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?