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.