The Good Mummy Rules

“I never realized how many “rules” there are to good parenting. With each comment my confidence was slowly being chipped away. I started to feel that I was doing something wrong or even everything wrong”. (Emma, mother of a three month old)

Here you are gazing at your amazing newborn, completely overawed that you could feel so in love and protective of somebody you have just met. And yet, despite your wonder at the beautiful little being you have created, you are probably a little overwhelmed too: who would have thought that one tiny being could create so much washing? Or that they could breastfeed for an hour every two hours? Or that their squeaks and snuffles are loud enough to keep you awake all night? Or that getting out of the house before 2pm could be an impossibility? Or, perhaps most surprisingly, that all this is completely normal?

On top of this is the incredible barrage of advice about how you should be caring for your baby. Is it any wonder you feel overwhelmed?  Even if you consider yourself to be well-informed – you have read a stack of books, attended classes and decided exactly what kind of parenting style would work for you –  what seemed sensible to you before you had your baby may not actually fit YOUR baby. Or be practical, now that he is here.
For instance, I have seen women with neatly printed and ruled routine charts and checklists, all ready to slot their baby in. When their unique baby doesn’t eat, sleep and play, according to the chart, the poor mother is thrown into chaos.Instead of considering that the routine (prescribed by somebody who doesn’t  know YOUR baby) might simply be unhelpful right now, mothers tend to think that they are doing something wrong, and this self- doubt begins to erode their confidence.

I have also seen women who write down every feed (how many minutes, which side), how many wees and poos, and how many minutes of
sleep their babies have each day. They strive to find a pattern in an effort to feel more in control. Again while this sounds sensible, it can have the
opposite effect: soon these mothers become so obsessed about what their baby is doing (or not), that they not only create an enormous amount of extra work but they end up so focussed on outcomes that they don’t  get to spend time enjoying their baby – gazing and smelling and smooching and ‘drinking in’ their beautiful new being.
This time is what really matters – not following the rules about how long your baby sleeps, how often she feeds or whether you have her in a routine. Remember, there are no ’good mummy  rules’. So, you may be asking: How do I know what advice is right and who do I believe?

My criteria for discerning what is right is to step back and filter information by asking three questions: Is it safe? Is it respectful? Does it feel right for us?

If you want to try out some new advice or a new way of being with your baby and it fits into this criteria, then go ahead. If what you are doing works for you and your family, feels right and is safe and respectful, then do it. If it feels stressful or isn’t working, ditch it.  Of course, babies grow and change so quickly as they reach new developmental milestones that just when you feel you have thingsworking well, you’re back to the drawing board! This is the time to reassess and perhaps try another strategy – remember, caring for babies requires experimentation and will involve some trial and error.

If you can appreciate that there is no other baby exactly like your baby, (although there is typical baby behaviour and developmental stages that are useful to understand), you will be able to step back and filter advice that could potentially undermine your confidence. Then, instead of trying to live up to inappropriate’ good mummy rules’  or make your baby fit into advice that creates stress for you both, you will be able to relax and accept the wonderfully unique baby you have,  you will be able to nurture him gently and respectfully and you will be able to enjoy this precious time.

For reassuring strategies to help you understand and care for your newborn, check out  “Parenting By Heart  – gentle care for your baby’s first year ” by Pinky McKay.

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  • Cindi

    I remember so many of my friends going through this very thing. It was always “well so & so said to do this, and so & so said to do that”. It took them a while to learn to do what comes naturally for them and the baby. No two babies are alike and will never respond in the same manner.

  • Rusman

    QUOTE. . . I know I’m in the minority on this one, but I sotnrgly believe babies cry When They need to have. Even Though It May Be a huge inconvenience, if your child needs you by HIM I think That You Should Give to Him. You can try getting a sling so he can nap while you still move around. While it Requires to sacrifice When They are little (that’s the Meaning of parent I think LOL!) it is very good for your future relationship. It builds on bonds, Rather than communicating to your child who needs you for some reason, That You are unavailable and will not need to answer When He has. I know there are a lot of people who believe this is teaching a Child to be selfish, but, HAVING done it Both Ways myself, I very sotnrgly disagree. Children learn to exercise Their Will During what we call the terrible 2 s (and 3 s as anyone with a 3 year old will tell you). Before That, When They Cry, They have to need. Their actions are natural responses to Their Needs. I Completely agree! The Most Even staunch advocates cry-it-out (eg Ferber) recommend waiting until a baby is at least one year old. You can not spoil a baby with love and comfort!

  • Julia

    I read this and thought about how much time (and opportunities to just enjoy my baby) I wasted trying to make him ‘fit’ what I was supposed to be doing…don’t feed to sleep, re settle when they wake, eat play sleep etc etc. I look back and realise he didn’t fit these moulds, I needed to do what worked. I figured this out eventually…thanks to Pinky McKay!!

  • Rochelle

    My baby is 10 weeks. I’ve just realised that instead of fighting the things I don’t understand I should surrender to them and let my little man lead me to what he wants!!

  • Jess

    I have just had another child. I swore til I was blue in the face that I would not fall into the same traps that we did with our firstborn (who didn’t sleep through until she was almost 2yrs!)

    I had followed the guidelines to a tee, and when one tactic didnt “work” for me (eg resettling by patting instead of picking them up) i would hastily move onto the next expert recommendation. So much wasted time.

    But here I am, doing the same thing with my 2week old. I’ve been back from hospital for a week and have already called the parenting support line three times because “my child won’t sleep and is super super irritable”.

    But I remember this was how it was with my first and instead of getting so worked up that I need to fix it, I should reflect on my experience and realise that “this too shall pass”. He is only ever this small once and it goes by so fast!!! Sleep is overrated anyway.