Rigid parenting routines work great in theory – in practice, not so much.
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 b**tch”, 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.
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?
There are tonnes 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.