Wednesday, April 20, 2005

What you should do versus what you need to do

When you have a new baby, you get a lot of advice, and much of it makes sense. However, new parents are often so careful to follow the advice of the experts that they do not listen to their own instincts.

For example, the experts all say that it is important not to do anything else -- watch TV, look at a book -- while breastfeeding your baby initially. They suggest that gazing deeply into your infant's eyes during the 1 am feeding, the 3 am feeding, the 5 am feeding are all necessary for proper bonding. I read the books and heard their advice. I tried to follow it. But then, as I was falling asleep slumped over my suckling baby yet again, I realized something. My baby and I were bonding nicely. And, if watching a late night movie when she wanted to eat/play/sing/cry in the middle of the night helped me keep my sanity, wasn't that more important than following the experts' advice?

The same applies to your baby's behavior as she gets older. While you can read umpteen books on teaching her, soothing her, disciplining her, only you really know what your baby needs. Just like grown people, babies have unique personalities and styles. It is important to customize your parenting to what your baby needs and understands. And, you need to know when to make exceptions.

I cannot count the number of times I took my baby to the doctor, explaining to the nurse that "she just wasn't acting right this morning." No, she hadn't shown a fever. No rashes. No vomiting. Despite the skeptical looks I received, I knew her behavior was that of an ill baby -- not my usually happy, healthy girl. Sure enough, a look into her ears showed infections or a listen to her lungs indicated pneumonia. How did I know? I have no idea, but I knew all was not right with our little world.

Sure, some people do not have good instincts. Whether you do or not, it is a good idea to read up on the research that shows what child rearing techniques are best and to get expert advice when you are unsure. But, at the end of the day, remember you spend more time with your baby than anyone else and listen to yourself.

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