I have three children, two boys and a girl, and up until eight months ago, I thought I had this parenting caper down pat.
Son number one was a shocker, in the nicest possible way. Terrible at feeding, even worse at sleeping. My husband’s memory fails him (likely because he wasn’t the one up all night during feeds) but my first was the worst of all of them, for sure. At around eight months of age I had enough of the constant waking, feeding and back to sleep routine. I decided to try the control crying method. For all its critics, it worked.
It took three nights. Night one was shocking. I wasn’t for the total cry-it-out so I went in for soothing duties. Despite his crying, I never felt that we went from protesting to distressed. Not once. Night two was better and by night three he was waking once, if that. After that he was a dream (get it). He is almost five now and still has a day sleep some days.
From that point on, I decided that if needed I would use the control crying method on my kids. I sang its praises because it worked. I was such a smug bastard back then that I want to go back in time and smack first time mum-me. I remember thinking – ‘why isn’t every parent doing this? If only they knew how quickly it worked – how painless it really was’.
Don't let the smile fool you, he was an absolute devil. Image: Supplied
So when son two came along I knew the plan. Except he didn't. In fact, someone must have forgotten to tell him that babies are allowed to wreak havoc on their parents because in all aspects, he was an angel. He slept through from an early age, even in my room without waking me until he was 12 months old. He fed well from the get-go and basically did everything a textbook 'good baby' should do.
There it was. I was a parenting guru - I had this down! And then boom - Missy came along.
I was like a first-time mother; crying in the hospital because my baby wouldn't feed properly. She didn't latch on. She wasn't gaining weight - and sleeping, huh! I took her home and she made it very clear that she didn't like sleeping. Not one bit. Where her brother once slept; out and about or at home, she was having none of it. She didn't sleep in the day and she sure as hell didn't sleep at night. The weeks turned into months and before I knew it, we had some bad habits.
So there I was at the same place I was four years earlier, only with a different baby. I set aside a night to the control crying method with her and very quickly realised that this was not going to play out the way it had done before. Firstly, there were no gaps in the crying, no attempt to self settle. 'I'll be strong' - I thought. Then she did something that my son never did. She got herself so distressed that she vomited, all over herself and all over the bed. Right there I decided that this was never going to work. I was never going to put her in that position again.
This one read the 'How to be a perfect baby' book before birth. Image: Supplied
She's now eight months old and wakes every hour or two. She will only be fed back to sleep and *gasp* she sleeps in my bed because frankly, I do not have the energy to be walking back and forth to her room settling at all hours of the night. People who say 'sleep when the baby sleeps' obviously do not have jobs and two other children to attend to. Right now, it's about self preservation.
My new mantra is this. It's all a phase, it's all a phase. Yes, I'm dangerously sleep deprived. I'm honestly doing my best to hold it together but I'm also yet to meet an adult who can't sleep through the night. She will get there, we will get there, but what became very clear is that there is no one size fits all when it comes to parenting children. What worked so well with one is just plain wrong with another. She is different, they are all different. My eldest coped, in fact he thrived. She did not and I'm ok with that.
Mamamia confessions: The moment I felt like a terrible mother. Post continues after video.
Parenting books can be great for rough guidance but after three kids I've realised that if babies came with a fail proof manual surely we'd all be given one at birth. Every birth gives you a new child, already predisposed with their own personalities, strengths and weaknesses. They are not robots and nor should we expect them to be. Trying to force a parenting style on each child is foolish because it's bound to fail.
My advice for new mothers would be this. Read the books, take suggestions, hear stories but do not accept the word of others as gospel for what you should be doing with your child. Here's why; no one has ever parented your baby before. They are the first of their kind. Find something that works for them, and works for you and the happier you will both be. We all get there in the end.