The Myth of “SHOULD” is Ruining Things

Of course you post something about being more positive and then you get slapped in the face with a challenge. You know, just because I put something out there doesn’t mean it needs to be constantly tested!!

So since being sick, LT has mostly needed boobie before napping and won’t take his dummy to go to bed. He has also started this highly annoying winging when he is dissatisfied with things. He is also still waking up 3-4 times a night. This means that I am down about 1,000,000 hours sleep. yes, tears a plenty and positivity what..?? I just want things fixed! I have no plan I don’t know where to start, things just seem a bit overwhelming; he’s not taking the bottle, he’s waking heaps, his day sleeps are shorter and he’s not napping as easily or as frequently, he wants mumma all the time and I’m back to work in 4 weeks. Awesome…  Overwhelmed is an understatement but I am kind of frozen with it… Kind of just hoping he will miraculously come right… which is no doubt what will invariably happen.

Having A LOT of mummy friends, I posted my issues above on Facebook and invited comments. The results yielded some interesting suggestions. I will try and incorporate ALL of them, probably at once! But most interestingly was a division that emerged between “Cry it out” (to some degree) and “Be with your baby, he needs you). Both of which I identify with. When LT wakes an hour and a half after being fed at the last wake up, I see no reason why he would be wanting me apart from comfort, which is fine in itself but when he has slept through it’s annoying! He’s full, dry, warm – he just wants his mum and he needs to be asleep. So what better message to send him by my not coming in. “LT, night time is sleep time,”. However, when I let him cry a bit I hear desperation, and exasperation and a need to be held and comforted so he can just drop back off to sleep again in his mumma’s arms. That doesn’t seem too much to ask after only being in the world for 7 and a half months. Therefore both answers are true. Which one feels right? Both! What do I try and do at 3am in the morning… both!! I leave him or a bit and then give in and feed him.

The problem is however, not about what is actually happening with LT and me, but what I think SHOULD be happening. Yes, he SHOULD be sleeping more than 5 hours during the night… but is he… no? And what is it that I’m really pissed about, that he is up? Or that he is up because he SHOULD be asleep…. That all the articles I read say babies at this age can be expected to sleep 9-12 hours a night?! When I zoom out and look at how LT conducts the rest of our very lax daily business I often stress about what he SHOULD be doing. And this is where I often come undone. He SHOULD have a sleep now or else he’s going to be hard work tonight. He SHOULD be feeding more each day so he’s not hungry at night. He SHOULD be able to be put in his cot and go straight to sleep. He SHOULD SHOULD SHOULD!!!!!!

It is true that if he was doing all of the above things that my life would be a lot easier, but is it that bad that he’s not doing any of these things and we just muddle along? I think the fear is that he NEVER will if I don’t try and get him to and therefore I will always have to feed him to sleep, I will never be able to go out, he will be beside himself at daycare because he won’t take a bottle and will go on a spontaneous hunger strike – all of these things are fears for the future and not really realities of the present.

The thing is LT is doing what’s right for him. Yes, there are things I can do to guide us into some kind of predictability but at the end of the day everything is just a phase, is constantly changing. He has slept through before, he will again, he has taken the bottle before, he will again, he has also become more smiley, more wingey, more interested, more active! So the time WILL come when he becomes… wait for it… more sleepy!!!!

A friend of mine posted this article re the sleeping issues and it has some good points. Especially about your baby being your baby (obvious, I know) but what works for LT, may not work for little Sally down the street. Every baby may not fit into everyone else’s version of a routine or schedule. This is the most important thing in my eyes. My LT will respond only to what works for him. Which really is a great thing, because if you listen to that, you can’t F it up.

The only thing that vaguely snags in this article is the inference that one should or should not act a certain way. I found this true of the Facebook comments I received too. While I don’t know how people can really leave their bubbas to cry for too long, if a baby isn’t distressed and a mumma feels like this will lead to a positive outcome then I don’t think there is any issue with that. Sometimes LT will just winge for ages but he isn’t distressed. If he winges himself back to sleep – GREAT! Just like if a mumma wants to comfort her bub at every wake then there certainly isn’t anything harmful about that either. I find it very interesting that although women (mums) get up in arms when society demands certain things of them, they are very quick to lay those same expectations on each other. This bothers me, mainly because (I think I can safely say) women parent in a way that has worked for them. This is what many of them probably draw from when giving advice to other mothers. This molds the building blocks of their parenting values no doubt. If it has or has not worked for you, you are going to draw some conclusions from that. Therefore, knowing that ALL BABIES ARE DIFFERENT why would you place your same fundamental values onto other mothers who are cutting their own path?! Aren’t you just overlaying those same societal expectations that oppress you onto your own kind…?? Aren’t you creating your own version of SHOULD?

I’m more for a version of TRY… You try something and it works, great. If you try something and it doesn’t work. ARSE. That sucks. If you ask for information and you get ideas, TRY THEM. If you ask for information and you get SHOULD, be wary.

the worst thing about SHOULD in my view, is that it asks you to create an expectation which you should live up to. In my opinion, every time you have an expectation, realistic or unrealistic, there is the propensity for you to fail or feel like a failure. This is totally not constructive (something I am constantly grappling with in my life, motherhood or not!). It is more constructive to be open to something, to try it – or not, and then move on.

I’m going to start this now! I will TRY giving LT a bottle at night for 3 nights and see what happens!! Then I will TRY something else.


5 thoughts on “The Myth of “SHOULD” is Ruining Things

  1. Evolutionary Parent (@EvolutionParent)

    You cite my article and have an issue with the one “should” of not leaving a baby to cry (which is NOT the same as a fussy sleepy baby who may take a couple minutes or so to calm). The one reason there is a should there is the same as why we have shoulds around spankings or neglect – the well-being of the child. What “works” for some parents simply counters infant development and this needs to be part of the discussion. The other issue is that in articles like mine, we’re talking about PROMOTION of methods here and how CIO or CC are really the only tools made public to most new parents and that needs to change.

    1. REW Post author

      Thanks for your comment. Rightly noted that I appear to have misunderstood the degree of which you refer to leaving the child to cry in the article. I still maintain there are even degrees of this however, some children will take a long time to settle and not be in distress others will be the opposite some of this will count as neglect and some of it won’t. I think there is a definite lack of awareness around how this looks and what is healthy and what isn’t. The point I’m really trying to make, which I think you made really clearly in yours, is that there is no “fix” for any certain “type” of child. Hope you don’t mind I cited your article, if indeed I got it skewed a little! Definitely is room for ALOT of discussion around this topic and ALOT more awareness.

      1. Evolutionary Parent (@EvolutionParent)

        How do you define “distress” then for a parent who thinks the child isn’t in distress but is crying for them? The Middlemiss work shows us that even when NOT crying, children who experienced CIO often show stress responses. This is why I say we have to err on the side of caution here. We used to believe that babies couldn’t feel pain and we were horribly wrong. We learn more about the stress response or other physiological measures and they seem to suggest such a separation is stressful. When there are plenty of gentler methods – albeit that take longer – I fail to see how this is necessary for any child. Does that help? (And no problem citing – it’s created discussion that is clearly needed!)

  2. REW Post author

    Yes, I agree. It isn’t definable. I do think that a child needs to learn that it is ok to put itself to sleep – the how is the important thing I guess. I’m interested in distress though as there are so many things that create distress, when lt is getting his nappy changed, his clothes on after his bath he is often distressed at the same level he is when he is trying to sleep in his cot. I would be interested to know if this comes under the same umbrella as the distress the child feels when they experience being left in their cot to try and sleep. I must admit I haven’t read the studies you site so it may just be this is the fussiness you referred to earlier.

    1. sugarfreeap

      Sorry to pipe in Bexs but I think looking into ‘crying in arms’ would help answer your question. Being in the presence of a loved one crying is not the same thing as cio; nappy changes etc where baby has support and empathy doesn’t create the same biological response as a baby on their own. Gentle parents often ask a similar question but it’s not about never having a crying baby. It’s about being there with them when they express their emotions.


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