Small turned 2 a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t think of anything interesting or poignant to post so I didn’t!
I know a few people having or due babies soon and was thinking about the most useful bit of advice I could give them and what it might be. There’s tonnes of great info about breastfeeding out there on the internet if you’re willing to look for it, so I’m not sure that there’s anything there I could say of much use. There’s also so much conflicting stuff about sleep and all those things and most would hardly peg me as an expert with our sleep situation. So I think my best advice would be:
For every one person that tells you something worked for them there are a) a hundred people who it didn’t work for and b)a hundred other things that person tried that didn’t work.
The thing I found hardest when R was little was that everyone had a handy trick up their sleeve for getting a child to eat or sleep or whatever.
And it was always conveyed to us with such authority, that I often tried whatever the method was. Even some of the expensive ones.
And you know what? Nothing worked.
I now know and believe this isn’t because I’m a terrible rubbish parent. It is (that old chestnut) that every child is different.
Whilst trying to impart your wisdom on someone else, it’s hard not be emphatically excited that some magical method of convincing your child to sleep/eat/be independent/ nap in their cot etc really really worked for you. It’s also easy to overlook all those other things you tried and didn’t manage to make work for you (we won’t say “failed at”). It’s also easy to forget that your specific circumstances and your specific child is very different to the next one.
It’s easy to feel, in your new parent, sleep deprived, hormonal state that you are, in fact, the worlds’ worst and most incapable parent. If they managed to make the “Pick Up Put Down” method work for them, why couldn’t you make it work for you? If they managed to achieve a non-fussy eater by practicing baby-led weaning and introducing a new food every 72 hours, why weren’t you capable of doing the same? If leaving their child to scream led to them falling asleep in 30 minutes, why does your child just scream until he vomits over himself? And this can feel really isolating and lonely. If everyone else is having success and you’re not, then it can be really hard to swallow.
So in a way this is advice not only for new parents but for those “old hands” who are trying to help out newbie parents.
In reality that parent that got the “Pick Up Put Down” method to work probably tried a huge number of other techniques (90 Minute Sleep Programme, No Cry Sleep Solution, Pantly Pull off etc) with no success, but invariably they will forget to tell you that.
So if you’re a parent already and have friends having their first baby, think carefully about what you say to them. Be honest, show that you’re human and understand not everyone is the same and pay particular attention to trying to remember how you felt when everyone else seemed to be sailing through parenthood whilst you struggled. Kindness is the key gift we can give new parents at what is likely the most stressful time of their lives!