I’ve said it before; doing this whole motherhood thing second time around has been so much easier than the first. Part of it I’m sure is due to the fact that I had no idea what to expect when our first son was born. Had I known I probably would have been a hell of a lot more nervous for what was to come.
I’m sure people warned me and even though I read every book on pregnancy and the first year, nothing can REALLY prepare you for having your neat and structured little life bombarded with the birth of a child. I’m sure a lot is also owed to the fact that we want to enjoy the fantasy of it all and as magical as it is we believe our baby will be different. He will not be colic. He will self soothe from birth. He will sleep well. Latch well. Drink well. We believe our baby will defy all the odds and adjust to our timetable, our routine and our schedule. But we soon have to face the facts and admit that although all babies are in fact very different, most of them will take a while to find their rhythm and many, if not all, will be fussy at some stage of the day or night and may have trouble in any one of these areas.
And while there is so much advice out there and promises made to rectify all your baby problems, what works for one baby may not work for another. I am the first to admit that all babies are different and all will find a variety of ways to deal with life outside the womb. But I for one know that I learnt a lot the first time around. Most of you moms know what I’m talking about! The mistakes you make as a first time mom: The giving in to a boob feed at night when you know very well they don’t need it, the rocking and patting to sleep, the picking up from the cot after the tinniest of squawks. I mean, I say I tried but did I really? Or was I just like every other first time mom? Was I just like every normal and paranoid first time parent?
Since my first stint at motherhood, I have learnt a lot about what NOT to do. And the difference it has made second time around is like night and day. Literally!
So here it is. I have compiled a list of things I have done differently. Whether they are solely responsible for a calmer, easier and more contented baby I can’t be sure. But these little tricks I’m pretty sure have made things a hang of a lot easier with number two. It must be said that these are things that have worked for me and things I feel comfortable with. Some moms may not agree with every method I’ve used, so this is purely from my personal experience.
- Get them to suck that dummy! I know some people feel it’s a problem later on but I would rather have a baby who settles with a dummy for two years, and deal with the weaning later. My first-born didn’t take a dummy and became addicted to my breast for this very reason. He used my boob to soothe himself and couldn’t fall asleep without it. I don’t need to explain why this is a problem.
- Buy them a bunny! Well ours came in the form of a soft bunny but any soft blanket/toy will do. It becomes their comfort at bedtime and they will soon learn to associate it with sleep, making the transition from awake time to sleep time a much smoother one. I literally put my baby down with a dummy and a bunny and he does the rest himself. I started as early as 6 weeks, putting the bunny above his head and by 4 months he had it waxed. I love that little fur ball more than I love my wine. And that says a lot!!!
- Stop feeding at night! Usually anywhere from 6 months, babies no longer need a midnight feed. I’ve read, that by 9 months they definitely do not need one! If your baby is eating three solid meals a day and drinking well in between, there is no need for you to be giving in and offering them your nipple. They will only learn to expect this and will cry every time they want some comfort. They need to learn who is boss. You are not a watering hole!!! At night anyway.
- Leave them to cry. Even if it’s for small amounts at first, they need to learn that crying is not always going to get a response from you. I would leave my second born to cry/whine from as early as 8 weeks. If you are worried when they are little, stand by the door or where they cant see you and just watch them for a moment before running to them the second they squirm. Do this for longer lengths of time, as they get older. By 4 months old leaving them to cry for a minute or two at a time is perfectly fine. And by the age of 6 months to a year, allowing them to cry for up to 5 min before seeing to them, is not going damage them. (Some methods say 20 min to half an hour at a time!) I can’t say exactly how long each baby needs before they realize that you will not come running, but they should eventually learn to put themselves to sleep, or back to sleep. This rule obviously applies for children who are well fed, not sick and warm enough. Rule out any medical reasons for night wakings and then stick to your guns!!!
- Don’t be too quiet. We tiptoed around our first-born and it made for an even lighter sleep. The tiniest of noises would wake him after a 30-minute nap and he would need absolute quiet to fall asleep once he had been accustomed to it. With number two we kept on with life and he will generally sleep through a tornado now.
- Give them a top up bottle before bed. Part of this would entail getting them on a bottle early on. If moms are worried about milk supply dwindling, express a top up bottle and let them fill up before bed. Its what started our second born on his long 8-hour stretch. He now, at 11 months is sleeping through almost 12 hours. And yes I’m still breastfeeding at every other feed, usually 4 times a day.
- Don’t worry yourself sick about food. Every mother will agree, children can be fussy and sometimes they just wont eat. I had a terrible eater the first time around and stressing myself silly didn’t help matters. If anything it made it worse! Also, if all they will eat are those gross Purity jars, while turning their noses up at your home cooked–organic-made with-love gourmet yuminess let it be. They will eventually eat what you make them but at least you can rest assured knowing their tummies are full and their appetites are being encouraged. As long as they are being offered food regularly and drinking enough, it’s really out of your control. Another suggestion would be to NOT fill them up on bottles if they are not eating in the hope that they will fill up. It can create a vicious cycle.
- Let daddy help! It’s drilled into us from birth…. Mom knows best!!! We were raised with this mantra and so we start to believe it. Buts lets face it… dads know best too and they are just as capable as we are. I assumed with our first born that he only wanted me, but the only difference is that you have nipples (the kind that produce milk) so unless that’s what your baby needs, daddy can help! And believe me, you will reap the benefits if you just learn to relinquish the control.
- Don’t be such a germ-a-phobe! Yes by all means sterilize their dummies if they have fallen in public toilet… but we all know how paranoid we can be. Well the first time anyway. I think I sterilized my first son’s bottles until he was 15 months. Probably twice! And every time a teething toy so much as touched a dusty surface I would get out the Milton and start soaking. Not only are they not given a chance for their immune systems to work (we all need healthy bacteria), but also you become a real pain in the rear end. To everyone around you. And it becomes very overwhelming to constantly need things disinfected and clean. Wash things well in hot soapy water and rinse well too. And before you know it the 5-second rule while be safely established.
10. Above all, stay calm. They pick up on your frustration and panic! Babies are not robots and sometimes they can be hard to read. Sometimes you can try all these things and still they will kick up a fuss. Sometimes just as you think you have gotten something waxed and a routine to stick, they will lash out and defy the odds. And this is what motherhood can be I’m afraid. The realization that nothing is a guarantee. Nothing is set in stone and nothing or nobody knows your baby better than you. Trust your instincts and go with your gut.
So there you have it…. my top ten ways of ensuring a happier, calmer and much EASIER baby.
BY: LEIGH GEARY