After having two kids, two and a half years apart, I look back on the way things were when they were babies and I have regrets. I’m sure that all moms do.
Surprisingly my regrets are not that I should have put my son to bed at 6:30 instead of 7:30 or that I should have started solids with peas and not butternut squash. I’m not regretting the odd bottle of formula that my babies consumed. It’s not the three nights of sleeping with my croupy son that set off my co-sleeping arrangement. These are not the things that I’m regretting.
Oddly enough, it’s the time I spent worrying about these things that I regret. How much negative energy and guilt that I put on myself worrying about things that in hindsight, really don’t matter that much.
The amount of stress that I felt when I had to go to work and could only pump three ounces of breast milk – from both breasts – at one time.
The stress that I felt when I decided that I would not introduce a night light to my baby boy so that he would never need one. Only to be faced with a four year old who was all of a sudden afraid of the dark and needed a night light. Diaper changes by moonlight. Breastfeeding and endless hours spent in my rocking chair – in the dark. All wasted energy.
The countless times I spent one hour trying to get my baby girl to nap only to have her sleep for 10 minutes. Weeks of letting her “cry it out” only to realize that she would never sleep by herself without crying.
I wish that someone had told me to not stress. Maybe they did and I just didn’t listen.
Here is what I wish I could tell myself as a new mom:
Relax. Go with the flow. Your baby is going to cry sometimes. That’s ok. Sometimes people are going to comment on why your baby is acting a certain way. Or comment on how you are parenting. Let them. You are going to do things differently than the mom up the street. That’s ok. You’re different from the mom up the street – and your babies are different too. Your baby is not asking for perfection – just love, nourishment and safety.
Enjoy. Rather than spending your time stressing out over things like sleep, milk, and how you ‘should’ be parenting – take the time to enjoy your baby and your new life together. If she can’t sleep put her in a carrier or a stroller and go outside for a walk. Join a class/group where you can spend one on one time with your baby outside of your home where things like laundry and dirty dishes are constant reminders of your never ending list of things that need to be done.
Sleep. Whenever and however you can. Follow your baby’s lead. If he is tired at one o’clock and you’re stressed because he missed his twelve o’clock nap. Go with it. Put him to sleep and sleep with him. Whether it’s in the same bed or not, as long as you’re both getting much needed sleep. If you put him to bed at nine and he sleeps eight hours – don’t stress about the fact that he’s not going to bed at seven. Enjoy those blissful eight hours of quiet. I’m not saying to throw routine out the window, it’s true that babies like knowing what to expect. But don’t be so hard on yourself if the routine that you have been told is perfect for your baby isn’t working. Maybe it isn’t so perfect for him.
There will always be someone who tells you about the ‘right’ way and the ‘wrong’ way. But really, just go with your way. If you stop to listen, your baby will tell you what he needs.
Trust your instincts and try not to read too much – educate yourself, but don’t obsess. You know what to do. It’s true that babies don’t come with manuals. So don’t replace your natural inner ‘manual’ with the one you bought at the bookstore.
You may or may not be able to change your baby’s sleeping habits, disposition, and eating patterns but you know what? That’s ok.
Go with the flow. Don’t stress. You’re going to be alright.
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