By Georgina Dowden
The first two years of your baby’s life are filled with so many lessons, most of which you can only appreciate or recognise with the gift of hindsight. So, as my daughter approaches her third birthday, and my brand new son enters into his seventh week of life, I thought it would be a good time for me to reflect back on five things that I learned in those crazy two years. My hope is that it may offer some reassurance to other mothers, and also serve to remind me of a few things as I walk this road for the second time.
1) “This too shall pass”
I know, it’s such a cliché! But it really is a great mantra. The hard times always pass, even though it may not feel like it when you’re in the thick of it. By the same token, this saying is also just as true for the “easy” times. Have you ever seen a parent announce on social media that their baby has slept through the night? I always cringe when I see this, because 9 times out of 10, the next time you see that parent and enthusiastically high-five them, they will look sheepish and confess that baby has started waking again – even more frequently. Such is life. Take each day as it comes, because good or bad, you can be guaranteed that it won’t be like that forever.
They are allowed to progress and regress. It’s all a part of growing. They will get there eventually, just don’t expect them to follow a predictable path, or rather your path. Let them find their own and surrender to the unpredictability.
2) Babies don’t progress in a straight line
Let’s consider again that parent who joyfully announced to everyone that their baby now sleeps through the night, only to have things go backwards again a day, a week, or a month later. Too often that parent ends up seeing their baby – or themselves – as having failed somehow. How did it get messed up? He was sleeping through! We did it. We won! Well. No. Because babies do not progress in a straight line. They go forwards, backwards and hell, even side to side. They sleep, and then they don’t. They eat everything you give them, then they are only interested in cheese sticks, or better yet, old dog biscuits they found behind the garbage bin. It’s OK! They are allowed to progress and regress. It’s all a part of growing. They will get there eventually, just don’t expect them to follow a predictable path, or rather your path. Let them find their own and surrender to the unpredictability. It’s far easier than fighting against it. And, also speaking of old dog biscuits, this brings me to my third point…
3) They will eat eventually!
My daughter hardly ate a thing until she was about 15 months old. Seriously! She would sample things, like some kind of snooty wine taster, and then spit them out. Occasionally she would swallow some food but especially if it had chunks or was chewy, forget about it. She honestly lived off breast milk for almost her first year and a half and it completely sustained her. She just wasn’t fussed about eating. She enjoyed her liquid diet. Now, at nearly three she doesn’t stop eating. “Mummy! I want some food!” Is her current catch-phrase (used interchangeably with: “Mummy I need food!” and “Hmmm! I’m hungry! I think I should get some food!”) It’s like she’s making up for lost time. So seriously, parents, stop trying to force your kids to eat. They WILL eat eventually. And to those mothers who are breastfeeding their toddlers – don’t underestimate your milk. We live in a culture that isn’t conditioned to appreciate how much our older babies get from our breast milk and how our breast milk changes appropriately as the baby gets older. If your child prefers his mother’s milk to a bowl of sweet potato or a vegemite sandwich that is absolutely OK.