04 Jan Your Baby Should…
why these three little words are damaging parent’s confidence
Having a new baby can be such an exciting time for many parents. It can also be a bit daunting and provoke anxiety when you feel like you’re not sure if what you’re doing is right. Even for parents having their second, third or fourth baby, the doubts can creep in.
These days there is a wealth of information available to help parents navigate the journey of raising children, in the form of books, websites, articles and blog posts (like this one!). This can be fantastic as there are lots of excellent resources available twenty four hours a day that can ease an anxious mind at two in the morning. However, there are many instances where “helpful” advice actually causes more worry to the parents.
My most hated phrase is “your baby should”, which is thrown about in regards to just about everything to do with babies. I’m not talking here about meeting developmental milestones, such as making eye contact, using their hands or sitting and crawling, but rather comments about baby behaviour, sleeping, settling and feeding.
Your new baby should only breastfeed every 3 hours.
What a load of junk.
Babies breastfeed as often as they need to. Some do feed every three hours, others feed every hour, the majority sit somewhere between those times. When we put a time constraint on breastfeeding, be it time interval or time spent at the breast, we are immediately impacting the very mechanism by which breastfeeding works; supply and demand.
I see many, many new parents who have been given some version of this advice. When their baby wakes after an hour and a half (normal!) and shows feeding cues panic sets in as the immediate thought is “my baby has not lasted 3 hours between feeds, therefore my baby is hungry, therefore I don’t have enough milk.” Frequent breastfeeding is completely normal for babies. Babies actually know when they need to feed! So watch your baby, not the clock and let your breasts and baby do what they are designed for.
Your baby should only sleep in their cot.
Haha, good one, say all the babies.
Most babies are not fond of sleeping apart from their parents at first. This is sensible from a survival point of view. Parents are warm, some of them have delicious milk flowing out of their chests, they can also get up and run if danger presents. Silly old cots have none of those features!
Safe sleeping guidelines are, of course, very important, but there are many safe ways for your baby to sleep whilst still being close to you. Parents often cite the fear that their child will never sleep apart from them if they don’t train them early to sleep by themselves. That’s not actually a real thing and common sense should tell us that 100% of teenagers do not want to sleep with their parents. (They do ask for money a lot though.)
Your baby should follow a routine.
If only it was a dance routine!
Routines can be really good for little kids, who tend to enjoy a certain degree of predictability in their lives. However very strict and rigid routines can cause great anxiety and stress for parents when their baby hasn’t read that particular book.
A routine should be something that makes your live more enjoyable with your baby. It’s more helpful I think, to look at it as a rhythm to the days and the weeks that your baby gradually gets to know as they grow. It might be that you take your baby for a walk most mornings and they have a bath every night around 6pm. Your family’s bedtime routine might include a song, a story and a breastfeed, or it might be cuddles and drifting off to sleep on Dad’s chest. A weekly routine may include story time at the library on Tuesday, parent group on Thursday and dinner with Nanna on Friday.
None of these examples cause stress as they can be flexible. Rigid, strict routines that lock you into such a tight schedule that nothing else is possible can cause real, debilitating anxiety.
Not Your Baby Should, but Your Baby Could…
Your new baby could feed every three hours, but there is a wide range of normal. Following your baby’s feeding cues is your easiest way of judging when to feed.
Your baby could sleep in their cot, but don’t stress if they only want to sleep in your arms at first. A baby sling or pouch can help if you feel stuck on the sofa.
Your baby could follow a gentle routine if that makes your life easier, but it’s equally OK for every day to be different at first. A rhythm to your days will gradually develop and what that looks like is up to you!
As always find the advice that sits best with your own values. Every family is different and no two babies are the same. Trust your instincts and remember that parenting is a tricky job no matter how old your child is, so be kind to yourself. You’ve got this!