My son’s angry screams filled the air. I wiped the sleep from my eyes for the thousandth time and wearily made my way to his crib to feed him. AGAIN.
It had only been an hour and he was still hungry. I had been up and down all night. Just as I got to sleep the crying would begin again.
It had been going on for several weeks
I was beyond exhausted. I was desperate. And I was lonely. My Mom was thousands of miles away and I had no support. I was on my own with a baby who was always crying.
I knew something was wrong
I wasn’t producing enough milk.
But “breast was best.” EVERYONE knew that. It had been drummed into me.
So I soldiered on. Even though deep down inside I knew my baby wasn’t getting enough food. In my desire to give my child the very best I had made a very common parenting mistakes.
Good Mothers Should
My baby was always hungry, always crying, and we were both miserable. But I couldn’t possibly move to bottle-feeding. Good mothers should only breast-feed. Only bad mothers gave up and used bottles.
One evening in utter desperation I did the unthinkable. I went out to buy a bottle and some formula. Once he got used to the bottle my hungry child practically inhaled that formula. Then we both slept for hours.
They tell you that if you suddenly stop breastfeeding it will quickly become very painful. But that wasn’t the case with me. I felt no discomfort. No pain. Nada. I simply wasn’t producing any milk.
No wonder my son had been so hungry.
No wonder he had cried incessantly.
No wonder we were both exhausted.
My parenting mistake
Looking back I realize I was so caught up in the shoulds and the oughts of being a good mother that I had been ignoring the most important tool a parent has.
I knew something was wrong. I knew that my baby was hungry, but instead of listening to that small quiet voice deep down inside I listened to others.
- The authoritative voices of the parenting experts.
- The shrill voices of other mothers.
- The loud insistence of the parenting books.
Instead of trusting my gut I turned over the decision making power to those voices.
It was time to change
It was time to change that, so we turned to bottle-feeding. Suddenly I had a completely different child. My angry, squalling, fussy son transformed into a content baby who gifted me with beaming smiles and happy gurgles.
My one regret is that I didn’t make the change sooner. My son suffered and so did I, because I didn’t want to go against the shoulds and oughts of others.
Parenting isn’t a precise art. You can’t simply follow the books or advice of the so-called ‘experts’ or other parents.
There is no one size fits all method with handy checklists to cross off (if only).
The Surprisingly Common Parenting Mistake
The surprisingly common mistake that so many parent make is to listen to all those voices telling us what we should and ought to do with our children. These voices come from all kinds of places
- Social media
- Parenting articles
- Other parents (Let’s face it we can be a horribly opinionated bunch at times)
- Our own parents/grandparents
- Parenting books
A better way to parent
You know your child better than anyone else. You are uniquely qualified to decide what is best for him or her. You can trust your gut. Trust yourself.
Every child is different and every child will need a different approach. Learn to listen to your heart, your instincts, and your child. When we learn how respond to children in the way that works the best for them (and us), then we can feel confident we are doing our very best at this parenting thing.
Even if it means
- Or using disposable diapers
- Letting your child suck their thumb
- Weaning early
Please don’t make the same mistake I did. Don’t let the shoulds and oughts suck the joy out of parenting. Don’t short-change your child by following the path set out by others. Find your own way forward even if it means going against the conventional wisdom of the day. You will make mistakes. Join the club! Life will go on regardless.
Do what works for you and your family. Enjoy the precious moments of childhood and most importantly trust your intuition to lead the way.
A resource to help
Sarah and Christopher Wehkamp from the blog Parents Who have started a Facebook group for parents who are tired of hearing about all the things they “should” be doing. The goal of the group is to encourage and give parents the skills and tools necessary to figure out what is best for their family. There are some interesting discussions.