January 26, 2011

A Must-Not Read

4815939_s  I don’t need to tell you that there are countless books on babies, parenting and motherhood lining the bookshelves of your local Barnes and Noble. You could read non-stop until your child graduates from college and still you would have barely scratched the surface of all the reading material there is on the topic.

If you’re like me, a lover of books and maybe a tad bit of an obsessive over-achiever, you probably once had intentions to read every single word ever written about infant development, child rearing and motherhood. Now, as I admit the impossibility of that task, I also realize the futility of such an endeavor.

A few weeks before my due date I pushed the pregnancy books aside for the baby books. And I started sweating profusely. From sleeping to breastfeeding to developmental milestones, the books covered it all. Each book seemed to be written by an 'expert.' After the baby arrived, I read more fervently in a sleep deprived haze. And the more I read the more I realized that the experts didn’t always agree with each other, the books were contradicting one another, and my mind was spinning. And my baby was crying.

Despite the information overload, for several weeks I held on to the belief that the answers to all my questions (ie: will I always be this tired? should the poop be flourescent? is showering required every day?) had to be written down somewhere. Eventually I stumbled upon a book, written by an expert of course, that actually brought me to tears. Suddenly instead of merely confused I felt inadequate, stupid and panicked. How was my baby ever going to eat, sleep, play and develop normally if I couldn’t manage to figure this out? That book suddenly seemed like the only book, simply because it seemed the most impossible for me. I won’t tell you the name of the book, because the name doesn’t matter (*COUGH* Baby Whisperer), the truth is that for you that book may have had another title. But the point is the same.

As soon as you find the book, or even the sentence or chapter, that makes you feel like a moron who should never have been entrusted with the life of a child, stop reading. For you and your child, that book is absolutely unimportant. I don’t care how many of your friends recommended it, I don’t care how many letters are behind the name of the author. That book is not the book for you. Naturally, there are things we can learn from people we may not agree with, but when it comes to motherhood I’ve found that confidence is much more than half the battle. You are the expert on your baby, your baby is the best teacher you can find. There are probably tips that can help you understand your baby’s lessons a bit more clearly, but as soon as your research turns into an exercise in destroying your self-esteem, class dismissed.

If, like me, you’re tired of wondering if you are doing everything ‘wrong’ and you’re sick of fretting over when your baby will catch up to the friend of a friend’s child who was walking as it came out of the womb (if you’re really worried about developmental milestones, call your doctor instead), take a look at Momma Zen (a personal favorite), Buddhism for Mothers (recommended by a friend) or Afterbirth. Or maybe, just maybe, pick up an 'Us Weekly' and let your baby stare at the Christmas lights for a while (I’m never taking them down, at least not before she loses interest…Christmas in July anyone?).

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Contributing author Lane is an intentionally unemployed social worker who is currently a new mom, following her husband's dream, trying to stay relevant, and practicing her mothering skills on two rescued dogs, Enid and Falcor (in addition to her new addition, baby Vesper).  Check out her fabulous blog, the Overseas Trapeze.

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17 Comments
  • Bambi
    January 27, 2011

    Such sound advice – both avoiding the “The Baby Whisperer and shying away from any reading that does not empower you in your new role as a mother. We have enough hurdles, and too little energy and self confidence, the last thing we need to s book (or well intentioned family member/friend) that does anything but encourage and support our efforts.
    A few things to remember -
    ~ Eventually all kids will sleep through the night.
    ~ No kids go to college still sleeping with their parents.
    ~ Your child will not want to continue nursing into elementary school.
    ~ There is VERY rarely one right way to do anything in parenting.
    ~ You know your baby better than anyone.
    ~ Your choices need to be right for your family.
    Hang in there new moms. You are doing a great job!

  • Grace
    January 27, 2011

    I could not agree with this post more! I went through the exact experience with my first. It was when I realized that these books were actually undermining my instincts as a mother, that I put them away and never looked back. It was also at that time that I began reaching out more to other mothers and realized that community knowledge from friends and family members that I respect and admire was so much more valuable. And more often than not, the advice that I got was “Relax, you guys are doing great!”.

  • Mandy
    January 27, 2011

    I did the same thing, with the books. Looking back (she’s almost 2 now), I think–are there really that many different ways to do it? Would each “method” result in a different baby at the end of the journey? I don’t think so. Frankly, the first year is just about survival. As long as the caregiver(s) are providing nourishment and love and a safe environment, baby is going to be fine.

  • Emily
    January 27, 2011

    I have Mama Zen in my carry on! Have you read her other book – Hand Wash Cold? Excellent stuff. I also like My Monastery is a Minivan and Momfulness both by Denise Roy. And The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Kennison (her first name escapes me.) All of them are there to let you know that right now is all that matters and that doing your best is exactly the perfect thing for you to do. They are very heart warming. (Denise Roy moved me to tears more times than I’d like to admit.)
    My Husband enjoyed Hungry Monkey – written by a father about getting his daughter to enjoy food as much as he does. It’s on my TBR stack.
    Thanks for the other two recommendations. I will check them out!

  • vegeater
    January 27, 2011

    It’s hard not to read parenting books, when you want to do everything right, and you HATE to fail, it seems like failing at parenting is THE ULTIMATE failure, but you won’t really know if you failed until your kid is grown. But I have had a similar experience with reading parenting literature.
    I asked one of my friends a while back if she could recommend any sleep books. Her response: no, they’re all bullsh!t. Unfortunately, I read a sleep book anyway after another friend recommended it. Bad idea. Now I am completely uptight about if/when/how my 9.5 week-old is sleeping, how to put her to sleep, when bedtime should be — it just made me question everything, and worry that I might be causing her unsolveable sleep problems in the future, and feel like I need to be a slave to naptimes, and on and on. I’m not sure if the few gems of good advice I did get from it are worth the worry the rest incited.
    So, it’s good advice from you ladies: Nobody knows my baby better than me, nobody loves her more than I do, and I need to trust my gut. She’ll be better served by having a calm mother who is observant and mindful, rather than one who is uptight and insecure.
    Hehe, but there’s one book I can’t help but be curious about….
    http://www.amazon.com/Idle-Parent-Laid-Back-Parents-Healthier/dp/1585428000
    although maybe it would just make me worry about not being idle enough…
    *fran

  • Jelena
    January 27, 2011

    Great post! This attitude will save you (and your little one!) A LOT of frustration and tears down the road. I am trying hard not to fall in the same trap of sleep obsessiveness with my second baby the way I did with my first. My mum gave me the best advice by saying that not everything is my doing/under my control, some kids are just difficult sleepers/eaters/etc.
    FWIW, I read Baby Whisperer when I was pregnant with my first and a lot of it made sense to me. Too bad it didn’t make any sense to my baby once she was born :).

  • Lane
    January 27, 2011

    Thanks for the response ladies!
    Bambi– I totally agree, so far fellow mothers or friends with a sound head on the shoulders have been the best resource, their advice is usually something like ‘chill out.’
    Grace– You said it, I believe it. Love, safety and nourishment, the rest is details!
    Emily– Thanks for the recs, I am putting them all on my list, but Hungry Monkey is at the top! Sounds interesting!
    Fran– You know I love you! haha! And I’m totally thinking of checking out that point…how can we be laid back about being laid back enough? Challenges abound!
    Jelena– I think that is what brought me to tears while reading Baby Whisperer, in theory a lot of that made ‘sense’ in my mind…but the reality in front of me didn’t match up at all!

  • l.shanna
    January 27, 2011

    I was just talking about this last night with a group of Moms. I couldn’t agree more. I’m a better Mom when I’m not stressing out over someone else’s idea of how I should parent.

  • Amy (biblioMOMia)
    January 27, 2011

    Thanks so much for this. The only advice that’s really meant anything to me, and the thing that made me put all the books on a high shelf, was this: “What’s good for the mom is good for the baby.” The end.
    Also, if you haven’t read Anne Lamott’s _Operating Instructions_, go buy it. It will make you laugh so hard you pee. And cry a little too.

  • Sage
    January 27, 2011

    Absolutely! I found my Mother’s Intuition to be the best teacher. I always KNEW when it was time to do certain things. Time for baby food. Time for sleeping longer. Time for cuddling. And where it failed me, my husband had some kind of sense that was right.

  • Madeleine
    January 28, 2011

    AMEN Lane.
    There’s a web site out there that sends periodic e-mails on your baby’s developmental milestones (they also send a weekly newsletter during pregnancy – you’ve probably seen it). I quit subscribing when I realized that I felt guilty every time I read it because I wasn’t doing all the things I was supposed to be doing with my newborn – like cutting shapes out of black and white paper and repeating the names of the objects or something like that. My boys are well past newborn stage and I think they turned out pretty well despite the fact that I neglected to read the http://www.you‘remakingmefeellikeabadmom.com newsletter.

  • Erin
    January 30, 2011

    This is the best advice I’ve heard in the 10 months my daughter has been alive. Throwing all my sleep books out immediately.

  • Annie
    February 1, 2011

    This is exactly what I needed to hear today. Lately I’ve noticed that all of the community posts that I read on babycenter.com about teaching my child to sleep only make me more tense and uptight. Also, that site plants ideas in my head about medical problems my child might have when in reality, he’s fine. I need to step away from the computer! Or at least only read sites like this one.

  • Shana
    February 2, 2011

    Lane – I’ve been meaning to tell you how much I LOVED this post. I too, read everything. Cover-to-cover, unfortunately – even the ones that made me feel horrible. I seemed to think it was a requirement of motherhood.
    Now that I have #2…it’s interesting. I’m not doing anything different with him…but he’s totally different than R. He sleeps (almost through the night), he nurses no problem…and as much as I’d like to take credit, I know better. It’s not my parenting, it’s just him. Likewise, R NOT sleeping and NOT eating also wasn’t my parenting…it was just him. And deep down, despite the books and the advice, I knew that.
    LOVE this post.

  • Amber
    May 3, 2011

    I have to say I dont exactly agree. I mean, I agree that every mom should find what works best for her and her baby and I definitely agree that we shouldn’t focus on milestones, however, the baby whisperer saved me and is the only book I ever recommend to new moms. To me it wad a more common sense approach in between the harsher methods and the co-sleeping ones. I knew co-sleeping would never work for me, so I had to find something else. But most important, before reading that book, my baby would get so over-tired, so unable to get to sleep no matter what we did, that he would turn red and hyper ventilate and scratch and claw at his face. It was heart breaking. Learning how to put him on a schedule so he knew what was coming, from nap to play to sleep made him the happiest baby imaginable an made me a very happy and sane mommy. Plus, while I knew those moms who were slaves to the schedule, I felt this book suggested a routine to follow when possible, rather than something that rules everyone’s lives. It made life so much better for my family, for me, for my baby. I understand it’s not for everyone, but I’d hate for people not to give it a chance because it could b a life saver for them just as it was for me… Just my two cents. ;)

  • Katherine
    June 25, 2011

    Oh my Gosh I felt exactly the same way when I read that book! It made me feel like I HAD done everything wrong even though when I was doing things my way he never cried and was always happy. Granted I have walked away with some good lessons like what to look for when baby is sleepy BUT I also walked away with a baby that lost a lot of weight and a cold. Was it worth it? Not in a million years! Does he still need to learn how to go to sleep on his own? Yeah. And does he need to eat more often then the book suggests? Yes he’s a big fast growing boy!

  • keflex online
    June 26, 2011

    I don’t need to tell you that there are countless books on babies, parenting and motherhood lining the bookshelves of your local Barnes and Noble. You could read non-stop until your child graduates from college and still you would have barely scratched the surface of all the reading material there…

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