If you have investigated the parenting world at all, no doubt you’ve come across the lists and articles. You know, the ones that say, “10 Baby Sleep Habits to Avoid! I did this with my child and they sleep great!”
Anyways, whenever I see those, I am compelled to click on them, even though part of me knows that this sort of advice is going to in some form or another bother me. Why? Because there is no “One Size Fits All!” way to parenting. I’ve been at this for just over 7 months now, and I can say that with certainty.
Example: Evie is just now KIND OF getting a schedule down for naps and bedtime. We usually have about three naps a day, and the middle nap is usually her longer one. Then we usually can get her into bed sometime between 8:00-9:00 PM and expect her to be awake by 7:30-8:00 the next morning.
Yesterday, she decided she didn’t want to have any naps, fought every time I tried to put her down, and maybe managed about an hour’s worth of sleep between 7:45 AM- and 9:00 PM despite my best efforts. It just worked out that way because she was having that sort of day.
One of the things that bothered me the most when Evelyn was first born was when others would say, “You can set a clock by my child’s feeding schedule!” or “I set my child up on a feeding and sleeping schedule from day 1, and you should try it, too!” Why?
Well, Evelyn was born small, despite my best attempts at having a healthy pregnancy. The hospital was constantly worried about her blood sugar and gave her many of the same tests they would do for a premie, even though she was born at 38 weeks, 6 days. (Labor story on why that was can be found here.) She had to eat often- and even though we wanted to exclusively breastfeed, the hospital force-fed her extra formula through a SNS tube and occasional bottles. (By the way, she never suffered nipple confusion because of use of a bottle and pacifier in the early days. She now knows what a bottle and pacifier are and wants nothing to do with either of them.) Then she also had GERD/acid reflux.
A feeding schedule and sleep schedule were out the window with these issues. I read several books, articles, you name it, but she didn’t consistently sleep long stretches through the night until almost 6 months. She sometimes still will go 3-4 hours without wanting to eat and then eat hourly. She is just that way. And I am learning to love her all the more for it. She keeps me on my toes.
All those comments about “Well, my baby did…” were like a slap in the face to me. Even though I knew it was well-meaning in most cases, I felt as if those people were insinuating that I was not as good as them, that I was doing something wrong, because my child did not fit into the same sized box as theirs.
(It didn’t help that those postpartum hormones are killer. Factor in that I was averaging between 1-3 hours of sleep per 24 hour period, and my postpartum depression, saying that your child was so great was probably one of the LEAST helpful things you could say to me. THINK, people, before spouting out how great something worked for you to new moms!)
So, here’s the food for thought I’d like to leave you all with for now.
- Trust your intuition for your child. Parenting is not “One Size Fits All”. One recent study says that letting a child over 6 months cry it out is just fine and that there was no measurable emotional or physical differences in children 5 years later (in who did and didn’t “cry it out”). Then another study says it might not be so fine. Do what you can tolerate. I was comforted when my pediatrician told me that you have to balance your mental health into the equation with the baby’s needs, too.
- Don’t do this alone. I felt like since I was now officially a Stay At Home Mom, I had to primarily bear the burden of late nights. When Evelyn had been crying for 4 hours straight, and it was 2:00 am, I was desperate and felt alone and hopeless. Jared could tell my frustration level was peaking, and even though I usually fought him on it, he would take Evie from me and make me lie down. Those 30-60 minute breaks, even if I didn’t sleep, helped me regain some sanity. I am so grateful to have a wonderful partner. Plus, it took two to tango our way into this mess… Sometimes you need to take two to tango back out. 😉 (Also, I am horrible at asking for help, and I feel uncomfortable taking others up on their offers, but if you force your help on me, usually I will eventually accept it. Don’t be like me: Accept the help when offered!)
- Just because somebody else had it harder, doesn’t mean that right now, this isn’t hard for you. There are cases of babies being a breeze, and then there are babies and parents having to deal with much worse trials than we have had to face. Their suffering doesn’t devalue your own. So, going back to #2, let others help you if you need it. It doesn’t mean you are weak.
- SLEEP WHEN YOU CAN! Seriously. The dirty dishes, laundry, vacuuming; it all can wait. Sleep when the baby sleeps. You can only do so much when you are sleep deprived. Even better yet, use all those visitors to do something for you. If they stay longer than 10 minutes, they should bring a meal for you all, or vacuum a room for you. Don’t feel guilty about it. It’s rude for them to expect you to be a host when you have a newborn in the house. Anyone who’s had a kid understands, promise.
- It gets better. So, so, so much better. I remember during week 2, when everyone said, “It gets better around 2-3 months!” I turned to Jared and said, “I don’t even know if I will make it that far.” But I did. And it did get better. I am so grateful I get to stay home with my sweet daughter and watch her change day by day. Looking back now, some of the the things that happened seem funny. Ironic, even. Of course, it is easier to see the humor on a few extra hours of sleep, too…
Sorry for the long-winded post, but this sort of thing has been irking me for some time and I had to say something about it. New mothers- unite! We need to support each other, not boss each other around because what worked for one person doesn’t work for another. There is so much joy to be found in this new adventure as a mother to be bogged down by feeling like we aren’t doing things right.