My daughter was an unexpected blessing! A blessing doctors had told me I would never have. I cherished every moment of my pregnancy, and prepared in every way possible. I asked question and read every book on parenting that the library had to offer. I counted down the days in excitement and fear, just as I counted the baby’s kicks with a notebook at hand.
As the months passed I got really bad reflux, and I remember being woken in the middle of the night; forced to roll my pregnant body over and try and whale it over the edge to make it to the bathroom before I was sick. I never complained. I was so scared I would somehow jinx a pregnancy that wasn’t even supposed to be possible and with my head in the toilet bowl I considered myself the luckiest woman alive.
After my daughter was born we struggled. I was trying to be the perfect mother, but my failure to breastfeed my daughter made me feel useless from the start. I spent hours everyday expressing my milk to at least feel I had done something right for her! The depressed stage failure to breastfeed can cause is really very real.
Without being able to offer the breast as comfort I struggled to help her sleep, which of course is quite normal for a baby yet I was told by a midwife when she was only five days old that “you need to put that baby down, she’s never going to sleep on her own the way you carry her everywhere”
This time was different though. It was silent and it just felt wrong. I looked over my shoulder in to the cot where my daughter slept, but she seemed to still and looked almost blue.
I thought it was the nightlight making her look that way but when I picked her up I realised something was wrong.
My daughter almost died that night.
I had been so focused on doing everything “right” that I had somehow ignored my own instinct, I listened more to the books then I did my inner voice but as I realised that although I had done as I was told, having a routine hadn’t kept my daughter safe. Her nightly wind down bath and the baby whisperer hadn’t made a difference. We almost lost her, and now I listened to my instinct which was stronger then ever.
A few weeks later I sat down with my health visitor. She already knew what had happened. I was asked if I wanted to go on the waiting list for a special mattress with a breathing alarm. I turned the offer down explaining that I had decided to bed share full time as I felt I was more in tune with my girl that way. I couldn’t sleep unless she was in my arms!
“You must not share a bed, it’s really dangerous for your little girl to sleep with you”
This was the first time I got advice from a health professional which told me too ignore my maternal instinct, but it wasn’t the last.
After my son was born and we took our first steps towards what would be a 3 year long breastfeeding journey, I received more and more terrible advice.
“He should sleep all night at 6 months old! Have you tried moving him to his own room?”
It’s strange how we are given advice that continually contradict health professionals training, isn’t it?
Before the age of 1, the risk of sudden infant death syndrome is higher. Yet we get advised by health professionals to ignore the WHO guidelines! I mean, why would we listen to UNICEF when we have the anecdotal advice from Betty who weaned all her babies by nine weeks!
Advice like moving baby in to her own room, formula feed and perform cry based sleep training, is often wrongly advised by health visitors and something they are advising against their own code of practice.
These are all things that go against our maternal instinct but methods which society tells us is the only way to parent successfully.
Is it not time that we reframe how we think about babies?
Is it not time to introduce reasonable expectations or even better, have no expectations at all!
Babie have small tummies. They wake often to feed and it can be exhausting! This was made so much easier when I was made aware that frequent night waking is natures own defence against sids!
Breastfeeding all night is again exhausting, but by responding you supply your baby with night time sleep hormones and night time feeding is hugely beneficial to help regulate your supply!
Cluster feeding babies can also be exhausting but again, this is baby’s way of putting in a new order for milk. Regardless of what you’ve been told, humanity survived before top ups!
If your health professional (like mine) tells you to add in some baby rice as baby must be hungry- ignore the advice unless you believe it to be true.
We live in a broken society where we have are so far removed from what is biologically correct that our expectations on what babies should do, are completely unreasonable.
Expecting a baby to go four hours between feeds, “self soothe” and sleep all night from 6 weeks of age isn’t only madness, it’s like expecting a dog to set the table for dinner.
These expectations are harmful!
One thing that I didn’t know before having my daughter was how beneficial it is to have her sleep near me. I didn’t know that my heartbeat regulated her heartbeat. That my breathing encouraged her breathing and I didn’t know that holding her close helped her adjust her temperature after mine!
Our bodies are amazing, and can do such incredible things for our little ones so consider throwing away the books and listen to your baby- she knows best! If she’s asking to be held she’s needing you close. If she’s asking for a feed, her tummy is empty or she’s needing the comfort. If she won’t sleep on her own make arrangements for safe co sleeping.
After that horrible night when we life felt more precious then ever before, I slept with my daughter in my arms.
The maternal instinct can be amazing, we just need to try and ignore the unhelpful buzzing, and listen to it!