Statement: “Every baby is different“, as uttered by every parent and grandparent and friend of your coworker’s neighbor’s nanny and plastered everywhere on the Interwebs and in the footnotes of every parenting book, is true.
Nutty first-time parent behavior: I googled the sh*t out of everything. Being a first-time parent means that anything you did not care about before the baby, or is even greatly disgusted by (poop!), is now vitally important and require an inordinate amount of research. Days and nights lasted forever with sleep deprivation, every “issue” – things that seemed out of ordinary to me (but I had no idea what’s normal or not) – was earth-shattering and seemed to last an eternity. My phone now auto-populates the following search phrases because I’d typed them so often:
- Baby poops 3 times a day
- Baby poops 5 times a day
- Baby suddenly pooping 1 time a day is it normal
- How to wean from swaddle
- Baby wakes up screaming after 30 minutes
- Baby won’t nap for longer than 30 minutes
- When will I get more sleep
At about 3 and a half months, Max had a hard time transitioning from the Rock’n’Play Sleeper into his own crib. I nursed him to sleep at the time, he would go into his crib completely asleep, and wake up half an hour later screaming his head off and wouldn’t go back to sleep for another 2-3 hours. After an extremely frustrating weekend, I read The Sleepeasy Solution cover to cover. I was convinced that the only thing to do right then and there was to teach Max to fall asleep on his own and the only way to achieve that was to use the modified Cry-It-Out method as outlined in the book. It worked for all these other people!
I steeled my nerves one night, and put Max down in his crib “sleepy but awake”. The minute his head hit the mattress, his little face contorted and he began to cry. I took a deep breath and left the room and watched the clock to check in on him in 5 minutes. Three check-in’s and 15 minutes later, he was crying so hard that he threw up and was choking on the spit-up. I caved and decided that I couldn’t do it. He was too young, I thought – that or I simply didn’t have the fortitude for this just yet.
My husband, meanwhile, understood “every baby is different” as the prerequisite before going into this sleep training business. He noticed that after the initial bout of crying and screaming, after we’re able to calm him down by any means necessary (nursing, bouncing, white noise), Max would lie in his crib awake and calm, and drift off to sleep. Instead of following this book’s exact protocol, he wondered, why not just apply the book’s principles to our baby’s personality? The people who wrote these books don’t know our baby. And also having just watched Creed, he asked me practice the mantra “one step at a time, one punch at a time, one round at a time”.
In the days that followed, we modified the Sleepeasy Solution so that we’d start the “check-in” part after we’re able to calm Max down, after the initial bout of crying and screaming. We also know that white noise calms him down like nothing else – so we kept the hair dryer plugged in next to his crib and bought a white noise machine. After a little over a week of taking it a step at a time (and punching my anxiety in the face!), Max was able to nurse, lie down in his crib awake, and drift off to sleep to the sound of ocean waves on the sound machine. He still wakes up to nurse once a night, and I’ll always indulge him – he’ll drop the night-time feed when he’s ready.
Therefore: knowing that every baby is different, but still expecting your child to respond to something that worked for other people, or comparing your baby to others in terms of development and milestones is simply illogical and silly. Judging others for doing something that worked for their family is also illogical and silly. I just need to continuously remind myself that googling baby stuff is very different from googling ways to fix a leaky faucet…