Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rebel with a cause

Before Eve joined our family I did, as is my way, a lot of research into the issues we might face and how to deal with them. I discussed with friends what they did, joined in the Gina Ford debate (either love or hate her) and thought I knew the basic "dos and don'ts". Routine = good, reactive parenting = bad. I was determined to have my baby in a routine from Day 1, let her cry herself to sleep rather than picking her up whenever she cries, and stick to the same routine each day. I approached this with the same determination as managing a big project at work, with planning, organisation and sticking to the approach.

I am, therefore, a bit baffled as to how after only 4 days at home I ended up at 5am with Eve asleep on my chest (bad), in bed (bad, bad), having just fed her to get her off to sleep (for which mothers rot in hell). I know why I rebelled against all the books. Firstly, I have not slept more than 2 hours in one go since she came home. I am tired, emotional, and simply need her to sleep. Secondly, I have tried what the books tell us. I rock her rather than feed her if she cries outside her "routine", I wait 10 minutes until I go to her when she cries, I even try to wake her up on routine during the day. However, this simply doesn't work. It is now midday and I spent an hour this morning trying to wake her up at her "routine" time. Once it became clear she was not waking up I tried undressing her, changing her nappy, turned on the TV really loud and put her in the middle of the living room when the flat below is doing renovations and there are roadworks outside. Nothing. Eve would not wake up and not feed. Most likely because she was up all night and is really tired now!

I have done what parents for years have done and taken the path of least resistance and done all of the things I shouldn't. Why don't babies come with user guides?


Grande Poobah said...

In my previous existence as a child shrink, I used to work with families with kids with sleep and routine problems. I can remember only too well and painfully the looks of absolute incredulity they wore on their faces when they walked into the room to see me, very green and wet round the ears and, apparently, the "expert" who was going to sort out their problems.

A few years of doing this, and absorbing knowledge as fast as possible from my vastly more experienced colleagues (most of whom had the added benefit of also being parents) taught me how limited, smug and impractical a lot of the text books are. Stories abounded of how "experts" in child care would resort to measures like driving their kids for hours to get them to sleep. One, an author of a best seller on the matter, would regularly drive his 5 year old around the M25 as it was the only thing that would reliably get him to sleep.

The moral? The experts can, by and large, shove it. Theory is all very well, but practice is a different game entirely. And anyone who tries to peg the lack of adherence to some fanciful model onto some "failure" of the parent deserves to be rolled in used nappies until they repent.

Read Winnicot's work on good enough parenting!


Grande Poobah said...

sorry - with everything you have on your plate right now, reading anything is daft advice. the clue is in the title though


Mummy said...

Thanks for the moral support. This morning, feeling like a dreadful mother, I decided to take action and found La Leche League. Formerly I had thought them a bunch of breast feeding obsessives, but actually I found their advice really good as it focuses on breast fed babies. The basic premise is that for breast feeding babies sticking to a strict routine is bad for them because they self regulate, in fact they feel very strongly that you should not have too strict a routine until 6 weeks. Otherwise, opt for a strict pattern each time of eat, activity (play or nappy change) and then lull to sleep. Do this at every feed. We'll give it a go for the rest of the week and then resort to sleeping tablets at the weekend!