As Alice has reached her first birthday, it's got me thinking about the experience of looking after her. While I was pregnant I was almost overwhelmed with advice. Parenting is an area that everyone has an opinion on, and everyone wants to share those opinions with you. Sometimes the advice is helpful, sometimes not so much. Here are five sayings that I found invaluable, and five that I wish I'd never heard.
1) This too shall pass
I'm still reciting this mantra virtually every day! It is good to know that just when you think you can take no more - broken sleep, biting while feeding, throwing food, pulling on wires, the phase is over and the baby is on to the next stage.
2) Follow your instincts
It is still miraculous to me that somehow Alice and I just seemed to know what to do. She latched on herself better than any midwife could have latched her. I knew I should feed her when she wanted to, not just at 2 hourly intervals, and I always picked her up when she cried. Obviously, some things took practice, but the essentials were there.
3) What babies need most is a happy mummy.
I still need to remind myself of this. A good mother is seen as totally unselfish. To occasionally put ourselves first seems like sacrilege, but it is sometimes necessary. I have been so burnt out at times that I have resented the baby for doing what babies do, and that is a horrible place to be. Calling in the cavalry (usually my husband!) and going for a long bath with a cup of tea is a much better way to deal with the inevitable frustrations of baby care.
4) Sleep breeds sleep
In the early days I worried that if she slept too much, she wouldn't sleep at night. Turns out they sleep much easier when they are well rested. Which brings me on to...
5) Never wake a sleeping baby
And now to the not so helpful comments:
1) You're making a rod for your own back.
Co-sleeping, picking them up when they cry, breastfeeding on demand. you name it, you'll hear that awful phrase. Well, it isn't true.
2) Crying is good exercise for the lungs.
I think it was Dr Sears who said if crying is good for the lungs, bleeding is good for the veins.
3) Breastfed babies don't get colic
I laboured under this belief for a long time but have come to realise that Alice was a colicky baby. her symptoms melted away at around 4 months and she seemed like a new baby. I had a very quick let down and she was constantly sick. I feel awful that I didn't make an effort to help her more at that stage.
4) Big babies need weaning sooner
I've heard this from all corners including my health visitor, but it has never made sense to me. How could mushy vegetables or cereal provide more calories than milk?
5) Put the baby down or they'll get clingy.