“Is she good?”
This was something I got asked time and time again, as a new mother.
Strangers, friends and family all looked at my tiny, new born baby and asked if she was “good“.
At times, instead of replying that she was I felt like simply responding: “No, not really- last night she finished of a bottle of whiskey and robbed a bank”
Although we all mean well when we ask this question we have to acknowledge that babies cannot be anything but good. They are led by instincts and love and when we consider night wakings and cluster feeding as “unnatural” we can end up denying human infants of their biological needs as well as putting more pressure on ourselves as parents.
It took me a few weeks of parenting to see how utterly ridiculous the language in which we describe new born children really is and ever since I’ve tried to stop myself from asking new parents this question!
I’ve tried to stop asking about how baby sleeps all together, after all they aren’t really supposed to sleep for long periods of time.
The first time I truly experienced the pressure on parents in regards to baby sleep was during my parenting class reunion where we all sat on chairs in a ring, holding our precious little cherubs. they were no more then five weeks old.
The midwife asked us questions and we answered one by one, it was like some kind of “show and tell”.
I remember the first mum stating her little boy was brilliant. “He sleeps for 6 hours without a sound” she said proudly.
The Next mother proclaimed her son slept for a minimum of 4 hours but she would like to try and stretch it to 6 hours too.
The midwife applauded them as though they had somehow had a considerate impact on how their five week old, tiny babies slept.
As though we could mould the sleep of these individual infants with our parenting approach.
When it was my turn I answered that my daughter goes to bed with me at 10pm, and then sleeps really well in between feeds! The midwife looked at me and asked “in her crib?”
A snort left my mouth and was shortly followed by an unsure laugh- “no of course not, in my bed. She would only sleep for 20 minutes in her cot” I replied.
They all looked horrified.
The Midwife swiftly started advising that bedsharing was very dangerous, and of course unless safety guidelines are followed it can be, but I followed every safety precaution to the dot. She told us about the importance of a routine, she advised us how to place baby in the cot drowsy but not asleep (has anyone actually ever succeeded in this?) She said to always place baby in the crib or moses basket for naps.
I felt quite confused.
I asked her “but what about the guidelines stating baby should always sleep in the same room as an adult for the first 6 months of life, during the day as well as night?”
The midwife shut me down, and dismissed my enquiry swiftly carrying on her talk about routine.
Somehow this part of the sleep guidelines isn’t stated often enough.
The majority of mothers, although they are aware that baby should sleep in the same room as a caretaker for the first 6 months of life, have no idea that this guideline considers all sleep periods.
We rarely speak about how baby sleeping separated from a parent can increase the risk of SIDS regardless of if it’s day or night. Somehow this detail gets passed over when we talk about the importance of sleep yet this is a crucial part of keeping our babies safe.
Of course, it is increasingly difficult to be completely child led with all the outside pressures such as work and other commitments yet its hugely important to consider that humans have evolved but brand new little babies are still very much so lead by instincts. They are primitive. They know what they need to survive and they ask for it, some louder then others.
By assuming that all babies have the same needs we are neglecting to be responsive.
The best thing we can do as parents is to respond when needs are expressed and teach our little humans that they can trust us to be there for them.
It’s exhausting and demanding but very much so worth it in the end. I sacrificed many a evenings of “me time” and went to bed by 7pm to simple cope with what the next day involved and I’m glad I did. I now have my evenings to myself and have no regrets over those years when I didn’t.
When I was sitting on that chair, in the circle of what I guessed an episode of parental “Judge Judy” would feel like, I was an outcast amongst the other mothers!
I was the only one who didn’t leave her baby in the cot, alone in a room.
Not because I couldn’t but because I simply responded to my baby’s individual needs.
My daughter wasn’t “good”- she was awesome and that had nothing to do with her sleep patterns! ❤️