Sarah recently welcomed her 3rd baby into the world, which makes it baby number 5 between the two of us, and we’ve learned a LOT about caring for babies over the last 4 years. Today we wanted to share the three things that can make all the difference on how hard or easy you perceive your baby to be.
Before we dive into our formula for an easy baby, we want to preface by saying there are many things that might make a baby “easy” or a little “more difficult”. Every baby will have a very different temperament and personality because they are all so unique, but some temperaments are naturally a bit trickier than others. Medical concerns along with food sensitivities or allergies can also make things tricky if you are working to overcome or address any of that. This is not to discount any of those things that may make caring for your unique baby a bit trickier, but rather is a little bit of a shift in perspective to the things we can control.
So with that being said, we suppose this formula is really for an “easier” baby beyond their temperament and individuality. Here it is:
1. Realistic Expectations
So let’s start with realistic expectations. When we have a true understanding of what is developmentally normal and appropriate for our babies there is a lot less frustration or disappointment surrounding their daily patterns.
If you are expecting your little one to sleep through the night by 4 months and to then ALWAYS sleep through the night as soon as it happens once, you might think you’re doing something wrong or that your baby is not one of the easy ones when they wake a few times through the night.
So, if we DO have realistic expectations it is easier to respond to your little one without feeling defeated when they wake a developmentally appropriate amount. If we expect them to need to eat a few times throughout the night or if we understand that it is normal for them to wake even in search of proximity with you, then we can understand that our babies are not doing anything wrong and that they are not being "difficult".
This can be applied to daytime sleep as well. If we understand that it is so normal and common for babies to only want to nap on us (and absolutely hate the crib) then we won’t wonder what is wrong with our little one when they nap infinitely better in the carrier or curled up on us. If we understand that it isn’t until 6 months that naps even begin to lengthen, then we can see our baby as easy and normal even if they are a cat napper!
Let’s not forget about the age-old “drowsy but awake” standard babies are expected to meet. When we realize how few parents have ever had any success with this, it’s a lot easier to stop feeling like we are falling short when our baby pops their eyes wide open or cries the second we attempt this.
We also have to remember that sleep is not linear. So while we can appreciate the extra sleep when things are going well, we need to keep in mind that just because our little ones sleep through the night once does not mean it is going to happen every night. When we hold onto the fact that sleep is not linear, that babies might wake more when they are going through a leap, overcoming an illness or searching out more connection during a period of change, we can respond knowing this is a phase that will pass, rather than thinking we have a baby who hates sleep!
Essentially, the more we understand and appreciate what is truly developmentally normal and appropriate for our babies, the less time we spend stressing about what we are doing wrong or why our babies aren’t one of the “easy” ones. Life gets easier when our expectations meet biological needs and norms.
2. Trusting Your Instincts
This is a big one. You have to trust yourself. You need to be able to tune into your instincts above all else. You have to believe that you are the best person there is to care for your baby.
We can say from experience that as soon as you drown out the noise around you and turn inward to confidently trust yourself, things will get easier.
Everyone and their sister will have an opinion about how your baby should be sleeping and eating. You will likely be asked if they are a “good baby” with the intention that the answer is being measured by how many times they are waking (or not waking) through the night.
Things get easier for you and your baby when you drown out Aunt Betty’s voice in your head saying “there is no way he needs to eat again” and feed your baby because your gut says he is hungry, or heck because you know it will provide him comfort. The long nights may feel easier for you if you stop letting others instil fear in you about co-sleeping and instead, you make an informed decision that feels right for your family. Supporting your baby’s sleeping patterns may also feel easier if you drown out the noise about needing to sleep train for the sake of your own mental health and instead you do what comes naturally for the two of you.
If you are doubting yourself, it makes everything harder. The more confident you are, the more you radiate this confidence to your baby and the most at ease everyone, including your baby will feel. Our babies co-regulate with us so when we start to doubt our instincts or stop trusting ourselves to know what is best for our baby, they will feel this as a result. If you are stressed about sleep, your baby likely will be too. If you trust your instincts and believe that you are the answer for your baby, they will feel safe and secure.
3. Giving Yourself Grace
Just because you’re falling behind on laundry, you haven’t brushed your hair in a few days, or you’re on your third night of takeout this week does not mean anything. It doesn’t mean you are stuck with a "difficult" baby just because you feel like you’re drowning a little bit, because I bet if we were all really honest, EVERYONE has been here, on several occasions. Babies are a lot of work and they need a lot from us. But they are designed this way. They are supposed to want to be near us and to be completely dependent on us day and night!
So stop being so darn hard on yourself and give yourself some grace. The laundry can be folded tomorrow, so slow it down and respond to your child however you need to! We have no doubt you can do it all, we aren’t saying you can’t do it all. But it is okay if you can’t do it all today. It’s okay if you have to ask for help so that you can get it all done!
Motherhood is humbling. It can be messy and beautiful at the same time. It can push to the point of tears, both of defeat and happiness. It will knock us down and also help us grow in ways we never knew possible.. It is okay to ask for help and it is essential that you give yourself some grace.