘flight’, your brain will go into ‘fight’ mode. No baby has EVER come to harm because a mother gave herself permission to walk away when she needed to. But babies have been harmed, DO come to harm, because their mothers couldn’t show themselves that grace.
And not just babies. Mothers too. They come to harm because when they don’t allow themselves to flight, they fight, and often times it is not the baby who is the target of that response. They turn inwards on themselves. As a way of keeping their baby safe. They fight. With criticism, judgment and self-condemnation. And this fight can escalate rapidly and in dangerous ways.
It’s okay to pass your baby from your loving arms to more loving arms.Amanda Donnet, Spilt Milk Psych
LR Knost reminds us that looking after our own needs isn’t about saying “me first”, it’s about saying “me too”.
Take a break. Walk away. Take some breaths and ground yourself. Splash some water on your face. If you can, pass your baby from your loving arms to more loving arms. Regroup and when you are ready, you can return to your baby.
Parenting is a relationship. And in a healthy relationship, NO ONE is sacrificed. Not baby. Not mother.