If you’ve been a parent for more than 13 seconds, then you’ve probably received parenting advice in some form or another. Once you’ve had a child, everyone’s a critic.
“Never put Baby in your bed and always lay him on his back to sleep otherwise your baby will die of SIDS.”
“Co-sleeping is a great way to get more sleep and promote bonding with your baby!”
“Let your baby learn how to ‘self soothe’ (AKA cry) themselves to sleep, otherwise they’ll manipulate you into waking up all night long.”
“Don’t let your baby cry it out. He’ll think he’s been abandoned and have emotional scarring.”
“Nurse on demand. Baby will let you know when he’s hungry.”
“Feed your baby according to a set timetable.”
“Relax and go with the flow.”
“Get Baby on a schedule immediately. Babies thrive on order and routine.”
So many opinions. So much advice. So many thoughts on “best practices” for parenting. It’s completely exhausting.
If I’m being completely honest, I spent a good chunk of my first year as a parent feeling overwhelmed with the “how-tos” and the “what-not-to-dos.” I would get down on myself for this, that, or the other and feel like I was never going to get the hang of it all. I thought my baby would never sleep or eat or act the “right” way and I was surely going to send her running to a therapist early in life thanks to all the ways I was screwing up.
I finally saw the light sometime around the time of my daughter’s first birthday. At this point she still wasn’t taking regular naps and I pretty much wanted to cry all the time because I was so tired and frustrated. We tried to follow the rules when it came to sleep but I was no good at it. We tried letting her cry it out, but after a couple of weeks it was a bust.
Everyone said not to give in to the cries because then she would learn I would always come in eventually as long as she cried. But I was pretty sure she would have never stropped regardless and it made me feel terrible so I gave up. Going in every time she cried though wasn’t working for me either. It seemed like everything had to be all or nothing.
But then I realized something: I had spent 12 months getting to know this little person and I knew her better than anyone. I didn’t need to do sleep train like anyone else — I just needed to do it my own way.
My way involved a little bit of crying it out and a little bit of going in when I could tell her cries were extra sad. It involved tweaking routines and creating an environment that was just right for her. It sometimes involved nursing in the middle of the night, even though it wasn’t “on schedule.”
It was a process, but it happened.
Slowly but surely my girl learned how to sleep. It didn’t happen the way the books, or my neighbor, or the woman at the playground said it would happen. It happened in its own time and in a way determined by my unique girl and her unique needs because I learned to trust my own instincts as a mama.
You see, even though everyone wants to tell you that their way is the best way, the truth is that when it comes down to it, the only the only parenting advice any of us really needs is: Trust your own instincts.
If you’re anything like me, then sometimes those instincts take a bit of time to develop. But once they do, they will be worth their weight in gold. Block out the noise, listen to your child, and trust your instincts. There is no one in the world who knows your child and what they need quite like you — their parent.