(This post is a part of Emerging Mummyâs Practices of Mothering Carnival. Hence the title, which is modeled after her way of entitling blog posts, A. A. Milne-style. Tomorrow I’ll return to my series about stay-at-home moms).
The secret is quite simple: Iâve assigned some of the responsibility to my five-month-old baby. And Iâve been doing it since she was born.
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We place so much responsibility on parents these days. Parents think itâs up to them to make their babies sleep and eat. They think theyâre responsible for making them poop and pee in the right places and behave and dress appropriately. Which is really quite silly, if you think about it, because no human being can really make another person sleep or eat or poop or pee or anything.
So Iâve decided to let my baby make some of these decisions herself.
Like sleeping, for example. Some parents drive themselves crazy trying to get their kids to sleep. They lose their minds, trying to coax babies to sleep through the night and to take the right number of naps every day for the right amount of time.Â These parents lose all kinds of sleep, worrying and fretting about how their kids arenât getting enough sleep. It sounds oh-so-hard.
I thought that sounded like way too much effort, so I decided to let my baby decide for herself when to sleep. Â I encouraged her to do most of it at night, though, by keeping her warm and cozy and safe right next to my body when it got dark, and by feeding her as soon she woke up, and by keeping the room quiet and dark until morning. It didnât take too long before she was doing most of her sleeping at night. She still wakes up a couple of times each night, but I donât let that bother me too much.
Ultimately, she makes the decision about when and how long to sleep.Â I just offer her guidance. Like, when sheâs rubbing her eyes and acting grumpy, I donât just leave her to do her own thing. Iâll make suggestions — âAre you sleepy? You look sleepy. Should we try a nap?â — and Iâll help her get comfortable, maybe offer her some milk to calm her down. If she falls asleep, awesome. If not — well, thatâs not really my responsibility. Iâll keep holding her or rocking her or letting her play. Hopefully sheâll listen to her body sooner or later.
And if sheâs not sleepy, I also wonât just put her in her crib and leave her there, just because I or some expert have decided itâs the appropriate time for her to sleep. Because really, what do we know?
It feels good to be released from the responsibility of being the expert on When Lydia Should Sleep (and Eat). That seems like too big a job for me (or anyone) to have to take on.
I let her be the expert.
See, I think that the best authority on what my daughter needs (at least at this point in her life) is my daughter herself. She knows best whether her stomach feels empty or full, whether she feels tired or alert. I donât know those things, though I can make guesses based on her behaviour and kind of help her see it for herself if she seems confused or overwhelmed. And if she refuses to listen to her own body? Well, thereâs not really much I can do about it. What makes me think sheâll listen to me if she wonât even listen to her own body?
Itâs liberating, not having to be the boss of everything.
It has worked out so well that I plan to keep extending the realm of her decision-making as she gets older. Like what to eat (within a certain range of options, of course), and what to wear (even if itâs a dinosaur costume and weâre going to the store).
Not only does this help make my life easier, but I think it has benefits for her, too. It teaches her that her needs, her wants, and her preferences matter. It teaches her that she has agency — she can make decisions for herself. And it teaches her to listen to her body and intuition, which most of us have lost the ability to do.
So if, one day, she ever points to me in a fit of frustration and yells, âYouâre not the boss of me!â I can pause, sigh, and say, âYouâre right. Iâm not. What a relief.â And we can work on a solution together.
Itâs nice having someone else to share the load with, even if sheâs only five months old.
What are some of your practices of mothering or fathering?