She Says… Doubt

As you all know, I am an over-researcher. I read and Google and investigate and search. Sometimes to a fault.

The instructor of my Mommy Group, a psychologist who works with both mothers like me and at-risk mothers, often says that in her experience the more educated a person is, the harder time they have with being a mother. In her counseling practice, she has found that the moms who were previously educated, productive people who were used to working hard and getting results were actually worse at trusting their own instincts when it came to being a mom. They were used to having one right answer, and with babies that is never the case. The at-risk moms, without the book research to fall back on, mothered on instincts alone. While neither mom is perfect, there is a lesson to be learned: Perhaps some mothers need to read less, rather than more. Although my 9 weeks of motherhood have been relatively easy, compared to many, I could not agree more.

My entire life I have been a student. I love to read and learn and figure things out. When I faced fertility issues, I became an expert on the topic, reading books, blogs and articles on possible causes for my situation. When I finally got pregnant, I switched to mommy blogs and filled my bookshelves with “What to Expect” and other pre-parenting books. Once I popped that baby out, I immediately cracked open books about theories of sleep training and how to raise well-adjusted children. Part of me just loves the information gathering step, and part of me has a deep desire to be the one with all the answers. The expert. Ms. Perfect.

Newsflash: All the books in the world will not make you a better mom.

In fact, all the books in the world contain such contradictory information that they will, in fact, drive a mom crazy. Especially a mom who is used to being able to get an A on the test by having the right answer. Or the mom who has been successful in life by being able to learn something quickly, and be able to do it perfectly. Aka me. While I totally understand this in theory, it is still something I learn every day.

Recently I have been learning this lesson with sleep training. Well, not sleep training, exactly, since Owen is only 9 weeks old, but preparing for sleep training and trying to establish sound sleep habits. The best book I have read on the subject is Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. It’s not a theory or a schedule or a gimmick, but rather a philosophy on providing a safe and predictable sleep environment for your baby, starting from when they are first born. I’ve also read some other books that prescribe more of a schedule for feedings and naps and bedtimes, and they contradict some of what has been working for me for the last 9 weeks (feeding somewhat on demand, which has been about every 2 hours during the day, and napping within 1 – 2 hours of wakefulness, after some playtime). Trying to schedule a 9 week old baby can exhaust anyone!

The other night Owen woke up earlier than he usually does, and my brain was so clouded with information from all of these books that I actually sat there, listening to him cry, and thinking about if I should feed him, since it wasn’t his “usual time” yet. While Benjamin tried to calm him, I sat in bed wondering if I was making the right decision by withholding food. Finally when Owen was pretty clear he was not going to be calmed by the normal patting and shhhing and rocking, I fed him. And you know what? It didn’t ruin his sleep schedule (he’s currently sleeping a 6-hour stretch between feedings, then a 4-hour stretch, then a 2- or 3-hour stretch). It didn’t change a darn thing. And here I was going to starve the poor child because I read too many conflicting theories. Moral of the story? I know my baby best. I need to trust my instincts, and my logical nature, and maybe sometimes my level-headed husband who is getting a full night’s sleep every night… not a book.

All that said, I’ve learned a lot from some of these books. So they’re not all bad. But when it comes to actual decision-making, I think I know better than any author, even without being published.

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9 responses to “She Says… Doubt

  1. This is a great post and made me laugh, actually, because it is dead on! Trust YOUR gut. You are the expert on your baby!
    I had my first while in college (and now she’s in college!) and was clueless PLUS broke. Looking back, I think that might not have been so bad afterall! I have friends having kids now (I’m 41) and it seems so stressful and expensive!
    Glad you trusted your gut. Keep doing that!

  2. There’s been this youtube video going around, I think it’s called “Reflections on Motherhood.” They asked a bunch of moms, if you could go back and tell yourself something before you had your first baby, what would it be? One of my favorite responses was “Google doesn’t have children.” And it’s so true! Not that I don’t google the crap out of every little thing, but I try to think of that sometimes for some perspective.

    Some of those books are great, and if you want to use them, I think a big part of it is trusting your gut as to what is going to work for you. For me, when my son got a little older and started having some sleep issues that I couldn’t work out myself, and I KNEW he didn’t need to be eating 2 or 3 times a night anymore, Ferber’s book was a lifesaver. The nerd in me actually found a lot of it interesting, too! I have and read HSHHC, and it helped as well.

    At 9 weeks though, I was still nursing him to sleep at bedtime, and when he woke up during the night. It worked for us, and it sounds like it works for you. And that’s pretty much all that matters! And the one thing I know for sure after my 6.5 months of motherhood is, just when you think you’ve got them figured out, the little buggers go and change things up on you. I think that’s why they’re so cute, to make it near impossible to be mad at them when, say, you’re completely sleep-deprived and it’;s their fault. 🙂

  3. We had a couple books that seemed basic and moderate–What to Expect and the 411 series–and we went with Ferber’s sleep book. Beyond that, I would sometimes reference babycenter and friends’ advice. I agree that over-researching and reading creates a false sense of security in new parents, and when things go wrong, anxiety about diverging from “what the book says” and not knowing the “right answer” is pretty staggering. The older L gets, the more I trust my own instinct, and it has made parenting much less stressful and more enjoyable!

    Regarding sleeping, we did little to build healthy sleep habits until we did sleep training at 4 months. L was a GREAT sleeper until then and suddenly started regressing, waking up more and more frequently. Until that point, I would nurse her to sleep in my arms and then transfer her to her crib. We had little to no nap schedule or feeding schedule and did both on demand. I tell you this only to let you know that within 1 week of sleep training, she was on a nap schedule and sleeping through the night, and everyone was happy and rested. For me, this taught me two important lessons: 1.) My fear that I was setting myself up for a lifetime of poor sleep habits by going with L’s natural schedule during those first few months was invalid, and this carried over to other fears of setting up bad habits. It’s pretty tough to ruin a child. 2.) My instinct that L was reading for sleep training even though she was younger than some experts recommend was accurate.

    Go with your gut, and unless having all those books around you makes you feel better, pare them down to the few that seem to jive with your instinct the best.

  4. I agree with this post so much! Sometimes I feel that reading too much does nothing but make me feel like an incompetent parent. Great post!

  5. I have a mother-in-law who is a pediatric nurse who all day everyday fields questions from mothers who call and say “such and such doesn’t go along with what I’ve read” etc. Her answer: WELL BABIES DONT READ THE BOOKS!!!!

    hilarious! Her attitude really puts parenting into perspective for me.

  6. I totally agree with you. I have been worrying about whether I will read myself to death and get too caught up in what others tell me to do in raising my child. I’m trying to take those general things into consideration, but ultimately do what is best for me, the baby and my hubby!

  7. You’re absolutely right. I read a lot of books and web sites with my first baby, scheduled his feedings/naps, sleep trained him using Ferber (worked like a charm), and so on.

    With the second baby, I don’t think I opened any of my books more than once or twice. I fed him whenever I sensed he was hungry, never watched the clock, put him down when he seemed tired. I was too distracted by my 3-year-old to think about what I might have read. The only thing I did by the book was sleep training, which did not work AT ALL for my younger guy. No matter what I did, he got up 4-5 times a night until he was at least a year old.

    I think it goes to show that no matter what you read, you’re going to have both successes and failures because every child is different, and no book can tell you what’s going to work for every child. If something doesn’t work for your child, you try something else until you find out what does. You know your own baby best. Sounds like you’ve already figured that out!

  8. Yeah, I finally had to stop reading so much about what to do with our new little guy because it ended up just confusing me. There is SO much info and some of it is contradicting so I finally just went with what feels right.

  9. I’m with you on this one. My mom tells me I read too much and my husband threatens to throw my books away lol. sometimes ignorance is bliss! I too threw myself into fertility things and almost everything i do. When it comes to babies I have no clue…I read the books about pregnancy, but when it comes to the baby actually being here I am clueless! Maybe it’s a good thing? only time will tell!

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