Four-month old Ellie has thrown me for a loop. I was pretty good at two and three-month Ellie. We had a good rhythm and I knew how to meet her needs. Then, wow – her four-month birthday came (actually a little before it) and she changed. She stopped sleeping the way she had before, she started nursing differently, and she started interacting with me differently. And to be honest, I didn’t like it for a while. I had a pretty good thing going and I didn’t like the change. I even resented it and cried a lot about it.
Thankfully, now, a couple weeks later, she and I have found a good rhythm again. I primarily found that rhythm by accepting the new Ellie and not trying to get her to conform to some other acceptable baby norm. We’re happy. She’s thriving and I like being her mom again.
Here’s some lessons I’ve learned:
1. Those sleep books? They don’t know my baby. They don’t know my precious Ellie. They say that it doesn’t matter how early you put them to bed, they’re still going to sleep in because babies need sleep. Well, that’s not how my Ellie rolls. She wants to sleep for 11 hours a night – just about on the dot. Even though we’re now quite consistently putting her to bed around 7:30, she still wants to wake up at 6:30 in the morning. (If we put her to bed at 8:00, she sleeps until 7:00, etc.) I was mad at her and myself about this for a few days because, well, that’s not what the books said would happen. So I had to stop reading those books. I took what I could from them (early bedtimes are good, babies need consistency, babies need regular naps) and then returned them to the library. They weren’t helping me and so I had to get them out of my house. (I like my friend Erin’s opinion of books.)
2. Even the experts don’t agree. The sleep books say that in order to get nighttime sleep working great, you should make sure that they have a great napping schedule during the day so they aren’t over-tired. Our pediatrician yesterday told us that in order for us to get her napping schedule regular during the day, we had to get her sleeping through the night (i.e. no middle of the night feeding). Those are exact opposite opinions! So I’m doing my best and trying not to worry about either.
3. Support from friends is crucial. At one point last week, I was desperate and e-mailed the moms’ list that I’m on, basically asking, “Is this my fault? Did I do something wrong? My baby is not acting the way she is ‘supposed’ to!” And to a person, I heard love and grace and encouragement to figure out who Ellie is and then meet her needs. Their words freed me to parent Ellie the way that I knew she needed me.
4. Yesterday, my cousin Joy posted a sweet video of her son Sully which is representative of the the 6:00 am conversations they have. I appreciated this for many reasons (he’s so cute) but primarily because it illustrated to me how important it is to love our kids for who they are. I realize a lot of parenting is helping our kids learn how to be happy, responsible, mature people. But I don’t think we have to (or should) fight to change who God made them. God clearly created Sully to be an early riser. And Joy has found beauty in how God has made him. I’m sure she’d rather be sleeping at 6:00 in the morning but rather than resenting him, she has chosen to appreciate the son God gave her, early-morning-rising and all. I’m trying to find that balance with Ellie too. I know she’s only four months old but I can already see glimpses of the amazing person God has created her to be.
And I think that means being an early bird.