Some thoughts on baby books

416WK9BH27L I read a blog post the other day - at 4am, because 4am is the only time I manage to do much reading, as it's when Daph wakes for her (one-and-only now thank god!) night feed. And it struck a chord with me. It was a tongue-in-cheek post all about baby sleep advice - a collation of 'expert' opinions on how to get your baby into good sleep habits. It basically proved how ridiculous all the advice is, as it's all so conflicting and contradictory. You can read the original post here.

When Daph was born, I spent every waking hour devouring baby books in the hope of finding some magic kernel of info that would transform my confused newborn, who didn't seem to have a clue what a schedule was or how to stick to it, into a 'perfect baby'. I've read them all. From the strict Gina Ford and her military-like routine 'wake baby at 7.05am, drink a glass of water, wipe baby's nose, let baby have a kick about on his mat, make sure baby has pooed by 7.46am or you have failed as a mother etc etc'... to the more laid-back, hippyish Baby Whisperer - 'make sure you talk your baby through what you are doing as you change his/her nappy - it's all about R E S P E C T!!!' To the even more laid-back Lucy Atkins and her take on it all, which seems to be 'if you survive the first few weeks without killing the baby or your partner, then you're doing great'.

And let's not get started on Your Baby Week By Week which suggests the controversial 'cry it out' method as necessary once your baby gets to a certain age and refuses to sleep through.

Anyway, I've read them all, I've digested them all, I've tried (some of) their tactics and I have come to a conclusion. Which I will share with you, in case you're pregnant or have just taken home your first terrifying bundle, because I think maybe it will help. It's simple...

Your baby will do what he/she wants to do. Whether or not you read the baby books.

Some babies are 'perfect' and sleep through the night at six weeks. Some babies breastfeed without any effort. Some babies only cry when they need something.

And other babies... other babies never sleep through the night - at least not until they're officially considered toddlers. Other babies think breasts are the most revolting feeding device known to mankind (that would be my little Daphne). Others cry at the drop of a hat, because they can, and because they feel like it.

When your friend tells you that her baby slept through the night at six weeks, naps like clockwork and wakes without complaint, and attributes it to Gina Ford, I say this: your friend was lucky. They got an 'easy' baby that likes routine. 

I personally don't believe that baby books offer the first-time mother much, apart from reassurance and some ideas that MAY or MAY NOT help. I worry that the pressure of trying to stick to prescriptive advice just heaps more stress on new mothers (and fathers). There's no 'one size fits all' solution to looking your baby.

The things that have worked for us, if 'working' is the right word, are the things that have been instinctual. Like us realising that the one place that calms her down is her changing mat, and that (for whatever reason) putting her there when she has a meltdown immediately chills her out and stops the screaming. And realising that, despite the 'official' advice that she should always wear one more layer than us, Daphne is a warm baby who sweats and goes red when we truss her up in cardigans. And that Daphne will go to sleep perfectly well in her cot at night, but only if I'm in the bed next to her, because she doesn't want to be alone. And that that's fine, because she's only three months old and why the hell should she be left alone if it scares her? 

There's SO MUCH truth in the saying: 'the trouble with babies is that they haven't read the books'. So by all means, read them, and if their methods feel right and work for you, that's great, but if not, don't beat yourself up thinking you have somehow failed. Your time might be better spent trusting your instincts, and listening to your baby, and TRULY BELIEVING that the best parents for your baby are you, and that the way you like to do things is the RIGHT way.