The expectation of a new baby being all smiles and settling easy, is often quite different to the reality! All first time mums (myself included) strive to be the most attentive, sensitive, caring mother a child can have. I remember picking up my eldest daughter every time she started to cry and spent hours rocking and patting her off to sleep. I have all too vivid memories of lying on her floor in the middle of the night with my arm reaching up into her cot patting her in the rhythm of different songs whilst willing her to finally doze off. I wouldn’t even leave my daughter in her cot while I showered in case she cried and I wouldn’t be able to hear her. I would put her in her rocker and sit that in the bathroom within arms reach. During the day I would let her fall asleep on me, finding that I was too scared that if I moved and put her to bed I would have to re-settle her all over again. I was literally trapped and immobilised by my little bundle of joy.
What I realised (all too late) was that I had created a rod for my own back. All humans are creatures of habit. Just as I like a cup of tea first thing in the morning, she liked to fall asleep on me. The other epiphany I had was that crying doesn’t hurt babies – in fact it makes them tired. As long as you know they aren’t hurt, have been fed and burped and have a dry nappy then they are crying just to whinge.
Babies need to learn to settle themselves, which if you constantly do it for them, they will expect anytime (day or night) that it is your duty to get them to sleep. You need to give them a dedicated sleeping spot that is preferably dark and quiet and leave them to doze. It is always best if you have them in a routine so they know that they are expected to sleep, but that isn’t always possible. My poor son, as the fourth child, did a lot of his sleeping in the car as I drove his sisters to and from school and other activities. I did however always try to allow him at least one sleep at home during the day to keep up the routine.
So my advice to any new mother’s out there is that although hearing your baby wail is heartbreaking, it will make life easier for you in the long run to let them cry. There is still plenty of time in the day for special cuddles and bonding. You will find that if your baby learns to settle themselves, you will actually have time for yourself as opposed to hours spent pinned under a sleeping child.
(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net)