Recently, a brand-new mom posted on Facebook asking when other moms transitioned their babies into their crib, and later asked at what age everyone took their babies out in public for the first time.
As you can imagine, there were a million different responses. “Oh, my baby was in her crib from day one.” “Never, ever let your baby sleep with you.” “We are still co-sleeping two years later.”
“Wait AT LEAST six weeks before taking her out in public.” “I took my baby to Target at three days old.”
Everyone is an expert. Me, included.
You see, before having Charlotte, I promised myself (and anyone who asked) a whole bunch of I’ll-nevers.
I’ll never let her sleep in my bed.
I’ll never give her formula.
I’ll never put jeggings on my baby girl.
But here’s the funny thing about being a first-time parent – you have no idea what you will do. And as difficult as it is to admit it, I was wrong about a lot of things. I had a lot of good intentions and a fantastic image of what having a baby would be like, but there was no way I could have prepared myself for the day-to-day reality of raising a child.
And, wouldn’t you know it, I did put my baby in jeggings.
And I gave her formula a few times when I had to be away from her and hadn’t pumped enough milk.
And the past several nights? She’s ended up in bed with me.
I feel so guilty for doing all of these things that I’ve said I wouldn’t. At night, when she refuses to go back to sleep and I lay her beside me in bed, I feel guilty. Even though she nurses and falls right back to sleep next to me, and even though I’m getting better sleep than I have in months, I feel like I’m doing her a disservice. I feel like I’m doing it all wrong.
I always said Charlotte would be sleeping in her own room by two months, and here we are – five months later – and she’s still in her sling beside my bed. But when I think about putting her in her crib, walking down the stairs, through the foyer, through the dining room, and across my big bedroom to my bed, it scares the crap out of me. She’s too far away. It would be different, much different, if she were just across the hall.
In the last few months, I’ve learned that you parent based on your individual situation. You figure out what works for you and your baby, and that’s all that matters. I know lots of parents whose babies have been in their own room in their crib since week two, and that works for them. I know parents who sit their babies in front of the TV before they can even hold their heads up, and that works for them. I know parents who give their toddlers soda, and that works for them.
But just because it works for them doesn’t mean it has to work for me. And because of that, I don’t need to feel guilty about the decisions I make for my baby. She is healthy and growing, happy and smiling, and that’s what matters.
Even so, I still compare myself to other moms and let the guilt set in. When I scanned through those responses to that new mom’s Facebook posts, I thought, “Crap. She should be in her own bed.”
And, ideally, I want her to be. And she will be, someday. But it’s not today.
I look back at pre-baby Jen and see a pretty judgmental person. I thought I knew it all, without ever having been through it. I was an expert.
And now? Well, now I feel quite awful for judging other moms for letting their babies stay in their room for months. Or for dressing their infants like little adults. Or for letting their itty bittys watch television (although I’m sticking to my guns on this one. For now.). Because each parent is the expert of their own baby. There is no one else who knows better for their baby than Mom and Dad, even if some of us think we do.
As moms (AND dads!), I think we need to be less judgmental of one another, and be more supportive. Because, let’s face it, we’re all sleep-deprived and booger-crusted. We’re all doing what we think is best for our kids. We’re all just trying to keep these little people alive.
And I think we’re doing a pretty good job.