Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What I Wish I'd Known with Baby #1

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by Rachel from My Baby Sleep Guide

The first few months after my first child, Joshua, was born were rough. OK, I'm under-exaggerating that. He cried endlessly, didn't sleep and I was a basket case. Maybe you've been there. It's not a pretty sight. 

The second time around went much smoother. I knew what to expect, I thought a lot about how I wanted to do things, and I learned piles of stuff through experiences, my own and others. Maybe this is your first child and maybe this is your fifth. Either way, sometimes we all need a moment to take a look at the bigger picture, remember what to expect and maybe even get a few pointers. 

Here's my list of what I wish I'd known with Joshua, or baby #1. Much is related to sleep, but not all.
  • Remember, life with a baby is a journey, not a destination. Keep the end goal of great sleep etc. in mind, but don't get so distracted trying to reach it that you forget to live and enjoy the journey.
  • Make sure to let baby fall asleep on you every once in a while. It is one of those precious moments that will stay with you forever.
  • We all have our bad days, babies included. So don't freak out and jump to every possible conclusion when they happen! You will stress yourself out for no reason at all. If things last for more than a day or two, then it is time to start the investigation.
  • Consistency pays off. It really does. 
  • An overtired child, particularly a baby, is your worst nightmare. Mess up all over the place, but do not even go there! See waketimes and sleep cues for some pointers.
  • It's OK to not be supermom every second of every day. Everyone needs to ask for help sometimes. Consider it practice at being humble.
  • Someone, somewhere out there will always be critical about how you raise your child, especially how you sleep train and discipline him. Forget about it. As long as you are keeping your child safe, happy, healthy and loved, then you are doing the right thing.
  • Children are hard. They take a lot of work. They stress you out. At the same time, raising them will likely the best thing you ever do.
  • Babies have different personalities. Some are easier than others. It is a fact of life (albeit an unfair one!). Some sleep great no matter what. Some have quite a few sleep problems even if things are done perfectly. That is how it goes. If you fall into the doesn't sleep great party, that's OK. It doesn't mean you are a bad parent, and it doesn't mean there is something wrong with your child. Sleep just isn't one of his strengths. I'm sure he has many others.
  • Motherhood is full of small, but great moments. Focus on those. 
  • Be patient with sleep. It takes some babies a while to get it. If it takes them a month longer than their older sister or cousin it doesn't matter. They have their own time table. Their uniqueness makes them special.
  • Tomorrow is a new day. It doesn't matter what happened yesterday or the day before. Time to start afresh. 
  • If you think your baby has colic, rule out overtiredness first. Because that is very possibly the problem.
  • Everyone needs support sometimes. Someone to talk to. Someone to give you a hug. Knowing you are not the only one going through something does wonders.
  • Comparing your child's sleep to others is only sometimes useful as a reference point, not a copy point. Your child is not their child. Your child has his own needs and his own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Sometimes there is no reason for what is going on. No reason at all. Sorry, but it's true.
  • Babies have different personalities and will respond to your routine in different ways. Work with your baby, not against him when making your routine.
  • Be flexible. Don't be so ruled by your routine you are unable to enjoy life, unable to enjoy your baby and unable to follow your mommy instinct. Adjust your routine to fit you and baby.
  • Life with a young baby is full of phases. Much of what happens is just a phase. That's it. Some have names and causes (teething, learning a new skill) and some appear nameless and causeless. But guess what. Each of these phases do pass! Keep that in mind when you feel at your wit's end.
  • Relax. Enjoy life. Enjoy your baby. He will not be little forever. You won't do everything perfectly and that is OK! If you're perfect, how will your child learn what he doesn't want to do as a parent when he grows up :)
  • A sleep association is not the end of the world. In fact, it is much preferable to a mom pulling out all her hair, going half insane and a baby getting no sleep at all. Yes, start as you mean to go on, but only if the end result will be a pleasing one. There are many things worse than a prop dependent baby.
  • Your baby is not a machine. The same thing goes for you. Do not expect perfection on either front. Do not expect things to go exactly by the book. They won't. Thinking so will result in piles of stress and, sometimes, a feeling of failure.
  • You are doing better than you think you are. You are really are!
  • Remember to take time out for yourself sometimes. You need it and most importantly, you deserve it!
Rachel blogs at My Baby Sleep Guide.


Matt and Jaymee said...

I really needed this today...this is our first baby and I related to so much about this post! Our little boy is not a good sleeper by any means, and I easily allow myself to get stressed out, not to mention feeling terrible because of comments others make on how their child did such and such at 5 weeks old. Thank you for the reminder to enjoy him every moment, even the ones that aren't going as planned :)

Keri said...

Thanks for this too! I really needed it today. My little boy will be 4 weeks tomorrow. It's really tough over here!:) I have to wake him for almost every feed, struggle to keep him awake, then he is wide awake and difficult to put down for a nap. In a 2.5-3 hr chunk of time, he is awake 1 hr15min- 1.5 hrs. This makes the next feeding a sleepy one:( Any advice on how to get off this crazy cycle? I'm super stressed about getting in at least 8 feedings but also because he/our day can be so random.

Trevino Family said...

THANK YOU for the encouragement! God is definitely using you and this blog to rain blessings on our family.

The Richards said...

WOW!! I love this!! I so needed this today! I always think that there is something wrong with either me or my baby (mostly me) because we don't follow a routine to a T...on some days, we're more on a pattern.

I completely agree to have your baby fall asleep on you every once in a while. My baby is now 4 months and I'm just now letting him sleep on me. I was so worried in the beginning that he would become dependent on this and he hasn't and it's so nice to cuddle up with him and watch him sleep!

Thanks again!

MM said...

I also needed this today. After rocking my month-old daughter for hours last night only to get a few hours of sleep, it's nice to remember that this will pass all too quickly, and to just relax. I loved the idea that tomorrow is a new day--I'm so grateful for that!

javabean8 said...

Just like everyone else, I needed to read this today. Baby #3 is so different from the first two, which are much older. It is so easy to remember how "easy" it was with them, but I'm sure I had just as many tough days. Thanks for the reminder that my baby is a blessing and not to stress out so much.

The Brydson's said...

Thanks for writing this. This is my first baby and he is 8 weeks old. Things seem tough and today I wanted to throw this whole Babywise thing out the window. For some reason it seemed easier to just let them do what they wanted to do... even though it wouldn't - I just felt at my witts end! We started him late, so I'm just keeping trying to be consistent, but its tough!
So thank you for the reminders and what I need to keep as my focus. Instead of having a perfect sleeper/child, I need to enjoy him as a baby, because one day he will be 35 years old, and he won't be my little baby I can cuddle anymore.

:) What a blessing to read.

Rachel Stella said...

You know, I had in mind to do a completely different guest post, one more directed towards sleep since that is the focus of my blog.

But for some reason as I started to write the post, this one seemed like the right one to write. After reading all your comments I'm glad I stuck to this one instead of my original one. Sounds like it was the one needed at the time.

Dana and Chase said...

My sister emailed me this link after I called her crying today. I have 6 week old twins and last night they decided to stay up from two to five then cry at every nap today. They are usually good sleepers but now they will not go down for naps with out fussing and it's so hard to console two babies at once. Any suggestions? This is just what I needed to hear :)

Plowmanators said...

Dana and Chase,

Look into waketime length being correct. I often like to look at possible medical issues when a baby suddenly starts to not sleep well, so check that (reflux, gas pain,etc.) but I think it is less likely that since there are two babies doing it. Good luck!


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