Ssshhh to the Shoulds.

And another thing! Yes that’s right, dear reader, two rants about baby books/advice/information in less than 24 hours. That’s how I roll!

If you have never read a piece of information that said your baby “should” be doing something that it isn’t yet then I’m pretty sure you’re in the minority. (But congrats to you, you have the mythical unicorn child).

For me it is sleep. When my son was tiny he woke pretty much every 2 and a half hours. This was for the first, maybe, ten weeks, so pretty normal but still exhausting. As you may imagine I spent rather too much time googling and looking up baby sleep solutions. We all do it – even though basically it’s up to our babies when they decide to sleep and wake- we cling to the hope that there must be some sure-fire technique to give us a stretch of sleep more than 3 hours long. So, any way, I’m reading this stuffand I find some helpful and unhelpful hints, many of them contradictory (see previous post for effusive anger on that point) but I also find this helpful little factoid:

“By about six weeks your baby could be sleeping for at least one stretch of up to 6 hours.”

Well really? Could he? He bloody isn’t! The problem with telling us that ‘some babies’ do X at X weeks is that if our baby isn’t one we either feel cheated or, worse, that we’ve failed in some way (there goes that guilt again!)

Currently, I am sick of reading that by six months “your baby shouldn’t need to be fed in the night-time”. Shouldn’t he? What if he is hungry in the night time? My baby boy wakes up when he is hungry and he doesn’t go back to sleep until you give him food. You can cuddle him, you can give him a dummy, you can leave him to cry, but nothing will soothe him because, guess what? He’s hungry! The books say he shouldn’t be because he’s 8 months old now, but he is, so there!

I write that last paragraph as if I don’t worry that I’m doing something wrong in feeding my boy in the night. Of course I do. Because when you’re a first-time mum it’s hard not to doubt yourself, especially when the “experts” dole out their shoulds and shouldn’ts so liberally. But I don’t think the sleep stuff is as harmful as the other developmental ‘milestones’ we’re told about.

Next time I see a ‘at X months your baby should…’ sentence anywhere I am going to give myself two challenges. The first will be not to panic, or at least not to respond to my panic, if my baby boy isn’t doing whatever he ‘should’ be. But the second is not to feel any pride if he is. A healthy, happy baby is an achievement to be proud of but beyond that if we start congratulating ourselves on the milestones then we will inevitably berate ourselves when our babies don’t meet these imagined deadlines. Worse, we will promote a culture in which mothers with babies who walk at 15 months rather than 12 will feel ashamed.

So many of us were professionals before we were mums and this skews our vision sometimes. We see milestones as targets to be met, rather than just stuff that will happen for our babies at some point.

There are no shoulds or shouldn’ts when it comes these little humans; they just do what they do, and we can trust them.

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One thought on “Ssshhh to the Shoulds.

  1. Pingback: Parents: We’ve all gone a little bit mad. | The (mal)Contented Mother

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