Thursday, 11 October 2012

Baby sleeping woes...

I spotted this article in the Sydney Morning Herald the other day,

The writer, Pinky McKay, works her way through a list of myths/rules about how babies should and shouldn't sleep. I've not always agreed with various pieces of hers on parenting - she can be a bit extreme on some issues - but this piece is right on the knocker.

It brought back lots of memories of those conflicted, sleep-deprived, dizzy days of small babyhood, and made me think about how important the right information is when we're new mums. I was so very fortunate to have excellent support from my mother and a good friend when No.1 Son was born. There were some skirmishes with the in-laws and his father, who were, in their various ways, control freaks who believed in babies having routines that matched a clock... However, Mum and Rose were always there telling me to go with my instincts and follow the lead given by the baby. Consequently, he was fed on demand, put gently into bed more or less asleep (drunk on breastmilk) and in the afternoons when I was desperately in need of a nap myself, we both went to bed together with him plugged in, nursing on and off until we were both asleep. It worked. He was a very healthy, easy baby and slipped quite naturally into a 'routine' of his own that, on the whole, meant his awake times were during daylight and he slept at night - going back to sleep after night feeds that were just talk, no play, no lights, just a feed and back to bed.

No.2, born when No.1 was six and a half, and at school, posed different issues. There were clock issues - the school run, mostly. He was also a much 'busier' baby. He didn't do hours long sleeps in the day time - ever. It took me a little while to cotton on to the fact that what had worked for No.1, wasn't necessarily going to work this time around. So, he did a lot of his day time naps in a baby sling, if I needed to be out and about, or if I was at home, he was happier in a baby chair on the table where he was in the middle of everything - and would just drop off there and sleep for an hour or so in the midst of the activity. When I was desperate for a nap, I took him to bed, because being tucked in with me, all warm and cosy, meant he almost always dropped off while nursing - where, if I fed him anywhere else, he might nurse with his eyes shut, but the minute he was finished, they'd ping back open and he'd be wide awake sleep for me...and stressed, overtired mum means there's a really good chance of ratty baby right on dinner time when the six year old needs attention too...

The bottom line is, there are too many 'shoulds' for new mums - in my humble opinion. Gone are the days of the extended family living in close proximity where kids grow up alongside babies, and absorb a lot of baby-lore along the way. Nowadays, a first baby can often be, for both parents, the first baby they've ever really handled. It can be the same for their friends around them as well. There is more literature out there about how to 'do' babies than ever before, especially with online resources added to the welter of books. I remember THE book that came out when No.1 was tiny - all my young mum friends had a copy, it was THE bible... I also remember the woman in our group who ended up a complete basket case because she tried to use it as her daily guide, and when something didn't exactly match how the book said it should be she was just a mess. It was awful to watch. I put my copy away after that, and if I was stuck, I called Mum or Rose - both of whom reiterated, trust yourself, and do what feels right for you...

Babies are resilient little beasties, and each one is different. Having said that, they have very simple needs in those early months - sleep, food, and a dry nappy...  Putting away the 'shoulds' about how to be a 'perfect' mother (what IS that???) and feeding your baby when it's hungry, letting it sleep as it will, cuddling it if it's miserable, is what we can do best, if we are supported to do so by our partners, our family and our friends.

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