What I mean by this is that you can open a selection of baby books to the relevant section - 12-18 months, in my case - and see all of the things that your toddler is meant to be doing, should no longer be needing and really should have entirely stopped by now.
I recommend trying this when you're feeling particularly good about your parenting skills on any given day (in my case, when D hasn't hit another youngster). Wait until you feel a touch of parental pride at what you've accomplished (Hurrah! My child has managed an hour without being abusive, and only because she was asleep), and then read a detailed catalogue of your failures as determined by experts - it's enough to have you reaching for the bottle.
Which is actually what Diana is doing. She – at the age of 14 months – is still hooked on bottles. According to baby gurus, this is really bad. Even worse? (I'm whispering this part because I feel guilty writing it aloud): Diana still needs bottles of milk to get to sleep every night.
Why do I feel so terrible about this? Maybe because I know it's 100). One of the first things you're warned about when you give birth is that if you let your child fall asleep while drinking milk, they will become addicts and need it to get to sleep every night. But in those tremulous early days of parenthood, when your child has finally ceased to scream for any period of time, it's easy to overlook that the only reason they've gone to sleep is because they're still attached to you.
Apparently, sucking bottles can lead to speech problems and tooth decay, not to mention this is a terrible sleep habit that Diana has acquired, which will take time (and sleepless nights for me) to remedy. She can fall asleep on her own, if tired enough, or with a dummy (which we use rarely, but which is also meant to have been abolished entirely at this point). Is that fail number two or three? I've lost count.
I know how we got into this mess and I know why we're still in it. It's the lazy parenting technique that gets you by in the short term and then comes back to destroy you circa the stage I'm at now. But with a husband who needs to be at work at 6:30 am every day (who is the only parent capable of hearing a baby's anguished sleepless cries in the middle of the night), Diana sleeping through the night is of paramount importance.
It's not like I haven't rebelled against the baby books before – co-sleeping, breastfeeding to assuage any and every need – and we've come out the other side intact.
Plus, D's grandfather admitted that my husband was bottle-dependent until the age of two –and-a-half, "and he doesn't have a speech impediment." (Unless you count his faux South London twang, that is. He also just had his first cavity last month, so isn't exactly suffering from bottle-related tooth decay).
So maybe I need to chill out and let D enjoy her bottles, for a little while longer at least. I have plenty of my own personal life failures that need remedying, anyway. Like my own tooth decay, for starters.