I remember how overwhelming it was becoming a mom. The immense fear of doing something wrong. I read books, articles, blogs. I called my pediatrician at least once a week…at least. I downloaded every baby app I could find. I obsessed over the milestones. I was legitimately making myself crazy worrying about the experts’ rules. I was convinced I was going to ruin my child if I didn’t follow their advice, or so I thought at the time. Having three babies in four years, I no longer had time to read google, let alone parenting books. Instead, I had to rely on something else: my own instincts. I needed to see my babies as individuals, not pages in a book.
Rule 1: Put baby to sleep drowsy
I rocked each of my three babies to sleep, every night for the first four to seven months, depending on the child. I paced the floor, snuggled and rocked each one until they were completely asleep. The drowsy thing didn’t work for me or my babies. And guess what? Each of them learned how to put themselves to sleep at their own pace and in their own time. It also had zero effect on how they slept at night. Each of my children have followed the same routine and they are all very different sleepers.
Yes, there were some nights that it seemed like hours until they fell asleep. Sometimes it was frustrating. But you never know when it is the last time you will rock them. Recently my youngest, and likely my last baby, decided she doesn’t want to snuggle and rock before bed. I cherish every single one of those nights that I snuggled and rocked each of my sweet babies.
Rule 2: Pacifiers should be taken away between 6 months and 2 years
That almost three-year-old with a binky in her mouth, she was mine. Believe me, I saw the eye rolls and heard all the negative remarks. But, she loved her binkies: slept with them, carried them around, hid them all over my house. She even named them. Becoming the middle child was hard on her. Why would I take away her biggest comfort object? Because someone else thought she was too old? I knew she wasn’t going to kindergarten with it. It was gone a few weeks before her 3rd birthday, when she was ready. Here we are over a year later and I am still finding her hidden stash.
Rule 3: Babies require a napping schedule and should nap in their crib
I think I broke all napping rules.
Schedule: My oldest was more interested in the world around her than a nap until she was one. Then she was done with those things by around age two. She still doesn’t want to miss anything. My second was very clear about the napping schedule she required. But by the time I had my third child I was dealing with a newborn, a two-year-old and a 3 ½ year old. Baby number three, any and all naps she wanted were accepted and encouraged.
Location: All three of them napped on me at times. I often used the crib. But baby number three, I let her nap anywhere that was safe: my arms, the swing, the pack and play, the floor, her crib, etc. All naps were acceptable and encouraged.
Rule 4: No Bottle after age 1
My first two quickly transitioned to only sippy cups around age one. My third, not so much. She was close to two years old now when she was finally done with her bubba. I am not even sure how she started taking one to bed with her. Honestly, it’s a blur. She used a sippy all day, but at bedtime, she wanted a bottle. Even now, some nights she wants a water bottle to take to bed with her.
Rule 5: Keep Baby in the Crib until as close to age three as possible
I liked this rule. I was ready to follow it, but my girls weren’t feeling it. Each crawled out early then the one before. My oldest was graceful about it though. My middle, would go head first and hope for the best. It was time to say goodbye to the crib a little after age two for my two oldest girls. However, child three always keeps me on my toes. I was not at all ready for my newly one year old to make the move. I tried all the tricks. I rearranged the nursery three times. She may actually be the female version of Macgyver. I lost the battle. At 19 months, she got her toddler bed.
I could probably go on and on with the rules I have broken. Expert’s books can be a great starting point, but they are not the expert on your child-YOU are. The most important “rules” to follow are to love them, acknowledge they are individuals and discover their personality. What works for one, typically doesn’t work for the other. No two kids are exactly alike. Neither are moms. And that’s okay.