By Sofie Thomson
“Is she good?”
This was something I got asked time and time again, as a new mother.
Strangers, friends and family all looked at my tiny, newborn baby and asked if she was “good”.
At times, instead of replying that she was I felt like simply responding: “No, not really – last night she finished of a bottle of whiskey and robbed a bank.”
Although we all mean well when we ask this question, we have to acknowledge that babies cannot be anything but good. They are led by instincts and love and when we consider night wakings and cluster feeding as “unnatural”, we can end up denying human infants of their biological needs as well as putting more pressure on ourselves as parents.
It took me a few weeks of parenting to see how utterly ridiculous the language in which we describe newborn children really is, and ever since I’ve tried to stop myself from asking new parents this question. I’ve tried to stop asking about how baby sleeps all together, after all they aren’t really supposed to sleep for long periods of time.
…we have to acknowledge that babies cannot be anything but good. They are led by instincts and love…
The first time I truly experienced the pressure on parents in regards to baby sleep was during my parenting class reunion, where we all sat on chairs in a ring, holding our precious little cherubs. They were no more than five weeks old.
The midwife asked us questions and we answered one by one. It was like some kind of “show and tell”.
I remember the first mum stating her little boy was brilliant. “He sleeps for 6 hours without a sound,” she said proudly.
The next mother proclaimed that her son slept for a minimum of 4 hours, but she would like to try and stretch it to 6 hours too.
The midwife applauded them as though they had somehow had a considerate impact on how their five week old, tiny babies slept.
As though we could mold the sleep of these individual infants with our parenting approach.
When it was my turn I answered that my daughter goes to bed with me at 10pm, and then sleeps really well in between feeds! The midwife looked at me and asked, “In her crib?”
A snort left my mouth and was shortly followed by an unsure laugh. “No of course not. In my bed. She would only sleep for 20 minutes in her cot,” I replied.
They all looked horrified.
The midwife swiftly started advising that bedsharing was very dangerous, and of course unless safety guidelines are followed it can be, but I followed every safety precaution to the dot. She told us about the importance of a routine, she advised us how to place baby in the cot drowsy but not asleep (has anyone actually ever succeeded in this?). She said to always place baby in the crib or Moses basket for naps.
I felt quite confused.
See next page for the rest…