Have I ruined my newborn already?

Advice for mothers of newborns tends to fall on one of two extremes:
1) You can’t spoil a newborn; do whatever it seems like she wants for a couple of months and worry about setting up routines when she’s a little older.
2)  Routines bring order and peace to your life and your baby’s life; unless you plan to cater to your baby/toddler/child/teenager’s needs for her whole life you need to start establishing boundaries and expectations right away.

My guess is that, as with most issues, the wisest choice is somewhere between the two extremes.  But, as with most searches for perfect moderation, I struggle with what that looks like.

Before Abby was born, I read Preparation for Parenting, which is the original “Christian” version of Baby Wise.  I love sleeping through the night, and I love routines and schedules, so the uber-order of this approach appealed to me.  But as a brand-newborn, Abby slept all the time.  She fell asleep while she was eating and would rarely wake up until it was time to eat again.  I couldn’t figure out how to force her to enjoy 15 minutes of independent wake time after eating, so I decided to let her do her own thing and sleep whenever she wanted to.  Her eating was always at least two hours apart, so I patted myself on the back for not letting her develop a “snacking” habit and figured that was good enough for now.

Well, last week Abby went through several days in a row of being irritable and fussy almost all day.  I decided that her problem is that she has not learned how to sleep on her own; she needed feeding or rocking to fall asleep, and she only slept soundly when I was holding her.  In desperation, I turned back to Preparation for Parenting.  But it was a little too severe for me this time around.  I did not appreciate the not-so-veiled insinuation that I was denying my child God’s best every time I rocked her to sleep.  So I purchased, and read, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, which gave me similar advice about scheduling and routines, except with more warm fuzzy feelings.

So I am back to square one–I think it would be a great thing if I could get Abby on a more predictable schedule of eating, wake time, and sleeping during the day.  But how do I enforce that?  When Abby falls alseep eating, it’s hard to make her wake up.  If I do succeed, she doesn’t sleep well again until after the next feeding.  And how do I teach her to fall alseep on her own except for sticking her in her crib and letting her scream?  None of my books (and certainly not my feelings, for as much as those are worth) recommend the “cry it out” method, but I haven’t found very good tips for what to do instead.

So in the meantime I’m still letting Abby fall asleep however the heck she wants to, and we enjoy wake time whenever she feels like opening her eyes (which is getting more frequent!).  But, as the Baby Whisperer points out, bouncing a twenty-pound baby around the house to get her to sleep will not be nearly as fun as bouncing little newborn Abby, and I’m worried about sending a high-maintenance baby to her babysitters when I go back to work in a few weeks.  So I’m trying to think about transitioning her into more of a schedule.  Any tips from you veteran moms?

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5 responses to “Have I ruined my newborn already?

  1. I think you’re doing great. Just the fact that you’re aware of what your habits create for Abby shows that you’re not going to have a spoiled child who expects you to do everything. She is just an infant. You can start to put her down while she’s awake with you still close by at first, but not holding her. Then slowly wean her off of that by just letting her cry for 2 minutes, then check on her. Move up to 5 minutes, etc. That way she is learning that you are there to comfort and take care of her, but she is okay on her own. You can eventually check on her without physical touch, just your voice at the doorway…baby steps! Hope this helps.

  2. Are you swaddling? When we started consistently and tightly swaddling Ian for naps, he would sleep much better… because he wouldn’t wake himself up as easily. I would rock him or just hold him until he fell asleep or just lay a hand on his belly while he was in the crib and say shhhh. We have a music box that goes on his crib that really helped, too. Some sources may call it a sleep crutch, however. I’m willing to fork over the cost of C batteries every now and then for a good night’s sleep, though.

    I would say to shoot for having a good “schedule” by age 3 months. Some of this, she may just grow out of on her own. As her tummy matures, she’ll have less problems with gas and that sort of thing which can affect sleep. (Hence the need for bouncing.)

    Don’t feel guilty about letting her sleep in a carseat, swing, or bouncy chair. Ian would sleep great in his bouncy in those early months, but I worried about it. I spent a lot of time worrying… probably like you do, so I think that just comes with motherhood, perhaps. (I have a whole new set of worries now, am I saying the word “no” too much?)

  3. I think you’re doing great! We rocked and fed Caleb to sleep most of the time, until one time he was really fussy and fidgety, so I laid him down and he went right to sleep! Now, though, he takes two naps and I generally nurse him before each one, so he goes to sleep eating pretty often (though less than half the time). So it’s changed as he’s gotten older, and will continue to change.

    I’ve found that the stuff I’ve worried about has generally worked itself out, and this will too!

  4. I read a lot on this subject too, and nothing worked for Owen. He slept when he wanted to, and we just went with it. He was sleeping for 6-7 hours through the night at 9 weeks old. I don’t think you can spoil, or ruin sleeping habits, at such an early age. I agree with KarenD, 3 months is much more realistic. Abby is acting her age, she is not high maintenance.

  5. Yeah, after having two, I’ve realized that different things work for different babies, and ultimately they end up falling into some sort of a schedule on their own. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child was one of the best books that I read. It gave both sides (crying it out, and not letting them cry it out and how you could incorporate each into making a schedule for them, so that they could be well rested. It also talked about how the schedule changes as they get older. I followed the basic premise of time frames between naps that the book suggested, but as far as how I put them to sleep, one just laid down with his paci, and one has to be rocked, cuddled, and nursed/given water before going down. I think it depends on the personality of the baby. I have a very independent son, and a very cuddly, don’t get too far away son, and I could tell from shortly after birth that they were that way, not from how I did or didn’t train them. I agree with everyone else. You are doing a fine job with Abby! Can’t wait to meet her!

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