Monday, September 27, 2010

Follow Your Instincts and You Know Your Baby Best

One of the biggest pieces of advice you'll read for new parents is that you, the parents, know your baby best so you should follow your instincts.

This advice has been true with Natalie and me. In the beginning, it felt like I couldn't possibly know what is best for her when I had never even held a newborn, but it was true, I knew how to calm my baby and what was best for her. Time and time again, I was able to determine what it was she needed, even when that wasn't necessarily what books, nurses, or family thought was the right way of doing things.

When Natalie was very young, I let popular opinion sway me on some topics. We did give her a couple bottles and a pacifier in the hospital to help with her jaundice (the paci helped her stay calm under the blue lights, while the formula helped work the bilirubin out of her system). But, when we got home, we quickly dropped these things because we felt they weren't right for our family, and a year later we have a baby who doesn't need to be broken of a bottle or a paci.

Perhaps the best example came the night Natalie came home from the hospital. That day had been exciting for all of us, but easy going. Even though Natalie had napped in her crib during the day, when Mike and I got into bed, Natalie didn't want to sleep. We tried playing lullabies, letting her cry through it some, giving her a bottle of formula (which she wouldn't drink), and putting her in her swing. Nothing worked. Deep down, we knew if we picked her up and rocked her that she would be happier, but we ignored this instinct because we were afraid as new parents that we would start things off on the wrong foot. In the end, she cried and fuss long enough that we did another breast feeding. She dozed off and we let her sleep on the bed in between us. And that was what she wanted, to be close to us. And really, we knew that, but were afraid of starting co-sleeping when that wasn't what we wanted to do in the long run. For the next week or so, Natalie did a lot of her sleeping on the bed, and we stopped worried about starting bad habits, and just listened to her needs and responded.

Over the past year, I've worried about a lot of things about Natalie, but we've been able to make the right choices for her by being informed and then doing what feels right. Sometimes its as small as knowing that Natalie doesn't want a "new" person to hold her or choosing a book or toy she really likes. Other times its more important, like dropping the bed time nursing, letting her cry it out for her naps, or starting solids. One of the most satisfying things about being a mom is knowing what your child needs or wants and being able to provide it. In the beginning, it was a lot of guess work (maybe she'd like it if I rocked her this way, maybe she'd like to hear some music, maybe she'd like to go outside) since newborns don't give you many clues, but as the months pass, you learn what different noises, expressions, and motions mean. Now that Natalie is almost one, she has some very clear likes (Elmo, yogurt, musical toys, certain books, her measuring spoons, etc) and it is a great feeling to know that about her and to know how she likes her world to run. But much of the day, I still have no idea what she wants. She tries to tell me by pointing and making adorable noises that sound like words, but I'm still guessing most of the time guided by my knowledge of my baby and my instincts.

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