Parenting Books: Bibles or Boohockey?

Two of my very favourite humans gave me parenting books which they referred to as their ‘bibles’. These awesome ladies are phenomenal parents and have wonderful children, yet the advice given in the parenting books did not entirely sit right with me. How can this be so? Well, because a one size fits all approach is boohockey. Yes, it’s a Friends reference. Yes, I’m stuck in the 90s. 

Each of the books gave me a snippet of wisdom, but largely left me feeling confused and wondering if I was doing it wrong or being too soft. I’m probably doing many things wrong but I’m doing what I think best at any given time. And that’s all any of us can do. Here are some gems and some goofs which I gleaned:

Gem: If a baby is arching his or her back and has a curled up tongue like a little lizard, it’s probably wind. Sounds obvious, right? Well, no. Turns out, baby body language is an entirely unfamiliar secret code which I was totally unequipped to comprehend! If you only read two pages of ‘The Baby Whisperer’, just read the ones about baby body language. You’ll still spend most of most day playing ‘guess what I need now’, but at least you’ll have some ammo in your belt. 

Goof: Don’t feed your baby after 3:30pm because it will put him or her off the bed time feed. Wait. What? For real? So my baby complains of hunger at 3:31 and I say, “Oh, no, no. Wait until 7:30, tiny human.” Nah. This makes the assumption that all babies are the same. They are not. I, for one, need a late afternoon snack. Does it put me off my tea? Nope! So why assume that it will put baby off his or her evening ‘meal’? My baby eats at about 4:30 and 6:00 and still has plenty of room for a bedtime feed at 7:30. What my family lack in coordination, we make up for in appetite! 

Gem: Get a bedtime routine going and stick to it. Yes! I am a creature of habit and I love to know what’s coming next. Babies feel secure and safe when they know what to expect and we can help them learn by repetition. It doesn’t have to be someone else’s routine. You can invent your own. Now is your chance to create your own traditions. And if you find it doesn’t work, change it! Find out what does work for you and your baby. For us, feed, story, bath, feed and sleep feed works. For you, it may be something entirely different. 

Goof: Don’t smile at or make eye contact with your baby at night. Again, for real? Two things tend to happen and I find it super hard not to smile at my baby in either situation. Either, she wakes me up and I peer in to her Moses basket to see her grinning up at me like a goon or I look in and she’s upset. Either way, she needs (and gets!) a smile. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not setting up a game of chess and playing with baby in the night. But I can still be civil. And to her credit, she has a little snack and then drifts right back off. She’s not even that keen on chess. 

Gem: Babies need to be told when to sleep and helped to do it. Again, sounds obvious. I just assumed a tired baby would go to sleep. Ha. Not so much. Tracy Hogg talks about a ‘three yawn’ policy. This is a pretty good rule of thumb. If your baby is also rubbing his or her eyes and acting cranky, it’s time to help nap time along! 

Goof: Make sure you cuddle your baby when he or she needs it, not when you need it. Erm, nope. Being a mum is super hard. It’s emotionally draining. It’s awesome. It’s the bet thing I have ever done but oh my, I did not expect it to be this challenging. Sometimes I need to hug my baby to feel ok about myself and the world. She doesn’t seem to mind. Maybe if she did, then I’d need to heed this advice. However, while she will hug me uncomplainingly, I’m going to take a hug when I need one. I lent her my womb for 9 months and continue to lend her my milk ducts and about 99.9% of my actual soul. She can afford me a hug or two. 
A third good friend, and one who is never afraid to speak her mind, commented one day, “I think you’re reading too much.”  She was right. So much of ‘Mumming’ is instinct. These books are an interesting read and can definitely help you discover some useful titbits. Take a large amount of them with a pinch of salt though. It’s hard to trust your instinct when you have a new baby and a mixture of sleep deprivation and hormones have you feeling slightly unhinged. Your instincts are there for a reason though. You’ve got this, Mama! This particular friend’s advice was better than anything I’ve read so far. She has two grown up children and says, “If it felt good for me, I usually thought it must be good for the child.” Sound words. Smart lady. 

The ‘What’s the point?’ Hour

I’m awake. It’s 5:21am. I’m feeding my baby and playing on my phone so that I don’t fall asleep. How did people stay awake before mobile phones? Is there an oppposite to counting sheep? Maybe they sat and tried to remember all the embarrassing things that they had ever done. That’s enough to keep anyone awake. 

5:21am falls smack bang in the midst of the ‘What’s the Point Hour’. It’s so nearly time to get up that if you did get back to sleep, it would be for such a short while that it probably wouldn’t make you feel any better. In fact, it could even make you feel worse. Or maybe you won’t get back to sleep at all. Maybe you will lie there, watching the time tick by, repeatedly calculating how much sleep you could get if you fell asleep now. Or now. Or now. Or now. 

What’s the alternative though? Try to do something productive? Like maybe catch up with replying to emails, finishing your online food shop or even painting the walls of the new nursery. You could catch up with chores but only the quiet ones like dusting and ironing. Who am I kidding? I have a newborn baby. Dusting and ironing are non-essential jobs right now. Folding and putting away laundry though, well that’s my bread and butter. I’d definitely avoid doing the vacuuming or loading the dishwasher though. It may be cute when birds make a whole lot of noise at this time of the morning, but you can bet that no one will think it’s cute if you do. 

Maybe use the time as ‘you time’ and enjoy a brew in peace while you wonder what your life has become that you have to snatch ‘you time’ at 5:21am. Or nudge your sleeping partner to inform them that they’re in sole charge of the baby, pull on your trainers and head out for a run. Be sure to run slowly so that you have plenty of time to work out how long it would be before someone found you if you tripped and horribly injured yourself at this time in the morning. 

Or maybe you could just write a blog post about all the things you could do. But never actually do any of them.