There’s no one tried-and-tested way to bring up a child, and I encourage parents to do whatever works best for their family. Parents are bombarded with advice, thousands of parenting manuals, ‘baby routines’ and TV shows, not to mention all the conflicting dos and don’ts from friends and family. It’s hard to trust your own instincts but I believe it’s the best thing you can do.
One of the reasons we turn to books for advice is to try to keep our lives in some sort of order. But mums and dads need to know that it’s okay for life to be turned on its head when a baby comes along. It’s normal, and it doesn’t mean you’re not coping. Is it such a bad thing that our routines are affected for a few months when a baby arrives? Why shouldn’t we simply let the baby take control for a few weeks and allow that relationship to develop, to take the time to bond?
Babies need to learn you’re there for them, that they can trust you, that if they cry you’ll comfort them. It’s through your response to your baby that this important attachment begins. Once that’s established, tighter boundaries can be introduced as by then the bond has formed. So trust your instincts. If that means cuddling your baby in bed with you, rocking her to sleep in your arms or just holding her when you want to, why not do it? If it feels right, it probably is right.
There are plenty of simple techniques to use further down the line if your baby needs help settling into a sleep pattern. But in the early weeks and months, I think it’s better that your baby develops an in-built sense of bond with her parents. I’m not anti-routine; I know only too well the despair a new parent can feel when first alone with their baby. You become too scared to trust your instincts in case they turn out to be ‘wrong’. Here, reassurance can be found in picking up a book and following it to the letter.
But I do object to the pressure felt by parents that their baby should snap into an immediate and watertight sleep/feed routine, and that if they’re not, then they’re failing. Above all else, I promote an ‘each to their own’ approach to parenting, and as long as you love, nurture and emotionally feed your child, you can’t go far wrong.
Dr Tanya Byron, child psychologist