It’s really easy to read all the rules about how to care for an infant in baby books and blogs and tell yourself that you will uphold all of them for the safety and well-being of your unborn baby. You will exclusively breastfeed for six months because it’s best for baby. You’re told to start tummy time immediately so baby doesn’t experience flat head or developmental delays. You will never let baby cry it out, or conversely, you will always let baby cry it out because it worked for your mom and you turned out just fine. But then it’s 3am and baby is wailing and you haven’t slept in days and you do something that you swore you would never do that the mommy bloggers would say makes you horrible parent…but baby survives and so do you.
So despite all of my plans for mommy greatness, here are the five baby rules I broke almost immediately after my son was born.
Rule 1: If breastfeeding, don’t give baby a pacifier or it will cause nipple confusion.
Time it took me to break it: Seven days
My baby boy was a delight during the day. He’d calmly lay there and stare up at me with his beautiful, giant eyes. Then it would turn 6pm and he’d morph into a screaming, crying mess that couldn’t be comforted all night long. My number one rule was to exclusively breastfeed and everyone – the teacher at the newborn class I attended, the nurses at the hospital, the mothers I work with – all told me not give baby a pacifier for at least one to two months so he wouldn’t reject the nipple.
One night, it was 4:30 am and he had been crying on and off for about five hours in a row and nothing was working, not feeding him, or rocking him, or singing to him, or desperately begging him to go to sleep. So I took that pacifier and gently but firmly shoved it in his mouth. And he never developed any problems with breastfeeding.
Rule 2: Put baby on a schedule right away.
Time it took me to break it: Five days
I love a schedule. I need a schedule. Before my baby was born I did my research and typed up a schedule that included eating, sleeping, and playing. But my baby totally wasn’t having it. My pediatrician said he needed to eat at least every two to three hours and would eat for 15-45 minutes at a time. But my little one didn’t realize this rule. He wanted to eat constantly. Some days I would feed him and he’d be hungry again fifteen minutes later. Some days he would eat for hours at a time. He went through a growth spurt practically every week. I thought he wasn’t getting enough milk so I started pumping to see my supply and that wasn’t the issue; the little guy just really needs to eat. I’d also read that newborns only stay awake for about 45 minutes at a time.
Not my kid. I’m lucky if he gets two short naps in during the day and a few hours at night. He just doesn’t get tired. Even as a newborn he’d be awake for five to nine hour stretches, happy and content to stare at everything, not hurt or sick or giving any reason why he just won’t ever sleep. I rocked him, I put him in a dark room, I went away so my presence wouldn’t keep him up, and nothing worked. My detailed schedule was worthless because my baby wouldn’t follow along.
Rule 3: Baby needs to sleep on a flat surface like a crib or bassinet.
Time it took me to break it: Two weeks
My baby was colicky and colicky babies don’t like sleeping flat on their backs. He had a rocker where he was harnessed securely and the sides were away from his mouth, even if he turned his head. The packaging said the rocker was good for play and sleep; there was even a picture on the box of a mom lounging in bed while baby slept nearby. But being cautious, I looked online. Everywhere were comments from doctors and mothers saying that these rockers weren’t safe for sleep and that baby could suffocate.
I used the rocker during the day to soothe my little one and after a particularly long night crying in his bassinet, I moved my son to his rocker and he fell asleep immediately. And I slept too, the best we’d both had since he was born.
Rule 4: Don’t co-sleep with baby
Time it took me to break it: Two and a half months
This rule I really never intended to break. I’ve read horrible stories of parents accidentally suffocating their babies in bed. I vowed never to do it. But after a few months of no sleep I decided to just lay down, for a second, on the bed with my son to rest and before I knew it we were both asleep. I have only done this a few other times because it still worries me, but with a tightly fitted sheet and no blanket, my son was fine for a short nap during the day.
Rule 5: Breastfeed exclusively for the first six months.
Time it took me to break it: Four months
I really wanted to breastfeed exclusively for six months and continue to the first birthday, I really did. But after four months I had to go back to work and my job is not breastfeeding friendly. I didn’t want to have to worry about leaking and trying to find an empty office to pump in. So I switched to formula and it really broke my heart the first time my son took the bottle of formula with no complaint. He didn’t need me anymore, I sobbed to my husband. We didn’t have that special time together anymore.
While trying to wean him was difficult and painful (both physically and emotionally) it worked out for the best because my son and I still had plenty of mother-son bonding time and by the time he was nine months old he had eight teeth. I don’t think I would have enjoyed nursing him with those sharp little chompers anyway.
So there you have it. These baby rules might be told to you left right and center, but if you break them, let it go because life with new babies is unpredictable.
(Image: iStock / Photo_Concepts)