Today I am recovering...
Last week, for 7 nights, my 6-month-old daughter fought me as I tried to transition her into sleeping in her cot. She cried. She made raspberries with her mouth and catapulted her dummy at me. And I hung over the bars of her cot, night after night, like the walking dead, patting her head.
And this week, I have spent entire days hiding behind her cot like a ninja, as I transition her from sleeping with her arms in her sleep sack, to arms out. I have eaten my meals in her room. I have had to shield my eyes to adjust to the light of day.
Prior to this, my baby was happily sleeping in her bassinet, in her favourite swaddle, safely secured from rolling in a safe T sleep. She was comfortable, and it was working well for us. And this happiness came to a crashing halt, when another mother gave me ‘the look’ of judgement I have grown to fear. And suddenly I felt like my baby was ‘behind’, because unlike all the other babies her age, she was not sleeping in a Woolbabe sleeping bag, in her cot, in her own room.
Why do I let these ‘looks’ and this judgement sway me when making decisions for my baby? Why do I care what other babies her age or wearing, where they are sleeping, or what they are achieving?
Welcome dear mammas, to 2017. Welcome, to the ‘Baby Olympics’.
Here, at the ‘Baby Olympics’, us mammas are all in the playing field together. With social media, Google, and more mum forums on Facebook than you can shake a stick at, there is no hiding from one another, or, the ocean of information we are spoon-fed.
New research is unearthed every five minutes. Bloggers and socialite mothers are put on pedastools by product sponsorship, sharing photo shopped snaps of them blissfully following the latest trends, ‘keeping up with the times’, and using the latest techniques to help their babies eat, play, sleep, and develop.
And we watch them, and wonder. Should I being doing that?
And then, we panic.
And before we know it, we shelve our instincts, we ignore our baby’s contentment in following our current way of life, and we follow the crowd.
And before long, it becomes a competitive sport.
At every step we compare ourselves to one another. We share notes. We judge each other’s success. We quote experts. We share research. We boast premature progressions.
Suddenly we are the experts, and even the health professional’s can’t keep up.
“Don’t listen to your doctor, they aren’t up ‘with the times’! They haven’t read the latest research!”
We turn to ‘Doctor Google’. We listen to ‘baby sleep consultants’. We feed the growing market of baby specialists, selling books outlining how you should be feeding your baby, dressing your baby, teaching your baby to sleep, and ensuring your baby is reaching the same milestones as every other baby their age.
After all, that’s what everyone else is doing. Right?
However, the problem with this particular ‘Olympics’ is that the goal posts continue to move. New research is published. New acronyms require memorising. New techniques promise to work better than the last.
And we, the competing players, are forced to frantically re-educate ourselves in order to keep up.
Put your baby on their tummy to sleep, so they do not choke.
Put your baby on their back to sleep, so they do not suffocate.
Don’t swaddle your baby, as it is bad for their hips.
Swaddle your baby, as it replicates the feeling of ‘being in the womb’.
Start feeding your baby solids at four months, so they sleep better.
Do not feed your baby solids at four months, as their gut is not fully developed.
Make sure your baby is warm at night, in warm clothes, thick blankets, using a heater.
Don’t let your baby overheat at night, use only a sleep sack and keep the room at 18 or 19 degrees.
During naps, open the curtains, and make as much noise as you can, to teach your baby the difference between night and day.
During naps, keep the room dark and use white noise. Darkness encourages the release of melatonin, and the white noise will keep the sound levels consistent, helping your baby sleep for longer.
Try safe co-sleeping. It increases the bond between mother and child, and helps the mother get more sleep, preventing post partum depression.
Never co-sleep. You will suffocate your baby.
Rock your baby to sleep, cuddle them, and hold them when they require, as they experience the ‘fourth trimester’ in the months after birth.
If you do not teach your baby how to self settle by the time they are four months, you will not survive the sleep regression.
Confused yet? Because I am.
Go and ask your own mother how old you were when she unswaddled you. Ask her how many degrees your room was during the night. Ask her how old you were when she ‘taught’ you how to self settle. Then ask which white noise app they used in the 80’s.
The reality is – all of this information that is fed to us, that which governs how we raise our babies, and that unconditionally makes us feel like we need to follow the crowd, will, eventually, become obsolete.
But our instincts never will.
A friend once told me that at 4 years old, every child arrives to school unswaddled, without a dummy, and able to feed themselves foods that have not been steamed and blended. None will be unable to ‘self settle’. None will be listening to white noise on their IPhones, or discussing how many months they were when they stopped breastfeeding.
And we, the mammas, will be watching these little humans that we raised, walk away from us, and toward their own lives.
And we won’t be wishing we had transitioned our baby into their cot sooner. We won’t be regretting holding them that little bit longer in the middle of the night, while they were still small enough for us to do so. And we won’t regret letting our babies take the extra time they need to progress to the next stage in life, even if other babies their own age have progressed months before them.
By all means, listen to the research. Watch what other mammas are doing. Follow the forums. Keep up with ‘the times.’
But please, don’t get caught up in the ‘Olympics’, and forget to listen to your instincts. Forget, to listen to the unique and individual little being that is your baby.
Because if you don’t, nobody else will.
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KIM: My journey to becoming a foster parent goes right back to when I was 15. I have always wanted to be able to help a child in need. I have been married for 30 years and have four children of my own, as well as one grandchild.
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