[Published on iVillage here on 12 March 2015]

There are some days you take a step back and think “how the F can I be responsible for another human being?!”. And you seriously question your parenting.

I recently came across a post on Facebook about something called ‘detached parenting’. A mum was explaining how she’d followed the Gina Ford Contented Baby routine since her baby was a newborn and it wasn’t until her baby was older that she realised how the book had made her a ‘detached parent’.

It got me thinking. A lot. And that’s because we’ve followed that very routine with our baby Harry from around six weeks of age.

This woman used a strict schedule and kept her baby very separate from her to ‘foster her sense of independence’. She used controlled crying. Her baby was a great sleeper (“lucky bitch”, I hear you groan). She thought she had the perfect Contented Little Baby and was horrified by parents who were ‘making a rod for their own backs’ by co-sleeping, feeding to sleep and carrying their babies everywhere.

A year or two on, the mum had an insecure and jealous toddler who suffered separation anxiety and would not sleep. One day the woman put her little girl down for her daytime nap and she refused to sleep for a full two hours. The little girl wasn’t upset, she just wouldn’t sleep. The woman decided she could stay there for the full time (“she’ll eventually fall asleep!”). After two hours, everything was quiet so the woman thought she was asleep and left her for the requisite two hour sleep. Four hours later, she went up and found her little girl sitting on her bed wide awake. The little girl said “No Mummy, I didn’t sleep. I’m sorry Mummy.”

The woman’s world came crashing down because her daughter was apologising to HER. She realised that her parenting style was responsible for her little girl’s crippling separation anxiety. She immediately changed how she parented, dropped routines and read up on Attachment Parenting; Sears; and The Continuum Concept.[1]

My thoughts? If you follow a routine down to the letter, you’ll probably be a bit detached. Anything that recommends keeping your baby at arms length probably deserves further investigation. God forbid you put your baby in a baby carrier and dance around so he or she can feel your closeness and maybe drift off to sleep while you enjoy their sweet baby smell – that will create bad sleep associations, right?

The only two books I've used. I was obsessed with Contented Baby, to my detriment!

The only two books I've used. I was obsessed with Contented Baby, to my detriment!

There are tons of routines, sleep programs and theories out there. Many promise the world, if you’ll only ‘teach your baby’ how to do things themselves from the get go. And yes, I guess that worked for us with our little guy. He was only up once at night from eight weeks of age (something I wouldn’t DARE repeat at Mothers’ Group!). But, while we used the routine as a guide, we didn’t take it as gospel.

Anyone in their right mind would know to check on their child, adapt their routine to suit, and roll with the punches when life calls for it.

However, the key words there are ‘in their right mind’ – half the time, and particularly in the early newborn days, a mum is not all there. Take the baby brain you get while pregnant and multiply that by 1000 and it doesn’t even come close to the haze you’re in during that first few weeks. Putting together a sentence is challenging. You go from deliriously happy to sad in a split second, and you are not sensible. If someone feeds you information that promises the world, especially if it promises more sleep, you gobble it up.

You could spend forever reading this stuff. And in the early days of motherhood, I did. I was a walking, crying stress-head, spending most of my time thinking about what my baby ‘should’ be doing. I should have spent less time worrying and more time just basking in his newborn-ness. Next time, I will do it differently.

Yes, it’s important to know stuff. We have one particular reference book that, while I haven’t read it cover to cover, has come in handy from time to time. But, take it from someone who’s been there – there is absolutely no need to take it to extremes. Do yourself (and your partner!) a huge favour, and put the baby books down, at least for the first month or two.

The people that insist on spouting all of these theories are generally trying to make money from it. They capitalise on our fear, guilt, worry and exhaustion. I’m yet to read a book that says “your baby is an individual who may like to fall asleep to the gun fight in ‘Scarface’ ”.

Bollocks to being religious about any of it. I don’t care if you have good intentions or an MD – don’t tell me how to parent MY baby. Don’t put me into the ‘detached’, ‘attached’ or any other category, unless you were walking around the block with us at 4am with our newborn in an effort to get him to sleep.

Mums and Dads, here’s to doing what’s right for our baby and families, and continuing that without any guilt for what we ‘should’ be doing. Rant.Over.


[1] [1] http://www.analyticalarmadillo.co.uk/2012/10/why-i-ditched-detached-parenting.html

 

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