At the time of writing, I’m breaking all the rules. I’m breastfeeding my baby to sleep knowing full well that she’ll likely wake up with a burp. I’m also fully aware that the suggestions from all the baby books and websites is not to let your baby fall asleep while feeding. Why? Because they’ll come to rely upon feeds to get them to sleep all the time.
However, what baby books and websites don’t factor in is a new mother’s primary mode... survival.
I didn’t want to resort to the nuclear option of feeding. After all, she’s not hungry and has fed less than an hour ago. But my bubba left me no choice. I resisted feeding her to sleep initially. But after a good hour of rocking, walking, humming and shh-patting, my overtired little angel needs something more. She needs to sleep and mum’s got things to do (i.e. watching the Real Housewives of New York).
So I’m breaking the rules. And this is the problem with all the books and advice out there. They’re rarely rooted in reality, and if nothing else, they give mums like me major guilt.
Baby books - a new mum’s saviour?
As a mum, life is already riddled with overthinking uncertainty. Am I cuddling her too much? Is she being spoilt? Is she getting enough milk? Is she getting enough sleep? Am I creating bad habits?
And of course, in our moments of confusion, we open up that baby book we got when we were pregnant, or scour Mumsnet or Netmums at 4am.
But the problem with both books and the World Wide Web is that they leave us mums more confused than we were before.
For example, The Baby Whisperer was recommended to me by a couple of mums who swore by it. So I duly bought a copy, thinking I would nail this parenting lark.
Now there are some great nuggets in there, particularly the bit about interpreting different cries. However, the suggested routine, which advises putting baby on a feeding schedule from about day four (of a newborn’s life) is totally unrealistic for a breastfed baby who relies on on-demand feeds to get adequate nutrition and boost mum’s milk supply.
And then there’s the issue of cradling. Don’t rock them to sleep. Don’t feed them to sleep. Don’t cuddle unless you really have to. All of this only adds to a new mum’s guilt about the age-old issue of when does affection create bad habits.
Now I don’t meant to point out just one book as many offer different iterations of advice. But those advice books written by sleep consultants don’t really reflect the reality of the situation.
Yes, these experts may have helped so many parents with babies who keep them up at night. However, it’s one thing coming in as a consultant to someone’s home, fresh as a daisy with their A-game at the ready and staying up all night helping a baby sleep. They get to go home at the end of their shift.
But it’s quite another scenario when you’re an exhausted mum who hasn’t slept more than a four-hour stretch for the last six months. Attempting to spend the night picking up and putting down your baby for the hundredth time at 5am isn’t quite so easy when you’ll do anything for a good night’s sleep yourself.
Mum forums - a slippery slope
And websites don’t help much either. A simple Google of the pros and cons of giving a baby a dummy leads to an angry forum filled with judgement.
Another query I had at 4am - about how often to change a baby’s nappy at night - left me feeling so guilty that I quickly changed my little ones barely wet nappy. This of course woke her, and both of us were up for two hours. She was full of beans. Me - not so much.
So that’s why I’m putting away my baby books, and I might just boycott those mum forums. I’m doing what I can to survive. And if by chance I do end up with a teenager who can only sleep by being fed and rocked for 20 minutes, then all the experts can say they told me so.
Anyway rant over. My little sleep fighter has been help upright asleep on me to prevent trapped wind all while I’ve written this article in the notes of my iPhone (Supermum, right?). And I kid you not she just belched. So all is well in the world and I might attempt to put her down. Please pray for me.
This post was first featured on HalimaBobs