Want to know one of the worst things about new parenthood?
Yup, as soon as you announce your pregnancy, you start getting parenting tips from pretty much everyone you encounter – friends, relatives, the postman, that random woman you meet in the fresh fruit aisle in Tesco… the list goes on. And on. And on. And… you get my point, I’m sure.
The problem with all of these parenting tips, of course, is that what works for one baby might not work for another, so you end up buying/doing a lot of stuff purely because it was recommended to you, only to find that, actually, your baby would rather set himself on fire than use that absolutely indispensable gadget everyone told you it would be impossible to live without. And then you’ll feel like a complete freak, because, hey, how come every other baby in the world falls instantly asleep at the first sound of white noise, while your baby just looks at you, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, like, “HEEEEEYY! WHAT CAN WE PLAY NOW?!?!?”
(Spoiler alert: Max is not here for your stupid white noise. No siree…)
Anyway, because I’m every bit as bad as anyone else for this, I’ve already provided some totally unsolicited parenting advice of my own, so here are some of the parenting tips that DIDN’T work for us, too…
Sleep when the baby sleeps
I really wish I had a £ for every time I’ve heard this, because if I did, I’d have, like £50 or something AT LEAST. I’d be RICH, people, RICH! <insert evil chuckle here>
I mean, I’m sure there are some people this one actually works for, but I’m ALSO sure those people must be either rich enough to be able to sleep all day while someone else does all of the cleaning, cooking and life admin stuff that’s getting neglected while they sleep, or they’re… actually, no, I can’t do it: I have no idea who this could work for. People who don’t have lives? People whose babies are kind enough to immediately go right into the kind of sleep schedule that also works for adults? No idea.
So, here’s the thing: newborns sleep A LOT. Like, A LOT lot. For the first couple of weeks, that and feeding is really ALL they do: in fact the good Dr Google informs me that newborns typically sleep around 16 – 17 hours a day, so if you’re going to do that too, then damn girl, you’re going to be well rested! Except, sorry, no, you’re not, because although babies sleep a lot, they do it in annoying, short little bursts, so basically as soon as you start nodding off, the baby’s all, “HELLO! WAKEY WAKEY!” SORRY.
The other problem with the whole “sleep when the baby sleeps” thing is that it totally neglects to take account of the fact that most of us have other things to do, too – and the only time we have to DO those things is – wait for it – WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS. So, if you want to be able to do things like shower, eat or clean, you can’t really sleep when the baby sleeps. Similarly, unless you want to spend the next few weeks either a) sleeping or b) tending to the baby, with absolutely nothing in between – not even a sneaky episode of The Walking Dead, or a quick scroll through Instagram – you’re not going to be able to sleep whenever the baby sleeps, are you?
Luckily for us, we realised this one wasn’t going to work for us before Max was even born: we do sleep when he sleeps during the night, but in the daytime, when he sleeps, that’s when we frantically rush around trying to catch up with everything we haven’t been able to do while he’s awake. It’s also when we go to garden centres. But you knew that, right?
Don’t worry about the housework or your personal appearance
Another piece of advice you’ll hear a lot of as a prospective parent centres around the idea that, when the baby arrives, you should just let everything else go: so, don’t even THINK about trying to clean the house or comb your hair – just concentrate on looking after the baby, because that’s the only thing you’ll be able to do.
So, I’ll hold my hand up here and admit that, at first, that really WAS all I could do. The housework got forgotten, my hair didn’t get combed, people started to forget what I looked like with makeup on… that kind of thing. After about the first week or so, though, I realised that I actually felt better when the house was (relatively) tidy, and I was showered and dressed. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not some kind of Wonder Woman with an immaculate house and my hair done every day – I mean, I WISH – but the fact is, I’m a neat-freak who gets stressed out by a lot of mess, so the advice to ignore everything other than the baby didn’t really work for me, once we were past those first few days.
These days my house is definitely nowhere near as clean as I’d like it to be, and I’m still wearing leggings most of the time at home, but I’m doing my best to keep things relatively tidy, and I feel all the better for it. Obviously this won’t be the case for everyone, and I’m really fortunate to have Terry here to share parenting duties, which gives me a bit of extra time to try to stay on top of things, but if you’re anything like me, don’t be surprised if this particular piece of advice doesn’t work for you, either.
Don’t let the baby have a pacifier
Yeah, I know: we were those parents too – we totally thought we wouldn’t ever let him have a pacifier, but hey, last week I found three of the things behind a cushion on the couch, so that went REALLY well, huh?
What can I say? We do try to limit his use of his pacifier, and I wouldn’t say he depends on it or anything, but sometimes it’s the only thing that soothes him when all else fails, and I’m not about to argue with that. I know a lot of people are going to judge us hard for this, and tell me that we’ll never get him to stop using it now, but, I mean, I don’t know any adults who still use a pacifier, so I guess we’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.
(Also, I’m not claiming this as gospel, but I broke down on the pacifier issue when I read that they’ve been shown to help guard against SIDS. I’ve no idea whether that’s true, so obviously feel free to take it with a pinch of salt, but it made me feel a little better, anyway…)
Buy a white noise machine
Finally, I touched on this one above, but the parenting tip I was given most often – other than “sleep when the baby sleeps,” obviously – was to buy a white noise machine, because the baby probably wouldn’t sleep without it. Well, we now have two of the things, AND we use Alexa to play white noise occasionally too, and honestly? It really doesn’t seem to make any kind of discernible difference, as far as I can tell. There have been a couple of times when I’ve felt Max has responded to the “womb sounds” setting on Ewan the Dream Sheep (Who I love anyway, because dude is super-cute), but most of the time I’m just not convinced white noise is doing anything other than slowly driving me insane.
I’m not sure if this is just because Max is still sleeping in our room at the moment, so I’m not discounting it completely – I guess it might have more of an effect when we’re putting him down for the night in his own room – but right now, he either sleeps or doesn’t sleep regardless what kind of noise we play him.
(With that said, he DOES seem to enjoy certain music, so maybe that’s his version of “white noise”?)
Of course, all of the usual disclaimers apply here: so, personal opinion only, works for me/might not work for you, everyone’s different, etc etc. And, with all of that said, tell me: