new mom looking up the right way to parent on her smart phone
Care First Baby Lessons

Letting Go of the Right Way to Parent

By Kamie Maddocks

Being a parent is hard. When my son was born, I really struggled.

Bringing home my little guy was exciting and I loved him immensely. However, what preoccupied my mind in those first weeks wasn’t the ooey-gooey desire to cuddle all day long. Instead, I was fixated on the right way to parent.

Reflecting on those newborn days does not bring forth warm-fuzzy feelings, but a pit in my stomach and a clenched jaw. I spent those first weeks, and eventually months, hopeless and in information overload.

During frequent nursing sessions, I had ample time to search Pinterest and parenting blogs for advice on sleep training, breastfeeding, parenting styles, age-appropriate play, growth milestones and so much more.

Mountains of information exist for a new mom, and I was eager to explore every word. I threw myself into collecting all the mommy info out there. However, my knowledge rampage quickly became problematic, because frequent contradictions exist in the advice.

Confusing contradictions

I truly loved my son but feelings of stress, guilt, and failure overwhelmed me. My thoughts often drifted to “What did I get myself into? And, can I please go back to my pre-baby life?” Worse, I couldn’t visualize my life with a baby getting any better.

One of my biggest struggles was naptime. Hoping to find clarity, I read two popular books on infant sleep. While they both stated the same facts about infant sleep cycles, they presented two very different methods of building good sleep habits.

I internalized that no matter what I did, I was failing my baby.

The first one recommends a “sleep, nurse, play” schedule. The author specifically discourages nursing before naps. The reason being that if a baby is nursed to sleep, he is then deprived of the opportunity to learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on his own.

Seeming perfectly logical, I quickly adopted “no nursing before naps” as fact in my mind.

The second book I read contradicted this “fact” stating that when a baby nurses, hormones are released which promote sleep. Looking back, I should have seen this disparity in the two methods as revealing a truth: every baby is different and what works for one, won’t necessarily work for another.

Surrendering to the unknown

Instead, I was convinced the first book was right and the other book was wrong. For months, I strived to maintain the “sleep, nurse, play” cycle and my baby took inconsistent and short naps. Often the time spent trying to get my very tired son to fall asleep was longer than the amount of time he actually napped.

Around five months, I relinquished and rebelled.

I nursed before naps and gradually the struggle subsided. Little guy took naps! Slowly, confidence in my ability to parent began to increase, leading to finally enjoying this whole motherhood thing.

My surrender of doing things the right way led to a new freedom and flexibility.

Every baby is truly different. A friend, who became a mom shortly after me, was very successful with the “sleep, nurse, play” cycle. Her little one transitioned home from the hospital and took naps like a champ. I watched with envy as the trials with sleep which consumed my first months, were non-issues for her.

However, my friend’s battle was with nursing. Every possible breastfeeding issue seemed to surface including tongue tie, latch issues, blocked ducts, and frequent thrush. While extensive info should empower the struggling mom, the stressful contradictions scream loudly here too.

Each facet of being a mother is so dissected, analyzed, and then preached that no matter what you research, someone out there will tell you, “This is right and you are wrong.”

The most important lesson

Through stress and tears, I learned the essential and helpful truth that every baby is different. Nursing before naps won’t work for every baby and guess what? That is ok! If a strategy flops, it doesn’t mean complete parenting failure. Rather, this allows freedom to find another approach which is a better fit.

There is no magic fix to all newborn problems. There is no single method that works for everyone.

My advice: question any advice that allows for only one solution. Take a deep breath and let go of parenting the right way. Seek information thoughtfully to learn options. Be flexible and follow that deep, parental intuition. Struggle is normal but circumstances change and there is complete freedom to implement new ideas.

True, being a parent is hard but with freedom and flexibility, being a parent is also amazing!

What’s one piece of advice that’s tripped you up, but you’ve learned to let go of? Let us know in the comments.

Our next recos: New Mom Guilt: Why You’re Not Failing as a Mother

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