You push the stroller through the door of your local baby group, amazed you were able to make it out the door. Your eyes are bloodshot and droopy from not having a good night’s sleep in months. You gaze around at all the put-together, well-rested parents, each holding happy, well-behaved babies, and just hope, for once, your fussy child, will be able to get through this without screaming.
You wonder: what am I doing wrong?
You are doing nothing wrong.
Some babies are just hard.
This isn’t just me, science agrees, so if anyone tries to smugly shame you for not doing the “right” thing to soothe your baby, or believes they are somehow how superior because their baby sleeps through the night at two months, feel free to ignore them.
New parents who are gifted with an easy baby are lucky, that’s all.
Before I continue, let me insert a bit of a disclaimer here and say that I understand “easy” is relative. I am not trying to compare my experience to a parent whose baby required non-stop medical care, or any other circumstance beyond the typical scope of babyhood.
I am talking about developmentally typical, relatively healthy babies, and even when most of these factors are the same, some babies will be harder to deal with than others. That is just how they are born.
Many parents learn this truth after their second, or third kid. They live in a blissful state of self satisfaction, believing they somehow cracked the code on parenting, and then, BAM!, out pops a baby who screams non-stop, and these parents realize they weren’t the “experts” they once believed.
Other parents, like me, are blessed with a more challenging newborn on their first go. And, if you haven’t spent much time with other babies (I hadn’t), you really believe that 1) this is just how it is, and 2) if you can’t fix it, it’s totally your fault.
I genuinely thought it was normal for my baby to want to be on my boob every 30 minutes. I assumed all babies hated sleep, or at least not sleeping on top of another human.
My first-born required constant attention and nourishment (something which hasn’t changed much in almost seven years). They say you need 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, so I am definitely a highly-skilled baby-holder, as this was my life for like six months after he was born.
I should have talked about it with other parents, but I was so caught up in the tired fog of new motherhood, I never did.
It wasn’t until I had my second child that I realized what it meant to have an “easy” baby.
I remember the first time my youngest slept on his own for about four hours, and I freaked out. I thought, this can’t be right. Surely, he will starve if I don’t feed him right away.
I consulted my doctor about it, and he assured me, that this is normal, and I should be grateful for my sleeping child.
Did I do anything different with this kid? Not really.
Yes, he his birth was vastly different from his brother’s, and he did spend his first days in the NICU, so, I guess, it is possible that had some impact. But, I don’t believe it was enough time to make that much of a difference.
Once he was cleared to go home with me, I mothered him the same way I mothered my firstborn. For whatever reason, he just seemed to adjust to life better than his brother did.
Some babies are good at it; some are terrible. It’s a crap shoot.
Sure, there are generally accepted techniques to ease a baby’s transition from womb to reality. Establishing a routine, baby-wearing and creating an environment of security are all helpful, but even when you do all those things, you still may have a fussy baby.
And again, it’s not your fault.
Since, this is where people usually chime in about “training,” I will chat a bit about why that just doesn’t work for some babies.
First, there are limits to how much crying one can tolerate. Five minutes? Sure. Fifteen? Tough, but doable. Thirty minutes? I’m only human. More than an hour? Somebody’s definitely calling social services.
I had the baby who would keep going and going, and living in an apartment with thin walls, meant I had to respect my neighbors and couldn’t just let my baby scream for hours in an attempt to accomplish a pointless endeavor.
Because the good ole cry-it-out method did not work, I tried the even more insane technique of pick-up-put-down. It’s a blur now, but this method essentially has you picking up your child every time they cry, calming them for a bit, then placing them back in their crib or bassinet. You repeat this process as the baby cries. At face value, it does seem nicer than letting a baby just cry for hours on end, but I think it just caused more aggravation.
In the end, we let our son come into our bed because getting sleep is more important than proving a point.
Our son did end up sleeping in his own bed. Sure, it took about six years, but it happened.
Those babies — the ones who have you pacing your home at 3 a.m., desperate for them to stop crying — those babies grow and, little by little, things get easier.
And, as they get easier, you appreciate how special these kids truly are.
Because, for whatever reason, these emotionally need, soul-draining babies more often than not grow up to be highly intelligent, creative and hard-working.
I say this as the mom of an almost seven-year-old who is one of the most brilliant people I know. The way his mind works is astounding, and I have to believe this process began long before I held him in my arms, and that this process meant he had to challenge me as a new mom.
If you have read this, and were nodding along bleary-eyed, I hope you found some comfort knowing you are not alone. You are doing a fantastic job, and your baby is just the way they were meant to be.
And, if you need someone to commiserate with, I am here.