01/10/2015 13:25 BST | Updated 01/10/2016 06:12 BST

Is 'Expert' Parenting Advice Killing Our Common Sense?


'SIXTEEN hours they say she needs! What am I doing wrong?' Is she hungry? Is she teething? Is she eating her teeth!? Is she too hot, too cold? Is she in pain? Is she an alien? What does my baby want?'

These are the questions I asked myself almost every night during my first year of motherhood.

I had read all the books.

I knew all the stuff. Growth spurts, sleep regression and separation anxiety. I could prevent nappy rash and spot the signs of meningitis.

But knowing all the 'stuff' had not made new motherhood any easier.

My baby did not do things by the book. Especially when it came to sleep.

'Babies should sleep around ten hours per night and have three naps per day', I had read.

Not my daughter. She had laughed in the face of sleep advice and had decided that sixteen hours of sleep per day was not for her.

As a result, I was sleep-deprived, stressed and felt like a failure.

I thought I knew what my baby needed. I knew what I needed - sleep!

But somewhere in between What To Expect When You Are Expecting and countless 'life-changing' sleep advice books and articles, I had lost the ability to trust my gut feeling.

I felt my daughter needed to be close to me while she slept. My gut was telling me that she did not yet feel secure enough to sleep alone.

But what the hell did my gut know?

My gut hasn't got childcare qualifications or written a book. It doesn't have 68 million followers on Twitter or any 'scientific research' to back it up.

I had read it was bad to co-sleep. It could put my baby at risk and I would be 'making a rod for my own back.' She would NEVER learn to sleep alone.

I had read that it was essential to stick to a bedtime routine NO MATTER WHAT.

I had also forgotten how to use my common sense since becoming a mum.

'So your baby won't sleep in her cot but she'll sleep with you? You only get a couple of hours of broken sleep a night and some nights you get NO sleep at all?

You spend every evening in a dark room for three hours sticking to the Bedtime Routine? Err, skip the routine, let her sleep with you and get some sleep. Problem solved."

Shut the hell up, Common Sense, I thought. I am just a mum. I will not mess up my child by ignoring the 'experts.

So I did everything the 'right' way and continued to be severely sleep-deprived, stressed and feel like a failure.

I continued to ignore my maternal instincts. Doing things that felt wrong because I thought they were 'right' and my baby still wouldn't sleep.

As time passed, motherhood had taken its toll on my mental health, my physical health and my self-esteem.

'A good night's sleep is essential to your baby's brain development. A baby needs to be taught how to be a good sleeper.' They claimed.

I had got to the point where I felt guilty for NOT leaving my baby to cry. What kind of mother cuddles her baby when she screams? Was I being cruel by not letting her cry herself to sleep?

In desperation one night, my husband I left our daughter to cry. We had tried all the gentle sleep training methods and nothing had worked so this was our last hope.

It was the worst ten minutes of my life. Just TEN minutes of my baby screaming for comfort was all it took for me to realise that I had been an IDIOT.

I brought her into my bed and held her in my arms. She was so upset it took most of the night to settle her to sleep.

When I looked at her little face drenched with tears and listened to her struggling to get her breath back after crying, I decided there and then to STOP giving a damn about the expert advice.

From that day forward I followed my baby's lead and gave her what she needed. I did what I thought was best for my family. I didn't get much sleep for a while but I accepted it. We were happy and my baby was OK.

So dear baby 'experts.' Write your books, launch your websites, promote your methods, but stop using scare-mongering as a sales technique.

To the parenting gurus telling us that sleep training is damaging our offspring - THIS IS NOT ON.

To the mothering 'specialists' claiming that co-sleeping, long-term breastfeeding or giving a child a dummy is damaging our offspring - THIS IS NOT ON.

You are killing our maternal instincts and zapping our confidence.

If it feels right, sleep with your babies - follow the safety guidelines and unless you drink, smoke or sleep on a bed of nails, they will turn out just fine.

If it is feels right, gently sleep coach your baby - as long as you are not leaving them to cry in a dark room all night long - they will turn out fine.

Give them a dummy, rock them to sleep, lie down with them. Only YOU know what your baby needs.

The books can tell us about the 'stuff'. They can teach us practical things, advise us on safety measures and milestones - but they can't tell us how to be a mother to our babies.

We are grown up parents and perfectly capable of using our common sense. We need to believe we are not idiots and have the courage of our convictions.

Let's 'Mum Up' and stop worrying so much about what the 'experts' say.

Feel free to visit Surviving A Sleep Thief - an antithesis to baby sleep advice or join me on Facebook or Twitter.