I often get asked how I am coping with three. To be honest, three has been a breeze. Ok, life is pretty crazy these days but I seem to have taken it all in my stride. The biggest leap for me was going from none to one. Like every first time mother, I had no idea of the upheaval that was to come. I was in la la land. I was sure that my little bundle of joy was going to float into my world, and life would go on. In fact, I had planned to take up some new hobbies with all my spare time. French lesson during my 6 months maternity leave? That was a nice little dream!
I loved being a first time mother and was deeply in love with my little boy.
What I did not love was the loss of independence, the loss of identity and the loss of control that came with a baby.
To try to regain some of the control I had lost, my life line was Tizzie Hall. Her book 'Save Our Sleep' was my compass. Whatever Tizzie said, I would do. I was obsessed - a full blown Tizzie Tragic. But it seemed to work, and I swore by it and believed that everyone should be doing it. I thought I had the formula, and believed that a strict routine was the only way. It was my go to for number 1. It was my go to for number 2. I believed I had this mother thing nailed. But then baby number 3 came along and blew it all out of the water. I was forced to have NO routine, simply because I had two other VERY demanding, highly energetic children, who couldn’t care less if Tizzie’s book said that their sister should be sleeping in her cot right now. I fed her 3 hourly and that was about as much of a routine as I could manage for the first 4 months. I introduced solids at 6 months; the boys had solids at 4 months. I was still feeding her in the night almost every night up until about 10 months, unlike my boys who were sleeping through from 12 weeks. It was a completely different way of mothering, but it worked. I had a happy, healthy baby girl and I developed a beautiful bond with her.
I came across an article today that made me reflect on my different approach to mothering. It was titled “How The Myth Of The “Good Baby” Is Damaging Breastfeeding” . The author, Amy Brown, an Associate Professor in Child Public Health discusses how in today’s society we have lost sight of what a new baby is really like. She talks about how we interpret what is very normal baby behaviour as something being wrong that needs fixing because it doesn’t fit our societal norm. Amy says:
“Our culture pushes the idea of the mythical ‘good baby’. Mythical good babies don’t act like most babies. They feed at set spaced out time points, sleep through the night and need little interaction. I say mythical, as research shows that most babies tend to feed often, wake at night throughout their first year and being kept close is a basic human need.”
I couldn’t help but think that I had read about this mythical baby before - in Tizzie’s book! I had spent so much time in my first year of motherhood stressing because my baby wasn’t ‘doing what the book said’. At the time I didn’t realise that I was stressed, I thought I was totally at ease. It’s only now with the benefit of hindsight and baby number 3 who has taught me that it is ok to be more relaxed, that I realise how stressed I actually was. If he wasn’t doing what the book said, then I would send myself into a spin.
Maybe I am being too hard on myself?
Maybe every mother is stressed first time around, being filled with more questions than answers, being totally out of their comfort zone, not sure if they are doing it ‘right’? But I now realise because I was trying to stick to a set schedule and not listening to my baby’s rhythm, just how stressed I actually was.
What my third baby has taught me, is that there can be movement in the routine. A baby will still survive and be extremely happy, if they wake up an hour early, sleep an hour longer, feed earlier, snack later, sleep on you, in your bed or in their bed. If they nap in the morning and then sleep longer in the afternoon, if they have their milk feed at 10 instead of 11, if they go back to sleep at 12 instead of 1, it will still be ok. I have learnt to become more attuned to her needs, rather than the schedule she should be keeping. I have learnt that there is a natural routine in the day, the feed-play-sleep cycle. THAT is the routine. How often she feeds, plays and sleeps will depend on the day and how she is feeling. Now that she is over 12 months of age, there is a general daily pattern. But I will tweak it a little day by day depending on how she is. I’ve realised adopting this approach to mothering is much less stressful.
I am blessed that she has taught me all of this, because without this lesson I may have gone through life believing that Tizzie and I had all of the answers! I may have thought that every mother who chose to turn their nose up at a strict routine, was doomed to have an unhappy baby, who wouldn’t self settle and would still be waking at night when they are 2!
But instead, my baby girl who has thrived without a strict routine, has given me a greater understanding and acknowledgment that the best method is the one that works for you and your baby.
It doesn’t matter what your friends are doing, or your mothers group, or what the book says. What matters is what your baby needs.
I’m not saying we should all go and burn our copies of Save Our Sleep, because even third time around I have referred to the book a handful of times. But as mothers we should trust ourselves and tune into our baby’s needs.
There is an ancient wisdom between a mother and her baby and if we trust in that knowing, and listen to our baby we may just find that the transition from none to one, one to two, or two to three is that little bit easier.