Sleep is an obsession with a newborn. What time did they go down, how long have they been asleep, when will they sleep next, will I ever sleep again? Then there is the ultimate question, asked by well-meaning family, friends and random old ladies in the grocery store…”are they sleeping through the night yet?”
This question killed me. Because my answer would be “NO” for a long, long time and it almost always be met with a story about how their baby started sleeping through the night when they were 3 weeks old, or 3 days old or some unbelievable and absurd amount of time. That is was just so easy to get them to sleep, you just had to…
- Put them down awake but drowsy
- Let them cry
- Never let them cry
- Only let them cry for a few minutes
- Don’t nurse them to sleep
- Bed share and nurse all night
- Never share your bed with the baby
- Keep it dark
- Turn on a night light
- Get a rocking chair, get a bouncing ball, get a swing
AHHHHHH!!! Did I not mention that I haven’t slept for longer than 3 hours at a time for MONTHS. I can’t handle one more mixed message about how to manage my sleeping baby! They would look at me like I was crazy to have not tried method xyz, their tried and true baby sleeping plan. As if I had not already read every article under the sun on how to sleep train and researched all the experts. But I kept running into the same problem, the experts in the books weren’t in my home, didn’t know my baby and didn’t know me.
I couldn’t let him cry more than 5 minutes, it went against every fiber in my being. I could never quite get drowsy but awake timed to be drowsy enough and awake enough at the same time. He wanted to be walked and bounced, not rocked, not sitting.
But all of the mixed messages kept me second guessing what was working for us, eroding my confidence that I knew what was best. They made me feel like I wasn’t doing it right.
Sleep isn’t the only place we have an abundance of mixed messages. We have SO much information at our fingertips. I can look up what dose of tylonel to give my 35 pound child just as quickly as I can diagnose his fever as a brain tumor on WebMD. Every question, every situation we come across has equally loud voices on both sides of the issue. Breastfeeding, discipline, chores, screen time, eating habits… all of it has 800 articles I can pull up and drive myself crazy with! How do I know what is the right thing to do, how do I know I’m not screwing this up?
The truth is, you won’t find the answers in the pages of Google. You find them in your “mom gut.”
We all have one – that gut feeling of which way to go – but our confidence in following it has been stripped. The mixed messages and conflicting advice has left us paralyzed or frantic, feeling like a failure. Now, please don’t get me wrong, I LOVE reading different discipline methods, sleep training ideas or potty training tutorials. I can gleam the best tips and tricks from the experiences of other parents and the research of experts. BUT we need to be thoughtful of how we use them…
Modify the Recipe
The researches, book writers and moms that have come before may be experts in their own fields BUT they aren’t in your house, they don’t know your child and they don’t know you. There are likely some good tidbits for you to grab and try, but modify the approach, the consequences or rules to fit your home. Personalities, age and past experience is going to make a difference in what works and doesn’t work.
Fill your arsenal
Take the ideas that make sense for your family, modify as needed, and stack them up in your arsenal. Then you’ll have a whole set of tools to pull out and try when things are flying off the rails. Our kids change and grow, and we have to adapt our methods to match them. If you have many tools to pull from, you’ll be confident in yourself to be able to handle whatever situation comes up. (here are a couple of my favorites Raised Good and A Mother Far From Home and Nurtured Motherhood)
Listen to that little voice
That little voice inside your head (that “mom gut”) is on to something, she knows what to do if we stop listening to all the other voices and focus in on our own. This parenting gig can be overwhelming and we can feel powerless sometimes, but you literally made that kid, you know what to do!
What works for you is going to be unique and varied, and will change from day to day, 1st child to 2nd child, toddler to threenager. But you know what is best for your child and your household. You have the answer already – if you shut out the opinion of your neighbor and your mother-in-law and that old lady at the grocery store that just won’t quit, your gut tells you how to best manage the situation. Listen to it, trust it, be confident in yourself!