Every parent wants what’s best for their child.
A sweeping statement, but one I’m fairly confident is true.
The problem is figuring out the definition of ‘best’. Never mind what this book says, or that book says, or what other mums say, or what the health visitors say… I’m not always sure that I know what I mean by ‘best’.
I mean, my baby is only 5 months old and yet already I’m finding myself trying to work out how to go about life with her. How long it’s ok to leave her crying before going to sleep, the ‘best’ way to get her back to sleep the 7th, 8th, 12th time she wakes up during the night, whether it’s ok to allow her to be entertained by the TV…
Let me explain a little bit more. Most people advise that breastfed babies aren’t fed to sleep every time they wake up because the likelihood is that they’re not hungry but just looking for comfort and they need to learn ‘good’ sleep habits at an early age. And I have previously been known to say (probably rather pompously) that I would never use the TV to entertain a child rather than playing with them.
The thing is though that, as much as I would like to be, I’m not a super mum. I’m not really super anything in fact, I’m just a very normal (and permanently sleep deprived) person.
Last week I was trying to eat my tea with a very wriggly and slightly grumpy baby on my knee. Eating with one hand isn’t easy at the best of times but the wriggling was making it harder than usual. So I turned the laptop round, searched YouTube for Peppa Pig and hit play. It worked. She remained still, interested in the colours and moving shapes long enough for me to finish my tea. I don’t think this is a bad thing, but I did feel a slight twinge of guilt when I sat baby down in the living room to play with her and the first thing she did was to turn and look at the (switched off) TV.
I don’t want my baby to be plonked in front of the TV to keep her quiet.
But I sometimes just need a few minutes to catch my breath.
I don’t want my baby to learn bad sleep habits.
But I need to make sure I get enough sleep so I can look after her properly during the day.
I don’t want my baby to rely on me for sleep forever.
But I can’t stand to let her cry when she’s so little.
The best piece of advice I’ve yet been given was simple: you need to pick your battles. Sometimes it’s simply not worth fighting when the fight is not worth the outcome. This means that I try not to feel guilty for letting her watch TV when I need to have some brain space to myself. I try not to worry about the future of sleep when she wakes up for the 6th time and I just need to get her back off again as quickly as possible. I try to remind myself that she has only been in this world for 23 weeks and if she needs to cuddle into me for comfort during the night then that’s ok.
I don’t know anyone who is a super mum. And that too is ok. And as hard as it is, I think I’m learning to have confidence in the decisions I make without worrying what other people will think, or whether my child will be ruined for the rest of her life.
Sometimes I just have to remember to pick my battles. (And thanks mum for the advice!)