Standing in a puddle of wee wearing grubby pajamas holding a screaming baby with five puppies crawling around my feet, it dawned on me that as an only child of a single parent, my childcare experience was nil. To the health visitor staring at me disapprovingly this was clearly obvious.
To be fair to her, she took charge of my 3 week old daughter and put the kettle on whilst I cleared up the puppy wee and threw on some clothes. She listened while I sobbed about no sleep in three weeks, the premature arrival of the puppies and my struggle to cope. (In my ignorance I’d thought it a brilliant idea to co-inside my beloved dog’s pregnancy with my own!)
Her advice was to
- Stop picking up my baby every time she cried
- Try breast feeding every three or four hours rather than on demand
- Call my mum to help.
I tried all these things.
- When I left my baby to cry I experienced physical pain similar to being stabbed with a knife.
- When I tried the three/four hour feeding, my desperate baby sucked greedily, threw up all over me and began crying again
- My mum worked full time and couldn’t just drop everything and come to London from North Wales, much as she wanted to.
My daughter continued to scream and I continued to follow advise from health visitors, midwives, people I met the street, my mum, my friends, the newsagent and my Uncle Bill.
In my desperation to become a ‘perfect parent’ I spent several years reading every parenting book I could get my hands on and tried almost every piece of advise I was given. I went on numerous parenting and self help courses. I became a “Parent Network” facilitator (Now Parent Line Plus) and a Continuum Concept counselor. I gave up my career as an actress (it had been trying to give me up for a while) and started a very successful mobile childcare business.
- Follow the Continuum theory and carry the baby in a sling as much as possible (others can help with this).
- Bring your baby into your bed and if you are worried about SID’s read “Latest research on how sleeping with your baby is safe”.
- Let baby feed whenever s/he needs to and be resigned to long hours on the boob (read some good books).
- If you aren’t comfortable with the “help your self method” or sleeping with your baby, try one of Jo Tantum’s baby secrets of delaying feeds by 15mins during the night so baby gets used to waiting longer and therefore sleeps longer. (Seems to work!).
- Adopt someone else’s mum or a friendly neighbour! I had an amazing neighbour who popped in ad- hock and said things like “Jump in the bath and I’ll take over.” When I emerged from the bath, the baby was usually asleep, the kitchen had been tidied and there was a cup of tea waiting for me. (I think she may have been an angel in disguise as I never saw her again after my daughter was about 6 months!)
- My Uncle Bill’s advise was the best I ever received. “Ask yourself, will s/he still be doing it when s/he’s 21 and if the answer is no, stop worrying about it!”